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Title: Hazlitt on English Literature - An Introduction to the Appreciation of Literature
Author: Zeitlin, Jacob
Language: English
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  HAZLITT ON
  ENGLISH LITERATURE

  AN INTRODUCTION TO THE
  APPRECIATION OF LITERATURE


  BY
  JACOB ZEITLIN, PH.D.
  ASSOCIATE IN ENGLISH
  UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS


  NEW YORK
  OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  AMERICAN BRANCH: 35 WEST 32ND STREET

  LONDON, TORONTO, MELBOURNE, AND BOMBAY
  HUMPHREY MILFORD

  1913
  _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED_



  _Copyright, 1913_

  BY OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

  AMERICAN BRANCH



PREFACE


The present selection of Hazlitt's critical essays has been planned to
serve two important purposes. In the first place it provides the materials
for an estimate of the character and scope of Hazlitt's contributions to
criticism and so acquaints students with one of the greatest of English
critics. And in the second place, what is perhaps more important, such a
selection, embodying a series of appreciations of the great English
writers, should prove helpful in the college teaching of literature. There
is no great critic who by his readableness and comprehensiveness is as
well qualified as Hazlitt to aid in bringing home to students the power
and the beauty of the essential things in literature. There is, in him a
splendid stimulating energy which has not yet been sufficiently utilized.

The contents have been selected and arranged to present a chronological
and almost continuous account of English literature from its beginning in
the age of Elizabeth down to Hazlitt's own day, the period of the romantic
revival. To the more strictly critical essays there have been added a few
which reveal Hazlitt's intimate intercourse with books and also with their
writers, whether he knew them in the flesh or only through the printed
page. Such vivid revelations of personal contact contribute much to
further the chief aim of this volume, which is to introduce the reader to
a direct and spontaneous view of literature.

The editor's introduction, in trying to fix formally Hazlitt's position as
a critic, of necessity takes account of his personality, which cannot be
dissociated from his critical practice. The notes, in addition to
identifying quotations and explaining allusions, indicate the nature of
Hazlitt's obligations to earlier and contemporary critics. They contain a
body of detailed information, which may be used, if so desired, for
disciplinary purposes. The text here employed is that of the last form
published in Hazlitt's own lifetime, namely, that of the second edition in
the case of the Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, the lectures on the
poets and on the age of Elizabeth, and the Spirit of the Age, and the
first edition of the Comic Writers, the Plain Speaker, and the Political
Essays. A slight departure from this procedure in the case of the essay on
"Elia" is explained in the notes. "My First Acquaintance with Poets," and
"Of Persons One Would Wish to Have Seen" are taken from the periodicals in
which they first appeared, as they were not republished in book-form till
after Hazlitt's death. Hazlitt's own spellings and punctuation are
retained.

To all who have contributed to the study and appreciation of Hazlitt, the
present editor desires to make general acknowledgement--to Alexander
Ireland, Mr. W. C. Hazlitt, Mr. Birrell, and Mr. Saintsbury. Mention
should also be made of Mr. Nichol Smith's little volume of Hazlitt's
Essays on Poetry (Blackwood's), and of the excellent treatment of Hazlitt
in Professor Oliver Elton's Survey of English Literature from 1780 to
1830, which came to hand after this edition had been completed. A debt of
special gratitude is owing to Mr. Glover and Mr. Waller for their splendid
edition of Hazlitt's Collected Works (in twelve volumes with an index,
Dent 1902-1906). All of Hazlitt's quotations have been identified with the
help of this edition. References to Hazlitt's own writings, when cited by
volume and page, apply to the edition of Glover and Waller.

Finally I wish to express my sincere thanks to Professor G. P. Krapp for
his friendly cooperation in the planning and carrying out of this volume,
and to him and to my colleague, Professor S. P. Sherman, for helpful
criticism of the introduction.

JACOB ZEITLIN.

February 20, 1913.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

  CHRONOLOGY OF HAZLITT'S LIFE AND WRITINGS          ix

  INTRODUCTION                                       xi

      I. THE AGE OF ELIZABETH                         1

     II. SPENSER                                     21

    III. SHAKSPEARE                                  34

     IV. THE CHARACTERS OF SHAKSPEARE'S PLAYS
         CYMBELINE                                   50
         MACBETH                                     60
         IAGO                                        72
         HAMLET                                      76
         ROMEO AND JULIET                            84
         MIDSUMMERNIGHT'S DREAM                      85
         FALSTAFF                                    88
         TWELFTH NIGHT                               96

      V. MILTON                                     101

     VI. POPE                                       118

    VII. ON THE PERIODICAL ESSAYISTS                133

   VIII. THE ENGLISH NOVELISTS                      155

     IX. CHARACTER OF MR. BURKE                     172

      X. MR. WORDSWORTH                             191

     XI. MR. COLERIDGE                              205

    XII. MR. SOUTHEY                                216

   XIII. ELIA                                       220

    XIV. SIR WALTER SCOTT                           227

     XV. LORD BYRON                                 236

    XVI. ON POETRY IN GENERAL                       251

   XVII. MY FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH POETS           277

  XVIII. ON THE CONVERSATION OF AUTHORS             301

    XIX. OF PERSONS ONE WOULD WISH TO HAVE SEEN     315

     XX. ON READING OLD BOOKS                       333

  NOTES                                             349



CHRONOLOGY OF HAZLITT'S LIFE AND WRITINGS


1778 William Hazlitt born at Maidstone in Kent, April 10.

1783-1786 Residence in America.

1787 ff. Residence at Wem in Shropshire.

1793-1794 Student in the Hackney Theological College.

1798 Meeting with Coleridge and Wordsworth.

1798?-1805 Study and practice of painting.

1802 Visit to Paris.

1805 _Essay on the Principles of Human Action_.

1806 _Free Thoughts on Public Affairs_.

1807 _An Abridgment of the Light of Nature Revealed, by Abraham Tucker_.

     _Reply to the Essay on Population by the Rev. T. R. Malthus_.

     _Eloquence of the British Senate_.

1808 Marriage with Sarah Stoddart and settlement at Winterslow.

1810 _A New and Improved Grammar of the English Tongue_.

1812 Removal to London.--Lectures on philosophy at the Russell Institution.

1812-1814 On the staff of the _Morning Chronicle_.

1814 Begins contributing to the _Champion_, _Examiner_, and the
       _Edinburgh Review_.

1816 _Memoirs of the Late Thomas Holcroft_.

1817 _The Round Table_.

     _The Characters of Shakespeare's Plays_.

1818 _A View of the English Stage_.

     _Lectures on the English Poets_. (Delivered at the Surrey
       Institution.)

1819 _Lectures on the English Comic Writers_. (Delivered at the Surrey
       Institution at the close of 1818.)

     _A Letter to William Gifford Esq., from William Hazlitt Esq._

     _Political Essays_.

1820 _Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth_.
       (Delivered at the Surrey Institution at the close of 1819.)

     Joins the staff of the _London Magazine_.

1821-22 _Table Talk, or Original Essays_ (2 volumes).

1822 Episode of Sarah Walker.--Journey to Scotland to obtain a divorce
       from his wife.

1823 _Liber Amoris, or the New Pygmalion_.

     _Characteristics in the Manner of Rochefoucauld's Maxims_.

1824 _Sketches of the Principal Picture-Galleries in England_.

     _Select British Poets_.

     Marriage with Mrs. Bridgewater.--Tour of the Continent.

1825 _The Spirit of the Age_.

1826 _Notes of a Journey through France and Italy_.

     _The Plain Speaker, Opinions on Books, Men, and Things_ (2 volumes).

1828-1830 _Life of Napoleon Buonaparte_ (4 volumes).

1830 _Conversations of James Northcote_.

     Death of William Hazlitt, September 18.



INTRODUCTION

WILLIAM HAZLITT


I

Hazlitt characterized the age he lived in as "critical, didactic,
paradoxical, romantic."[1] It was the age of the Edinburgh Review, of the
Utilitarians, of Godwin and Shelley, of Wordsworth and Byron--in a word of
the French Revolution and all that it brought in its train. Poetry in this
age was impregnated with politics; ideas for social reform sprang from the
ground of personal sentiment. Hazlitt was born early enough to partake of
the ardent hopes which the last decade of the eighteenth century held out,
but his spirit came to ripeness in years of reaction in which the battle
for reform seemed a lost hope. While the changing events were bringing
about corresponding changes in the ideals of such early votaries to
liberty as Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hazlitt continued to cling to his
enthusiastic faith, but at the same time the spectacle of a world which
turned away from its brightest dreams made of him a sharp critic of human
nature, and his sense of personal disappointment turned into a bitterness
hardly to be distinguished from cynicism. In a passionate longing for a
better order of things, in the merciless denunciation of the cant and
bigotry which was enlisted in the cause of the existing order, he
resembled Byron. The rare union in his nature of the analytic and the
emotional gave to his writings the very qualities which he enumerated as
characteristic of the age, and his consistent sincerity made his voice
distinct above many others of his generation.

Hazlitt's earlier years reveal a restless conflict of the sensitive and
the intellectual. His father, a friend of Priestley's, was a Unitarian
preacher, who, in his vain search for liberty of conscience, had spent
three years in America with his family. Under him the boy was accustomed
to the reading of sermons and political tracts, and on this dry
nourishment he seemed to thrive till he was sent to the Hackney
Theological College to begin his preparation for the ministry. His
dissatisfaction there was not such as could be put into words--perhaps a
hunger for keener sensations and an appetite for freer inquiry than was
open to a theological student even of a dissenting church. After a year at
Hackney he withdrew to his father's home, where he found nothing more
definite to do than to "solve some knotty point, or dip in some abstruse
author, or look at the sky, or wander by the pebbled sea-side."[2] This
was probably the period of his most extensive reading. He absorbed the
English novelists and essayists; he saturated himself with the sentiment
of Rousseau; he studied Bacon and Hobbes and Berkeley and Hume; he became
fascinated, in Burke, by the union of a wide intellect with a brilliant
fancy and consummate rhetorical skill.[3] Though he called himself at this
time dumb and inarticulate, and the idea of ever making literature his
profession had not suggested itself to him, he was eager to talk about the
things he read, and in Joseph Fawcett, a retired minister, he found an
agreeable companion. "A heartier friend or honester critic I never coped
withal."[4] "The writings of Sterne, Fielding, Cervantes, Richardson,
Rousseau, Godwin, Goethe, etc. were the usual subjects of our discourse,
and the pleasure I had had, in reading these authors, was more than
doubled."[5] How acutely sensitive he was to all impressions at this time
is indicated by the effect upon him of the meeting with Coleridge and
Wordsworth of which he has left a record in one of his most eloquent
essays, "My First Acquaintance with Poets." But his active energies were
concentrated on the solution of a metaphysical problem which was destined
to possess his brain for many years: in his youthful enthusiasm he was
grappling with a theory concerning the natural disinterestedness of the
human mind, apparently adhering to the bias which he had received from his
early training.

But being come of age and finding it necessary to turn his mind to
something more marketable than abstract speculation, he determined, though
apparently without any natural inclination toward the art, to become a
painter. He apprenticed himself to his brother John Hazlitt, who had
gained some reputation in London for his miniatures. During the peace of
Amiens in 1802, he travelled to the Louvre to study and copy the
masterpieces which Napoleon had brought over from Italy as trophies of
war. Here, as he "marched delighted through a quarter of a mile of the
proudest efforts of the mind of man, a whole creation of genius, a
universe of art,"[6] he imbibed a love of perfection which may have been
fatal to his hopes of a career. At any rate it was soon after, while he
was following the profession of itinerant painter through England, that he
wrote to his father of "much dissatisfaction and much sorrow," of "that
repeated disappointment and that long dejection which have served to
overcast and to throw into deep obscurity some of the best years of my
life."[7]

When Hazlitt abandoned painting, he fell back upon his analytic gift as a
means of earning a living. Not counting his first published work, the
Essay on the Principles of Human Action, which was purely a labor of love
and fell still-born from the press, the tasks to which he now devoted his
time were chiefly of the kind ordinarily rated as job work. He prepared an
abridgement of Abraham Tucker's Light of Nature, compiled the Eloquence of
the British Senate, wrote a reply to Malthus's Essay on Population, and
even composed an elementary English Grammar. It would be a mistake to
suppose that these labors were performed according to a system of
mechanical routine. Hazlitt impressed something of his personality on
whatever he touched. His violent attack on the inhuman tendencies of
Malthus's doctrines is pervaded by a glow of humanitarian indignation. For
the Eloquence of the British Senate he wrote a sketch of Burke, which for
fervor of appreciation and judicious analysis ranks with his best things
of this class. Even the Grammar bears evidence of his enthusiasm for an
idea. Whenever he has occasion to express his feelings on a subject of
popular interest, his manner begins to grow animated and his language to
gain in force and suppleness.

But Hazlitt continued firmly in the faith that it was his destiny to be a
metaphysician. In 1812 he undertook to deliver a course of lectures on
philosophy at the Russell Institution with the ambitious purpose of
founding a system of philosophy "more conformable to reason and
experience" than that of the modern material school which resolved "all
thought into sensation, all morality into the love of pleasure, and all
action into mechanical impulse."[8] Though he did not succeed in founding
a system, he probably interested his audience by a stimulating review of
the main tendencies of English thought from Bacon and Hobbes to Priestley
and Godwin.

At the conclusion of his last lecture, Hazlitt told the story of a Brahmin
who, on being transformed into a monkey, "had no other delight than that
of eating cocoanuts and studying metaphysics." "I too," he added, "should
be very well contented to pass my life like this monkey, did I but know
how to provide myself with a substitute for cocoanuts." But it must have
become apparent to Hazlitt and his friends that he possessed a talent more
profitable than that of abstract speculation. The vigor and vitality of
the prose in these lectures, compared with the heavy, inert style of his
first metaphysical writing, the freedom of illustration and poetic
allusion, suggested the possibility of success in more popular forms of
literature. He tried to work for the newspapers as theatrical and
parliamentary reporter, but his temper and his habits were not adaptable
to the requirements of daily journalism, and editors did not long remain
complacent toward him. He did however, in the course of a few years,
succeed in gaining admission to the pages of the Edinburgh Review and in
establishing an enviable reputation as a writer, of critical and
miscellaneous essays. Even in that anonymous generation he could not long
contribute to any periodical without attracting attention. Readers were
aroused by his bold paradox and by the tonic quality of his style. Editors
appealed to him for "dashing articles," for something "brilliant or
striking" on any subject. Authors looked forward to a favorable notice
from Hazlitt, and Keats even declared that it would be a compensation for
being damned if Hazlitt were to do the damning.

In his essays the features of Hazlitt's personality may be plainly
recognized, and these reveal a triple ancestry. He claims descent from
Montaigne by virtue of his original observation of humanity with its
entire accumulation of custom and prejudice; he is akin to Rousseau in a
high-strung susceptibility to emotions, sentiments, and ideas; and he is
tinged with a cynicism to which there is no closer parallel than in the
maxims of La Rochefoucauld. The union of the philosopher, the enthusiast,
and the man of the world is fairly unusual in literature, but in Hazlitt's
case the union was not productive of any sharp contradictions. His common
sense served as a ballast to his buoyant emotions; the natural strength of
his feelings loosened the bonds which attached him to his favorite
theories; his cynicism, by sharpening his perception of the frailty of
human nature, prevented his philanthropic dreams from imposing themselves
on him for reality.

The analytical gift manifested itself in Hazlitt precociously in the study
of human nature. He characterized some of his schoolmates disdainfully as
"fit only for fighting like stupid dogs and cats," and at the age of
twelve, while on a visit, he communicated to his father a caustic sketch
of some English ladies who "require an Horace or a Shakespeare to describe
them," and whose "ceremonial unsociality" made him wish he were back in
America. His metaphysical studies determined the direction which his
observation of life should take. He became a remarkable anatomist of the
constitution of human nature in the abstract, viewing the motives of men's
actions from a speculative plane. He excels in sharp etchings which bring
the outline of a character into bold prominence. He is happy in defining
isolated traits and in throwing a new light on much used words.
"Cleverness," he writes, "is a certain _knack_ or aptitude at doing
certain things, which depend more on a particular adroitness and off-hand
readiness than on force or perseverance, such as making puns, making
epigrams, making extempore verses, mimicking the company, mimicking a
style, etc.... Accomplishments are certain external graces, which are to
be learnt from others, and which are easily displayed to the admiration of
the beholder, _viz._ dancing, riding, fencing, music, and so on.... Talent
is the capacity of doing anything that depends on application and
industry, such as writing a criticism, making a speech, studying the
law."[9] These innocent looking definitions are probably not without an
ironic sting. It requires no great stretch of the imagination, for
example, to catch in Hazlitt's eye a sly wink at Lamb or a disdainful
glance toward Leigh Hunt as he gives the reader his idea of cleverness or
accomplishment.

Hazlitt's definitions often startle and give a vigorous buffet to our
preconceptions. He is likely to open an essay on "Good-Nature" by
declaring that a good-natured man is "one who does not like to be put out
of his way.... Good-nature is humanity that costs nothing;"[10] and he may
describe a respectable man as "a person whom there is no reason for
respecting, or none that we choose to name."[11] Against the imputation of
paradox, which such expressions expose him to, he has written his own
defence, applying his usual analytical acuteness to distinguish between
originality and singularity.[12] The contradiction of a common prejudice,
which always passes for paradox, is often such only in appearance. It is
true that an ingenious person may take advantage of the elusive nature of
language to play tricks with the ordinary understanding, but it is equally
true that words of themselves have a way of imposing on the uninquiring
mind and passing themselves off at an inflated value. No process is more
familiar than that by which words in the course of a long life lose all
their original power, and yet they will sometimes continue to exercise a
disproportionate authority. Then comes the original mind, which, looking
straight at the thing instead of accepting the specious title, discovers
the incongruity between the pretence and the reality, and in the first
shock of the disclosure annoyingly overturns our settled ideas. This is
the spirit in which Carlyle seeks to strip off the clothes in which
humanity has irrecognizably disguised itself, and it is the spirit in
which Robert Louis Stevenson tries to free his old-world conscience from
the old-world forms. To take a more recent parallel, it is the manner,
somewhat exaggerated, in which Mr. G. K. Chesterton examines the upstart
heresies of our own agitated day. There would be nothing fanciful in
suggesting that all these men owed a direct debt to Hazlitt--Stevenson on
many occasions acknowledged it.[13] Hazlitt was as honest and sincere as
any of them. Though the opening of an essay may appear perverse, he is
sure to enforce his point before proceeding very far. He accumulates
familiar instances in such abundance as to render obvious what at first
seemed paradoxical. He writes "On the Ignorance of the Learned" and makes
it perfectly clear that no person knows less of the actual life of the
world than he whose experience is confined to books. On the other hand he
has a whole-hearted appreciation of pedantry: "The power of attaching an
interest to the most trifling or painful pursuits, in which our whole
attention and faculties are engaged, is one of the greatest happinesses of
our nature.... He who is not in some measure a pedant, though he may be a
wise, cannot be a very happy man."[14] These two examples illustrate
Hazlitt's manner of presenting both views of a subject by concentrating
his attention on each separately and examining it without regard to the
other. On one occasion he anatomizes the faults of the dissenters, and on
another he extols their virtues, "I have inveighed all my life against
the insolence of the Tories, and for this I have the authority both of
Whigs and Reformers; but then I have occasionally spoken against the
imbecility of the Whigs, and the extravagance of the Reformers, and thus
have brought all three on my back, though two out of the three regularly
agree with all I say of the third party."[15] The strange thing is not
that he should have incurred the wrath of all parties, but that he should
show surprise at the result.

Very often Hazlitt's reflections are the generalization of his personal
experience. The essay "On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority"
is but a record of the trials to which he was exposed by his morbid
sensitiveness and want of social tact, and amid much excellent advice "On
the Conduct of Life," there are passages which merely reflect his own
marital misfortunes. It is not so much that he is a dupe of his emotions,
but in his view of life he attaches a higher importance to feeling than to
reason, and so provides a philosophic basis for his strongest prejudices.
"Custom, passion, imagination," he declares, "insinuate themselves into
and influence almost every judgment we pass or sentiment we indulge, and
are a necessary help (as well as hindrance) to the human understanding; to
attempt to refer every question to abstract truth and precise definition,
without allowing for the frailty of prejudice, which is the unavoidable
consequence of the frailty and imperfection of reason, would be to unravel
the whole web and texture of human understanding and society."[16]

It is this infusion of passion and sentiment, the addition of the warm
breath of his personal experience, that gives the motion of life to his
analytic essays, and a deep and solemn humanity to his abstract
speculations. Hazlitt felt life with an intensity which reminds us of a
more spacious age. "What a huge heap, a 'huge, dumb heap,' of wishes,
thoughts, feelings, anxious cares, soothing hopes, loves, joys,
friendships, it is composed of! How many ideas and trains of sentiment,
long and deep and intense, often pass through the mind in only one day's
thinking or reading, for instance! How many such days are there in a year,
how many years in a long life, still occupied with something interesting,
still recalling some old impression, still recurring to some difficult
question and making progress in it, every step accompanied with a sense of
power, and every moment conscious of the 'high endeavour and the glad
success!'"[17] What an exultant sense of power over the resources of life!
What an earnest delight in the tasting of every pleasure which the senses
and the intelligence afford! His enjoyments comprehended the widest range
of sensations and activities. He loved nature, he loved books, he loved
pictures, he loved the theatre, he loved music and dancing. He loved good
talk and good fellowship; he loved an idea and anyone who was susceptible
to an idea. He also loved a spirited game of rackets, and though he hated
brutality, he has left us a very vivid and sympathetic account of a
prize-fight. Above all he loved the words truth and justice and humanity.
With such sensibilities, it is no wonder that his last words should have
been "I have had a happy life."

As the phrase is ordinarily understood, Hazlitt's dying expression might
seem unaccountable. Outwardly few authors have been more miserable. Like
the great French sentimentalist with whom we have compared him, a
suspicious distrust of all who came near him converted his social
existence into a restless fever. He had the gift of interpreting every
contradiction to one of his favorite principles as a personal injury to
himself, and in the tense state of party feeling then prevailing, the
opportunities for taking offence were not limited. Hazlitt was one of the
chief marks singled out for abuse by the critics of Government. To
constant self-tormentings from within and persecution from without, there
was added the misfortune of an unhappy marriage and of a still more
unhappy love affair which lowered him in his own eyes as well as in the
eyes of the world. From the point of view of the practical man, Hazlitt's
life would be declared a failure.

The result of Hazlitt's hard experiences with the realities of life was to
confirm him in a devoted attachment to the past. All his high enthusiasms,
his sanguine dreams, his purest feelings continued to live for him in the
past, and it was only by recurring to their memory in the dim distance
that he could find assurance to sustain his faith. In the past all his
experiences were refined, subtilized, transfigured. A sunny afternoon on
Salisbury Plain, a walk with Charles and Mary Lamb under a Claude Lorraine
sky, a visit to the Montpelier Gardens where in his childhood he drank tea
with his father--occurrences as common as these were enveloped in a haze
of glory. And rarer events, such as a visit to the pictures at Burleigh
House, or to the galleries in the Louvre, tender visions of feminine grace
and sweetness, were touched in the recollection with a depth and pathos
which subdued even the most joyous impressions to a refined melancholy. In
no other English writer is this rich sentiment of the past so eloquent,
and no one was better qualified to describe its sources. "Time takes out
the sting of pain; our sorrows after a certain period have been so often
steeped in a medium of thought and passion, that they 'unmould their
essence'; and all that remains of our original impressions is what we
would wish them to have been.... Seen in the distance, in the long
perspective of waning years, the meanest incidents, enlarged and enriched
by countless recollections, become interesting; the most painful, broken
and softened by time, soothe."[18] The "Farewell to Essay Writing" is
perfumed with the odor of grateful memories from which the writer draws
his "best consolation for the future." He almost erects his feeling for
the past into a religion. "Happy are they," he exclaims, "who live in the
dream of their own existence, and see all things in the light of their own
minds; who walk by faith and hope; to whom the guiding star of their youth
still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not
entered!... The world has no hold on them. They are in it, not of it; and
a dream and a glory is ever around them!"[19]

But this impassioned sentiment for the past was only a refuge such as
Byron might seek among the glories of by-gone ages or amid the solitary
Alpine peaks, where it was possible to regain the strength spent in
grappling with the forces of the actual world and return newly nerved to
the battle. For fighting was Hazlitt's more proper element. He could hate
with the same intensity that he loved, and his hatred was aroused most by
those whom he regarded as responsible for the overturning of his political
hopes. Politics had played the most important part in his early education.
In his father's house he had absorbed the spirit of protest, accustomed
himself to arguing for the repeal of the Test Act, and to declaiming
against religious and political persecution. At the age of twelve he had
written an indignant letter to the Shrewsbury Chronicle against the mob of
incendiaries which had destroyed the house of Priestley, and as a student
at Hackney he showed sufficient self-reliance to develop an original
"Essay on Laws." The defence of the popular cause was with him not an
academic exercise, but a religious principle. "Since a little child, I
knelt and lifted up my hands in prayer for it."[20] The emotional warmth
of his creed was heightened by the reading of Rousseau, and in Napoleon it
found a living hero on whom it could expend itself.

An uncompromising attachment to certain fundamental principles of
democracy and an unceasing devotion to Napoleon constitute the chief
elements of Hazlitt's political character. He sets forth his idea of
representative government exactly in the manner of Rousseau when he
proclaims that "in matters of feeling and common sense, of which each
individual is the best judge, the majority are in the right.... It is an
absurdity to suppose that there can be any better criterion of national
grievances, or the proper remedies for them, than the aggregate amount of
the actual, dear-bought experience, the honest feelings, and heart-felt
wishes of a whole people, informed and directed by the greatest power of
understanding in the community, unbiassed by any sinister motive."[21]
Hazlitt was not a republican, and he disapproved of the Utopian rhapsodies
of Shelley, woven as they seemed of mere moonshine, without applicability
to the evils that demanded immediate reform. But he did insist that there
was a power in the people to change its government and its governors, and
hence grew his idolatry of Napoleon, who, through all vicissitudes,
remained the "Child and Champion of the Revolution," the hero who had
shown Europe how its established despots could be overthrown.

The news of Waterloo plunged Hazlitt into deep distress, as if it had been
the shock of a personal calamity. According to Haydon, "he walked about
unwashed, unshaven, hardly sober by day, always intoxicated by night,
literally for weeks." But his disappointment only strengthened his
attachment to his principles. These remained enshrined with the brightest
dreams of his youth, and in proportion as the vision faded and men were
beginning to scoff at it as a shadow, Hazlitt bent his energies to fix its
outline and prove its reality. "I am attached to my conclusions," he says,
"in consequence of the pain, the anxiety, and the waste of time they have
cost me."[22] His doctrines contained nothing that was subversive of
social order, and their ultimate triumph lends the color of heroism to a
consistency which people have often interpreted as proof of a limited
horizon. It is at least certain that he did not put his conscience out to
market, and that his reward came in the form of the vilest calumny ever
visited upon a man of letters.

These were the most infamous years of the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's
Magazine, both of which had been founded as avowed champions of reaction.
Their purpose was to discredit all writers whose politics or the politics
of whose friends differed from the Government. Everybody knows of the fate
which Keats and Shelley suffered at their hands, chiefly because they
were friends of Leigh Hunt, who was the editor of a Liberal newspaper
which had displeased George IV. Even the unoffending Lamb did not escape
their brutality, perhaps because he was guilty of admitting Hazlitt to his
house. The weapons were misrepresentation and unconfined abuse, wielded
with an utter disregard of where the blows might fall, in the spirit of a
gang of young ruffians who knew that they were protected in their
wantonness by a higher authority. In the chastened sadness of his later
years Lockhart, who was one of the offenders, confessed that he had no
personal grudge against any of Blackwood's victims, in fact that he knew
nothing about any of them, but that at the request of John Wilson, his
fellow-editor, he had composed "some squibberies ... with as little malice
as if the assigned subject had been the court of Pekin." The sincere
regret he expressed for the pain which his "jokes" had inflicted ought
perhaps to be counted in extenuation of his errors. It may be true, as his
generous biographer suggests, that "his politics and his feud with many of
these men was an affair of ignorance and accidental associations in
Edinburgh," that under different circumstances "he might have been found
inditing sonnets to Leigh Hunt, and supping with Lamb, Haydon, and
Hazlitt."[23] But meanwhile irreparable mischief had been done to many
reputations, and the life of one man had been sacrificed to his
sportiveness.[24]

The signal for the attack on Hazlitt was given by the Quarterly in
connection with a review of The Round Table, Hazlitt's first book. The
contents of this volume were characterized as "vulgar descriptions, silly
paradox, flat truisms, misty sophistry, broken English, ill humour and
rancorous abuse."[25] A little later, when the Characters of Shakespeare's
Plays seemed to be finding such favor with the public that one edition was
quickly exhausted, the Quarterly extinguished its sale by "proving that
Mr. Hazlitt's knowledge of Shakespeare and the English language is on a
par with the purity of his morals and the depth of his understanding."[26]
The cry was soon taken up by the Blackwood's people in a series on the
Cockney School of Prose. Lockhart invented the expression "pimpled
Hazlitt." It so happened that Hazlitt's complexion was unusually clear,
but the epithet clung to him with a cruel tenacity. When an ill-natured
reviewer could find nothing else to say, he had recourse to "pimpled
essays" or "pimpled criticism."[27] The climax of abuse was reached in an
article entitled "Hazlitt Cross-Questioned," which a sense of decency
makes it impossible to reproduce, and which resulted in the payment of
damages to the victim. Even the publisher Blackwood speaks of it, with
what sincerity it is not safe to say, as disgusting in tone, and Murray,
who was the London agent for the Magazine, refused to have any further
dealings with it. But the harm was done. Hazlitt could not walk out
without feeling that every passer-by had read the atrocious article and
saw the brand of the social outcast on his features.

In an atmosphere like this, it is scarcely to be wondered at if Hazlitt's
temper, never of the amiable sort, should have become embittered, nor is
it strange that he should sometimes, through ignorance, have committed the
fault of which his enemies had been guilty in wantonness. Not content with
retaliating the full measure of malice upon the heads of his immediate
assailants, he turned the stream of his abuse upon Sir Walter Scott, whom
he singled out deliberately as the towering head of a supposed literary
conspiracy. He is credited with remarking; "To pay these fellows in their
own coin, the way would be to begin with Walter Scott, and have at his
clump foot."[28] Very mean-spirited this sounds to us, who are acquainted
with the nobility of Scott's character and who know with what magnanimous
wisdom he kept himself above the petty altercations of the day. But for
Hazlitt, Sir Walter was the father-in-law and friendly patron of John
Lockhart, he was the person who had thrown the weight of his powerful
influence to make John Wilson Professor of Moral Philosophy at the
University of Edinburgh! He did not carry his prejudice against the Author
of Waverley.

In some instances Hazlitt was consciously the aggressor, but his attacks
were never wanton. He denounced Wordsworth and Coleridge and Southey
because they were renegades from the cause which lay nearest to his heart.
Their apostasy was an unforgivable offence in his eyes, and his wrath was
proportioned to the admiration which he otherwise entertained for them. It
is true that he treated their motives hastily and unjustly, but none of
his opponents set him the example of charity. In the earlier years of
their acquaintance Coleridge had spoken of Hazlitt as a "thinking,
observant, original man." one who "says things that are his own in a way
of his own,"[29] whereas after their estrangement he discovered that
Hazlitt was completely lacking in originality. Wordsworth, being offended
at Hazlitt's review of the "Excursion," peevishly raked up an old scandal
and wrote to Haydon that he was "not a proper person to be admitted into
respectable society."[30] Perhaps Hazlitt was not as "respectable" as his
poet-friends, but he had a better sense of fair play. At any rate, in a
complete balancing of the accounts, Hazlitt's frequent displays of
ill-temper are offset by the insidious, often unscrupulous baitings which
he suffered from his opponents.

Naturally his bitterness was extended to his reflections on mankind in
general. He felt as if the human race had wilfully deceived his sanguine
expectations, and he poured out his grievances against its refractoriness,
taking revenge for his public and his private wrongs, in a passage in
which high idealism is joined with personal spite, in which he has
revealed himself in all his strength and weakness, and involved his
enemies in a common ruin with himself. It concludes the essay "On the
Pleasure of Hating":

"Instead of patriots and friends of freedom, I see nothing but the tyrant
and the slave, the people linked with kings to rivet on the chains of
despotism and superstition. I see folly join with knavery, and together
make up public spirit and public opinions. I see the insolent Tory, the
blind Reformer, the coward Whig! If mankind had wished for what is right,
they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are
prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.' I have seen all that
had been done by the mighty yearnings of the spirit and intellect of men,
'of whom the world was not worthy,' and that promised a proud opening to
truth and good through the vista of future years, undone by one man, with
just glimmering of understanding enough to feel that he was a king, but
not to comprehend how he could be king of a free people! I have seen this
triumph celebrated by poets, the friends of my youth and the friends of
man, but who were carried away by the infuriate tide that, setting in from
a throne, bore down every distinction of right reason before it; and I
have seen all those who did not join in applauding this insult and outrage
on humanity proscribed, hunted down (they and their friends made a
bye-word of), so that it has become an understood thing that no one can
live by his talents or knowledge who is not ready to prostitute those
talents and that knowledge to betray his species, and prey upon his
fellow-man.... In private life do we not see hypocrisy, servility,
selfishness, folly, and impudence succeed, while modesty shrinks from the
encounter, and merit is trodden under foot? How often is 'the rose plucked
from the forehead of a virtuous love to plant a blister there!' What
chance is there of the success of real passion? What certainty of its
continuance? Seeing all this as I do, and unravelling the web of human
life into its various threads of meanness, spite, cowardice, want of
feeling, and want of understanding, of indifference towards others and
ignorance of ourselves--seeing custom prevail over all excellence, itself
giving way to infamy--mistaken as I have been in my public and private
hopes, calculating others from myself, and calculating wrong; always
disappointed where I placed most reliance; the dupe of friendship, and the
fool of love; have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I
do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world
enough."[31]--This is not exactly downright cynicism; it is more like
disappointment, beating its head frantically against the wall of
circumstance. Yet through his bitterest utterances there is felt the warm
sentiment that, "let people rail at virtue, at genius and friendship as
long as they will--the very _names_ of these disputed qualities are better
than anything else that could be substituted for them, and embalm even the
most angry abuse of them."[32]

It is no wonder that Hazlitt has never been a popular favorite. With a
stronger attachment to principles than to persons, lavishing upon ideas or
the fanciful creations of art a passionate affection which he grudgingly
withheld from human beings, stubbornly tenacious of a set of political
dogmas to which he was ready to sacrifice his dearest friends, morbidly
sensitive to the faintest suggestion of a personal slight, and prompter
than the serpent to vent against the aggressor the bitterness of his
poison, he plays the role of Ishmael among the men of letters in his day.
The violence of his retorts when he felt himself injured and his capacity
for giving offence even when he was not directly provoked, begot a
resentment in his adversaries which blinded them to an appreciation of his
genuine worth. At best they might have assented, after his death, to the
sublime pity with which Carlyle, from his spiritual altitudes, moralized
upon his struggles. "How many a poor Hazlitt must wander on God's verdant
earth, like the Unblest on burning deserts; passionately dig wells, and
draw up only the dry quicksand; believe that he is seeking Truth, yet only
wrestle among endless Sophisms, doing desperate battle as with
spectre-hosts; and die and make no sign!"[33] We must appeal to the issue
to determine whether Hazlitt's battle was altogether against
spectre-hosts, and whether in his quest for truth and beauty he has drawn
up nothing but quicksand. But at least Carlyle's expression recognizes
the earnestness of his purpose and the bravery with which he maintained
the conflict.

Hazlitt gave himself freely and without reserve to his reader. By his side
Leigh Hunt appears affected, De Quincey theatrical, Lamb--let us say
discreet. Affectation and discretion were equally alien to Hazlitt's
nature, as they concerned either his personal conduct or his literary
exercises. In regard to every impression, every prejudice, every stray
thought that struggled into consciousness, his practice was, to use his
own favorite quotation,

              "To pour out all as plain
  As downright Shippen or as old Montaigne."

He has drifted far from the tradition of Addison and Steele with which his
contemporaries sought to associate him. There was nothing in him of the
courtier-like grace employed in the good-humored reproof of unimportant
vices, of the indulgent, condescending admonition to the "gentle reader,"
particularly of the fair sex. In Hazlitt's hands the essay was an
instrument for the expression of serious thought and virile passion. He
lacked indeed the temperamental balance of Lamb. His insight into human
nature was intellectual rather than sympathetic. Though as a philosopher
he understood that the web of life is of a mingled yarn, he has given us
none of those rare glimpses of laughter ending in tears or of tears
subsiding in a tender smile which are the sources of Lamb's depth and his
charm. The same thing is true of his humor. He relished heartily its
appearance in others and had a most wholesome laugh; but in himself there
is no real merriment, only an ironic realization of the contrasts of life.
When he writes, the smile which sometimes seeks to overpower the grim
fixity of his features, is frozen before it can emerge to the surface. He
lacks all the ingratiating arts which make a writer beloved. But if one
enjoys a keen student of the intricacies of character, a bold and candid
critic of human imperfections, a stimulating companion full of original
ideas and deep feelings, he will find in Hazlitt an inexhaustible source
of instruction and delight. Hazlitt has long appealed to men of vigorous
character and acute intellect, men like Landor, Froude, Walter Bagehot,
Robert Louis Stevenson, and Ernest Henley, who have either proclaimed his
praise or flattered him with imitation. By the friend who knew him longest
and was better qualified than any other to speak of him, he has been
pronounced as "in his natural and healthy state, one of the wisest and
finest spirits breathing."[34]


II

The discovery in the seventeenth century of the Greek treatise "On the
Sublime," attributed to Longinus, with its inspired appreciation of the
great passages in Greek literature so different from the analytic manner
of Aristotle, gave a decided impulse to English criticism. It was at the
same time that English prose, under the influence of French models, was
developing a more familiar tone than it had hitherto been acquainted with.
The union of the enthusiasm of Longinus with this moderated French prose
resulted in the graceful prefaces of Dryden, which remained unmatched for
more than a century. The Longinian fire, breathed upon too by the genius
of Shakespeare, preserved the eighteenth century from congealing into the
utter formalism of pseudo-Aristotelian authority. Though they did not
produce an even warmth over the whole surface, the flames are observed
darting through the crust even where the crust seems thickest. It is
significant that Dr. Johnson should exclaim with admiration at the
criticism of Dryden, not because Dryden judged according to rules but
because his was the criticism of a poet. And he singles out as the best
example of such criticism the well-known appreciation of Shakespeare, the
very passage which Hazlitt later quoted as "the best character of
Shakespeare that has ever been written."[35] The high-priest of classicism
wavered frequently in his allegiance to some of the sacred fetishes of his
cult, and had enough grace, once at least, to speak with scorn of the
"cant of those who judged by principles rather than by perception."[36]

But to judge by perception is a comparatively rare accomplishment, and so
most critics continued to employ the foot-rule as if they were measuring
flat surfaces, while occasionally going so far as to recognize the
existence of certain mountain-peaks as "irregular beauties." In a more or
less conscious distinction from the criticism of external rules there
developed also during the eighteenth century what its representatives were
pleased to call metaphysical criticism, to which we should now probably
apply the term psychological. This consisted in explaining poetic effects
by reference to strictly mental processes in a tone of calm analysis
eminently suited to the rationalistic temper of the age. It methodically
traced the sources of grandeur or of pathos or of humor, and then
illustrated its generalization by the practice of the poets. It could
thereby pride itself on going back of the rules to the fundamental laws of
human nature. Kames's Elements of Criticism, written in 1761, became a
work of standard reference, though it did not impose on the great critics.
In commending it Dr. Johnson was careful to remark, "I do not mean that he
has taught us anything; but he has told us old things in a new way."[37]
But in general Kames was considered a safer guide than the enthusiastic
Longinus, who throughout the century was looked upon with distrust.
"Instead of shewing for what reason a sentiment or image is sublime, and
discovering the secret power by which they affect a reader with pleasure,
he is ever intent on producing something sublime _himself_, and strokes of
his own eloquence." So runs the complaint of Joseph Warton.[38] The
distrust was not without ground. The danger that the method of Longinus in
the hands of ungifted writers would become a cloak for critical ignorance
and degenerate into empty bluster was already apparent.[39] Only rarely
was there a reader who could distinguish between the false and the true
application of the method. Gibbon did it in a passage which impressed
itself upon the younger critics of Hazlitt's generation. "I was acquainted
only with two ways of criticising a beautiful passage: the one, to shew,
by an exact anatomy of it, the distinct beauties of it, and whence they
sprung; the other, an idle exclamation, or a general encomium, which
leaves nothing behind it. Longinus has shewn me that there is a third. He
tells me his own feelings upon reading it; and tells them with such
energy, that he communicates them."[40] That vital element, the
commentator's power of communicating his own feelings, constituting as it
does the difference between phrase-making and valuable criticism, did not
become prominent in English literature before the nineteenth century.

The official criticism of the early nineteenth century as represented by
the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, derives its descent directly from
the eighteenth. Whatever the Government might have thought of the politics
of the Edinburgh, its literary outlook remained unexceptionably orthodox.
Jeffrey's "Essay on Beauty" is a direct copy of Alison's "Essay on Taste."
Much as Dr. Johnson in the preceding age, Jeffrey prided himself on the
moral tendency of his criticism--a morality which consisted in censuring
the life of Burns and in exalting the virtuous insipidities of Maria
Edgeworth's tales as it might have been done by any faithful minister of
the gospel. To be sure he cannot be said to have held tenaciously to the
old set of canons. Though he stanchly withstood the new-fangled poetic
practices of Wordsworth and of Southey, he bowed before the great
popularity of Scott and Byron, even at the cost of some of his favorite
maxims. In his writings the solvents of the older criticism are best seen
at work. Jeffrey both by instinct and training was a lawyer, and his
position at the head of the most respected periodical formed a natural
temptation to a dictatorial manner. He was a judge who tried to uphold the
literary constitution but wavered in the face of a strong popular
opposition. When the support of precedent failed him, he remained without
any firm conviction of his own. While his poetic taste was quite adequate
to the appreciation of a Samuel Rogers or a Barry Cornwall, it was
incomparably futile in the perception of a Wordsworth or a Shelley. In a
passage composed at the end of his long editorial career in 1829, he
unconsciously announced his own extinction as a critic:

"Since the beginning of our critical career, we have seen a vast deal of
beautiful poetry pass into oblivion, in spite of our feeble efforts to
recall or retain it in remembrance. The tuneful quartos of Southey are
already little better than lumber:--and the rich melodies of Keats and
Shelley,--and the fantastical emphasis of Wordsworth,--and the plebeian
pathos of Crabbe, are melting fast from the field of our vision. The
novels of Scott have put out his poetry. Even the splendid strains of
Moore are fading into distance and dimness, except where they have been
married to immortal music; and the blazing star of Byron himself is
receding from its place of pride. We need say nothing of Milman, and
Croly, and Atherstone, and Hood, and a legion of others, who, with no
ordinary gifts of taste and fancy, have not so properly survived their
fame, as been excluded by some hard fatality, from what seemed their just
inheritance. The two who have the longest withstood this rapid withering
of the laurel, and with the least marks of decay on their branches, are
Rogers and Campbell; neither of them, it may be remarked, voluminous
writers, and both distinguished rather for the fine taste and consummate
elegance of their writings, than for that fiery passion, and disdainful
vehemence, which seemed for a time to be so much more in favour with the
public."[41]

But the authority of Jeffrey did not long remain unchallenged. His
unfortunate "This will never do" became a by-word among the younger
writers who were gradually awaking to the realization of a new spirit in
criticism. The protest against the methods of the dictatorial quarterlies
found expression in the two brilliant monthly periodicals, Blackwood's and
the London Magazine, founded respectively in 1817 and 1820. In these no
opportunity was neglected to thrust at the inflated pretensions of the
established reviews, and, though the animus of rivalry might be suspected
of playing its part, the blows usually struck home. There is an air of
absolute finality about Lockhart's "Remarks on the Periodical Criticism of
England," and his characterization of Jeffrey in this article is a bold
anticipation of the judgment of posterity.[42] The editor of the London
Magazine[43] writes with equal assurance, "We must protest against
considering the present taste as the standard of excellence, or the
criticisms on poetry in the Edinburgh Review as the voice even of the
present taste." The test of critical eligibility in this age is an
appreciation of Wordsworth and a proper understanding of Coleridge his
prophet, and it is by virtue of what inspiration they drew from these
oracles that John Lockhart and John Scott became better qualified than
Jeffrey or Gifford to form the literary opinions of the public.

Coleridge more than any other person was responsible for bringing about a
change in the attitude of literature toward criticism. As Hazlitt puts it
with his inimitable vividness, he "threw a great stone into the standing
pool of criticism, which splashed some persons with the mud, but which
gave a motion to the surface and a reverberation to the neighbouring
echoes, which has not since subsided."[44] Whether his ideas were borrowed
from the Germans or evolved in his own brain, their importance for English
literature remains the same. Coleridge's service lay in asserting and
reasserting such fundamental principles as that a critical standard is
something quite distinct from a set of external rules; that the
traditional opposition between genius and laws was based on a
misconception as to the function of the critic; that all great genius
necessarily worked in accordance with certain laws which it was the
function of the critic to determine by a study of each particular work of
art; that art, being vital and organic, assumed different shapes at
different epochs of human culture; that only the spirit of poetry
remained constant, while its form was molded anew by each age in
accordance with the demands of its own life; that it was no more
reasonable to judge Shakespeare's plays by the practice of Sophocles than
to judge sculpture by the rules of painting. "O! few have there been among
critics, who have followed with the eye of their imagination the
imperishable yet ever wandering spirit of poetry through its various
metempsychoses; or who have rejoiced with the light of clear perception at
beholding with each new birth, with each rare _avatar_, the human race
frame to itself a new body, by assimilating materials of nourishment out
of its new circumstances, and work for itself new organs of power
appropriate to the new sphere of its motion and activity."[45] This rare
grasp of general principles was combined in Coleridge with poetic vision
and a declamatory eloquence which enabled him to seize on the more ardent
and open-minded men of letters and to determine their critical viewpoint.

William Hazlitt was among the earliest to fall under Coleridge's spell.
Just how much he owed to Coleridge beyond the initial impulse it is
impossible to prove, because so much of the latter's criticism was
expressed during improvised monologues at the informal meetings of
friends, or in lectures of which only fragmentary notes remain. At any
rate, while Coleridge's chief distinction lay in the enunciation of
general principles, Hazlitt's practice, in so far as it took account of
these general principles at all, assumed their existence, and displayed
its strength in concrete judgments of individual literary works. His
criticism may be said to imply at every step the existence of Coleridge's,
or to rise like an elegant superstructure on the solid foundation which
the other had laid. Hazlitt communicated to the general public that love
and appreciation of great literature which Coleridge inspired only in the
few elect. The latter, even more distinctly than a poet for poets, was a
_critic for critics_,[46] and three generations have not succeeded in
absorbing all his doctrines. But Hazlitt, with a delicate sensitiveness to
the impressions of genius, with a boundless zest of poetic enjoyment, with
a firm common sense to control his taste, and with a gift of original
expression unequalled in his day, arrested the attention of the ordinary
reader and made effective the principles which Coleridge with some
vagueness had projected. To analyze in cold blood such living criticism as
Hazlitt's may expose one to unflattering imputations, but the attempt may
serve to bring to light what is so often overlooked, that Hazlitt's
criticism is no random, irresponsible discharge of his sensibilities, but
has an implicit basis of sound theory.

In his History of Criticism, Mr. Saintsbury takes as his motto for the
section on the early nineteenth century a sentence from Sainte-Beuve to
the effect that nearly the whole art of the critic consists in knowing how
to read a book with judgment and without ceasing to relish it.[47] We are
almost ready to believe that the French critic, in the significant choice
of the words judgment and relish, is consciously summarizing the method of
Hazlitt, the more so as he elsewhere explicitly confesses a sympathy with
the English critic.[48] Hazlitt has indeed himself characterized his art
in some such terms. In one of his lectures he modestly describes his
undertaking "merely to read over a set of authors with the audience, as I
would do with a friend, to point out a favorite passage, to explain an
objection; or if a remark or a theory occurs, to state it in illustration
of the subject, but neither to tire him nor puzzle myself with pedantical
rules and pragmatical _formulas_ of criticism that can do no good to
anybody."[49] This sounds dangerously like dilettantism. It suggests the
method of what in our day is called impressionism, one of the most
delightful forms of literary entertainment when practiced by a master of
literature. The impressionist's aim is to record whatever impinges on his
brain, and though with a writer of fine discernment it is sure to be
productive of exquisite results, as criticism it is undermined by the
impressionist's assumption that every appreciation is made valid by the
very fact of its existence. But this was scarcely Hazlitt's idea of
criticism. Against universal suffrage in matters literary he would have
been among the first to protest. We might almost imagine we were listening
to some orthodox theorist of the eighteenth century when we hear him
declaring that the object of taste "must be that, not which _does_, but
which _would_ please universally, supposing all men to have paid an equal
attention to any subject and to have an equal relish for it, which can
only be guessed at by the imperfect and yet more than casual agreement
among those who have done so from choice and feeling."[50] Though not the
surest kind of clue, this indicates at least that Hazlitt's rejection of
"pedantical rules and pragmatical formulas" was not equivalent to a
declaration of anarchy.

For Hazlitt the assertion of individual taste meant emancipation from
arbitrary codes and an opportunity to embrace a compass as wide as the
range of literary excellence. Realizing that every reader, even the
professed critic, is hemmed in by certain prejudices arising from his
temperament, his education, his environment, he was unwilling to pledge
his trust to any school or fashion of criticism. The favorite oppositions
of his generation--Shakespeare and Pope, Fielding and Richardson, English
poetry and French--had no meaning for him. He was glad to enjoy each in
its kind. "The language of taste and moderation is, _I prefer this,
because it is best to me_; the language of dogmatism and intolerance is,
_Because I prefer it, it is best in itself, and I will allow no one else
to be of a different opinion_."[51] This passage, in connection with the
one last quoted, may be considered as fixing the limits within which
Hazlitt gave scope to personal preference. The sum of his literary
judgments reveals a taste for a greater variety of the works of genius
than is displayed by any contemporary, and the absence of "a catholic and
many-sided sympathy"[52] is one of the last imputations that should have
been brought against him. His criticism has limitations, but not such as
are due to a narrowness of literary perception.

Even Hazlitt's shortcomings may frequently be turned to his glory as a
critic. The most remarkable thing about his violent political prejudices
is the success with which he dissociated his literary estimates from them.
Such a serious limitation in a critic as deficiency of reading in his case
only raises our astonishment at the sureness of instinct which enabled him
to pronounce unerringly on the scantest information. Never was there a
critic of nearly equal pretensions who had as little of the scholar's
equipment. If, as he tells us, he applied himself too closely to his
studies at a certain period in his youth,[53] he atoned for it by his
neglect of books in later life.[54] A desultory education had left him
without that intimacy with the classics which belonged of right to every
cultivated Englishman. His allusions to the Greek and Latin writers are in
the most general terms, but with a note of reverence which did not enter
into his speech concerning even Shakespeare. "I would have you learn Latin
(he is writing to his son) because there is an atmosphere round this sort
of classical ground, to which that of actual life is gross and
vulgar."[55] His knowledge of Italian was no more thorough, though here he
was more nearly on a level with his contemporaries. For Boccaccio indeed
he showed an intense affection, and he could write intelligently, if not
deeply, concerning Dante and Ariosto and Tasso.[56] With French he
naturally had a wider acquaintance, but still nothing beyond the reach of
the very general reader. The notable point is that he refrains from
passing judgment on the entire body of French poetry because it is unlike
English poetry. He is not infected with the wilful provincialism of Lamb
nor with the spirit of John Bullishness which seriously proclaims in its
rivals "equally a want of books and men."[57] "We may be sure of this,"
says Hazlitt, "that when we see nothing but grossness and barbarism, or
insipidity and verbiage in a writer that is the God of a nation's
idolatry, it is we and not they who want true taste and feeling."[58]
Having this wholesome counsel ever before him, he can be more generously
appreciative of the genius of Molière, more justly discerning in his
analysis of the spirit of Rousseau,[59] and more free of the puritanical
clatter against Voltaire than any of his fellow-critics. With German
literature his familiarity was bounded on the one hand by Schiller's
"Robbers," on the other by the first part of "Faust," the entire gap
between these being filled by the popular versions of Kotzebue's plays and
Mme. de Staël's book on Germany. Yet he dared to write a character of the
German people which is almost worth quoting.[60]

In English his range of reading was correspondingly narrow. Such a piece
of waywardness as his enthusiasm for John Buncle,[61] derived no doubt
from Lamb, is unique. Broadly speaking, he prefers to accept the
established canon and approaches new discoveries with a deep distrust. He
is very little concerned with writers of the second order, and in his
Lecture on the Living Poets he shocked his audience unspeakably, when he
came to the name of Hannah More, by merely remarking, "She has written a
great deal which I have never read." He looked upon most living writers
through the eyes of the somewhat jaded reviewer, who, though susceptible
to a romantic thrill from one or the other, is usually on his guard
against spurious blandishments and reluctant to admit the claims of new
pretenders. Even in poets of the first rank he slurred over a great deal;
but what he loved he dwelt on with a kind of rapt inspiration until it
became his second nature, its spirit and its language fused intimately
with his own. This revolutionist in politics was a jealous aristocrat in
the domains of art, and this admission does not impair our earlier
assertion of his openness to a greater variety of impressions than any of
his contemporaries in criticism.

Hazlitt's professed indifference to system is probably due as much to lack
of deep reading as to romantic impatience of restraint. When he declared
that it was beyond his powers "to condense and combine all the facts
relating to a subject"[62] or that "he had no head for arrangement,"[63]
it was only because he did not happen to be a master of the facts which
required combination or arrangement. For he did have an unusual gift for
penetrating to the core of a subject and tearing out the heart of its
mystery; in fact, his power of concrete literary generalization was in his
age unmatched. To reveal the distinctive virtue of a literary form, to
characterize the sources of weakness or of strength in a new or a by-gone
fashion of poetry, to analyze accurately the forces impelling a whole
mighty age--these things, requiring a deep and steady concentration of
mind, are among his most solid achievements. In a paragraph he distils for
us the essence of what is picturesque and worth dwelling on in the comedy
of the Restoration. In a page he triumphantly establishes the
boundary-line between the poetry of art and nature--Pope and
Shakespeare--which to the present day remains as a clear guide, while at
the same time Campbell and Byron and Bowles are filling the periodicals
with protracted and often irrelevant arguments on one side or the other
which only the critically curious now venture to look into. In the space
of a single lecture he takes a sweeping view of all the great movements
which gave vitality and grandeur to the Elizabethan spirit and found a
voice in its literature, so that in spite of his little learning he seems
to have left nothing for his followers but to fill in his outline. The
same keenness of discernment he applied casually in dissecting the genius
of his own time. He associated the absence of drama with the French
Revolution, its tendency to deal in abstractions and to regard everything
in relation to _man_ and not men--a tendency irreconcilable with dramatic
literature, which is essentially individual and concrete.[64] To be sure
the eighteenth century before the Revolution was as void of drama as
Hazlitt's generation, but what is true of the period which produced
Political Justice and the Edinburgh Review would hold equally of the time
which produced the "Essay on Man" and the deistic controversy. He
sometimes harshly exposes the weaker side of contemporary lyricism as a
"mere effusion of natural sensibility," and he regrets the absence of
"imaginary splendor and human passion" as of a glory departed.[65] But
with all this he had the true historical sense. It breaks out most
unmistakably when he says, "If literature in our day has taken this
decided turn into a critical channel, is it not a presumptive proof that
it ought to do so?"[66] Of the actual application of historical principles,
which were just beginning to be realized in the study of literature, we
find only a few faint traces in Hazlitt. Some remarks on the influence of
climate and of religious and political institutions occur in his
contributions to the Edinburgh, but occasionally their perfunctory manner
suggests the editorial pen of Jeffrey. Doubtless Hazlitt's discriminating
judgment would have enabled him to excel in this field, had he been
equipped with the necessary learning.

It may also be a serious limitation of Hazlitt's that he neglects
questions of structure and design. Doubtless he was reacting against the
jargon of the older criticism with its lifeless and monotonous repetitions
about invention and fable and unity, giving nothing but the "superficial
plan and elevation, as if a poem were a piece of formal architecture."[67]
In avoiding the study of the design of "Paradise Lost" or of the "Faerie
Queene" he may have brought his criticism nearer to the popular taste; but
he deliberately shut himself off from a vision of some of the higher
reaches of poetic art, perhaps betraying thereby that lack of
"imagination" with which he has sometimes been charged.[68] His
interpretation of an author is therefore occasionally in danger of
becoming an appreciation of isolated characters, or scenes, or passages,
as if he were actually reading him over with his audience. But this is a
limitation which Hazlitt shares with all the finer critics of his day.

After all these shortcomings have been acknowledged, the permanence of
Hazlitt's achievement appears only the more remarkable. It is clear that
the gods made him critical. The two essential qualities of judgment and
taste he seems to have possessed from the very beginning. It is impossible
to trace in him any development of taste; his growth is but the succession
of his literary experiences. One looks in vain for any of those errors of
youth such as are met even in a Coleridge enamored of Bowles. What
extravagance of tone Hazlitt displayed in his early criticism he carried
with him to his last day. If any change is to be noted, it is in the
growing keenness of his appreciation. The early maturity of his judicial
powers is attested by the political and metaphysical tendency of his
youthful studies. His birth as a full-fledged critic awaited only the
stirring of the springs of his eloquence, as is evident from the
excellence of what is practically his first literary essay, the "Character
of Burke."

No critic has approached books with so intense a passion as Hazlitt. That
sentimental fondness for the volumes themselves, especially when enriched
by the fragrance of antiquity, which gives so delicious a savor to the
bookishness of Lamb, was in him conspicuously absent. For him books were
only a more vivid aspect of life itself. "Tom Jones," he tells us, was the
novel that first broke the spell of his daily tasks and made of the world
"a dance through life, a perpetual gala-day."[69] Keats could not have
romped through the "Faerie Queene" with more spirit than did Hazlitt
through the length and breadth of eighteenth century romance, and the
young poet's awe before the majesty of Homer was hardly greater than that
of the future critic when a Milton or a Wordsworth swam into his ken. This
hot and eager interest, deprived of its outlet in the form of direct
emulation, sought a vent in communicating itself to others and in making
converts to its faith. So intimately did Hazlitt feel the spell of a work
of genius, that its life-blood was transfused into his own almost against
his will. "I wish," he exclaims, "I had never read the Emilius ... I had
better have formed myself on the model of Sir Fopling Flutter."[70] He
entered into the poet's creation with a sympathy amounting almost to
poetic vision, and the ever-present sense of the reality of the artist's
world led him to interpret literature primarily in relation to life. The
poetry of character and passion is what he regards of most essential
interest.[71] This point of view unintentionally converts his familiar
essays on life into a literary discourse, and gives to his formal
criticism the tone of a study of life at its sources, raising it at once
to the same level with creative literature. Though he nowhere employs the
now familiar formula of "literature and life," the lecture "On Poetry in
General" is largely an exposition of this outlook.

Life in its entire compass is regarded as the rough material of
literature, but it does not become literature until the artist's
imagination, as with a divine ray, has penetrated the mass and inspired it
with an ideal existence. Among the numerous attempts of his contemporaries
to define the creative faculty of the poet, this comparatively simple one
of Hazlitt's is worth noting. "This intuitive perception of the hidden
analogies of things, or, as it may be called, this _instinct of
imagination_, is perhaps what stamps the character of genius on the
productions of art more than any other circumstance: for it works
unconsciously, like nature, and receives its impressions from a kind of
inspiration."[72] It is this power that he has in mind when he says
"Poetry is infusing the same spirit in a number of things, or bathing them
all as it were, in the same overflowing sense of delight."[73] It shows
Hazlitt to have fully apprehended the guiding principle of the new ideal
of criticism which, looking upon the work of art as an act of original
creation and not of mechanical composition, based its judgment on a direct
sympathy with the artist's mind instead of resorting to a general rule. In
the light of this principle he is enabled to avoid the pitfalls of a
moralistic interpretation of literature and to decide the question as to
the relative importance of substance and treatment with a certainty which
seems to preclude the possibility of any other answer.

It is not the dignity of the theme which constitutes the great work of
art, for in that case a prose summary of the "Divine Comedy" would be as
exalted as the original, and it would be necessary merely to know the
subject of a poem in order to pass judgment upon it. A low or a trivial
subject may be raised by the imagination of the artist who recognizes in
it the elements of beauty or power. No definition of poetry can be worth
anything which would exclude "The Rape of the Lock"; and Murillo's
painting of "The Two Beggar Boys" is as much worth having "as almost any
picture in the world."[74] "Yet it is not true that execution is
everything, and the class or subject nothing. The highest subjects,
equally well-executed (which, however, rarely happens), are the best."[75]
Though each is perfect in its kind, there can be no difficulty in deciding
the question of greatness between "King Lear" and "The Comedy of Errors."
"The greatest strength of genius is shewn in describing the strongest
passions: for the power of imagination, in works of invention, must be in
proportion to the force of the natural impressions, which are the subject
of them."[76] One also finds a test of relative values in the measure of
fulness with which the work of art reflects the complex elements of life.
If we estimate a tragedy of Shakespeare above one of Lillo or Moore, it is
because "impassioned poetry is an emanation of the moral and intellectual
part of our nature, as well as of the sensitive--of the desire to know,
the will to act, and the power to feel; and ought to appeal to these
different parts of the constitution, in order to be perfect."[77]

In treating of the specific distinction of poetry Hazlitt does not escape
the usual difficulties. Taking his point of departure from Milton's
"thoughts that voluntary move harmonious numbers," he defines poetry in a
passage that satisfactorily anticipates the familiar one of Carlyle, as
"the music of language answering to the music of the mind.... Wherever any
object takes such a hold of the mind as to make us dwell upon it, and
brood over it, melting the heart in tenderness, or kindling it to a
sentiment of enthusiasm;--wherever a movement of imagination or passion is
impressed on the mind, by which it seeks to prolong or repeat the emotion,
to bring all other objects into accord with it, and to give the same
movement of harmony, sustained and continuous, or gradually varied
according to the occasion, to the sounds that express it--this is poetry.
The musical in sound is the sustained and continuous; the musical in
thought is the sustained and continuous also. There is a near connection
between music and deep-rooted passion."[78] In this mystical direction a
definition could go no further, but like nearly all writers and speakers
Hazlitt is inclined to use the word poetry in a variety of more or less
connected meanings,[79] ordinarily legitimate enough, but somewhat
embarrassing when it is a question of definition. "That which lifts the
spirit above the earth, which draws the soul out of itself with
indescribable longings, is," he says, "poetry in kind, and generally fit
to become so in name, by 'being married to immortal verse.'"[80] If it is
true that Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe possess the "essence and
the power of poetry" and require only the addition of verse to become
absolutely so,[81] then the musical expression is only a factitious
ornament, to be added or removed at the caprice of the writer. But Hazlitt
is careful to declare that verse does not make the whole difference
between poetry and prose, leaving the whole question as vaguely suspended
as ever.[82]

Bare theorizing, according to his own confession, was no favorite pursuit
with Hazlitt. He enjoyed himself much more in the analysis of an
individual author or his work. His aversion to literary cant, his love of
"saying things that are his own in a way of his own," were here most in
evidence. What he says of Milton might appropriately be applied to
himself, that he formed the most intense conception of things and then
embodied them by a single stroke of his pen. In a phrase or in a sentence
he stamped the character of an author indelibly, and, enemy to commonplace
though he was, became a cause of commonplace in others. No matter how much
might already have been written on a subject (and Hazlitt did not make a
practice of celebrating neglected obscurity) his own view stood out fresh
and clear, and yet his judgments were never eccentric. He wrestled with a
writer's thoughts, absorbed his most passionate feelings, and mirrored
back his most exquisite perceptions with "all the color, the light and the
shade." His fertility is more amazing than his intensity, for no critic of
nearly equal rank has enriched English literature with so many valuable
and enduring judgments on so great a variety of subjects. Dr. Johnson is
by common consent the spokesman of the eighteenth century, or of its
dominant class; Coleridge and Lamb are entitled to the glory of revealing
the literature between Spenser and Milton to English readers, and the
former rendered the additional service of acting as the interpreter of
Wordsworth. But to give an idea of Hazlitt's scope would require a summary
of opinions embracing poetry from Chaucer and Spenser to Wordsworth and
Byron, prose sacred and profane from Bacon and Jeremy Taylor to Burke and
Edward Irving, the drama in its two flourishing periods, the familiar
essay from Steele and Addison to Lamb and Leigh Hunt, the novel from Defoe
to Sir Walter Scott. This does not begin to suggest Hazlitt's versatility.
His own modest though somewhat over-alliterative words are that he has "at
least glanced over a number of subjects--painting, poetry, prose, plays,
politics, parliamentary speakers, metaphysical lore, books, men, and
things."[83]

The importance of Hazlitt's Shakespearian criticism is no longer open to
question. Though Coleridge alluded to them slightingly as out-and-out
imitations of Lamb,[84] Hazlitt's dicta on the greatest English genius are
equal in depth to Lamb's and far more numerous; and while in profoundness
and subtlety they fall short of the remarks of Coleridge himself, they
surpass them in intensity and carrying power. To both of these men Hazlitt
owed a great deal in his appreciation of Shakespeare, and perhaps even
more to August Wilhelm Schlegel, whose Lectures on Dramatic Literature he
reviewed in 1815.[85] His allusions to Schlegel border on enthusiasm and
he makes it a proud claim that he has done "more than any one except
Schlegel to vindicate the Characters of Shakespeare's Plays from the
stigma of French criticism."[86] But however great his obligation, there
was some point in the compliment of the German critic when he declared
that Hazlitt had gone beyond him (l'avoit dépassé) in his Shakespearian
opinions.[87] A few years later Heine maintained that the only significant
commentator of Shakespeare produced by England was William Hazlitt.[88]
Coleridge's notes, it is to be remembered, were not at that time generally
accessible.

Hazlitt's attitude toward Shakespeare was wholesomely on this side of
idolatry. He did not make it an article of faith to admire everything that
Shakespeare had written, and refused his praise to the poems and most of
the sonnets. Even Schlegel and Coleridge could not persuade him to see
beauties in what appeared to be blemishes, but in a general estimate of
Shakespeare's all-embracing genius he conceived his faults to be "of just
as much consequence as his bad spelling."[89] He saw in him a genius who
comprehended all humanity, who represented it poetically in all its shades
and varieties. He examined all the fine distinctions of character, he
studied Shakespeare's manner of combining and contrasting them so as to
produce a unity of tone above even the art of the classic unities. From
the irresponsible comedy of Falstaff to the deepest tragic notes of Lear,
the whole gamut of human emotions encounters responsive chords in the
critic's mind--the young love of Romeo and Juliet or the voluptuous
abandonment of Antony and Cleopatra, the intellect of Iago irresistibly
impelled to malignant activity or Hamlet entangled in the coils of a fatal
introspection. To the sheer poetry of Shakespeare he is also acutely
sensitive, to the soft moonlit atmosphere of the "Midsummernight's Dream,"
to the tender gloom of "Cymbeline," to the "philosophic poetry" of "As You
Like It." Some of his interpretations of isolated passages are hardly to
be surpassed. He comments minutely and exquisitely on what he considers to
be a touchstone of poetic feeling,

                              "Daffodils
  That come before the swallow dares, and take
  The winds of March with beauty."[90]

And with what complete insight he translates a speech of Antony's:

"This precarious state and the approaching dissolution of his greatness
are strikingly displayed in the dialogue of Antony with Eros:

  '_Antony._ Eros, thou yet behold'st me?

  _Eros._ Ay, noble lord.

  _Antony._ Sometime we see a cloud that's dragonish;
  A vapour sometime, like a bear or lion,
  A towered citadel, a pendant rock,
  A forked mountain, or blue promontory
  With trees upon't, that nod unto the world
  And mock our eyes with air. Thou hast seen these signs,
  They are black vesper's pageants.

  _Eros._ Ay, my lord.

  _Antony._ That which is now a horse, even with a thought
  The rack dislimns, and makes it indistinct
  As water is in water.

  _Eros._ It does, my lord.

  _Antony._ My good knave, Eros, now thy captain is
  Even such a body,' etc.


"This is, without doubt, one of the finest pieces of poetry in Shakspeare.
The splendour of the imagery, the semblance of reality, the lofty range of
picturesque objects hanging over the world, their evanescent nature, the
total uncertainty of what is left behind, are just like the mouldering
schemes of human greatness. It is finer than Cleopatra's passionate
lamentation over his fallen grandeur, because it is more dim, unstable,
unsubstantial."[91]

If an understanding of Shakespeare in Hazlitt's day may be taken as a
measure of a critic's depth of insight, his attitude toward Shakespeare's
fellow-dramatists will just as surely reveal his powers of discrimination.
Lamb was often carried away by a pioneer's fervor and misled persons like
Lowell, who, returning to Ford late in life, found "that the greater part
of what [he] once took on trust as precious was really paste and
pinchbeck," and that as far as the celebrated closing scene in "The Broken
Heart" was concerned, Charles Lamb's comment on it was "worth more than
all Ford ever wrote."[92] Hazlitt's dispassionate sanity in this instance
forms an instructive contrast: "Except the last scene of the Broken Heart
(which I think extravagant--others may think it sublime, and be right)
they [Ford's plays] are merely exercises of style and effusion of
wire-drawn sentiment."[93] The same strength of judgment rendered Hazlitt
proof against the excessive sentimentality in Beaumont and Fletcher and
gave a distinct value to his opinions even when they seemed to be wrong,
which was not often. But in writing of Marlowe, of Dekker and of Webster,
he spreads out all his sail to make a joyous run among the beauties in his
course.

And it is so with the rest of his criticism--throughout the same
susceptibility to all that is true, or lofty, or refined, vigilantly
controlled by a firm common sense, the same stamp of originality
unmistakably impressed on all. "I like old opinions with new reasons," he
once said to Northcote, "not new opinions without any."[94] But he did not
hesitate to express a new opinion where the old one appeared to be unjust.
His heretical preference of Steele over Addison has found more than one
convert in later days. On Spenser or Pope, on Fielding or Richardson, he
is equally happy and unimprovable. In the opinion of Mr. Saintsbury,
Hazlitt's general lecture on Elizabethan literature, his treatment of the
dramatists of the Restoration, of Pope, of the English Novelists, and of
Cobbett have never been excelled; and who is better qualified than Mr.
Saintsbury by width of reading to express such an opinion?[95]

Of Hazlitt's treatment of his own contemporaries an additional word needs
to be said. No charge has been repeated more often than that of the
inconsistency, perversity, and utter unreliableness of his judgments on
the writers of his day. To distinguish between the claims of living poets,
particularly in an age of new ideas and changing forms, is a task which
might test the powers of the most discerning critics, and in which
perfection is hardly to be attained. Yet one may ask whether in the entire
extent of Hazlitt's writing a great living genius has been turned into a
mockery or a figurehead been set up for the admiration of posterity. Of
his personal and political antipathies enough has been said, but against
literary orthodoxy his only great sin is a harsh review of
"Christabel."[96] If in general we look at the age through Hazlitt's eyes,
we shall see its literature dominated by the figures of Wordsworth and
Scott, the one regarded as the restorer of life to poetry, the other as
the creator or transcriber of a whole world of romance and humanity.
Coleridge stands out prominently as the widest intellect of his age.
Byron's poetry bulks very large, though it is not estimated as
superlatively as in the criticism of our own day. It is a pity that
Hazlitt never wrote formally of Keats, for his casual allusions indicate a
deep enjoyment of the "rich beauties and the dim obscurities" of the "Eve
of St. Agnes"[97] and an appreciation of the perfection of the great
odes.[98] If he failed to give Shelley his full dues, he did not overlook
his exquisite lyrical inspiration. He spoke of Shelley as a man of genius,
but "'all air,' disdaining the bars and ties of mortal mould;" he praised
him for "single thoughts of great depth and force, single images of rare
beauty, detached passages of extreme tenderness," and he rose to
enthusiasm in commending his translations, especially the scenes from
Faust.[99] He has been accused of writing a Spirit of the Age which
omitted to give an account of Shelley and Keats, but in the title of the
book consists his excuse. As it was not his idea to anticipate the
decision of posterity but only to sketch the personalities who were in
control of the public attention, he passed over the finer poets who were
still neglected, and wrote instead about Campbell and Moore and Crabbe. It
is sufficient praise for the critic that those of whom he has undertaken
to treat stand irreversibly judged in his pages. He is generous toward
Campbell and Moore, who were both personally hostile to him; he is
scrupulously honest toward Bentham, with whose system he had no sympathy.
The concluding pages of his sketch of Southey, in view of that poet's
rancor against him, are almost defiant in their magnanimity. His adverse
judgments, moreover, are as permanent as his favorable ones. He pronounced
the verdict against the naked realism of Crabbe's poetry, which persons
like Jeffrey thought superior to Wordsworth's, and he pricked the bubble
of Edward Irving's popularity while it was at its pitch of highest glory.
If he was often bitter toward men whom he at other times eulogized, it was
in the heat and hurry of journalistic publication in a period when blows
were freely dealt and freely taken. If he sometimes censured even
Wordsworth and Scott and grew impatient with Byron and Coleridge, it must
be remembered that these men of genius had imperfections, and that the
imperfections of men of genius are of far greater concern to their
contemporaries than to posterity. Time dispels the mists and allows the
gross matter to settle to the bottom. We now have Wordsworth in the
selections of Matthew Arnold, we read the Waverley Novels with Lockhart's
Life of Scott before us, and we render praise to Coleridge for what he has
accomplished since his death. With none of these advantages, Hazlitt's
performance seems remarkable enough. No contemporary with the exception of
Leigh Hunt displayed as wide a sympathy with the writers of that time, and
Hazlitt so far surpasses Hunt in discrimination and strength, that he
deserves to be called, strange as it may sound, the best contemporary
judge of the literature of his age.

It has already been suggested that much of Hazlitt's appeal as a critic
rests on the force of his popular eloquence, so that a brief consideration
of his prose is not in this connection out of place. "We may all be fine
fellows," said Stevenson, "but none of us can write like Hazlitt." To
write a style that is easy yet incisive, lively and at the same time
substantial, buoyant without being frothy, glittering but with no tinsel
frippery, a style combining the virtues of homeliness and picturesqueness,
has been given to few mortals. Writing in a generation in which the
standards of prose were conspicuously unsettled, when the most ambitious
writers were seeking an escape from the frozen patterns of the eighteenth
century in a restoration of the elaborate artifices of the seventeenth,
when quaintness and ornateness were the evidence of a distinguished style,
Hazlitt succeeded in preserving the note of familiarity without fading
into colorlessness or in any degree effacing his individuality. He cannot
be counted among the masters of finished prose, he is as a matter of fact
often very negligent,[100] but he developed the best model of an
undiluted, sturdy, popular style that is to be found in the English
language.

Perhaps an adherence to the eighteenth century tradition of plainness is
the most prominent characteristic of Hazlitt's prose. But his plainness is
not precisely of the blunt type associated with Swift and Arbuthnot. It is
modified by the Gallic tone of easy familiarity, by the ideal deemed
appropriate for dignified converse among educated people of the world. His
periods are of the simplest construction and they are not methodically
combined in the artificial patterns beloved of the eighteenth century
followers of the plain style. Not that he altogether neglects the devices
of parallelism and antithesis when he wishes to give epigrammatic point to
his remarks, but he more generally develops his ideas in a series of
easily flowing sentences which are as near as writing can be to "the tone
of lively and sensible conversation." It is impossible to match in the
English essay such talk as Hazlitt reproduces in his accounts of the
evenings at Lamb's room or of his meeting with Coleridge, in which high
themes and spirited eloquence find spontaneous and unaffected expression
through the same medium as might be employed in a deliberate definition of
the nature of poetry. The various sets of lectures are pitched in the same
conversational key and are found adequate to conveying a notion of the
grandeur of Milton as well as of the familiarity of Lamb.

Those who have praised Hazlitt's simplicity have often given the
impression that his prose is a single-stringed instrument, and have failed
to suggest the range comprised between the simple hammer-strokes of the
essay on Cobbett and the magnificent diapason in which he unrolls the
panorama of Coleridge's mind. In both passages there is the same
sentence-norm. In the first, the periods, not bound by any connecting
words, strike distinctly, sharply, with staccato abruptness. The movement
is that of a clean-limbed wrestler struggling with confident energy to pin
down a difficult opponent:

"His principle is repulsion, his nature contradiction: he is made up of
mere antipathies; an Ishmaelite indeed, without a fellow. He is always
playing at _hunt-the-slipper_ in politics. He turns round upon whoever is
next to him. The way to wean him from any opinion, and make him conceive
an intolerable hatred against it, would be to place somebody near him who
was perpetually dinning it in his ears. When he is in England, he does
nothing but abuse the Boroughmongers, and laugh at the whole system: when
he is in America, he grows impatient of freedom and a republic. If he had
staid there a little longer, he would have become a loyal and a loving
subject of his Majesty King George IV. He lampooned the French Revolution
when it was hailed as the dawn of liberty by millions: by the time it was
brought into almost universal ill-odour by some means or other (partly no
doubt by himself) he had turned, with one or two or three others, staunch
Bonapartist. He is always of the militant, not of the triumphant party: so
far he bears a gallant show of magnanimity; but his gallantry is hardly of
the right stamp: it wants principle. For though he is not servile or
mercenary, he is the victim of self-will. He must pull down and pull in
pieces: it is not in his disposition to do otherwise. It is a pity; for
with his great talents he might do great things, if he would go right
forward to any useful object, make thorough-stitch work of any question,
or join hand and heart with any principle. He changes his opinions as he
does his friends, and much on the same account. He has no comfort in fixed
principles: as soon as anything is settled in his own mind, he quarrels
with it. He has no satisfaction but in the chase after truth, runs a
question down, worries and kills it, then quits it like vermin, and starts
some new game, to lead him a new dance, and give him a fresh breathing
through bog and brake, with the rabble yelping at his heels and the
leaders perpetually at fault."[101]

In the other passage the clauses and phrases follow in their natural
order, but they are united by the simplest kind of connective device in an
undistinguishable stream over which the reader is driven with a steady
swell and fall, sometimes made breathlessly rapid by the succession of its
uniformly measured word-groups, but delicately modulated here and there to
provide restful pauses in the long onward career:

"Next, he was engaged with Hartley's tribes of mind, 'etherial braid,
thought-woven,'--and he busied himself for a year or two with vibrations
and vibratiuncles and the great law of association that binds all things
in its mystic chain, and the doctrine of Necessity (the mild teacher of
Charity) and the Millennium, anticipative of a life to come--and he
plunged deep into the controversy on Matter and Spirit, and, as an escape
from Dr. Priestley's Materialism, where he felt himself imprisoned by the
logician's spell, like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree, he became suddenly
enamoured of Bishop Berkeley's fairy-world, and used in all companies to
build the universe, like a brave poetical fiction, of fine words--and he
was deep-read in Malebranche, and in Cudworth's Intellectual System (a
huge pile of learning, unwieldly, enormous) and in Lord Brook's
hieroglyphic theories, and in Bishop Butler's Sermons, and in the Duchess
of Newcastle's fantastic folios, and in Clarke and South and Tillotson,
and all the fine thinkers and masculine reasoners of that age--and
Leibnitz's _Pre-established Harmony_ reared its arch above his head, like
the rainbow in the cloud, covenanting with the hopes of man--and then he
fell plump, ten thousand fathoms down (but his wings saved him harmless)
into the _hortus siccus_ of Dissent" etc.[102]

The same style which glistens and sparkles in describing the fancy of Pope
rises to an inspired chant with a clearly defined cadence at the
recollection of the past glory of Coleridge:

"He was the first poet I ever knew. His genius at that time had angelic
wings, and fed on manna. He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk
on for ever. His thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort; but
as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of his imagination
lifted him from off his feet. His voice rolled on the ear like the pealing
organ, and its sound alone was the music of thought. His mind was clothed
with wings; and raised on them, he lifted philosophy to heaven. In his
descriptions, you then saw the progress of human happiness and liberty in
bright and never-ending succession, like the steps of Jacob's ladder, with
airy shapes ascending and descending, and with the voice of God at the top
of the ladder. And shall I, who heard him then, listen to him now? Not I!
That spell is broke; that time is gone for ever; that voice is heard no
more: but still the recollection comes rushing by with thoughts of
long-past years, and rings in my ears with never-dying sound."[103]

It would take much space to illustrate all the notes to which Hazlitt's
voice responds--the pithy epigram of the Characteristics, the
Chesterfieldian grace in his advice "On the Conduct of Life," the
palpitating movement with which he gives expression to his keen enjoyment
of his sensual or intellectual existence, and the subdued solemnity of his
reveries which sometimes remind us that he was writing in an age which had
rediscovered Sir Thomas Browne. The following sentence proves how
accurately he could catch the rhythm of the seventeenth century. "That we
should wear out by slow stages, and dwindle at last into nothing, is not
wonderful, when even in our prime our strongest impressions leave little
trace but for the moment, and we are the creatures of petty
circumstance."[104] Other passages in the same essay echo this manner only
less strikingly:

"Life is indeed a strange gift, and its privileges are most mysterious. No
wonder when it is first granted to us, that our gratitude, our admiration,
and our delight, should prevent us from reflecting on our own nothingness,
or from thinking it will ever be recalled. Our first and strongest
impressions are borrowed from the mighty scene that is opened to us, and
we unconsciously transfer its durability as well as its splendour to
ourselves. So newly found we cannot think of parting with it yet, or at
least put off that consideration _sine die_. Like a rustic at a fair, we
are full of amazement and rapture, and have no thought of going home, or
that it will soon be night. We know our existence only by ourselves, and
confound our knowledge with the objects of it. We and nature are therefore
one. Otherwise the illusion, the 'feast of reason and the flow of soul,'
to which we are invited, is a mockery and a cruel insult. We do not go
from a play till the last act is ended, and the lights are about to be
extinguished. But the fairy face of nature still shines on: shall we be
called away before the curtain falls, or ere we have scarce had a glimpse
of what is going on? Like children, our step-mother nature holds us up to
see the raree-show of the universe, and then, as if we were a burden to
her to support, lets us fall down again. Yet what brave sublunary things
does not this pageant present, like a ball or _fête_ of the
universe!"[105]

In Hazlitt's vocabulary there is nothing striking unless it be the
scrupulousness with which he avoids the danger of commonplaceness and of
pedantry. It is easy to forget that the transparent obviousness of his
style was attained only after many years of groping. We may well believe
that "there is a research in the choice of a plain, as well as of an
ornamental or learned style; and, in fact, a great deal more."[106] Though
he did not go in pursuit of the word to the extent of some later refiners
of style, he had a clear realization that the appropriate word was what
chiefly gave vitality to writing.[107] For this reason he constantly
denounced Johnsonese with its polysyllabic Latin words which reduced
language to abstract generalization. His own vocabulary is concrete and
vivid, and of a purity which makes one wonder how even the Quarterly
Review could have ventured to apply to him the epithet "slang-whanger."

In spite of all that may be said in honor of the unadorned style of
composition, writers have ever found that even in prose ideas are most
forcibly conveyed by means of imagery. Hazlitt, it should be remembered,
was an ardent admirer of the picturesque qualities in the prose of Burke,
the most brilliant of the eighteenth century. In recalling his first
reading of Burke, he tells how he despaired of emulating his felicities.
But whether by dint of meditating over Burke or by the native vigor of his
fancy, Hazlitt learned to write as boldly and as brilliantly as the great
orator. As a rule his rhetorical passages are not deliberately contrived,
in the manner for example of his esteemed contemporary De Quincey. His
tropes and images rise directly out of his subject or his feelings.
Instead of dissecting the qualities of a character or a work of art, he
translates its tone and its spirit as closely as language will permit.
That is why his criticism, like Lamb's or that of the master of this form,
Longinus, is itself first-rate literature, recreating the impression of a
masterpiece and sometimes even going beyond it.

Of his picturesque quality examples enough may be found in the present
volume, yet one cannot forbear to add a few illustrations at this point.
There is his irresistible comparison of Cobbett in his political
inconsistency to "a young and lusty bridegroom, that divorces a favorite
speculation every morning, and marries a new one every night. He is not
wedded to his notions, not he. He has not one Mrs. Cobbett among all his
opinions."[108] There is a good deal more than mere wit in the analogy
between Godwin's mechanical laboriousness and "an eight-day clock that
must be wound up long before it can strike."[109] And there is real
grandeur in his description of Fame: "Fame is the sound which the stream
of high thoughts, carried down to future ages, makes as it flows--deep,
distant, murmuring evermore like the waters of the mighty ocean. He who
has ears truly touched to this music, is in a manner deaf to the voice of
popularity."[110] In representing the brilliant hues of Restoration
comedy, he allows an even freer play to his fancy:

"In turning over the pages of the best comedies, we are almost transported
to another world, and escape from this dull age to one that was all life,
and whim, and mirth, and humour. The curtain rises, and a gayer scene
presents itself, as on the canvas of Watteau. We are admitted behind the
scenes like spectators at court, on a levee or birthday; but it is the
court, the gala-day of wit and pleasure, of gallantry and Charles II.!
What an air breathes from the name! what a rustling of silks and waving of
plumes! what a sparkling of diamond ear-rings and shoe-buckles! What
bright eyes, (Ah, those were Waller's Sacharissa's as she passed!) what
killing looks and graceful motions! How the faces of the whole ring are
dressed in smiles! how the repartee goes round! how wit and folly,
elegance and awkward imitation of it, set one another off! Happy,
thoughtless age, when kings and nobles led purely ornamental lives; when
the utmost stretch of a morning's study went no farther than the choice of
a sword-knot, or the adjustment of a side-curl; when the soul spoke out in
all the pleasing eloquence of dress; and beaux and belles, enamoured of
themselves in one another's follies, fluttered like gilded butterflies, in
giddy mazes, through the walks of St. James's Park!"[111]

Sometimes, it is true, he allows his spirits to run away with his
judgment, although in such instances the manner is so obviously
exaggerated as to suggest deliberate mimicry. His account of the tawdry
sentimentality of Moore's poetry sounds like pure travesty:

"His verse is like a shower of beauty; a dance of images; a stream of
music; or like the spray of the water-fall, tinged by the morning-beam
with rosy light. The characteristic distinction of our author's style is
this continuous and incessant flow of voluptuous thoughts and shining
allusions. He ought to write with a crystal pen on silver paper. His
subject is set off by a dazzling veil of poetic diction, like a wreath of
flowers gemmed with innumerous dew-drops, that weep, tremble, and glitter
in liquid softness and pearly light, while the song of birds ravishes the
ear, and languid odours breathe around, and Aurora opens Heaven's smiling
portals, Peris and nymphs peep through the golden glades, and an Angel's
wing glances over the glossy scene."[112]

One feature of Hazlitt's style concerning which much has been said both in
praise and in blame is his inveterate use of quotations. His pages,
particularly when he is in a contemplative mood, are sown with snatches
from the great poets, and the effect generally is of the happiest. A line
of Shakespeare's or of Wordsworth's, blending with a vein of high feeling
or deep reflection, transfigures the entire passage as if by magic.
Sometimes the phrase is merely woven into the general texture of the prose
without in any way raising its tone, and on occasion some fine poetic
expression is vulgarized by being thrown into very common company. It is
vandalism to muster a sonnet of Shakespeare's into such a service and it
in no way enhances the expressiveness of the passage to say, "A flashy
pamphlet has been run to a five-and-thirtieth edition, and thus ensured
the writer a 'deathless date' among political charlatans."[113] The fact
is that quotations were a part of Hazlitt's vocabulary, which he used with
the same freedom as common locutions and with less scrupulous regard for
the associations which were gathered about them. He negligently misquoted
or wantonly adapted to his purpose, but the reader is willing to pardon
the moments of irritation for the numerous delightful thrills which he has
provoked by some happy poetic memory "stealing and giving odor" to a
sentiment in itself dignified or elevated.

Hazlitt's influence as a critic may be inferred from a summary of his
opinions. It was not so much through the infusion of a new spirit in
literature that he acted on other minds. Though his criticism owes much of
its value to the freshness and boldness of his approach, this
temperamental virtue was not something which could be imitated by a less
gifted writer. Sainte-Beuve indeed seems to recognize Hazlitt as the
exponent of the impetuous and inspired vein in criticism--"the kind of
inspiration which accompanies and follows those frequent articles
dashingly improvised and launched under full steam. One puts himself
completely into it: its value is exaggerated for the time being, its
importance is measured by its fury, and if this leads to better results,
there is no great harm after all."[114] But though he professed these to
be his own feelings as a critic, they were in him so modified by the
traditional French moderation and suavity of tone, as well as by a greater
precision of method, as to make the resemblance to Hazlitt inconspicuous.
It is hard to determine to what extent Hazlitt's individualism is
responsible for the lawless impressionism of some later critics,[115] but
it is not to be imputed to him as a sin if, in the course of a century,
one of his virtues has become exaggerated into a fault. He has but
suffered human destiny.

Hazlitt's influence has been wide in guiding the taste of readers and in
creating or giving currency to a body of opinions on literature which has
found acceptance among critics. If the tributes of Schlegel and Heine to
Hazlitt's Shakespearian criticism were insufficient, we have the word of
his own countrymen for it that numberless readers were initiated into a
proper understanding of Shakespeare by means of his writings.[116] In our
own days Mr. Howells has told us that Hazlitt "helped him to clarify and
formulate his opinions of Shakespeare as no one else has yet done."[117]
Critics no less than readers owe him a large debt. Hazlitt had not been
writing many years before his fellow-laborers in literature began to
recognize and pay homage to his superior insight. His opinions were quoted
as having the weight of authority by those who were friendly to him, the
writers in the London Magazine or in the Edinburgh Review; they were
appropriated without acknowledgement by the hostile contributors to
Blackwood's. Many writers deferred to him as respectfully as he himself
deferred to Coleridge and Lamb, even though Byron's respectable friends
adjured the noble poet not to dignify Hazlitt in open controversy except
by mentioning him as "a certain lecturer." Leigh Hunt was frequently
indebted to him, but generally paid the tribute due. Macaulay sometimes
assimilated a passage of Hazlitt's to the needs of his own earlier essays.
In the essay on Milton his balancing of Charles's political vices against
his domestic virtues is strikingly reminiscent of a similar treatment of
Southey by the older critic. Personal dislike of Hazlitt, persisting after
his death, for a long time prevented a proper respect being paid to his
memory without much diminishing the weight of his influence. The attitude
toward him is summed up by a writer whose treatment in general does not
err on the side of enthusiasm. Hazlitt, he tells us, is "a writer with
whose reputation fashion has hitherto had very little to do--who is even
now more read than praised, more imitated than extolled, and whose various
productions still interest many who care and know very little about the
author."[118] But this very utterance was on the occasion of the turning
of the tide. It was in a review of Hazlitt's Literary Remains which had
been introduced by appreciative essays from the pens of Bulwer-Lytton and
Thomas Noon Talfourd, the former not a little patronizing, but Talfourd's
excellent in its discrimination of the strength and weakness of Hazlitt. A
few years later came the implied compliment of Horne's New Spirit of the
Age, which would hardly be worth mentioning were it not that Thackeray in
reviewing it took occasion to pay an exquisite tribute to Hazlitt.[119]
From this time forth he was not wanting in stout champions, though most
people still maintained a cautious reserve in their judgments of him. So
sound and penetrating a critic as Walter Bagehot became an earnest
convert, and in Bagehot's writings Mr. Birrell has pointed out more than
one resemblance to Hazlitt. James Russell Lowell has not been profuse in
his expressions of admiration, but he has probably followed Hazlitt's
track more closely than any other important critic. Many of his essays
seem to have been composed with a volume of Hazlitt on the desk before
him. There is the essay on Pope with its general correspondence of points
and occasional startling parallel of phrase. Hazlitt at the end of his
lecture on Pope and Dryden remarks that poetry had "declined by successive
gradations from the poetry of imagination in the age of Elizabeth to the
poetry of fancy in the time of Charles I," and Lowell repeats this with
some amplification. In the same connection he characterizes Shakespeare,
Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton in the sharp epigrammatic manner reminding
one of Hazlitt. In the concluding pages of the essay on Spenser we are
also kept in a reminiscent mood, till Lowell tells us that "to read him is
like dreaming awake," and at once there flashes upon us Hazlitt's
expression that "Spenser is the poet of our waking dreams." It is through
missionary work like this, not altogether conscious and therefore all the
more genuine, that his opinions have been diffused through the length and
breadth of English and been incorporated into the common stock. "Gracious
rills from the Hazlitt watershed have flowed in all directions,
fertilizing a dry and thirsty land"--is the happily turned phrase of Mr.
Birrell. If in our own day there are still persons who, looking upon
criticism as a severe science, occasionally sneer at him as a "facile
eulogist,"[120] those who regard it rather as a gift have seen in him "the
greatest critic that England has yet produced."[121] Wherever the golden
mean between these two extremes of opinion may lie, there is no doubt that
for introducing readers to an appreciation of the great things in English
literature, Hazlitt still remains without an equal.



I

THE AGE OF ELIZABETH


The age of Elizabeth was distinguished, beyond, perhaps, any other in our
history, by a number of great men, famous in different ways, and whose
names have come down to us with unblemished honours; statesmen, warriors,
divines, scholars, poets, and philosophers, Raleigh, Drake, Coke, Hooker,
and higher and more sounding still, and still more frequent in our mouths,
Shakspeare, Spenser, Sidney, Bacon, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, men
whom fame has eternised in her long and lasting scroll, and who, by their
words and acts, were benefactors of their country, and ornaments of human
nature. Their attainments of different kinds bore the same general stamp,
and it was sterling: what they did, had the mark of their age and country
upon it. Perhaps the genius of Great Britain (if I may so speak without
offence or flattery), never shone out fuller or brighter, or looked more
like itself, than at this period. Our writers and great men had something
in them that savoured of the soil from which they grew: they were not
French, they were not Dutch, or German, or Greek, or Latin; they were
truly English. They did not look out of themselves to see what they should
be; they sought for truth and nature, and found it in themselves. There
was no tinsel, and but little art; they were not the spoiled children of
affectation and refinement, but a bold, vigorous, independent race of
thinkers, with prodigious strength and energy, with none but natural
grace, and heartfelt unobtrusive delicacy. They were not at all
sophisticated. The mind of their country was great in them, and it
prevailed. With their learning and unexampled acquirement, they did not
forget that they were men: with all their endeavours after excellence,
they did not lay aside the strong original bent and character of their
minds. What they performed was chiefly nature's handy-work; and time has
claimed it for his own.--To these, however, might be added others not less
learned, nor with a scarce less happy vein, but less fortunate in the
event, who, though as renowned in their day, have sunk into "mere
oblivion," and of whom the only record (but that the noblest) is to be
found in their works. Their works and their names, "poor, poor dumb
names," are all that remains of such men as Webster, Deckar, Marston,
Marlow, Chapman, Heywood, Middleton, and Rowley! "How lov'd, how honour'd
once, avails them not:" though they were the friends and fellow-labourers
of Shakspeare, sharing his fame and fortunes with him, the rivals of
Jonson, and the masters of Beaumont and Fletcher's well-sung woes! They
went out one by one unnoticed, like evening lights; or were swallowed up
in the headlong torrent of puritanic zeal which succeeded, and swept away
everything in its unsparing course, throwing up the wrecks of taste and
genius at random, and at long fitful intervals, amidst the painted
gew-gaws and foreign frippery of the reign of Charles II. and from which
we are only now recovering the scattered fragments and broken images to
erect a temple to true Fame! How long, before it will be completed?

If I can do anything to rescue some of these writers from hopeless
obscurity, and to do them right, without prejudice to well-deserved
reputation, I shall have succeeded in what I chiefly propose. I shall not
attempt, indeed, to adjust the spelling, or restore the pointing, as if
the genius of poetry lay hid in errors of the press, but leaving these
weightier matters of criticism to those who are more able and willing to
bear the burden, try to bring out their real beauties to the eager sight,
"draw the curtain of Time, and shew the picture of Genius," restraining my
own admiration within reasonable bounds!...

We affect to wonder at Shakspeare, and one or two more of that period, as
solitary instances upon record; whereas it is our own dearth of
information that makes the waste; for there is no time more populous of
intellect, or more prolific of intellectual wealth, than the one we are
speaking of. Shakspeare did not look upon himself in this light, as a sort
of monster of poetical genius, or on his contemporaries as "less than
smallest dwarfs," when he speaks with true, not false modesty, of himself
and them, and of his wayward thoughts, "desiring this man's art, and that
man's scope." We fancy that there were no such men, that could either add
to or take anything away from him, but such there were. He indeed
overlooks and commands the admiration of posterity, but he does it from
the _tableland_ of the age in which he lived. He towered above his
fellows, "in shape and gesture proudly eminent;" but he was one of a race
of giants, the tallest, the strongest, the most graceful, and beautiful of
them; but it was a common and a noble brood. He was not something sacred
and aloof from the vulgar herd of men, but shook hands with nature and the
circumstances of the time, and is distinguished from his immediate
contemporaries, not in kind, but in degree and greater variety of
excellence. He did not form a class or species by himself, but belonged to
a class or species. His age was necessary to him; nor could he have been
wrenched from his place in the edifice of which he was so conspicuous a
part, without equal injury to himself and it. Mr. Wordsworth says of
Milton, that "his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." This cannot be
said with any propriety of Shakspeare, who certainly moved in a
constellation of bright luminaries, and "drew after him a third part of
the heavens." If we allow, for argument's sake (or for truth's, which is
better), that he was in himself equal to all his competitors put together;
yet there was more dramatic excellence in that age than in the whole of
the period that has elapsed since. If his contemporaries, with their
united strength, would hardly make one Shakspeare, certain it is that all
his successors would not make half a one. With the exception of a single
writer, Otway, and of a single play of his (Venice Preserved), there is
nobody in tragedy and dramatic poetry (I do not here speak of comedy) to
be compared to the great men of the age of Shakspeare, and immediately
after. They are a mighty phalanx of kindred spirits closing him round,
moving in the same orbit, and impelled by the same causes in their
whirling and eccentric career. They had the same faults and the same
excellences; the same strength and depth and richness, the same truth of
character, passion, imagination, thought and language, thrown, heaped,
massed together without careful polishing or exact method, but poured out
in unconcerned profusion from the lap of nature and genius in boundless
and unrivalled magnificence. The sweetness of Deckar, the thought of
Marston, the gravity of Chapman, the grace of Fletcher and his young-eyed
wit, Jonson's learned sock, the flowing vein of Middleton, Heywood's ease,
the pathos of Webster, and Marlow's deep designs, add a double lustre to
the sweetness, thought, gravity, grace, wit, artless nature, copiousness,
ease, pathos, and sublime conceptions of Shakspeare's Muse. They are
indeed the scale by which we can best ascend to the true knowledge and
love of him. Our admiration of them does not lessen our relish for him;
but, on the contrary, increases and confirms it.--For such an
extraordinary combination and development of fancy and genius many causes
may be assigned; and we may seek for the chief of them in religion, in
politics, in the circumstances of the time, the recent diffusion of
letters, in local situation, and in the character of the men who adorned
that period, and availed themselves so nobly of the advantages placed
within their reach.

I shall here attempt to give a general sketch of these causes, and of the
manner in which they operated to mould and stamp the poetry of the country
at the period of which I have to treat; independently of incidental and
fortuitous causes, for which there is no accounting, but which, after all,
have often the greatest share in determining the most important results.

The first cause I shall mention, as contributing to this general effect,
was the Reformation, which had just then taken place. This event gave a
mighty impulse and increased activity to thought and inquiry, and agitated
the inert mass of accumulated prejudices throughout Europe. The effect of
the concussion was general; but the shock was greatest in this country. It
toppled down the full-grown, intolerable abuses of centuries at a blow;
heaved the ground from under the feet of bigotted faith and slavish
obedience; and the roar and dashing of opinions, loosened from their
accustomed hold, might be heard like the noise of an angry sea, and has
never yet subsided. Germany first broke the spell of misbegotten fear, and
gave the watch-word; but England joined the shout, and echoed it back with
her island voice, from her thousand cliffs and craggy shores, in a longer
and a louder strain. With that cry, the genius of Great Britain rose, and
threw down the gauntlet to the nations. There was a mighty fermentation:
the waters were out; public opinion was in a state of projection. Liberty
was held out to all to think and speak the truth. Men's brains were busy;
their spirits stirring; their hearts full; and their hands not idle. Their
eyes were opened to expect the greatest things, and their ears burned with
curiosity and zeal to know the truth, that the truth might make them free.
The death-blow which had been struck at scarlet vice and bloated
hypocrisy, loosened their tongues, and made the talismans and love-tokens
of Popish superstition, with which she had beguiled her followers and
committed abominations with the people, fall harmless from their necks.

The translation of the Bible was the chief engine in the great work. It
threw open, by a secret spring, the rich treasures of religion and
morality, which had been there locked up as in a shrine. It revealed the
visions of the prophets, and conveyed the lessons of inspired teachers
(such they were thought) to the meanest of the people. It gave them a
common interest in the common cause. Their hearts burnt within them as
they read. It gave a mind to the people, by giving them common subjects of
thought and feeling. It cemented their union of character and sentiment:
it created endless diversity and collision of opinion. They found objects
to employ their faculties, and a motive in the magnitude of the
consequences attached to them, to exert the utmost eagerness in the
pursuit of truth, and the most daring intrepidity in maintaining it.
Religious controversy sharpens the understanding by the subtlety and
remoteness of the topics it discusses, and braces the will by their
infinite importance. We perceive in the history of this period a nervous
masculine intellect. No levity, no feebleness, no indifference; or if
there were, it is a relaxation from the intense activity which gives a
tone to its general character. But there is a gravity approaching to
piety; a seriousness of impression, a conscientious severity of argument,
an habitual fervour and enthusiasm in their mode of handling almost every
subject. The debates of the schoolmen were sharp and subtle enough; but
they wanted interest and grandeur, and were besides confined to a few:
they did not affect the general mass of the community. But the Bible was
thrown open to all ranks and conditions "to run and read," with its
wonderful table of contents from Genesis to the Revelations. Every village
in England would present the scene so well described in Burns's Cotter's
Saturday Night. I cannot think that all this variety and weight of
knowledge could be thrown in all at once upon the mind of a people, and
not make some impression upon it, the traces of which might be discerned
in the manners and literature of the age. For to leave more disputable
points, and take only the historical parts of the Old Testament, or the
moral sentiments of the New, there is nothing like them in the power of
exciting awe and admiration, or of rivetting sympathy. We see what Milton
has made of the account of the Creation, from the manner in which he has
treated it, imbued and impregnated with the spirit of the time of which we
speak. Or what is there equal (in that romantic interest and patriarchal
simplicity which goes to the heart of a country, and rouses it, as it
were, from its lair in wastes and wildernesses) equal to the story of
Joseph and his Brethren, of Rachael and Laban, of Jacob's Dream, of Ruth
and Boaz, the descriptions in the Book of Job, the deliverance of the Jews
out of Egypt, or the account of their captivity and return from Babylon?
There is in all these parts of the Scripture, and numberless more of the
same kind, to pass over the Orphic hymns of David, the prophetic
denunciations of Isaiah, or the gorgeous visions of Ezekiel, an
originality, a vastness of conception, a depth and tenderness of feeling,
and a touching simplicity in the mode of narration, which he who does not
feel, need be made of no "penetrable stuff." There is something in the
character of Christ too (leaving religious faith quite out of the
question) of more sweetness and majesty, and more likely to work a change
in the mind of man, by the contemplation of its idea alone, than any to be
found in history, whether actual or feigned. This character is that of a
sublime humanity, such as was never seen on earth before, nor since. This
shone manifestly both in his words and actions. We see it in his washing
the Disciples' feet the night before his death, that unspeakable instance
of humility and love, above all art, all meanness, and all pride, and in
the leave he took of them on that occasion, "My peace I give unto you,
that peace which the world cannot give, give I unto you;" and in his last
commandment, that "they should love one another." Who can read the account
of his behaviour on the cross, when turning to his mother he said, "Woman,
behold thy son," and to the Disciple John, "Behold thy mother," and "from
that hour that Disciple took her to his own home." without having his
heart smote within him! We see it in his treatment of the woman taken in
adultery, and in his excuse for the woman who poured precious ointment on
his garment as an offering of devotion and love, which is here all in all.
His religion was the religion of the heart. We see it in his discourse
with the Disciples as they walked together towards Emmaus, when their
hearts burned within them; in his sermon from the Mount, in his parable of
the good Samaritan, and in that of the Prodigal Son--in every act and word
of his life, a grace, a mildness, a dignity and love, a patience and
wisdom worthy of the Son of God. His whole life and being were imbued,
steeped in this word, _charity_; it was the spring, the well-head from
which every thought and feeling gushed into act; and it was this that
breathed a mild glory from his face in that last agony upon the cross,
"when the meek Saviour bowed his head and died," praying for his enemies.
He was the first true teacher of morality; for he alone conceived the idea
of a pure humanity. He redeemed man from the worship of that idol, self,
and instructed him by precept and example to love his neighbour as
himself, to forgive our enemies, to do good to those that curse us and
despitefully use us. He taught the love of good for the sake of good,
without regard to personal or sinister views, and made the affections of
the heart the sole seat of morality, instead of the pride of the
understanding or the sternness of the will. In answering the question,
"who is our neighbour?" as one who stands in need of our assistance, and
whose wounds we can bind up, he has done more to humanize the thoughts and
tame the unruly passions, than all who have tried to reform and benefit
mankind. The very idea of abstract benevolence, of the desire to do good
because another wants our services, and of regarding the human race as one
family, the offspring of one common parent, is hardly to be found in any
other code or system. It was "to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the
Greeks foolishness." The Greeks and Romans never thought of considering
others, but as they were Greeks or Romans, as they were bound to them by
certain positive ties, or, on the other hand, as separated from them by
fiercer antipathies. Their virtues were the virtues of political machines,
their vices were the vices of demons, ready to inflict or to endure pain
with obdurate and remorseless inflexibility of purpose. But in the
Christian religion, "we perceive a softness coming over the heart of a
nation, and the iron scales that fence and harden it, melt and drop off."
It becomes malleable, capable of pity, of forgiveness, of relaxing in its
claims, and remitting its power. We strike it, and it does not hurt us: it
is not steel or marble, but flesh and blood, clay tempered with tears,
and "soft as sinews of the newborn babe." The gospel was first preached to
the poor, for it consulted their wants and interests, not its own pride
and arrogance. It first promulgated the equality of mankind in the
community of duties and benefits. It denounced the iniquities of the chief
Priests and Pharisees, and declared itself at variance with principalities
and powers, for it sympathizes not with the oppressor, but the oppressed.
It first abolished slavery, for it did not consider the power of the will
to inflict injury, as clothing it with a right to do so. Its law is good,
not power. It at the same time tended to wean the mind from the grossness
of sense, and a particle of its divine flame was lent to brighten and
purify the lamp of love!

There have been persons who, being sceptics as to the divine mission of
Christ, have taken an unaccountable prejudice to his doctrines, and have
been disposed to deny the merit of his character; but this was not the
feeling of the great men in the age of Elizabeth (whatever might be their
belief) one of whom says of him, with a boldness equal to its piety:

                          "The best of men
  That e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
  A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit;
  The first true gentleman that ever breathed."


This was old honest Deckar, and the lines ought to embalm his memory to
every one who has a sense either of religion, or philosophy, or humanity,
or true genius. Nor can I help thinking, that we may discern the traces of
the influence exerted by religious faith in the spirit of the poetry of
the age of Elizabeth, in the means of exciting terror and pity, in the
delineation of the passions of grief, remorse, love, sympathy, the sense
of shame, in the fond desires, the longings after immortality, in the
heaven of hope, and the abyss of despair it lays open to us.[122]

The literature of this age then, I would say, was strongly influenced
(among other causes), first by the spirit of Christianity, and secondly by
the spirit of Protestantism.

The effects of the Reformation on politics and philosophy may be seen in
the writings and history of the next and of the following ages. They are
still at work, and will continue to be so. The effects on the poetry of
the time were chiefly confined to the moulding of the character, and
giving a powerful impulse to the intellect of the country. The immediate
use or application that was made of religion to subjects of imagination
and fiction was not (from an obvious ground of separation) so direct or
frequent, as that which was made of the classical and romantic literature.

For much about the same time, the rich and fascinating stores of the Greek
and Roman mythology, and those of the romantic poetry of Spain and Italy,
were eagerly explored by the curious, and thrown open in translations to
the admiring gaze of the vulgar. This last circumstance could hardly have
afforded so much advantage to the poets of that day, who were themselves,
in fact, the translators, as it shews the general curiosity and increasing
interest in such subjects, as a prevailing feature of the times. There
were translations of Tasso by Fairfax, and of Ariosto by Harrington, of
Homer and Hesiod by Chapman, and of Virgil long before, and Ovid soon
after; there was Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch, of which
Shakspeare has made such admirable use in his Coriolanus and Julius Cæsar;
and Ben Jonson's tragedies of Catiline and Sejanus may themselves be
considered as almost literal translations into verse, of Tacitus,
Sallust, and Cicero's Orations in his consulship. Boccacio, the divine
Boccacio, Petrarch, Dante, the satirist Aretine, Machiavel, Castiglione,
and others, were familiar to our writers, and they make occasional mention
of some few French authors, as Ronsard and Du Bartas; for the French
literature had not at this stage arrived at its Augustan period, and it
was the imitation of their literature a century afterwards, when it had
arrived at its greatest height (itself copied from the Greek and Latin),
that enfeebled and impoverished our own. But of the time that we are
considering, it might be said, without much extravagance, that every
breath that blew, that every wave that rolled to our shores, brought with
it some accession to our knowledge, which was engrafted on the national
genius. In fact, all the disposeable materials that had been accumulating
for a long period of time, either in our own, or in foreign countries,
were now brought together, and required nothing more than to be wrought
up, polished, or arranged in striking forms, for ornament and use. To this
every inducement prompted, the novelty of the acquisition of knowledge in
many cases, the emulation of foreign wits, and of immortal works, the want
and the expectation of such works among ourselves, the opportunity and
encouragement afforded for their production by leisure and affluence; and,
above all, the insatiable desire of the mind to beget its own image, and
to construct out of itself, and for the delight and admiration of the
world and posterity, that excellence of which the idea exists hitherto
only in its own breast, and the impression of which it would make as
universal as the eye of heaven, the benefit as common as the air we
breathe. The first impulse of genius is to create what never existed
before: the contemplation of that, which is so created, is sufficient to
satisfy the demands of taste; and it is the habitual study and imitation
of the original models that takes away the power, and even wish to do the
like. Taste limps after genius, and from copying the artificial models, we
lose sight of the living principle of nature. It is the effort we make,
and the impulse we acquire, in overcoming the first obstacles, that
projects us forward; it is the necessity for exertion that makes us
conscious of our strength; but this necessity and this impulse once
removed, the tide of fancy and enthusiasm, which is at first a running
stream, soon settles and crusts into the standing pool of dulness,
criticism, and _virtù_.

What also gave an unusual _impetus_ to the mind of man at this period, was
the discovery of the New World, and the reading of voyages and travels.
Green islands and golden sands seemed to arise, as by enchantment, out of
the bosom of the watery waste, and invite the cupidity, or wing the
imagination of the dreaming speculator. Fairy land was realized in new and
unknown worlds. "Fortunate fields and groves and flowery vales, thrice
happy isles," were found floating "like those Hesperian gardens famed of
old," beyond Atlantic seas, as dropt from the zenith. The people, the
soil, the clime, every thing gave unlimited scope to the curiosity of the
traveller and reader. Other manners might be said to enlarge the bounds of
knowledge, and new mines of wealth were tumbled at our feet. It is from a
voyage to the Straits of Magellan that Shakspeare has taken the hint of
Prospero's Enchanted Island, and of the savage Caliban with his god
Setebos.[123] Spenser seems to have had the same feeling in his mind in
the production of his Faery Queen, and vindicates his poetic fiction on
this very ground of analogy.

  "Right well I wote, most mighty sovereign,
  That all this famous antique history
  Of some the abundance of an idle brain
  Will judged be, and painted forgery,
  Rather than matter of just memory:
  Since none that breatheth living air, doth know
  Where is that happy land of faery
  Which I so much do vaunt, but no where show,
  But vouch antiquities, which nobody can know.

  But let that man with better sense avise,
  That of the world least part to us is read:
  And daily how through hardy enterprize
  Many great regions are discovered,
  Which to late age were never mentioned.
  Who ever heard of th' Indian Peru?
  Or who in venturous vessel measured
  The Amazons' huge river, now found true?
  Or fruitfullest Virginia who did ever view?

    Yet all these were when no man did them know,
  Yet have from wisest ages hidden been:
  And later times things more unknown shall show.
  Why then should witless man so much misween
  That nothing is but that which he hath seen?
  What if within the moon's fair shining sphere,
  What if in every other star unseen,
  Of other worlds he happily should hear,
  He wonder would much more; yet such to some appear."


Fancy's air-drawn pictures after history's waking dream shewed like clouds
over mountains; and from the romance of real life to the idlest fiction,
the transition seemed easy.--Shakspeare, as well as others of his time,
availed himself of the old Chronicles, and of the traditions or fabulous
inventions contained in them in such ample measure, and which had not yet
been appropriated to the purposes of poetry or the drama. The stage was a
new thing; and those who had to supply its demands laid their hands upon
whatever came within their reach: they were not particular as to the
means, so that they gained the end. Lear is founded upon an old ballad;
Othello on an Italian novel; Hamlet on a Danish, and Macbeth on a Scotch
tradition: one of which is to be found in Saxo-Grammaticus, and the last
in Hollingshed. The Ghost-scenes and the Witches in each, are
authenticated in the old Gothic history. There was also this connecting
link between the poetry of this age and the supernatural traditions of a
former one, that the belief in them was still extant, and in full force
and visible operation among the vulgar (to say no more) in the time of our
authors. The appalling and wild chimeras of superstition and ignorance,
"those bodiless creations that ecstacy is very cunning in," were inwoven
with existing manners and opinions, and all their effects on the passions
of terror or pity might be gathered from common and actual
observation--might be discerned in the workings of the face, the
expressions of the tongue, the writhings of a troubled conscience. "Your
face, my Thane; is as a book where men may read strange matters." Midnight
and secret murders too, from the imperfect state of the police, were more
common; and the ferocious and brutal manners that would stamp the brow of
the hardened ruffian or hired assassin, more incorrigible and undisguised.
The portraits of Tyrrel and Forrest were, no doubt, done from the life. We
find that the ravages of the plague, the destructive rage of fire, the
poisoned chalice, lean famine, the serpent's mortal sting, and the fury of
wild beasts, were the common topics of their poetry, as they were common
occurrences in more remote periods of history. They were the strong
ingredients thrown into the cauldron of tragedy, to make it "thick and
slab." Man's life was (as it appears to me) more full of traps and
pit-falls; of hair-breadth accidents by flood and field; more way-laid by
sudden and startling evils; it trod on the brink of hope and fear;
stumbled upon fate unawares; while the imagination, close behind it,
caught at and clung to the shape of danger, or "snatched a wild and
fearful joy" from its escape. The accidents of nature were less provided
against; the excesses of the passions and of lawless power were less
regulated, and produced more strange and desperate catastrophes. The tales
of Boccacio are founded on the great pestilence of Florence, Fletcher the
poet died of the plague, and Marlow was stabbed in a tavern quarrel. The
strict authority of parents, the inequality of ranks, or the hereditary
feuds between different families, made more unhappy loves or matches.

  "The course of true love never did run even."


Again, the heroic and martial spirit which breathes in our elder writers,
was yet in considerable activity in the reign of Elizabeth. "The age of
chivalry was not then quite gone, nor the glory of Europe extinguished for
ever." Jousts and tournaments were still common with the nobility in
England and in foreign countries: Sir Philip Sidney was particularly
distinguished for his proficiency in these exercises (and indeed fell a
martyr to his ambition as a soldier)--and the gentle Surrey was still more
famous, on the same account, just before him. It is true, the general use
of fire-arms gradually superseded the necessity of skill in the sword, or
bravery in the person: and as a symptom of the rapid degeneracy in this
respect, we find Sir John Suckling soon after boasting of himself as one--

  "Who prized black eyes, and a lucky hit
  At bowls, above all the trophies of wit."

It was comparatively an age of peace,

  "Like strength reposing on his own right arm;"

but the sound of civil combat might still be heard in the distance, the
spear glittered to the eye of memory, or the clashing of armour struck on
the imagination of the ardent and the young. They were borderers on the
savage state, on the times of war and bigotry, though in the lap of arts,
of luxury, and knowledge. They stood on the shore and saw the billows
rolling after the storm: "they heard the tumult, and were still." The
manners and out-of-door amusements were more tinctured with a spirit of
adventure and romance. The war with wild beasts, &c. was more strenuously
kept up in country sports. I do not think we could get from sedentary
poets, who had never mingled in the vicissitudes, the dangers, or
excitements of the chase, such descriptions of hunting and other athletic
games, as are to be found in Shakspeare's Midsummer Night's Dream or
Fletcher's Noble Kinsmen.

With respect to the good cheer and hospitable living of those times, I
cannot agree with an ingenious and agreeable writer of the present day,
that it was general or frequent. The very stress laid upon certain
holidays and festivals, shews that they did not keep up the same
Saturnalian licence and open house all the year round. They reserved
themselves for great occasions, and made the best amends they could, for a
year of abstinence and toil by a week of merriment and convivial
indulgence. Persons in middle life at this day, who can afford a good
dinner every day, do not look forward to it as any particular subject of
exultation: the poor peasant, who can only contrive to treat himself to a
joint of meat on a Sunday, considers it as an event in the week. So, in
the old Cambridge comedy of the Return from Parnassus, we find this
indignant description of the progress of luxury in those days, put into
the mouth of one of the speakers.

  "Why is't not strange to see a ragged clerke,
  Some stammell weaver, or some butcher's sonne,
  That scrubb'd a late within a sleeveless gowne,
  When the commencement, like a morrice dance,
  Hath put a bell or two about his legges,
  Created him a sweet cleane gentleman:
  How then he 'gins to follow fashions.
  He whose thin sire dwelt in a smokye roofe,
  Must make tobacco, and must wear a locke.
  His thirsty dad drinkes in a wooden bowle,
  But his sweet self is served in si'ver plate.
  His hungry sire will scrape you twenty legges
  For one good Christmas meal on new year's day,
  But his mawe must be capon cramm'd each day."

  _Act III. Scene 2._


This does not look as if in those days "it snowed of meat and drink," as a
matter of course throughout the year!--The distinctions of dress, the
badges of different professions, the very signs of the shops, which we
have set aside for written inscriptions over the doors, were, as Mr. Lamb
observes, a sort of visible language to the imagination, and hints for
thought. Like the costume of different foreign nations, they had an
immediate striking and picturesque effect, giving scope to the fancy. The
surface of society was embossed with hieroglyphics, and poetry existed "in
art and compliment extern." The poetry of former times might be directly
taken from real life, as our poetry is taken from the poetry of former
times. Finally, the face of nature, which was the same glorious object
then that it is now, was open to them; and coming first, they gathered her
fairest flowers to live for ever in their verse:--the movements of the
human heart were not hid from them, for they had the same passions as we,
only less disguised, and less subject to control. Deckar has given an
admirable description of a mad-house in one of his plays. But it might be
perhaps objected, that it was only a literal account taken from Bedlam at
that time; and it might be answered, that the old poets took the same
method of describing the passions and fancies of men whom they met at
large, which forms the point of communion between us: for the title of the
old play, "A Mad World, my Masters," is hardly yet obsolete; and we are
pretty much the same Bedlam still, perhaps a little better managed, like
the real one, and with more care and humanity shewn to the patients!

Lastly, to conclude this account; what gave a unity and common direction
to all these causes, was the natural genius of the country, which was
strong in these writers in proportion to their strength. We are a nation
of islanders, and we cannot help it; nor mend ourselves if we would. We
are something in ourselves, nothing when we try to ape others. Music and
painting are not our _forte_: for what we have done in that way has been
little, and that borrowed from others with great difficulty. But we may
boast of our poets and philosophers. That's something. We have had strong
heads and sound hearts among us. Thrown on one side of the world, and left
to bustle for ourselves, we have fought out many a battle for truth and
freedom. That is our natural style; and it were to be wished we had in no
instance departed from it. Our situation has given us a certain cast of
thought and character; and our liberty has enabled us to make the most of
it. We are of a stiff clay, not moulded into every fashion, with stubborn
joints not easily bent. We are slow to think, and therefore impressions do
not work upon us till they act in masses. We are not forward to express
our feelings, and therefore they do not come from us till they force their
way in the most impetuous eloquence. Our language is, as it were, to begin
anew, and we make use of the most singular and boldest combinations to
explain ourselves. Our wit comes from us, "like birdlime, brains and all."
We pay too little attention to form and method, leave our works in an
unfinished state, but still the materials we work in are solid and of
nature's mint; we do not deal in counterfeits. We both under and over-do,
but we keep an eye to the prominent features, the main chance. We are more
for weight than show; care only about what interests ourselves, instead
of trying to impose upon others by plausible appearances, and are
obstinate and intractable in not conforming to common rules, by which many
arrive at their ends with half the real waste of thought and trouble. We
neglect all but the principal object, gather our force to make a great
blow, bring it down, and relapse into sluggishness and indifference again.
_Materiam superabat opus_, cannot be said of us. We may be accused of
grossness, but not of flimsiness; of extravagance, but not of affectation;
of want of art and refinement, but not of a want of truth and nature. Our
literature, in a word, is Gothic and grotesque; unequal and irregular; not
cast in a previous mould, nor of one uniform texture, but of great weight
in the whole, and of incomparable value in the best parts. It aims at an
excess of beauty or power, hits or misses, and is either very good indeed,
or absolutely good for nothing. This character applies in particular to
our literature in the age of Elizabeth, which is its best period, before
the introduction of a rage for French rules and French models; for
whatever may be the value of our own original style of composition, there
can be neither offence nor presumption in saying, that it is at least
better than our second-hand imitations of others. Our understanding (such
as it is, and must remain to be good for anything) is not a thoroughfare
for common places, smooth as the palm of one's hand, but full of knotty
points and jutting excrescences, rough, uneven, overgrown with brambles;
and I like this aspect of the mind (as some one said of the country),
where nature keeps a good deal of the soil in her own hands. Perhaps the
genius of our poetry has more of Pan than of Apollo; "but Pan is a God,
Apollo is no more!"



II

SPENSER


Spenser flourished in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and was sent with Sir
John Davies into Ireland, of which he has left behind him some tender
recollections in his description of the bog of Allan, and a record in an
ably written paper, containing observations on the state of that country
and the means of improving it, which remain in full force to the present
day. Spenser died at an obscure inn in London, it is supposed in
distressed circumstances. The treatment he received from Burleigh is well
known. Spenser, as well as Chaucer, was engaged in active life; but the
genius of his poetry was not active: it is inspired by the love of ease,
and relaxation from all the cares and business of life. Of all the poets,
he is the most poetical. Though much later than Chaucer, his obligations
to preceding writers were less. He has in some measure borrowed the plan
of his poem (as a number of distinct narratives) from Ariosto; but he has
engrafted upon it an exuberance of fancy, and an endless voluptuousness of
sentiment, which are not to be found in the Italian writer. Farther,
Spenser is even more of an inventor in the subject-matter. There is an
originality, richness, and variety in his allegorical personages and
fictions, which almost vies with the splendor of the ancient mythology. If
Ariosto transports us into the regions of romance, Spenser's poetry is all
fairy-land. In Ariosto, we walk upon the ground, in a company, gay,
fantastic, and adventurous enough. In Spenser, we wander in another
world, among ideal beings. The poet takes and lays us in the lap of a
lovelier nature, by the sound of softer streams, among greener hills and
fairer valleys. He paints nature, not as we find it, but as we expected to
find it; and fulfils the delightful promise of our youth. He waves his
wand of enchantment--and at once embodies airy beings, and throws a
delicious veil over all actual objects. The two worlds of reality and of
fiction are poised on the wings of his imagination. His ideas, indeed,
seem more distinct than his perceptions. He is the painter of
abstractions, and describes them with dazzling minuteness. In the Mask of
Cupid he makes the God of Love "clap on high his coloured winges _twain_;"
and it is said of Gluttony in the Procession of the Passions,

  "In green vine leaves he was right fitly clad."

At times he becomes picturesque from his intense love of beauty; as where
he compares Prince Arthur's crest to the appearance of the almond tree;

    "Upon the top of all his lofty crest,
      A bunch of hairs discolour'd diversely
    With sprinkled pearl and gold full richly drest
      Did shake and seem'd to daunce for jollity;
    Like to an almond tree ymounted high
      On top of green Selenis all alone.
    With blossoms brave bedecked daintily:
      Her tender locks do tremble every one
  At every little breath that under heav'n is blown."

The love of beauty, however, and not of truth, is the moving principle of
his mind; and he is guided in his fantastic delineations by no rule but
the impulse of an inexhaustible imagination. He luxuriates equally in
scenes of Eastern magnificence; or the still solitude of a hermit's
cell--in the extremes of sensuality or refinement.

In reading the Faery Queen, you see a little withered old man by a
wood-side opening a wicket, a giant, and a dwarf lagging far behind, a
damsel in a boat upon an enchanted lake, wood-nymphs, and satyrs; and all
of a sudden you are transported into a lofty palace, with tapers burning,
amidst knights and ladies, with dance and revelry, and song, "and mask,
and antique pageantry." What can be more solitary, more shut up in itself,
than his description of the house of Sleep, to which Archimago sends for a
dream:

    "And more to lull him in his slumber soft
      A trickling stream from high rock tumbling down,
    And ever-drizzling rain upon the loft,
      Mix'd with a murmuring wind, much like the sound
    Of swarming Bees, did cast him in a swound.
      No other noise, nor people's troublous cries
    That still are wont t' annoy the walled town
      Might there be heard; but careless Quiet lies
  Wrapt in eternal silence, far from enemies."


It is as if "the honey-heavy dew of slumber" had settled on his pen in
writing these lines. How different in the subject (and yet how like in
beauty) is the following description of the Bower of Bliss:

    "Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound
      Of all that mote delight a dainty ear;
    Such as at once might not on living ground,
      Save in this Paradise, be heard elsewhere:
    Right hard it was for wight which did it hear,
      To tell what manner musicke that mote be;
    For all that pleasing is to living care
      Was there consorted in one harmonee:
  Birds, voices, instruments, windes, waters, all agree.

    The joyous birdes shrouded in chearefull shade
      Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet:
    The angelical soft trembling voices made
      To th' instruments divine respondence meet.
    The silver sounding instruments did meet
      With the base murmur of the water's fall;
    The water's fall with difference discreet,
      Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call;
  The gentle warbling wind low answered to all."

The remainder of the passage has all that voluptuous pathos, and languid
brilliancy of fancy, in which this writer excelled:

    "The whiles some one did chaunt this lovely lay;
      Ah! see, whoso fayre thing dost fain to see,
    In springing flower the image of thy day!
      Ah! see the virgin rose, how sweetly she
    Doth first peep forth with bashful modesty,
      That fairer seems the less ye see her may!
    Lo! see soon after, how more bold and free
      Her bared bosom she doth broad display;
  Lo! see soon after, how she fades and falls away!

    So passeth in the passing of a day
      Of mortal life the leaf, the bud, the flower;
    Ne more doth flourish after first decay,
      That erst was sought to deck both bed and bower
    Of many a lady and many a paramour!
      Gather therefore the rose 'whilst yet is prime,
    For soon comes age that will her pride deflower;
      Gather the rose of love whilst yet is time,
  Whilst loving thou mayst loved be with equal crime.[124]

    He ceased; and then gan all the quire of birds
      Their divers notes to attune unto his lay,
    As in approvance of his pleasing wordes.
      The constant pair heard all that he did say,
    Yet swerved not, but kept their forward way
      Through many covert groves and thickets close,
    In which they creeping did at last display[125]
      That wanton lady with her lover loose,
  Whose sleepy head she in her lap did soft dispose.

    Upon a bed of roses she was laid
      As faint through heat, or dight to pleasant sin;
    And was arrayed or rather disarrayed,
      All in a veil of silk and silver thin,
    That hid no whit her alabaster skin,
      But rather shewed more white, if more might be:
    More subtle web Arachne cannot spin;
      Nor the fine nets, which oft we woven see
  Of scorched dew, do not in the air more lightly flee.

    Her snowy breast was bare to greedy spoil
      Of hungry eyes which n'ote therewith be fill'd.
    And yet through languor of her late sweet toil
      Few drops more clear than nectar forth distill'd,
    That like pure Orient perles adown it trill'd;
      And her fair eyes sweet smiling in delight
    Moisten'd their fiery beams, with which she thrill'd
      Frail hearts, yet quenched not; like starry light,
  Which sparkling on the silent waves does seem more bright."


The finest things in Spenser are, the character of Una, in the first book;
the House of Pride; the Cave of Mammon, and the Cave of Despair; the
account of Memory, of whom it is said, among other things,

  "The wars he well rember'd of King Nine,
  Of old Assaracus and Inachus divine;"

the description of Belphoebe; the story of Florimel and the Witch's son;
the Gardens of Adonis, and the Bower of Bliss; the Mask of Cupid; and
Colin Clout's vision, in the last book. But some people will say that all
this may be very fine, but that they cannot understand it on account of
the allegory. They are afraid of the allegory, as if they thought it would
bite them: they look at it as a child looks at a painted dragon, and think
it will strangle them in its shining folds. This is very idle. If they do
not meddle with the allegory, the allegory will not meddle with them.
Without minding it at all, the whole is as plain as a pikestaff. It might
as well be pretended that we cannot see Poussin's pictures for the
allegory, as that the allegory prevents us from understanding Spenser. For
instance, when Britomart, seated amidst the young warriors, lets fall her
hair and discovers her sex, is it necessary to know the part she plays in
the allegory, to understand the beauty of the following stanza?

  "And eke that stranger knight amongst the rest
    Was for like need enforc'd to disarray.
  Tho when as vailed was her lofty crest.
    Her golden locks that were in trammels gay
  Upbounden, did themselves adown display,
    And raught unto her heels like sunny beams
  That in a cloud their light did long time stay;
    Their vapour faded, shew their golden gleams.
  And through the persant air shoot forth their azure streams."

Or is there any mystery in what is said of Belphoebe, that her hair was
sprinkled with flowers and blossoms which had been entangled in it as she
fled through the woods? Or is it necessary to have a more distinct idea of
Proteus, than that which is given of him in his boat, with the frighted
Florimel at his feet, while

     "--the cold icicles from his rough beard
  Dropped adown upon her snowy breast!"

Or is it not a sufficient account of one of the sea-gods that pass by
them, to say--

  "That was Arion crowned:--
  So went he playing on the watery plain."

Or to take the Procession of the Passions that draw the coach of Pride, in
which the figures of Idleness, of Gluttony, of Lechery, of Avarice, of
Envy, and of Wrath speak, one should think, plain enough for themselves;
such as this of Gluttony:

    "And by his side rode loathsome Gluttony,
      Deformed creature, on a filthy swine;
    His belly was up blown with luxury;
      And eke with fatness swollen were his eyne;
    And like a crane his neck was long and fine,
      With which he swallowed up excessive feast,
  For want whereof poor people oft did pine.

    In green vine leaves he was right fitly clad;
      For other clothes he could not wear for heat;
    And on his head an ivy garland had,
      From under which fast trickled down the sweat:
    Still as he rode, he somewhat still did eat,
      And in his hand did bear a bouzing can,
    Of which he supt so oft, that on his seat
      His drunken corse he scarce upholden can;
  In shape and life more like a monster than a man."

Or this of Lechery:

    "And next to him rode lustfull Lechery
      Upon a bearded goat, whose rugged hair
    And whaly eyes (the sign of jealousy)
      Was like the person's self whom he did bear:
    Who rough and black, and filthy did appear.
      Unseemly man to please fair lady's eye:
    Yet he of ladies oft was loved dear,
      When fairer faces were bid standen by:
  O! who does know the bent of woman's fantsay?

    In a green gown he clothed was full fair,
      Which underneath did hide his filthiness;
    And in his hand a burning heart he bare,
      Full of vain follies and new fangleness;
    For he was false and fraught with fickleness;
      And learned had to love with secret looks;
    And well could dance; and sing with ruefulness;
      And fortunes tell; and read in loving books;
  And thousand other ways to bait his fleshly hooks.

    Inconstant man that loved all he saw,
      And lusted after all that he did love;
    Ne would his looser life be tied to law;
      But joyed weak women's hearts to tempt and prove,
    If from their loyal loves he might them move."

This is pretty plain-spoken. Mr. Southey says of Spenser:

                       "Yet not more sweet
  Than pure was he, and not more pure than wise;
  High priest of all the Muses' mysteries!"

On the contrary, no one was more apt to pry into mysteries which do not
strictly belong to the Muses.

Of the same kind with the Procession of the Passions, as little obscure,
and still more beautiful, is the Mask of Cupid, with his train of
votaries:

    "The first was Fancy, like a lovely boy
      Of rare aspect, and beauty without peer;

    His garment neither was of silk nor say,
      But painted plumes in goodly order dight,
    Like as the sun-burnt Indians do array
      Their tawny bodies in their proudest plight;
    As those same plumes so seem'd he vain and light,
      That by his gait might easily appear;
    For still he far'd as dancing in delight.
      And in his hand a windy fan did bear
  That in the idle air he mov'd still here and there.

    And him beside march'd amorous Desire.
      Who seem'd of riper years than the other swain,
    Yet was that other swain this elder's sire,
      And gave him being, common to them twain:
    His garment was disguised very vain,
      And his embroidered bonnet sat awry;
    'Twixt both his hands few sparks he close did strain,
      Which still he blew, and kindled busily.
  That soon they life conceiv'd and forth in flames did fly.

    Next after him went Doubt, who was yclad
      In a discolour'd coat of strange disguise,
    That at his back a broad capuccio had,
      And sleeves dependant _Albanese-wise_;
    He lookt askew with his mistrustful eyes,
      And nicely trod, as thorns lay in his way,
    Or that the floor to shrink he did avise;
      And on a broken reed he still did stay
  His feeble steps, which shrunk when hard thereon he lay.

    With him went Daunger, cloth'd in ragged weed,
      Made of bear's skin, that him more dreadful made;
    Yet his own face was dreadfull, ne did need
      Strange horror to deform his grisly shade;
    A net in th' one hand, and a rusty blade
      In th' other was; this Mischiefe, that Mishap;
    With th' one his foes he threat'ned to invade,
      With th' other he his friends meant to enwrap;
  For whom he could not kill he practiz'd to entrap.

    Next him was Fear, all arm'd from top to toe,
      Yet thought himself not safe enough thereby,
    But fear'd each shadow moving to and fro;
      And his own arms when glittering he did spy
    Or clashing heard, he fast away did fly,
      As ashes pale of hue, and winged-heel'd;
    And evermore on Daunger fixt his eye,
      'Gainst whom he always bent a brazen shield,
  Which his right hand unarmed fearfully did wield.

    With him went Hope in rank, a handsome maid,
      Of chearfull look and lovely to behold;
    In silken samite she was light array'd,
      And her fair locks were woven up in gold;
    She always smil'd, and in her hand did hold
      An holy-water sprinkle dipt in dew,
    With which she sprinkled favours manifold
      On whom she list, and did great liking shew,
  Great liking unto many, but true love to few.

    Next after them, the winged God himself
      Came riding on a lion ravenous.
    Taught to obey the menage of that elfe
      That man and beast with power imperious
    Subdueth to his kingdom tyrannous:
      His blindfold eyes he bade awhile unbind,
    That his proud spoil of that same dolorous
      Fair dame he might behold in perfect kind;
  Which seen, he much rejoiced in his cruel mind.

    Of which full proud, himself uprearing high,
      He looked round about with stern disdain,
    And did survey his goodly company;
      And marshalling the evil-ordered train,
    With that the darts which his right hand did strain,
      Full dreadfully he shook, that all did quake,
    And clapt on high his colour'd winges twain,
      That all his many it afraid did make:
  Tho, blinding him again, his way he forth did take."

The description of Hope, in this series of historical portraits, is one of
the most beautiful in Spenser: and the triumph of Cupid at the mischief he
has made, is worthy of the malicious urchin deity. In reading these
descriptions, one can hardly avoid being reminded of Rubens's allegorical
pictures; but the account of Satyrane taming the lion's whelps and lugging
the bear's cubs along in his arms while yet an infant, whom his mother so
naturally advises to "go seek some other play-fellows," has even more of
this high picturesque character. Nobody but Rubens could have painted the
fancy of Spenser; and he could not have given the sentiment, the airy
dream that hovers over it!

With all this, Spenser neither makes us laugh nor weep. The only jest in
his poem is an allegorical play upon words, where he describes Malbecco as
escaping in the herd of goats, "by the help of his fayre horns on hight."
But he has been unjustly charged with a want of passion and of strength.
He has both in an immense degree. He has not indeed the pathos of
immediate action or suffering, which is more properly the dramatic; but he
has all the pathos of sentiment and romance--all that belongs to distant
objects of terror, and uncertain, imaginary distress. His strength, in
like manner, is not strength of will or action, of bone and muscle, nor is
it coarse and palpable--but it assumes a character of vastness and
sublimity seen through the same visionary medium, and blended with the
appalling associations of preternatural agency. We need only turn, in
proof of this, to the Cave of Despair, or the Cave of Mammon, or to the
account of the change of Malbecco into Jealousy. The following stanzas,
in the description of the Cave of Mammon, the grisly house of Plutus, are
unrivalled for the portentous massiness of the forms, the splendid
chiaro-scuro, and shadowy horror.

    "That house's form within was rude and strong,
      Like an huge cave hewn out of rocky clift,
    From whose rough vault the ragged breaches hung,
      Embossed with massy gold of glorious gift,
    And with rich metal loaded every rift.
      That heavy ruin they did seem to threat:
    And over them Arachne high did lift
      Her cunning web, and spread her subtle net,
  Enwrapped in foul smoke, and clouds more black than jet.

    Both roof and floor, and walls were all of gold,
      But overgrown with dust and old decay,[126]
    And hid in darkness that none could behold
      The hue thereof: for view of cheerful day
    Did never in that house itself display,
      But a faint shadow of uncertain light;
    Such as a lamp whose light doth fade away;
      Or as the moon clothed with cloudy night
  Does shew to him that walks in fear and sad affright.

       *       *       *       *       *

    And over all sad Horror with grim hue
      Did always soar, beating his iron wings;
    And after him owls and night-ravens flew,
      The hateful messengers of heavy things.
    Of death and dolour telling sad tidings;
      While sad Celleno, sitting on a clift,
    A song of bale and bitter sorrow sings,
      That heart of flint asunder could have rift;
  Which having ended, after him she flieth swift."

The Cave of Despair is described with equal gloominess and power of fancy;
and the fine moral declamation of the owner of it, on the evils of life,
almost makes one in love with death. In the story of Malbecco, who is
haunted by jealousy, and in vain strives to run away from his own
thoughts--

  "High over hill and over dale he flies"--

the truth of human passion and the preternatural ending are equally
striking.--It is not fair to compare Spenser with Shakspeare, in point of
interest. A fairer comparison would be with Comus; and the result would
not be unfavourable to Spenser. There is only one work of the same
allegorical kind, which has more interest than Spenser (with scarcely less
imagination): and that is the Pilgrim's Progress. The three first books of
the Faery Queen are very superior to the three last. One would think that
Pope, who used to ask if any one had ever read the Faery Queen through,
had only dipped into these last. The only things in them equal to the
former, are the account of Talus, the Iron Man, and the delightful episode
of Pastorella.

The language of Spenser is full, and copious, to overflowing: it is less
pure and idiomatic than Chaucer's, and is enriched and adorned with
phrases borrowed from the different languages of Europe, both ancient and
modern. He was, probably, seduced into a certain license of expression by
the difficulty of filling up the moulds of his complicated rhymed stanza
from the limited resources of his native language. This stanza, with
alternate and repeatedly recurring rhymes, is borrowed from the Italians.
It is peculiarly fitted to their language, which abounds in similar vowel
terminations, and is as little adapted to ours, from the stubborn,
unaccommodating resistance which the consonant endings of the northern
languages make to this sort of endless sing-song.--Not that I would, on
that account, part with the stanza of Spenser. We are, perhaps, indebted
to this very necessity of finding out new forms of expression, and to the
occasional faults to which it led, for a poetical language rich and varied
and magnificent beyond all former, and almost all later example. His
versification is, at once, the most smooth and the most sounding in the
language. It is a labyrinth of sweet sounds, "in many a winding bout of
linked sweetness long drawn out"--that would cloy by their very sweetness,
but that the ear is constantly relieved and enchanted by their continued
variety of modulation--dwelling on the pauses of the action, or flowing on
in a fuller tide of harmony with the movement of the sentiment. It has not
the bold dramatic transitions of Shakspeare's blank verse, nor the
high-raised tone of Milton's; but it is the perfection of melting harmony,
dissolving the soul in pleasure, or holding it captive in the chains of
suspense. Spenser was the poet of our waking dreams; and he has invented
not only a language, but a music of his own for them. The undulations are
infinite, like those of the waves of the sea: but the effect is still the
same, lulling the senses into a deep oblivion of the jarring noises of the
world, from which we have no wish to be ever recalled.



III

SHAKSPEARE


The four greatest names in English poetry, are almost the four first we
come to--Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. There are no others
that can really be put in competition with these. The two last have had
justice done them by the voice of common fame. Their names are blazoned in
the very firmament of reputation; while the two first, (though "the fault
has been more in their stars than in themselves that they are underlings")
either never emerged far above the horizon, or were too soon involved in
the obscurity of time. The three first of these are excluded from Dr.
Johnson's Lives of the Poets (Shakspeare indeed is so from the dramatic
form of his compositions): and the fourth, Milton, is admitted with a
reluctant and churlish welcome.

In comparing these four writers together, it might be said that Chaucer
excels as the poet of manners, or of real life; Spenser, as the poet of
romance; Shakspeare, as the poet of nature (in the largest use of the
term): and Milton, as the poet of morality. Chaucer most frequently
describes things as they are: Spenser, as we wish them to be; Shakspeare,
as they would be; and Milton as they ought to be. As poets, and as great
poets, imagination, that is, the power of feigning things according to
nature, was common to them all: but the principle or moving power, to
which this faculty was most subservient in Chaucer, was habit, or
inveterate prejudice; in Spenser, novelty, and the love of the
marvellous; in Shakspeare, it was the force of passion, combined with
every variety of possible circumstances; and in Milton, only with the
highest. The characteristic of Chaucer is intensity; of Spenser,
remoteness; of Milton, elevation; of Shakspeare, everything.--It has been
said by some critic, that Shakspeare was distinguished from the other
dramatic writers of his day only by his wit; that they had all his other
qualities but that; that one writer had as much sense, another as much
fancy, another as much knowledge of character, another the same depth of
passion, and another as great a power of language. This statement is not
true; nor is the inference from it well-founded, even if it were. This
person does not seem to have been aware that, upon his own shewing, the
great distinction of Shakspeare's genius was its virtually including the
genius of all the great men of his age, and not his differing from them in
one accidental particular. But to have done with such minute and literal
trifling.

The striking peculiarity of Shakspeare's mind was its generic quality, its
power of communication with all other minds--so that it contained a
universe of thought and feeling within itself, and had no one peculiar
bias, or exclusive excellence more than another. He was just like any
other man, but that he was like all other men. He was the least of an
egotist that it was possible to be. He was nothing in himself; but he was
all that others were, or that they could become. He not only had in
himself the germs of every faculty and feeling, but he could follow them
by anticipation, intuitively, into all their conceivable ramifications,
through every change of fortune or conflict of passion, or turn of
thought. He had "a mind reflecting ages past," and present:--all the
people that ever lived are there. There was no respect of persons with
him. His genius shone equally on the evil and on the good, on the wise
and the foolish, the monarch and the beggar: "All corners of the earth,
kings, queens, and states, maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the grave,"
are hardly hid from his searching glance. He was like the genius of
humanity, changing places with all of us at pleasure, and playing with our
purposes as with his own. He turned the globe round for his amusement, and
surveyed the generations of men, and the individuals as they passed, with
their different concerns, passions, follies, vices, virtues, actions, and
motives--as well those that they knew, as those which they did not know,
or acknowledge to themselves. The dreams of childhood, the ravings of
despair, were the toys of his fancy. Airy beings waited at his call, and
came at his bidding. Harmless fairies "nodded to him, and did him
curtesies:" and the night-hag bestrode the blast at the command of "his so
potent art." The world of spirits lay open to him, like the world of real
men and women: and there is the same truth in his delineations of the one
as of the other; for if the preternatural characters he describes could be
supposed to exist, they would speak, and feel, and act, as he makes them.
He had only to think of any thing in order to become that thing, with all
the circumstances belonging to it. When he conceived of a character
whether real or imaginary, he not only entered into all its thoughts and
feelings, but seemed instantly, and as if by touching a secret spring, to
be surrounded with all the same objects, "subject to the same skyey
influences," the same local, outward, and unforeseen accidents which would
occur in reality. Thus the character of Caliban not only stands before us
with a language and manners of its own, but the scenery and situation of
the enchanted island he inhabits, the traditions of the place, its strange
noises, its hidden recesses, "his frequent haunts and ancient
neighbourhood," are given with a miraculous truth of nature, and with all
the familiarity of an old recollection. The whole "coheres semblably
together" in time, place, and circumstance. In reading this author, you do
not merely learn what his characters say,--you see their persons. By
something expressed or understood, you are at no loss to decypher their
peculiar physiognomy, the meaning of a look, the grouping, the bye-play,
as we might see it on the stage. A word, an epithet paints a whole scene,
or throws us back whole years in the history of the person represented. So
(as it has been ingeniously remarked) when Prospero describes himself as
left alone in the boat with his daughter, the epithet which he applies to
her, "Me and thy _crying_ self," flings the imagination instantly back
from the grown woman to the helpless condition of infancy, and places the
first and most trying scene of his misfortunes before us, with all that he
must have suffered in the interval. How well the silent anguish of Macduff
is conveyed to the reader, by the friendly expostulation of
Malcolm--"What! man, ne'er pull your hat upon your brows!" Again, Hamlet,
in the scene with Rosencrans and Guildenstern, somewhat abruptly concludes
his fine soliloquy on life by saying, "Man delights not me, nor woman
neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so." Which is explained by
their answer--"My lord, we had no such stuff in our thoughts. But we
smiled to think, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the
players shall receive from you, whom we met on the way:"--as if while
Hamlet was making this speech, his two old schoolfellows from Wittenberg
had been really standing by, and he had seen them smiling by stealth, at
the idea of the players crossing their minds. It is not "a combination and
a form" of words, a set speech or two, a preconcerted theory of a
character, that will do this: but all the persons concerned must have been
present in the poet's imagination, as at a kind of rehearsal; and
whatever would have passed through their minds on the occasion, and have
been observed by others, passed through his, and is made known to the
reader.--I may add in passing, that Shakspeare always gives the best
directions for the costume and carriage of his heroes. Thus, to take one
example, Ophelia gives the following account of Hamlet; and as Ophelia had
seen Hamlet, I should think her word ought to be taken against that of any
modern authority.

  "_Ophelia._ My lord, as I was reading in my closet,
  Prince Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac'd,
  No hat upon his head, his stockings loose,
  Ungartred, and down-gyved to his ancle,
  Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
  And with a look so piteous,
  As if he had been sent from hell
  To speak of horrors, thus he comes before me.

  _Polonius._ Mad for thy love!

  _Oph._ My lord, I do not know,
  But truly I do fear it.

  _Pol._ What said he?

  _Oph._ He took me by the wrist and held me hard.
  Then goes he to the length of all his arm;
  And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
  He falls to such perusal of my face,
  As he would draw it: long staid he so;
  At last, a little shaking of my arm,
  And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
  He rais'd a sigh so piteous and profound,
  As it did seem to shatter all his bulk,
  And end his being. That done, he lets me go,
  And with his head over his shoulder turn'd,
  He seem'd to find his way without his eyes;
  For out of doors he went without their help,
  And to the last bended their light on me."

  _Act II. Scene 1._


How after this airy, fantastic idea of irregular grace and bewildered
melancholy any one can play Hamlet, as we have seen it played, with strut,
and stare, and antic right-angled sharp-pointed gestures, it is difficult
to say, unless it be that Hamlet is not bound, by the prompter's cue, to
study the part of Ophelia. The account of Ophelia's death begins thus:

  "There is a willow hanging o'er a brook,
  That shows its hoary leaves in the glassy stream."----

Now this is an instance of the same unconscious power of mind which is as
true to nature as itself. The leaves of the willow are, in fact, white
underneath, and it is this part of them which would appear "hoary" in the
reflection in the brook. The same sort of intuitive power, the same
faculty of bringing every object in nature, whether present or absent,
before the mind's eye, is observable in the speech of Cleopatra, when
conjecturing what were the employments of Antony in his absence:--"He's
speaking now, or murmuring, where's my serpent of old Nile?" How fine to
make Cleopatra have this consciousness of her own character, and to make
her feel that it is this for which Antony is in love with her! She says,
after the battle of Actium, when Antony has resolved to risk another
fight, "It is my birth-day; I had thought to have held it poor: but since
my lord is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra." What other poet would have
thought of such a casual resource of the imagination, or would have dared
to avail himself of it? The thing happens in the play as it might have
happened in fact.--That which, perhaps, more than any thing else
distinguishes the dramatic productions of Shakspeare from all others, is
this wonderful truth and individuality of conception. Each of his
characters is as much itself, and as absolutely independent of the rest,
as well as of the author, as if they were living persons, not fictions of
the mind. The poet may be said, for the time, to identify himself with
the character he wishes to represent, and to pass from one to another,
like the same soul successively animating different bodies. By an art like
that of the ventriloquist, he throws his imagination out of himself, and
makes every word appear to proceed from the mouth of the person in whose
name it is given. His plays alone are properly expressions of the
passions, not descriptions of them. His characters are real beings of
flesh and blood; they speak like men, not like authors. One might suppose
that he had stood by at the time, and overheard what passed. As in our
dreams we hold conversations with ourselves, make remarks, or communicate
intelligence, and have no idea of the answer which we shall receive, and
which we ourselves make, till we hear it: so the dialogues in Shakspeare
are carried on without any consciousness of what is to follow, without any
appearance of preparation or premeditation. The gusts of passion come and
go like sounds of music borne on the wind. Nothing is made out by formal
inference and analogy, by climax and antithesis: all comes, or seems to
come, immediately from nature. Each object and circumstance exists in his
mind, as it would have existed in reality: each several train of thought
and feeling goes on of itself, without confusion or effort. In the world
of his imagination, every thing has a life, a place, and being of its own!

Chaucer's characters are sufficiently distinct from one another, but they
are too little varied in themselves, too much like identical propositions.
They are consistent, but uniform; we get no new idea of them from first to
last; they are not placed in different lights, nor are their subordinate
_traits_ brought out in new situations; they are like portraits or
physiognomical studies, with the distinguishing features marked with
inconceivable truth and precision, but that preserve the same unaltered
air and attitude. Shakspeare's are historical figures, equally true and
correct, but put into action, where every nerve and muscle is displayed in
the struggle with others, with all the effect of collision and contrast,
with every variety of light and shade. Chaucer's characters are narrative,
Shakspeare's dramatic, Milton's epic. That is, Chaucer told only as much
of his story as he pleased, as was required for a particular purpose. He
answered for his characters himself. In Shakspeare they are introduced
upon the stage, are liable to be asked all sorts of questions, and are
forced to answer for themselves. In Chaucer we perceive a fixed essence of
character. In Shakspeare there is a continual composition and
decomposition of its elements, a fermentation of every particle in the
whole mass, by its alternate affinity or antipathy to other principles
which are brought in contact with it. Till the experiment is tried, we do
not know the result, the turn which the character will take in its new
circumstances. Milton took only a few simple principles of character, and
raised them to the utmost conceivable grandeur, and refined them from
every base alloy. His Imagination, "nigh sphered in Heaven," claimed
kindred only with what he saw from that height, and could raise to the
same elevation with itself. He sat retired, and kept his state alone,
"playing with wisdom;" while Shakspeare mingled with the crowd, and played
the host, "to make society the sweeter welcome."

The passion in Shakspeare is of the same nature as his delineation of
character. It is not some one habitual feeling or sentiment preying upon
itself, growing out of itself, and moulding every thing to itself; it is
passion modified by passion, by all the other feelings to which the
individual is liable, and to which others are liable with him; subject to
all the fluctuations of caprice and accident; calling into play all the
resources of the understanding and all the energies of the will;
irritated by obstacles or yielding to them; rising from small beginnings
to its utmost height; now drunk with hope, now stung to madness, now sunk
in despair, now blown to air with a breath, now raging like a torrent. The
human soul is made the sport of fortune, the prey of adversity: it is
stretched on the wheel of destiny, in restless ecstacy. The passions are
in a state of projection. Years are melted down to moments, and every
instant teems with fate. We know the results, we see the process. Thus
after Iago has been boasting to himself of the effect of his poisonous
suggestions on the mind of Othello, "which, with a little act upon the
blood, will work like mines of sulphur," he adds--

  "Look where he comes! not poppy, nor mandragora,
  Nor all the drowsy syrups of the East,
  Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
  Which thou ow'dst yesterday."----

And he enters at this moment, like the crested serpent, crowned with his
wrongs and raging for revenge! The whole depends upon the turn of a
thought. A word, a look, blows the spark of jealousy into a flame; and the
explosion is immediate and terrible as a volcano. The dialogues in Lear,
in Macbeth, that between Brutus and Cassius, and nearly all those in
Shakspeare, where the interest is wrought up to its highest pitch, afford
examples of this dramatic fluctuation of passion. The interest in Chaucer
is quite different: it is like the course of a river, strong, and full,
and increasing. In Shakspeare, on the contrary, it is like the sea,
agitated this way and that, and loud-lashed by furious storms; while in
the still pauses of the blast, we distinguish only the cries of despair or
the silence of death! Milton, on the other hand, takes the imaginative
part of passion--that which remains after the event, which the mind
reposes on when all is over, which looks upon circumstances from the
remotest elevation of thought and fancy, and abstracts them from the world
of action to that of contemplation. The objects of dramatic poetry affect
us by sympathy, by their nearness to ourselves, as they take us by
surprise, or force us upon action, "while rage with rage doth sympathise:"
the objects of epic poetry affect us through the medium of the
imagination, by magnitude and distance, by their permanence and
universality. The one fill us with terror and pity, the other with
admiration and delight. There are certain objects that strike the
imagination, and inspire awe in the very idea of them, independently of
any dramatic interest, that is, of any connection with the vicissitudes of
human life. For instance, we cannot think of the pyramids of Egypt, of a
Gothic ruin, or an old Roman encampment, without a certain emotion, a
sense of power and sublimity coming over the mind. The heavenly bodies
that hang over our heads wherever we go, and "in their untroubled element
shall shine when we are laid in dust, and all our cares forgotten," affect
us in the same way. Thus Satan's address to the Sun has an epic, not a
dramatic interest; for though the second person in the dialogue makes no
answer and feels no concern, yet the eye of that vast luminary is upon
him, like the eye of heaven, and seems conscious of what he says, like an
universal presence. Dramatic poetry and epic, in their perfection, indeed,
approximate to and strengthen one another. Dramatic poetry borrows aid
from the dignity of persons and things, as the heroic does from human
passion, but in theory they are distinct.--When Richard II. calls for the
looking-glass to contemplate his faded majesty in it, and bursts into that
affecting exclamation: "Oh, that I were a mockery-king of snow, to melt
away before the sun of Bolingbroke," we have here the utmost force of
human passion, combined with the ideas of regal splendour and fallen
power. When Milton says of Satan:

               "--His form had not yet lost
  All her original brightness, nor appear'd
  Less than archangel ruin'd, and th' excess
  Of glory obscur'd;"--

the mixture of beauty, of grandeur, and pathos, from the sense of
irreparable loss, of never-ending, unavailing regret, is perfect.

The great fault of a modern school of poetry is, that it is an experiment
to reduce poetry to a mere effusion of natural sensibility; or what is
worse, to divest it both of imaginary splendour and human passion, to
surround the meanest objects with the morbid feelings and devouring
egotism of the writers' own minds. Milton and Shakspeare did not so
understand poetry. They gave a more liberal interpretation both to nature
and art. They did not do all they could to get rid of the one and the
other, to fill up the dreary void with the Moods of their own Minds. They
owe their power over the human mind to their having had a deeper sense
than others of what was grand in the objects of nature, or affecting in
the events of human life. But to the men I speak of there is nothing
interesting, nothing heroical, but themselves. To them the fall of gods or
of great men is the same. They do not enter into the feeling. They cannot
understand the terms. They are even debarred from the last poor, paltry
consolation of an unmanly triumph over fallen greatness; for their minds
reject, with a convulsive effort and intolerable loathing, the very idea
that there ever was, or was thought to be, any thing superior to
themselves. All that has ever excited the attention or admiration of the
world they look upon with the most perfect indifference; and they are
surprised to find that the world repays their indifference with scorn.
"With what measure they mete, it has been meted to them again."

Shakspeare's imagination is of the same plastic kind as his conception of
character or passion. "It glances from heaven to earth, from earth to
heaven." Its movement is rapid and devious. It unites the most opposite
extremes; or, as Puck says, in boasting of his own feats, "puts a girdle
round about the earth in forty minutes." He seems always hurrying from his
subject, even while describing it; but the stroke, like the lightning's,
is sure as it is sudden. He takes the widest possible range, but from that
very range he has his choice of the greatest variety and aptitude of
materials. He brings together images the most alike, but placed at the
greatest distance from each other; that is, found in circumstances of the
greatest dissimilitude. From the remoteness of his combinations, and the
celerity with which they are effected, they coalesce the more indissolubly
together. The more the thoughts are strangers to each other, and the
longer they have been kept asunder, the more intimate does their union
seem to become. Their felicity is equal to their force. Their likeness is
made more dazzling by their novelty. They startle, and take the fancy
prisoner in the same instant. I will mention one or two which are very
striking, and not much known, out of Troilus and Cressida. Æneas says to
Agamemnon,

  "I ask that I may waken reverence,
  And on the cheek be ready with a blush
  Modest as morning, when she coldly eyes
  The youthful Phoebus."

Ulysses urging Achilles to shew himself in the field, says--

  "No man is the lord of any thing,
  Till he communicate his parts to others:
  Nor doth he of himself know them for aught,
  Till he behold them formed in the applause,
  Where they're extended! which like an arch reverberates
  The voice again, or like a gate of steel,
  Fronting the sun, receives and renders back
  Its figure and its heat."

Patroclus gives the indolent warrior the same advice.

  "Rouse yourself; and the weak wanton Cupid
  Shall from your neck unloose his amorous fold,
  And like a dew-drop from the lion's mane
  Be shook to air,"

Shakspeare's language and versification are like the rest of him. He has a
magic power over words: they come winged at his bidding; and seem to know
their places. They are struck out at a heat, on the spur of the occasion,
and have all the truth and vividness which arise from an actual impression
of the objects. His epithets and single phrases are like sparkles, thrown
off from an imagination, fired by the whirling rapidity of its own motion.
His language is hieroglyphical. It translates thoughts into visible
images. It abounds in sudden transitions and elliptical expressions. This
is the source of his mixed metaphors, which are only abbreviated forms of
speech. These, however, give no pain from long custom. They have, in fact,
become idioms in the language. They are the building, and not the
scaffolding to thought. We take the meaning and effect of a well-known
passage entire, and no more stop to scan and spell out the particular
words and phrases, than the syllables of which they are composed. In
trying to recollect any other author, one sometimes stumbles, in case of
failure, on a word as good. In Shakspeare, any other word but the true
one, is sure to be wrong. If any body, for instance, could not recollect
the words of the following description,

                     "--Light thickens,
  And the crow makes wing to the rooky wood,"

he would be greatly at a loss to substitute others for them equally
expressive of the feeling. These remarks, however, are strictly applicable
only to the impassioned parts of Shakspeare's language, which flowed from
the warmth and originality of his imagination, and were his own. The
language used for prose conversation and ordinary business is sometimes
technical, and involved in the affectation of the time. Compare, for
example, Othello's apology to the senate, relating "his whole course of
love," with some of the preceding parts relating to his appointment, and
the official dispatches from Cyprus. In this respect, "the business of the
state does him offence."--His versification is no less powerful, sweet,
and varied. It has every occasional excellence, of sullen intricacy,
crabbed and perplexed, or of the smoothest and loftiest expansion--from
the ease and familiarity of measured conversation to the lyrical sounds

                    "--Of ditties highly penned,
  Sung by a fair queen in a summer's bower,
  With ravishing division to her lute."

It is the only blank verse in the language, except Milton's, that for
itself is readable. It is not stately and uniformly swelling like his, but
varied and broken by the inequalities of the ground it has to pass over in
its uncertain course,

  "And so by many winding nooks it strays,
  With willing sport to the wild ocean."


It remains to speak of the faults of Shakspeare. They are not so many or
so great as they have been represented; what there are, are chiefly owing
to the following causes:--The universality of his genius was, perhaps, a
disadvantage to his single works; the variety of his resources sometimes
diverting him from applying them to the most effectual purposes. He might
be said to combine the powers of Æschylus and Aristophanes, of Dante and
Rabelais, in his own mind. If he had been only half what he was, he would
perhaps have appeared greater. The natural ease and indifference of his
temper made him sometimes less scrupulous than he might have been. He is
relaxed and careless in critical places; he is in earnest throughout only
in Timon, Macbeth, and Lear. Again, he had no models of acknowledged
excellence constantly in view to stimulate his efforts, and by all that
appears, no love of fame. He wrote for the "great vulgar and the small,"
in his time, not for posterity. If Queen Elizabeth and the maids of honour
laughed heartily at his worst jokes, and the catcalls in the gallery were
silent at his best passages, he went home satisfied, and slept the next
night well. He did not trouble himself about Voltaire's criticisms. He was
willing to take advantage of the ignorance of the age in many things; and
if his plays pleased others, not to quarrel with them himself. His very
facility of production would make him set less value on his own
excellences, and not care to distinguish nicely between what he did well
or ill. His blunders in chronology and geography do not amount to above
half a dozen, and they are offences against chronology and geography, not
against poetry. As to the unities, he was right in setting them at
defiance. He was fonder of puns than became so great a man. His barbarisms
were those of his age. His genius was his own. He had no objection to
float down with the stream of common taste and opinion: he rose above it
by his own buoyancy, and an impulse which he could not keep under, in
spite of himself or others, and "his delights did shew most
dolphin-like."

He had an equal genius for comedy and tragedy; and his tragedies are
better than his comedies, because tragedy is better than comedy. His
female characters, which have been found fault with as insipid, are the
finest in the world. Lastly, Shakspeare was the least of a coxcomb of any
one that ever lived, and much of a gentleman.



IV

THE CHARACTERS OF SHAKSPEARE'S PLAYS


CYMBELINE

CYMBELINE is one of the most delightful of Shakspeare's historical plays.
It may be considered as a dramatic romance, in which the most striking
parts of the story are thrown into the form of a dialogue, and the
intermediate circumstances are explained by the different speakers, as
occasion renders necessary. The action is less concentrated in
consequence; but the interest becomes more aerial and refined from the
principle of perspective introduced into the subject by the imaginary
changes of scene, as well as by the length of time it occupies. The
reading of this play is like going a journey with some uncertain object at
the end of it, and in which the suspense is kept up and heightened by the
long intervals between each action. Though the events are scattered over
such an extent of surface, and relate to such a variety of characters, yet
the links which bind the different interests of the story together are
never entirely broken. The most straggling and seemingly casual incidents
are contrived in such a manner as to lead at last to the most complete
developement of the catastrophe. The ease and conscious unconcern with
which this is effected only makes the skill more wonderful. The business
of the plot evidently thickens in the last act: the story moves forward
with increasing rapidity at every step; its various ramifications are
drawn from the most distant points to the same centre; the principal
characters are brought together, and placed in very critical situations;
and the fate of almost every person in the drama is made to depend on the
solution of a single circumstance--the answer of Iachimo to the question
of Imogen respecting the obtaining of the ring from Posthumus. Dr. Johnson
is of opinion that Shakspeare was generally inattentive to the winding-up
of his plots. We think the contrary is true; and we might cite in proof of
this remark not only the present play, but the conclusion of _Lear_, of
_Romeo and Juliet_, of _Macbeth_, of _Othello_, even of _Hamlet_, and of
other plays of less moment, in which the last act is crowded with decisive
events brought about by natural and striking means.

The pathos in CYMBELINE is not violent or tragical, but of the most
pleasing and amiable kind. A certain tender gloom overspreads the whole.
Posthumus is the ostensible hero of the piece, but its greatest charm is
the character of Imogen. Posthumus is only interesting from the interest
she takes in him; and she is only interesting herself from her tenderness
and constancy to her husband. It is the peculiar excellence of
Shakspeare's heroines, that they seem to exist only in their attachment to
others. They are pure abstractions of the affections. We think as little
of their persons as they do themselves, because we are let into the
secrets of their hearts, which are more important. We are too much
interested in their affairs to stop to look at their faces, except by
stealth and at intervals. No one ever hit the true perfection of the
female character, the sense of weakness leaning on the strength of its
affections for support, so well as Shakspeare--no one ever so well painted
natural tenderness free from affectation and disguise--no one else ever so
well shewed how delicacy and timidity, when driven to extremity, grow
romantic and extravagant; for the romance of his heroines (in which they
abound) is only an excess of the habitual prejudices of their sex,
scrupulous of being false to their vows, truant to their affections, and
taught by the force of feeling when to forego the forms of propriety for
the essence of it. His women were in this respect exquisite logicians; for
there is nothing so logical as passion. They knew their own minds exactly;
and only followed up a favourite purpose, which they had sworn to with
their tongues, and which was engraven on their hearts, into its untoward
consequences. They were the prettiest little set of martyrs and confessors
on record.--Cibber, in speaking of the early English stage, accounts for
the want of prominence and theatrical display in Shakspeare's female
characters from the circumstance, that women in those days were not
allowed to play the parts of women, which made it necessary to keep them a
good deal in the back-ground. Does not this state of manners itself, which
prevented their exhibiting themselves in public, and confined them to the
relations and charities of domestic life, afford a truer explanation of
the matter? His women are certainly very unlike stage-heroines; the
reverse of tragedy-queens.

We have almost as great an affection for Imogen as she had for Posthumus;
and she deserves it better. Of all Shakspeare's women she is perhaps the
most tender and the most artless. Her incredulity in the opening scene
with Iachimo, as to her husband's infidelity, is much the same as
Desdemona's backwardness to believe Othello's jealousy. Her answer to the
most distressing part of the picture is only, "My lord, I fear, has forgot
Britain." Her readiness to pardon Iachimo's false imputations and his
designs against herself, is a good lesson to prudes; and may shew that
where there is a real attachment to virtue, it has no need to bolster
itself up with an outrageous or affected antipathy to vice. The scene in
which Pisanio gives Imogen his master's letter, accusing-her of
incontinency on the treacherous suggestions of Iachimo, is as touching as
it is possible for anything to be:--

  "_Pisanio._ What cheer, Madam?

  _Imogen._ False to his bed! What is it to be false?
  To lie in watch there, and to think on him?
  To weep 'twixt clock and clock? If sleep charge nature,
  To break it with a fearful dream of him,
  And cry myself awake? That's false to 's bed, is it?

  _Pisanio._ Alas, good lady!

  _Imogen._ I false? thy conscience witness, Iachimo,
  Thou didst accuse him of incontinency,
  Thou then look'dst like a villain: now methinks,
  Thy favour's good enough. Some Jay of Italy,
  Whose mother was her painting, hath betray'd him:
  Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion,
  And for I am richer than to hang by th' walls,
  I must be ript; to pieces with me. Oh,
  Men's vows are women's traitors. All good seeming
  By thy revolt, oh husband, shall be thought
  Put on for villainy: not born where't grows,
  But worn a bait for ladies.

  _Pisanio._ Good Madam, hear me--

  _Imogen._ Talk thy tongue weary, speak:
  I have heard I am a strumpet, and mine ear,
  Therein false struck, can take no greater wound,
  Nor tent to bottom that."----


When Pisanio, who had been charged to kill his mistress, puts her in a way
to live, she says,

    "Why, good fellow,
  What shall I do the while? Where bide? How live?
  Or in my life what comfort, when I am
  Dead to my husband?"


Yet when he advises her to disguise herself in boy's clothes, and suggests
"a course pretty and full in view," by which she may "happily be near the
residence of Posthumus," she exclaims,

  "Oh, for such means,
  Though peril to my modesty, not death on't,
  I would adventure."


And when Pisanio, enlarging on the consequences, tells her she must change

                    ----"Fear and niceness,
  The handmaids of all women, or more truly,
  Woman its pretty self, into a waggish courage,
  Ready in gibes, quick-answer'd, saucy, and
  As quarrellous as the weazel"----

she interrupts him hastily:--

  "Nay, be brief;
  I see into thy end, and am almost
  A man already."


In her journey thus disguised to Milford-Haven, she loses her guide and
her way; and unbosoming her complaints, says beautifully--

                  ----"My dear lord,
  Thou art one of the false ones; now I think on thee,
  My hunger's gone; but even before, I was
  At point to sink for food."


She afterwards finds, as she thinks, the dead body of Posthumus, and
engages herself as a foot-boy to serve a Roman officer, when she has done
all due obsequies to him whom she calls her former master--

          ----"And when
  With wild wood-leaves and weeds I ha' strew'd his grave,
  And on it said a century of pray'rs,
  Such as I can, twice o'er, I'll weep and sigh,
  And leaving so his service, follow you,
  So please you entertain me."


Now this is the very religion of love. She all along relies on her
personal charms, which she fears may have been eclipsed by some painted
Jay of Italy; she relies on her merit, and her merit is in the depth of
her love, her truth and constancy. Our admiration of her beauty is excited
with as little consciousness as possible on her part. There are two
delicious descriptions given of her, one when she is asleep, and one when
she is supposed dead. Arviragus thus addresses her--

                ----"With fairest flowers,
  While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
  I'll sweeten thy sad grave; thou shalt not lack
  The flow'r that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor
  The azur'd hare-bell, like thy veins, no, nor
  The leaf of eglantine, which not to slander,
  Out-sweeten'd not thy breath."


The yellow Iachimo gives another thus, when he steals into her
bedchamber:--

            ----"Cytherea,
  How bravely thou becom'st thy bed! Fresh lily,
  And whiter than the sheets! That I might touch--
  But kiss, one kiss--'Tis her breathing that
  Perfumes the chamber thus: the flame o' th' taper
  Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids
  To see th' enclosed lights now canopied
  Under the windows, white and azure, laced
  With blue of Heav'ns own tinct--on her left breast
  A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
  I' th' bottom of a cowslip."


There is a moral sense in the proud beauty of this last image, a rich
surfeit of the fancy,--as that well-known passage beginning, "Me of my
lawful pleasure she restrained, and prayed me oft forbearance," sets a
keener edge upon it by the inimitable picture of modesty and self-denial.

The character of Cloten, the conceited, booby lord, and rejected lover of
Imogen, though not very agreeable in itself, and at present obsolete, is
drawn with much humour and quaint extravagance. The description which
Imogen gives of his unwelcome addresses to her--"Whose love-suit hath been
to me as fearful as a siege"--is enough to cure the most ridiculous lover
of his folly. It is remarkable that though Cloten makes so poor a figure
in love, he is described as assuming an air of consequence as the Queen's
son in a council of state, and with all the absurdity of his person and
manners, is not without shrewdness in his observations. So true is it that
folly is as often owing to a want of proper sentiments as to a want of
understanding! The exclamation of the ancient critic--Oh Menander and
Nature, which of you copied from the other! would not be misapplied to
Shakspeare.

The other characters in this play are represented with great truth and
accuracy, and as it happens in most of the author's works, there is not
only the utmost keeping in each separate character; but in the casting of
the different parts, and their relation to one another, there is an
affinity and harmony, like what we may observe in the gradations of colour
in a picture. The striking and powerful contrasts in which Shakspeare
abounds could not escape observation; but the use he makes of the
principle of analogy to reconcile the greatest diversities of character
and to maintain a continuity of feeling throughout, has not been
sufficiently attended to. In CYMBELINE, for instance, the principal
interest arises out of the unalterable fidelity of Imogen to her husband
under the most trying circumstances. Now the other parts of the picture
are filled up with subordinate examples of the same feeling, variously
modified by different situations, and applied to the purposes of virtue or
vice. The plot is aided by the amorous importunities of Cloten, by the
persevering determination of Iachimo to conceal the defeat of his project
by a daring imposture; the faithful attachment of Pisanio to his mistress
is an affecting accompaniment to the whole; the obstinate adherence to his
purpose in Bellarius, who keeps the fate of the young princes so long a
secret in resentment for the ungrateful return to his former services, the
incorrigible wickedness of the Queen, and even the blind uxorious
confidence of Cymbeline, are all so many lines of the same story, tending
to the same point. The effect of this coincidence is rather felt than
observed; and as the impression exists unconsciously in the mind of the
reader, so it probably arose in the same manner in the mind of the author,
not from design, but from the force of natural association, a particular
train of thought suggesting different inflections of the same predominant
feeling, melting into, and strengthening one another, like chords in
music.

The characters of Bellarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus, and the romantic
scenes in which they appear, are a fine relief to the intrigues and
artificial refinements of the court from which they are banished. Nothing
can surpass the wildness and simplicity of the descriptions of the
mountain life they lead. They follow the business of huntsmen, not of
shepherds; and this is in keeping with the spirit of adventure and
uncertainty in the rest of the story, and with the scenes in which they
are afterwards called on to act. How admirably the youthful fire and
impatience to emerge from their obscurity in the young princes is opposed
to the cooler calculations and prudent resignation of their more
experienced counsellor! How well the disadvantages of knowledge and of
ignorance, of solitude and society, are placed against each other!

  "_Guiderius._ Out of your proof you speak: we poor unfledg'd
  Have never wing'd from view o' th' nest; nor know not
  What air's from home. Haply this life is best,
  If quiet life is best; sweeter to you
  That have a sharper known; well corresponding
  With your stiff age: but unto us it is
  A cell of ignorance; travelling a-bed,
  A prison for a debtor, that not dares
  To stride a limit.

  _Arviragus._ What should we speak of
  When we are old as you? When we shall hear
  The rain and wind beat dark December! How,
  In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
  The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing.
  We are beastly; subtle as the fox for prey,
  Like warlike as the wolf for what we eat;
  Our valour is to chase what flies; our cage
  We make a quire, as doth the prison'd bird,
  And sing our bondage freely."


The answer of Bellarius to this expostulation is hardly satisfactory; for
nothing can be an answer to hope, or the passion of the mind for unknown
good, but experience.--The forest of Arden in _As you like it_ can alone
compare with the mountain scenes in CYMBELINE: yet how different the
contemplative quiet of the one from the enterprising boldness and
precarious mode of subsistence in the other! Shakspeare not only lets us
into the minds of his characters, but gives a tone and colour to the
scenes he describes from the feelings of their supposed inhabitants. He at
the same time preserves the utmost propriety of action and passion, and
gives all their local accompaniments. If he was equal to the greatest
things, he was not above an attention to the smallest. Thus the gallant
sportsmen in CYMBELINE have to encounter the abrupt declivities of hill
and valley: Touchstone and Audrey jog along a level path. The deer in
CYMBELINE are only regarded as objects of prey, "The game's a-foot,"
etc.--with Jaques they are fine subjects to moralise upon at leisure,
"under the shade of melancholy boughs."

We cannot take leave of this play, which is a favourite with us, without
noticing some occasional touches of natural piety and morality. We may
allude here to the opening of the scene in which Bellarius instructs the
young princes to pay their orisons to heaven:

          ----"See, boys! this gate
  Instructs you how t' adore the Heav'ns; and bows you
  To morning's holy office.

  _Guiderius._ Hail, Heav'n!

  _Arviragus._ Hail, Heav'n!

  _Bellarius._ Now for our mountain-sport, up to yon hill."


What a grace and unaffected spirit of piety breathes in this passage! In
like manner, one of the brothers says to the other, when about to perform
the funeral rites to Fidele,

  "Nay, Cadwall, we must lay his head to the east;
  My Father hath a reason for't"--

--as if some allusion to the doctrines of the Christian faith had been
casually dropped in conversation by the old man, and had been no farther
inquired into.

Shakspeare's morality is introduced in the same simple, unobtrusive
manner. Imogen will not let her companions stay away from the chase to
attend her when sick, and gives her reason for it--

  "Stick to your journal course; _the breach of custom
  Is breach of all!_"


When the Queen attempts to disguise her motives for procuring the poison
from Cornelius, by saying she means to try its effects on "creatures not
worth the hanging," his answer conveys at once a tacit reproof of her
hypocrisy, and a useful lesson of humanity--

             ----"Your Highness
  Shall from this practice but make hard your heart."


MACBETH

  "The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling
  Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
  And as imagination bodies forth
  The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
  Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing
  A local habitation and a name."

MACBETH and _Lear_, _Othello_ and _Hamlet_, are usually reckoned
Shakspeare's four principal tragedies. _Lear_ stands first for the
profound intensity of the passion; _Macbeth_ for the wildness of the
imagination and the rapidity of the action; _Othello_ for the progressive
interest and powerful alternations of feeling: _Hamlet_ for the refined
development of thought and sentiment. If the force of genius shewn in each
of these works is astonishing, their variety is not less so. They are like
different creations of the same mind, not one of which has the slightest
reference lo the rest. This distinctness and originality is indeed the
necessary consequence of truth and nature. Shakspeare's genius alone
appeared to possess the resources of nature. He is "your only
_tragedy-maker_." His plays have the force of things upon the mind. What
he represents is brought home to the bosom as a part of our experience,
implanted in the memory as if we had known the places, persons, and things
of which he treats. Macbeth is like a record of a preternatural and
tragical event. It has the rugged severity of an old chronicle with all
that the imagination of the poet can engraft upon traditional belief. The
castle of Macbeth, round which "the air smells wooingly," and where "the
temple-haunting martlet builds," has a real subsistence in the mind; the
Weird Sisters meet us in person on "the blasted heath;" the "air-drawn
dagger" moves slowly before our eyes; the "gracious Duncan," the
"blood-boultered Banquo" stand before us; all that passed through the mind
of Macbeth passes, without the loss of a tittle, through our's. All that
could actually take place, and all that is only possible to be conceived,
what was said and what was done, the workings of passion, the spells of
magic, are brought before us with the same absolute truth and
vividness.--Shakspeare excelled in the openings of his plays: that of
MACBETH is the most striking of any. The wildness of the scenery, the
sudden shifting of the situations and characters, the bustle, the
expectations excited, are equally extraordinary. From the first entrance
of the Witches and the description of them when they meet Macbeth,

              ----"What are these
  So wither'd and so wild in their attire.
  That look not like the inhabitants of th' earth
  And yet are on't?"

the mind is prepared for all that follows.

This tragedy is alike distinguished for the lofty imagination it displays,
and for the tumultuous vehemence of the action; and the one is made the
moving principle of the other. The overwhelming pressure of preternatural
agency urges on the tide of human passion with redoubled force. Macbeth
himself appears driven along by the violence of his fate like a vessel
drifting before a storm: he reels to and fro like a drunken man; he
staggers under the weight of his own purposes and the suggestions of
others; he stands at bay with his situation; and from the superstitious
awe and breathless suspense into which the communications of the Weird
Sisters throw him, is hurried on with daring impatience to verify their
predictions, and with impious and bloody hand to tear aside the veil which
hides the uncertainty of the future. He is not equal to the struggle with
fate and conscience. He now "bends up each corporal instrument to the
terrible feat;" at other times his heart misgives him, and he is cowed and
abashed by his success. "The deed, no less than the attempt, confounds
him." His mind is assailed by the stings of remorse, and full of
"preternatural solicitings." His speeches and soliloquies are dark riddles
on human life, baffling solution, and entangling him in their labyrinths.
In thought he is absent and perplexed, sudden and desperate in act, from a
distrust of his own resolution. His energy springs from the anxiety and
agitation of his mind. His blindly rushing forward on the objects of his
ambition and revenge, or his recoiling from them, equally betrays the
harassed state of his feelings,--This part of his character is admirably
set off by being brought in connection with that of Lady Macbeth, whose
obdurate strength of will and masculine firmness give her the ascendancy
over her husband's faultering virtue. She at once seizes on the
opportunity that offers for the accomplishment of all their wished-for
greatness, and never flinches from her object till all is over. The
magnitude of her resolution almost covers the magnitude of her guilt. She
is a great bad woman, whom we hate, but whom we fear more than we hate.
She does not excite our loathing and abhorrence like Regan and Gonerill.
She is only wicked to gain a great end; and is perhaps more distinguished
by her commanding presence of mind and inexorable self-will, which do not
suffer her to be diverted from a bad purpose, when once formed, by weak
and womanly regrets, than by the hardness of her heart or want of natural
affections. The impression which her lofty determination of character
makes on the mind of Macbeth is well described where he exclaims,

        ----"Bring forth men children only;
  For thy undaunted mettle should compose
  Nothing but males!"

Nor do the pains she is at to "screw his courage to the sticking-place,"
the reproach to him, not to be "lost so poorly in himself," the assurance
that "a little water clears them of this deed," shew anything but her
greater consistency in depravity. Her strong-nerved ambition furnishes
ribs of steel to "the sides of his intent;" and she is herself wound up to
the execution of her baneful project with the same unshrinking fortitude
in crime, that in other circumstances she would probably have shewn
patience in suffering. The deliberate sacrifice of all other
considerations to the gaining "for their future days and nights sole
sovereign sway and masterdom," by the murder of Duncan, is gorgeously
expressed in her invocation on hearing of "his fatal entrance under her
battlements:"--

         ----"Come all you spirits
  That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here:
  And fill me, from the crown to th' toe, top-full
  Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
  Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
  That no compunctious visitings of nature
  Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
  The effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts,
  And take my milk for gall, you murthering ministers,
  Wherever in your sightless substances
  You wait on nature's mischief. Come, thick night!
  And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
  That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
  Nor heav'n peep through the blanket of the dark,
  To cry, hold, hold!"----

When she first hears that "Duncan comes there to sleep" she is so overcome
by the news, which is beyond her utmost expectations, that she answers the
messenger, "Thou'rt mad to say it:" and on receiving her husband's account
of the predictions of the Witches, conscious of his instability of
purpose, and that her presence is necessary to goad him on to the
consummation of his promised greatness, she exclaims--

              ----"Hie thee hither,
  That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
  And chastise with the valour of my tongue
  All that impedes thee from the golden round,
  Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
  To have thee crowned withal."

This swelling exultation and keen spirit of triumph, this uncontroulable
eagerness of anticipation, which seems to dilate her form and take
possession of all her faculties, this solid, substantial flesh and blood
display of passion, exhibit a striking contrast to the cold, abstracted,
gratuitous, servile malignity of the Witches, who are equally instrumental
in urging Macbeth to his fate for the mere love of mischief, and from a
disinterested delight in deformity and cruelty. They are hags of mischief,
obscene panders to iniquity, malicious from their impotence of enjoyment,
enamoured of destruction, because they are themselves unreal, abortive,
half-existences--who become sublime from their exemption from all human
sympathies and contempt for all human affairs, as Lady Macbeth does by the
force of passion! Her fault seems to have been an excess of that strong
principle of self-interest and family aggrandisement, not amenable to the
common feelings of compassion and justice, which is so marked a feature in
barbarous nations and times. A passing reflection of this kind, on the
resemblance of the sleeping king to her father, alone prevents her from
slaying Duncan with her own hand.

In speaking of the character of Lady Macbeth, we ought not to pass over
Mrs. Siddons's manner of acting that part. We can conceive of nothing
grander. It was something above nature. It seemed almost as if a being of
a superior order had dropped from a higher sphere to awe the world with
the majesty of her appearance. Power was seated on her brow, passion
emanated from her breast as from a shrine; she was tragedy personified. In
coming on in the sleeping-scene, her eyes were open, but their sense was
shut. She was like a person bewildered and unconscious of what she did.
Her lips moved involuntarily--all her gestures were involuntary and
mechanical. She glided on and off the stage like an apparition. To have
seen her in that character was an event in every one's life, not to be
forgotten.

The dramatic beauty of the character of Duncan, which excites the respect
and pity even of his murderers, has been often pointed out. It forms a
picture of itself. An instance of the author's power of giving a striking
effect to a common reflection, by the manner of introducing it, occurs in
a speech of Duncan, complaining of his having been deceived in his opinion
of the Thane of Cawdor, at the very moment that he is expressing the most
unbounded confidence in the loyalty and services of Macbeth.

    "There is no art
  To find the mind's construction in the face:
  He was a gentleman, on whom I built
  An absolute trust.
  O worthiest cousin, (_addressing himself to Macbeth._)
  The sin of my Ingratitude e'en now
  Was great upon me," etc.


Another passage to shew that Shakspeare lost sight of nothing that could
in any way give relief or heightening to his subject, is the conversation
which takes place between Banquo and Fleance immediately before the
murder-scene of Duncan.

  "_Banquo._ How goes the night, boy?

  _Fleance._ The moon is down: I have not heard the clock.

  _Banquo._ And she goes down at twelve.

  _Fleance._ I take't, 'tis later, Sir.

  _Banquo._ Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heav'n,
  Their candles are all out.--
  A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
  And yet I would not sleep: Merciful Powers,
  Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
  Gives way to in repose."


In like manner, a fine idea is given of the gloomy coming on of evening,
just as Banquo is going to be assassinated.

  "Light thickens and the crow
  Makes wing to the rooky wood."

    *       *       *       *

  "Now spurs the lated traveller apace
  To gain the timely inn."


MACBETH (generally speaking) is done upon a stronger and more systematic
principle of contrast than any other of Shakspeare's plays. It moves upon
the verge of an abyss, and is a constant struggle between life and death.
The action is desperate and the reaction is dreadful. It is a huddling
together of fierce extremes, a war of opposite natures which of them shall
destroy the other. There is nothing but what has a violent end or violent
beginnings. The lights and shades are laid on with a determined hand; the
transitions from triumph to despair, from the height of terror to the
repose of death, are sudden and startling; every passion brings in its
fellow-contrary, and the thoughts pitch and jostle against each other as
in the dark. The whole play is an unruly chaos of strange and forbidden
things, where the ground rocks under our feet. Shakspeare's genius here
took its full swing, and trod upon the farthest bounds of nature and
passion. This circumstance will account for the abruptness and violent
antitheses of the style, the throes and labour which run through the
expression, and from defects will turn them into beauties. "So fair and
foul a day I have not seen," etc. "Such welcome and unwelcome news
together." "Men's lives are like the flowers in their caps, dying or ere
they sicken." "Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under
it." The scene before the castle-gate follows the appearance of the
Witches on the heath, and is followed by a midnight murder. Duncan is cut
off betimes by treason leagued with witchcraft, and Macduff is ripped
untimely from his mother's womb to avenge his death. Macbeth, after the
death of Banquo, wishes for his presence in extravagant terms, "To him and
all we thirst," and when his ghost appears, cries out, "Avaunt and quit my
sight," and being gone, he is "himself again." Macbeth resolves to get rid
of Macduff, that "he may sleep in spite of thunder;" and cheers his wife
on the doubtful intelligence of Banquo's taking-off with the
encouragement--"Then be thou jocund: ere the bat has flown his cloistered
flight; ere to black Hecate's summons the shard-born beetle has rung
night's yawning peal, there shall be done--a deed of dreadful note." In
Lady Macbeth's speech "Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had
done 't," there is murder and filial piety together; and in urging him to
fulfil his vengeance against the defenceless king, her thoughts spare the
blood neither of infants nor old age. The description of the Witches is
full of the same contradictory principle; they "rejoice when good kings
bleed," they are neither of the earth nor the air, but both; they "should
be women, but their beards forbid it;" they take all the pains possible to
lead Macbeth on to the height of his ambition, only to betray him "in
deeper consequence," and after showing him all the pomp of their art,
discover their malignant delight in his disappointed hopes, by that bitter
taunt. "Why stands Macbeth thus amazedly?" We might multiply such
instances every where.

The leading features in the character of Macbeth are striking enough, and
they form what may be thought at first only a bold, rude, Gothic outline.
By comparing it with other characters of the same author we shall perceive
the absolute truth and identity which is observed in the midst of the
giddy whirl and rapid career of events. Macbeth in Shakspeare no more
loses his identity of character in the fluctuations of fortune or the
storm of passion, than Macbeth in himself would have lost the identity of
his person. Thus he is as distinct a being from Richard III. as it is
possible to imagine, though these two characters in common hands, and
indeed in the hands of any other poet, would have been a repetition of the
same general idea, more or less exaggerated. For both are tyrants,
usurpers, murderers, both aspiring and ambitious, both courageous, cruel,
treacherous. But Richard is cruel from nature and constitution. Macbeth
becomes so from accidental circumstances. Richard is from his birth
deformed in body and mind, and naturally incapable of good. Macbeth is
full of "the milk of human kindness," is frank, sociable, generous. He is
tempted to the commission of guilt by golden opportunities, by the
instigations of his wife, and by prophetic warnings. Fate and metaphysical
aid conspire against his virtue and his loyalty. Richard on the contrary
needs no prompter, but wades through a series of crimes to the height of
his ambition from the ungovernable violence of his temper and a reckless
love of mischief. He is never gay but in the prospect or in the success of
his villainies: Macbeth is full of horror at the thoughts of the murder of
Duncan, which he is with difficulty prevailed on to commit, and of remorse
after its perpetration. Richard has no mixture of common humanity in his
composition, no regard to kindred or posterity, he owns no fellowship with
others, he is "himself alone." Macbeth is not destitute of feelings of
sympathy, is accessible to pity, is even made in some measure the dupe of
his uxoriousness, ranks the loss of friends, of the cordial love of his
followers, and of his good name, among the causes which have made him
weary of life, and regrets that he has ever seized the crown by unjust
means, since he cannot transmit it to his posterity--

  "For Banquo's issue have I fil'd my mind--
  For them the gracious Duncan have I murther'd,
  To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings."

In the agitation of his mind, he envies those whom he has sent to peace.
"Duncan is in his grave; after life's fitful fever he sleeps well."--It is
true, he becomes more callous as he plunges deeper in guilt, "direness is
thus rendered familiar to his slaughterous thoughts," and he in the end
anticipates his wife in the boldness and bloodiness of his enterprises,
while she for want of the same stimulus of action, "is troubled with
thick-coming fancies that rob her of her rest," goes mad and dies. Macbeth
endeavours to escape from reflection on his crimes by repelling their
consequences, and banishes remorse for the past by the meditation of
future mischief. This is not the principle of Richard's cruelty, which
displays the wanton malice of a fiend as much as the frailty of human
passion. Macbeth is goaded on to acts of violence and retaliation by
necessity; to Richard, blood is a pastime.--There are other decisive
differences inherent in the two characters. Richard may be regarded as a
man of the world, a plotting, hardened knave, wholly regardless of
everything but his own ends, and the means to secure them.--Not so
Macbeth. The superstitions of the age, the rude state of society, the
local scenery and customs, all give a wildness and imaginary grandeur to
his character. From the strangeness of the events that surround him, he is
full of amazement and fear; and stands in doubt between the world of
reality and the world of fancy. He sees sights not shewn to mortal eye,
and hears unearthly music. All is tumult and disorder within and without
his mind; his purposes recoil upon himself, are broken and disjointed; he
is the double thrall of his passions and his evil destiny. Richard is not
a character either of imagination or pathos, but of pure self-will. There
is no conflict of opposite feelings in his breast. The apparitions which
he sees only haunt him in his sleep; nor does he live like Macbeth in a
waking dream. Macbeth has considerable energy and manliness of character;
but then he is "subject to all the skyey influences." He is sure of
nothing but the present moment. Richard in the busy turbulence of his
projects never loses his self-possession, and makes use of every
circumstance that happens as an instrument of his long-reaching designs.
In his last extremity we can only regard him as a wild beast taken in the
toils: while we never entirely lose our concern for Macbeth; and he calls
back all our sympathy by that fine close of thoughtful melancholy,

  "My way of life is fallen into the sear,
  The yellow leaf; and that which should accompany old age,
  As honour, troops of friends, I must not look to have;
  But in their stead, curses not loud but deep,
  Mouth-honour, breath, which the poor heart
  Would fain deny, and dare not."


We can conceive a common actor to play Richard tolerably well; we can
conceive no one to play Macbeth properly, or to look like a man that had
encountered the Weird Sisters. All the actors that we have ever seen,
appear as if they had encountered them on the hoards of Covent-garden or
Drury-lane, but not on the heath at Fores, and as if they did not believe
what they had seen. The Witches of MACBETH indeed are ridiculous on the
modern stage, and we doubt if the Furies of Æschylus would be more
respected. The progress of manners and knowledge has an influence on the
stage, and will in time perhaps destroy both tragedy and comedy. Filch's
picking pockets in the _Beggar's Opera_ is not so good a jest as it used
to be: by the force of the police and of philosophy, Lillo's murders and
the ghosts in Shakspeare will become obsolete. At last, there will be
nothing left, good nor bad, to be desired or dreaded, on the theatre or in
real life.--A question has been started with respect to the originality of
Shakspeare's witches, which has been well answered by Mr. Lamb in his
notes to the "Specimens of Early Dramatic Poetry."

     "Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in MACBETH,
     and the incantations in this play, (The Witch of Middleton) which is
     supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much
     from the originality of Shakspeare. His Witches are distinguished
     from the Witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are
     creatures to whom man or woman plotting some dire mischief might
     resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood,
     and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first
     meet with Macbeth's, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his
     destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches can hurt
     the body; those have power over the soul.--Hecate in Middleton has a
     son, a low buffoon: the hags of Shakspeare have neither child of
     their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul
     anomalies, of whom we know not whence they are sprung, nor whether
     they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so
     they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and
     lightning, and vanish to airy music. This is all we know of
     them.--Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their
     mysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton
     has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sisters are serious
     things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But, in a lesser
     degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too
     is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies,
     strifes, _like a thick scurf o'er life_."


Iago

The character of Iago is one of the supererogations of Shakspeare's
genius. Some persons, more nice than wise, have thought this whole
character unnatural, because his villainy is _without a sufficient
motive_. Shakspeare, who was as good a philosopher as he was a poet,
thought otherwise. He knew that the love of power, which is another name
for the love of mischief, is natural to man. He would know this as well or
better than if it had been demonstrated to him by a logical diagram,
merely from seeing children paddle in the dirt or kill flies for sport.
Iago in fact belongs to a class of character, common to Shakspeare and at
the same time peculiar to him; whose heads are as acute and active as
their hearts are hard and callous. Iago is to be sure an extreme instance
of the kind; that is to say, of diseased intellectual activity, with the
most perfect indifference to moral good or evil, or rather with a decided
preference of the latter, because it falls more readily in with his
favourite propensity, gives greater zest to his thoughts and scope to his
actions. He is quite or nearly as indifferent to his own fate as to that
of others; he runs all risks for a trifling and doubtful advantage; and is
himself the dupe and victim of his ruling passion--an insatiable craving
after action of the most difficult and dangerous kind. "Our ancient" is a
philosopher, who fancies that a lie that kills has more point in it than
an alliteration or an antithesis; who thinks a fatal experiment on the
peace of a family a better thing than watching the palpitations in the
heart of a flea in a microscope; who plots the ruin of his friends as an
exercise for his ingenuity, and stabs men in the dark to prevent _ennui_.
His gaiety, such as it is, arises from the success of his treachery; his
ease from the torture he has inflicted on others. He is an amateur of
tragedy in real life; and instead of employing his invention on imaginary
characters, or long-forgotten incidents, he takes the bolder and more
desperate course of getting up his plot at home, casts the principal parts
among his nearest friends and connections, and rehearses it in downright
earnest, with steady nerves and unabated resolution. We will just give an
illustration or two.

One of his most characteristic speeches is that immediately after the
marriage of Othello.

  "_Roderigo._ What a full fortune does the thick lips owe.
  If he can carry her thus!

  _Iago._ Call up her father:
  Rouse him (_Othello_) make after him, poison his delight,
  Proclaim him in the streets, incense her kinsmen,
  And tho' he in a fertile climate dwell,
  Plague him with flies: tho' that his joy be joy,
  Yet throw such changes of vexation on it,
  As it may lose some colour."


In the next passage, his imagination runs riot in the mischief he is
plotting, and breaks out into the wildness and impetuosity of real
enthusiasm.

  "_Roderigo._ Here is her father's house: I'll call aloud.

  _Iago._ Do, with like timourous accent and dire yell
  As when, by night and negligence, the fire
  Is spied in populous cities."


One of his most favourite topics, on which he is rich indeed, and in
descanting on which his spleen serves him for a Muse, is the
disproportionate match between Desdemona and the Moor. This is a clue to
the character of the lady which he is by no means ready to part with. It
is brought forward in the first scene, and he recurs to it, when in answer
to his insinuations against Desdemona, Roderigo says,

  "I cannot believe that in her--she's full of most blest conditions.

  _Iago._ Bless'd fig's end. The wine she drinks is made of grapes.
  If she had been blest, she would never have married the Moor."

And again with still more spirit and fatal effect afterwards, when he
turns this very suggestion arising in Othello's own breast to her
prejudice.

  "_Othello._ And yet how nature erring from itself--

  _Iago._ Ay, there's the point;--as to be bold with you,
  Not to affect many proposed matches
  Of her own clime, complexion, and degree," etc.


This is probing to the quick. Iago here turns the character of poor
Desdemona, as it were, inside out. It is certain that nothing but the
genius of Shakspeare could have preserved the entire interest and delicacy
of the part, and have even drawn an additional elegance and dignity from
the peculiar circumstances in which she is placed.--The habitual
licentiousness of Iago's conversation is not to be traced to the pleasure
he takes in gross or lascivious images, but to his desire of finding out
the worst side of everything, and of proving himself an over-match for
appearances. He has none of "the milk of human kindness" in his
composition. His imagination rejects everything that has not a strong
infusion of the most unpalatable ingredients; his mind digests only
poisons. Virtue or goodness or whatever has the least "relish of salvation
in it," is, to his depraved appetite, sickly and insipid: and he even
resents the good opinion entertained of his own integrity, as if it were
an affront cast on the masculine sense and spirit of his character. Thus
at the meeting between Othello and Desdemona, he exclaims--"Oh, you are
well tuned now: but I'll set down the pegs that make this music, _as
honest as I am_"--his character of _bonhommie_ not sitting at all easy
upon him. In the scenes, where he tries to work Othello to his purpose,
he is proportionably guarded, insidious, dark, and deliberate. We believe
nothing ever came up to the profound dissimulation and dextrous artifice
of the well-known dialogue in the third act, where he first enters upon
the execution of his design.

  "_Iago._ My noble lord.

  _Othello._ What dost thou say, Iago?

  _Iago._ Did Michael Cassio,
  When you woo'd my lady, know of your love?

  _Othello._ He did from first to last.
  Why dost thou ask?

  _Iago._ But for a satisfaction of my thought,
  No further harm.

  _Othello._ Why of thy thought, Iago?

  _Iago._ I did not think he had been acquainted with it.

  _Othello._ O yes, and went between us very oft--

  _Iago._ Indeed!

  _Othello._ Indeed? Ay, indeed. Discern'st thou aught of that?
  Is he not honest?

  _Iago._ Honest, my lord?

  _Othello._ Honest? Ay, honest.

  _Iago._ My lord, for aught I know.

  _Othello._ What do'st thou think?

  _Iago._ Think, my lord!

  _Othello._ Think, my lord! Alas, thou echo'st me,
  As if there was some monster in thy thought
  Too hideous to be shewn."--


The stops and breaks, the deep workings of treachery under the mask of
love and honesty, the anxious watchfulness, the cool earnestness, and if
we may so say, the _passion_ of hypocrisy, marked in every line, receive
their last finishing in that inconceivable burst of pretended indignation
at Othello's doubts of his sincerity.

  "O grace! O Heaven forgive me!
  Are you a man? Have you a soul or sense?
  God be wi' you: take mine office. O wretched fool,
  That lov'st to make thine honesty a vice!
  Ob monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world!
  To be direct and honest, is not safe.
  I thank you for this profit, and from hence
  I'll love no friend, since love breeds such offence."


If Iago is detestable enough when he has business on his hands and all his
engines at work, he is still worse when he has nothing to do, and we only
see into the hollowness of his heart. His indifference when Othello falls
into a swoon, is perfectly diabolical.

  "_Iago._ How is it, General? Have you not hurt your head?

  _Othello._ Do'st thou mock me?

  _Iago._ I mock you not, by Heaven," etc.


The part indeed would hardly be tolerated, even as a foil to the virtue
and generosity of the other characters in the play, but for its
indefatigable industry and inexhaustible resources, which divert the
attention of the spectator (as well as his own) from the end he has in
view to the means by which it must be accomplished.--Edmund the Bastard in
_Lear_ is something of the same character, placed in less prominent
circumstances. Zanga is a vulgar caricature of it.


HAMLET

This is that Hamlet the Dane, whom we read of in our youth, and whom we
may be said almost to remember in our after-years; he who made that famous
soliloquy on life, who gave the advice to the players, who thought "this
goodly frame, the earth, a steril promontory, and this brave o'er-hanging
firmament, the air, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, a foul
and pestilent congregation of vapours;" whom "man delighted not, nor woman
neither;" he who talked with the grave-diggers, and moralised on Yorick's
skull; the school-fellow of Rosencrans and Guildenstern at Wittenberg;
the friend of Horatio; the lover of Ophelia; he that was mad and sent to
England; the slow avenger of his father's death; who lived at the court of
Horwendillus five hundred years before we were born, but all whose
thoughts we seem to know as well as we do our own, because we have read
them in Shakspeare.

Hamlet is a name; his speeches and sayings but the idle coinage of the
poet's brain. What then, are they not real? They are as real as our own
thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's mind. It is _we_ who are
Hamlet. This play has a prophetic truth, which is above that of history.
Whoever has become thoughtful and melancholy through his own mishaps or
those of others; whoever has borne about with him the clouded brow of
reflection, and thought himself "too much i' th' sun;" whoever has seen
the golden lamp of day dimmed by envious mists rising in his own breast,
and could find in the world before him only a dull blank with nothing left
remarkable in it; whoever has known "the pangs of despised love, the
insolence of office, or the spurns which patient merit of the unworthy
takes;" he who has felt his mind sink within him, and sadness cling to his
heart like a malady, who has had his hopes blighted and his youth
staggered by the apparitions of strange things; who cannot be well at
ease, while he sees evil hovering near him like a spectre; whose powers of
action have been eaten up by thought, he to whom the universe seems
infinite, and himself nothing; whose bitterness of soul makes him careless
of consequences, and who goes to a play as his best resource to shove off,
to a second remove, the evils of life by a mock representation of
them--this is the true Hamlet.

We have been so used to this tragedy that we hardly know how to criticise
it any more than we should know how to describe our own faces. But we must
make such observations as we can. It is the one of Shakspeare's plays
that we think of the oftenest, because it abounds most in striking
reflections on human life, and because the distresses of Hamlet are
transferred, by the turn of his mind, to the general account of humanity.
Whatever happens to him we apply to ourselves, because he applies it so
himself as a means of general reasoning. He is a great moraliser; and what
makes him worth attending to is, that he moralises on his own feelings and
experience. He is not a common-place pedant. If _Lear_ is distinguished by
the greatest depth of passion, HAMLET is the most remarkable for the
ingenuity, originality, and unstudied development of character. Shakspeare
had more magnanimity than any other poet, and he has shewn more of it in
this play than in any other. There is no attempt to force an interest:
everything is left for time and circumstances to unfold. The attention is
excited without effort, the incidents succeed each other as matters of
course, the characters think and speak and act just as they might do, if
left entirely to themselves. There is no set purpose, no straining at a
point. The observations are suggested by the passing scene--the gusts of
passion come and go like sounds of music borne on the wind. The whole play
is an exact transcript of what might be supposed to have taken place at
the court of Denmark, at the remote period of time fixed upon, before the
modern refinements in morals and manners were heard of. It would have been
interesting enough to have been admitted as a by-stander in such a scene,
at such a time, to have heard and witnessed something of what was going
on. But here we are more than spectators. We have not only "the outward
pageants and the signs of grief;" but "we have that within which passes
shew." We read the thoughts of the heart, we catch the passions living as
they rise. Other dramatic writers give us very fine versions and
paraphrases of nature; but Shakspeare, together with his own comments,
gives us the original text, that we may judge for ourselves. This is a
very great advantage.

The character of Hamlet stands quite by itself. It is not a character
marked by strength of will or even of passion, but by refinement of
thought and sentiment. Hamlet is as little of the hero as a man can well
be: but he is a young and princely novice, full of high enthusiasm and
quick sensibility--the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune
and refining on his own feelings, and forced from the natural bias of his
disposition by the strangeness of his situation. He seems incapable of
deliberate action, and is only hurried into extremities on the spur of the
occasion, when he has no time to reflect, as in the scene where he kills
Polonius, and again, where he alters the letters which Rosencrans and
Guildenstern are taking with them to England, purporting his death. At
other times, when he is most bound to act, he remains puzzled, undecided,
and sceptical, dallies with his purposes, till the occasion is lost, and
finds out some pretence to relapse into indolence and thoughtfulness
again. For this reason he refuses to kill the King when he is at his
prayers, and by a refinement in malice, which is in truth only an excuse
for his own want of resolution, defers his revenge to a more fatal
opportunity, when he shall be engaged in some act "that has no relish of
salvation in it."

  "He kneels and prays.
  And now I'll do't, and so he goes to heaven,
  And so am I reveng'd: _that would be scann'd_.
  He kill'd my father, and for that,
  I, his sole son, send him to heaven.
  Why this is reward, not revenge.
  Up sword and know thou a more horrid time,
  When he is drunk, asleep, or in a rage."


He is the prince of philosophical speculators; and because he cannot have
his revenge perfect, according to the most refined idea his wish can form,
he declines it altogether. So he scruples to trust the suggestions of the
ghost, contrives the scene of the play to have surer proof of his uncle's
guilt, and then rests satisfied with this confirmation of his suspicions,
and the success of his experiment, instead of acting upon it. Yet he is
sensible of his own weakness, taxes himself with it, and tries to reason
himself out of it.

  "How all occasions do inform against me.
  And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
  If his chief good and market of his time
  Be but to sleep and feed? A beast; no more.
  Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
  Looking before and after, gave us not
  That capability and god-like reason
  To rust in us unus'd. Now whether it be
  Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
  Of thinking too precisely on th' event,--
  A thought which quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom,
  And ever three parts coward;--I do not know
  Why yet I live to say, this thing's to do;
  Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
  To do it. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
  Witness this army of such mass and charge,
  Led by a delicate and tender prince,
  Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd,
  Makes mouths at the invisible event,
  Exposing what is mortal and unsure
  To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
  Even for an egg-shell. 'Tis not to be great
  Never to stir without great argument;
  But greatly to find quarrel in a straw,
  When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,
  That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
  Excitements of my reason and my blood,
  And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
  The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
  That for a fantasy and trick of fame,
  Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
  Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
  Which is not tomb enough and continent
  To hide the slain?--O, from this time forth,
  My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth."

Still he does nothing; and this very speculation on his own infirmity only
affords him another occasion for indulging it. It is not from any want of
attachment to his father or of abhorrence of his murder that Hamlet is
thus dilatory, but it is more to his taste to indulge his imagination in
reflecting upon the enormity of the crime and refining on his schemes of
vengeance, than to put them into immediate practice. His ruling passion is
to think, not to act: and any vague pretext that flatters this propensity
instantly diverts him from his previous purposes.

The moral perfection of this character has been called in question, we
think, by those who did not understand it. It is more interesting than
according to rules; amiable, though not faultless. The ethical
delineations of "that noble and liberal casuist" (as Shakspeare has been
well called) do not exhibit the drab-coloured quakerism of morality. His
plays are not copied either from The Whole Duty of Man, or from The
Academy of Compliments! We confess we are a little shocked at the want of
refinement in those who are shocked at the want of refinement in Hamlet.
The neglect of punctilious exactness in his behaviour either partakes of
the "licence of the time," or else belongs to the very excess of
intellectual refinement in the character, which makes the common rules of
life, as well as his own purposes, sit loose upon him. He may be said to
be amenable only to the tribunal of his own thoughts, and is too much
taken up with the airy world of contemplation to lay as much stress as he
ought on the practical consequences of things. His habitual principles of
action are unhinged and out of joint with the time. His conduct to Ophelia
is quite natural in his circumstances. It is that of assumed severity
only. It is the effect of disappointed hope, of bitter regrets, of
affection suspended, not obliterated, by the distractions of the scene
around him! Amidst the natural and preternatural horrors of his situation,
he might be excused in delicacy from carrying on a regular courtship. When
"his father's spirit was in arms," it was not a time for the son to make
love in. He could neither marry Ophelia, nor wound her mind by explaining
the cause of his alienation, which he durst hardly trust himself to think
of. It would have taken him years to have come to a direct explanation on
the point. In the harassed state of his mind, he could not have done much
otherwise than he did. His conduct does not contradict what he says when
he sees her funeral,

  "I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
  Could not with all their quantity of love
  Make up my sum."


Nothing can be more affecting or beautiful than the Queen's apostrophe to
Ophelia on throwing the flowers into the grave.

        ----"Sweets to the sweet, farewell.
  I hop'd thou should'st have been my Hamlet's wife:
  I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
  And not have strew'd thy grave."


Shakspeare was thoroughly a master of the mixed motives of human
character, and he here shews us the Queen, who was so criminal in some
respects, not without sensibility and affection in other relations of
life.--Ophelia is a character almost too exquisitely touching to be dwelt
upon. Oh rose of May, oh flower too soon faded! Her love, her madness, her
death, are described with the truest touches of tenderness and pathos. It
is a character which nobody but Shakspeare could have drawn in the way
that he has done, and to the conception of which there is not even the
smallest approach, except in some of the old romantic ballads.[127] Her
brother, Laertes, is a character we do not like so well: he is too hot and
choleric, and somewhat rhodomontade. Polonius is a perfect character in
its kind; nor is there any foundation for the objections which have been
made to the consistency of this part. It is said that he acts very
foolishly and talks very sensibly. There is no inconsistency in that.
Again, that he talks wisely at one time and foolishly at another; that his
advice to Laertes is very excellent, and his advice to the King and Queen
on the subject of Hamlet's madness very ridiculous. But he gives the one
as a father, and is sincere in it; he gives the other as a mere courtier,
a busy-body, and is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent. In
short, Shakspeare has been accused of inconsistency in this and other
characters, only because he has kept up the distinction which there is in
nature, between the understandings and the moral habits of men, between
the absurdity of their ideas and the absurdity of their motives. Polonius
is not a fool, but he makes himself so. His folly, whether in his actions
or speeches, comes under the head of impropriety of intention.

We do not like to see our author's plays acted, and least of all, HAMLET.
There is no play that suffers so much in being transferred to the stage.
Hamlet himself seems hardly capable of being acted. Mr. Kemble
unavoidably fails in this character from a want of ease and variety. The
character of Hamlet is made up of undulating lines; it has the yielding
flexibility of a "wave o' th' sea." Mr. Kemble plays it like a man in
armour, with a determined inveteracy of purpose, in one undeviating
straight line, which is as remote from the natural grace and refined
susceptibility of the character, as the sharp angles and abrupt starts
which Mr. Kean introduces into the part. Mr. Kean's Hamlet is as much too
splenetic and rash as Mr. Kemble's is too deliberate and formal. His
manner is too strong and pointed. He throws a severity, approaching to
virulence, into the common observations and answers. There is nothing of
this in Hamlet. He is, as it were, wrapped up in his reflections, and only
_thinks aloud_. There should therefore be no attempt to impress what he
says upon others by a studied exaggeration of emphasis or manner; no
_talking_ at his hearers. There should be as much of the gentleman and
scholar as possible infused into the part, and as little of the actor. A
pensive air of sadness should sit reluctantly upon his brow, but no
appearance of fixed and sullen gloom. He is full of weakness and
melancholy, but there is no harshness in his nature. He is the most
amiable of misanthropes.


ROMEO AND JULIET

ROMEO AND JULIET is the only tragedy which Shakspeare has written entirely
on a love-story. It is supposed to have been his first play, and it
deserves to stand in that proud rank. There is the buoyant spirit of youth
in every line, in the rapturous intoxication of hope, and in the
bitterness of despair. It has been said of ROMEO AND JULIET by a great
critic, that "whatever is most intoxicating in the odour of a southern
spring, languishing in the song of the nightingale, or voluptuous in the
first opening of the rose, is to be found in this poem." The description
is true; and yet it does not answer to our idea of the play. For if it has
the sweetness of the rose, it has its freshness too; if it has the languor
of the nightingale's song, it has also its giddy transport; if it has the
softness of a southern spring, it is as glowing and as bright. There is
nothing of a sickly and sentimental cast. Romeo and Juliet are in love,
but they are not love-sick. Everything speaks the very soul of pleasure,
the high and healthy pulse of the passions: the heart beats, the blood
circulates and mantles throughout. Their courtship is not an insipid
interchange of sentiments lip-deep, learnt at second-hand from poems and
plays,--made up of beauties of the most shadowy kind, of "fancies wan that
hang the pensive head," of evanescent smiles, and sighs that breathe not,
of delicacy that shrinks from the touch, and feebleness that scarce
supports itself, an elaborate vacuity of thought, and an artificial dearth
of sense, spirit, truth, and nature! It is the reverse of all this. It is
Shakspeare all over, and Shakspeare when he was young.


MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, is the leader of the fairy band. He is the
Ariel of the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM; and yet as unlike as can be to the
Ariel in the _Tempest_. No other poet could have made two such different
characters out of the same fanciful materials and situations. Ariel is a
minister of retribution, who is touched with the sense of pity at the woes
he inflicts. Puck is a mad-cap sprite, full of wantonness and mischief,
who laughs at those whom he misleads--"Lord, what fools these mortals
be!" Ariel cleaves the air, and executes his mission with the zeal of a
winged messenger; Puck is borne along on his fairy errand like the light
and glittering gossamer before the breeze. He is, indeed, a most Epicurean
little gentleman, dealing in quaint devices, and faring in dainty
delights. Prospero and his world of spirits are a set of moralists: but
with Oberon and his fairies we are launched at once into the empire of the
butterflies. How beautifully is this race of beings contrasted with the
men and women actors in the scene, by a single epithet which Titania gives
to the latter, "the human mortals"! It is astonishing that Shakspeare
should be considered, not only by foreigners, but by many of our own
critics, as a gloomy and heavy writer, who painted nothing but "gorgons
and hydras, and chimeras dire." His subtlety exceeds that of all other
dramatic writers, insomuch that a celebrated person of the present day
said that he regarded him rather as a metaphysician than a poet. His
delicacy and sportive gaiety are infinite. In the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
alone, we should imagine, there is more sweetness and beauty of
description than in the whole range of French poetry put together. What we
mean is this, that we will produce out of that single play ten passages,
to which we do not think any ten passages in the works of the French poets
can be opposed, displaying equal fancy and imagery. Shall we mention the
remonstrance of Helena to Hermia, or Titania's description of her fairy
train, or her disputes with Oberon about the Indian boy, or Puck's account
of himself and his employments, or the Fairy Queen's exhortation to the
elves to pay due attendance upon her favourite, Bottom; or Hippolita's
description of a chace, or Theseus's answer? The two last are as heroical
and spirited as the others are full of luscious tenderness. The reading of
this play is like wandering in a grove by moonlight: the descriptions
breathe a sweetness like odours thrown from beds of flowers....

The MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, when acted, is converted from a delightful
fiction into a dull pantomime. All that is finest in the play is lost in
the representation. The spectacle was grand; but the spirit was
evaporated, the genius was fled.--Poetry and the stage do not agree well
together. The attempt to reconcile them in this instance fails not only of
effect, but of decorum. The _ideal_ can have no place upon the stage,
which is a picture without perspective: everything there is in the
fore-ground. That which was merely an airy shape, a dream, a passing
thought, immediately becomes an unmanageable reality. Where all is left to
the imagination (as is the case in reading) every circumstance, near or
remote, has an equal chance of being kept in mind, and tells accordingly
to the mixed impression of all that has been suggested. But the
imagination cannot sufficiently qualify the actual impressions of the
senses. Any offence given to the eye is not to be got rid of by
explanation. Thus Bottom's head in the play is a fantastic illusion,
produced by magic spells: on the stage it is an ass's head, and nothing
more; certainly a very strange costume for a gentleman to appear in. Fancy
cannot be embodied any more than a simile can be painted; and it is as
idle to attempt it as to personate _Wall_ or _Moonshine_. Fairies are not
incredible, but fairies six feet high are so. Monsters are not shocking,
if they are seen at a proper distance. When ghosts appear at mid-day, when
apparitions stalk along Cheapside, then may the MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM be
represented without injury at Covent-garden or at Drury-lane. The boards
of a theatre and the regions of fancy are not the same thing.


FALSTAFF

If Shakspeare's fondness for the ludicrous sometimes led to faults in his
tragedies (which was not often the case) he has made us amends by the
character of Falstaff. This is perhaps the most substantial comic
character that ever was invented. Sir John carries a most portly presence
in the mind's eye; and in him, not to speak it profanely, "we behold the
fulness of the spirit of wit and humour bodily." We are as well acquainted
with his person as his mind, and his jokes come upon us with double force
and relish from the quantity of flesh through which they make their way,
as he shakes his fat sides with laughter, or "lards the lean earth as he
walks along." Other comic characters seem, if we approach and handle them,
to resolve themselves into air, "into thin air;" but this is embodied and
palpable to the grossest apprehension: it lies "three fingers deep upon
the ribs," it plays about the lungs and the diaphragm with all the force
of animal enjoyment. His body is like a good estate to his mind, from
which he receives rents and revenues of profit and pleasure in kind,
according to its extent, and the richness of the soil. Wit is often a
meagre substitute for pleasurable sensation; an effusion of spleen and
petty spite at the comforts of others, from feeling none in itself.
Falstaff's wit is an emanation of a fine constitution; an exuberance of
good-humour and good-nature; an overflowing of his love of laughter and
good-fellowship; a giving vent to his heart's ease, and over-contentment
with himself and others. He would not be in character, if he were not so
fat as he is; for there is the greatest keeping in the boundless luxury of
his imagination and the pampered self-indulgence of his physical
appetites. He manures and nourishes his mind with jests, as he does his
body with sack and sugar. He carves out his jokes, as he would a capon or
a haunch of venison, where there is _cut and come again_; and pours out
upon them the oil of gladness. His tongue drops fatness, and in the
chambers of his brain "it snows of meat and drink." He keeps up perpetual
holiday and open house, and we live with him in a round of invitations to
a rump and dozen.--Yet we are not to suppose that he was a mere
sensualist. All this is as much in imagination as in reality. His
sensuality does not engross and stupify his other faculties, but "ascends
me into the brain, clears away all the dull, crude vapours that environ
it, and makes it full of nimble, fiery, and delectable shapes." His
imagination keeps up the ball after his senses have done with it. He seems
to have even a greater enjoyment of the freedom from restraint, of good
cheer, of his ease, of his vanity, in the ideal exaggerated description
which he gives of them, than in fact. He never fails to enrich his
discourse with allusions to eating and drinking, but we never see him at
table. He carries his own larder about with him, and he is himself "a tun
of man." His pulling out the bottle in the field of battle is a joke to
shew his contempt for glory accompanied with danger, his systematic
adherence to his Epicurean philosophy in the most trying circumstances.
Again, such is his deliberate exaggeration of his own vices, that it does
not seem quite certain whether the account of his hostess's bill, found in
his pocket, with such an out-of-the-way charge for capons and sack with
only one halfpenny-worth of bread, was not put there by himself as a trick
to humour the jest upon his favourite propensities, and as a conscious
caricature of himself. He is represented as a liar, a braggart, a coward,
a glutton, etc. and yet we are not offended but delighted with him; for he
is all these as much to amuse others as to gratify himself. He openly
assumes all these characters to shew the humourous part of them. The
unrestrained indulgence of his own ease, appetites, and convenience, has
neither malice nor hypocrisy in it. In a word, he is an actor in himself
almost as much as upon the stage, and we no more object to the character
of Falstaff in a moral point of view than we should think of bringing an
excellent comedian, who should represent him to the life, before one of
the police offices. We only consider the number of pleasant lights in
which he puts certain foibles (the more pleasant as they are opposed to
the received rules and necessary restraints of society) and do not trouble
ourselves about the consequences resulting from them, for no mischievous
consequences do result. Sir John is old as well as fat, which gives a
melancholy retrospective tinge to the character; and by the disparity
between his inclinations and his capacity for enjoyment, makes it still
more ludicrous and fantastical.

The secret of Falstaff's wit is for the most part a masterly presence of
mind, an absolute self-possession, which nothing can disturb. His
repartees are involuntary suggestions of his self-love; instinctive
evasions of everything that threatens to interrupt the career of his
triumphant jollity and self-complacency. His very size floats him out of
all his difficulties in a sea of rich conceits; and he turns round on the
pivot of his convenience, with every occasion and at a moment's warning.
His natural repugnance to every unpleasant thought or circumstance, of
itself makes light of objections, and provokes the most extravagant and
licentious answers in his own justification. His indifference to truth
puts no check upon his invention, and the more improbable and unexpected
his contrivances are, the more happily does he seem to be delivered of
them, the anticipation of their effect acting as a stimulus to the gaiety
of his fancy. The success of one adventurous sally gives him spirits to
undertake another; he deals always in round numbers, and his exaggerations
and excuses are "open, palpable, monstrous as the father that begets
them." His dissolute carelessness of what he says discovers itself in the
first dialogue with the Prince.

     "_Falstaff._ By the lord, thou say'st true, lad; and is not mine
     hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?

     _P. Henry._ As the honey of Hibla, my old lad of the castle; and is
     not a buff-jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?

     _Falstaff._ How now, how now, mad wag, what in thy quips and thy
     quiddities? what a plague have I to do with a buff-jerkin?

     _P. Henry._ Why, what a pox have I to do with mine hostess of the
     tavern?"


In the same scene he afterwards affects melancholy, from pure satisfaction
of heart, and professes reform, because it is the farthest thing in the
world from his thoughts. He has no qualms of conscience, and therefore
would as soon talk of them as of anything else when the humour takes him.

     "_Falstaff._ But Hal, I pr'ythee trouble me no more with vanity. I
     would to God thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to
     be bought: an old lord of council rated me the other day in the
     street about you, sir; but I mark'd him not, and yet he talked very
     wisely, and in the street too.

     _P. Henry._ Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the street, and
     no man regards it.

     _Falsfaff._ O, thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed able to
     corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm unto me, Hal; God forgive
     thee for it. Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing, and now I am,
     if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I
     must give over this life, and I will give it over, by the Lord; an I
     do not, I am a villain. I'll be damned for never a king's son in
     Christendom.

     _P. Henry._ Where shall we take a purse to-morrow, Jack?

     _Falstaff._ Where thou wilt, lad, I'll make one; an I do not, call me
     villain, and baffle me.

     _P. Henry._ I see good amendment of life in thee, from praying to
     purse-taking.

     _Falstaff._ Why, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal. 'Tis no sin for a man to
     labour in his vocation."


Of the other prominent passages, his account of his pretended resistance
to the robbers, "who grew from four men in buckram into eleven" as the
imagination of his own valour increased with his relating it, his getting
off when the truth is discovered by pretending he knew the Prince, the
scene in which in the person of the old king he lectures the prince and
gives himself a good character, the soliloquy on honour, and description
of his new-raised recruits, his meeting with the chief justice, his abuse
of the Prince and Poins, who overhear him, to Doll Tearsheet, his
reconciliation with Mrs. Quickly who has arrested him for an old debt, and
whom he persuades to pawn her plate to lend him ten pounds more, and the
scenes with Shallow and Silence, are all inimitable. Of all of them, the
scene in which Falstaff plays the part, first, of the King, and then of
Prince Henry, is the one that has been the most often quoted. We must
quote it once more in illustration of our remarks.

     "_Falstaff._ Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy
     time, but also how thou art accompanied: for though the camomile, the
     more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is
     wasted, the sooner it wears. That thou art my son, I have partly thy
     mother's word, partly my own opinion; but chiefly, a villainous trick
     of thine eye, and a foolish hanging of thy nether lip that doth
     warrant me. If then thou be son to me, here lies the point;--Why,
     being son to me, art thou so pointed at? Shall the blessed sun of
     heaven prove a micher, and eat blackberries? A question not to be
     ask'd. Shall the son of England prove a thief, and take purses? a
     question to be ask'd. There is a thing, Harry, which thou hast often
     heard of, and it is known to many in our land by the name of pitch:
     this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile; so doth the
     company thou keepest: for, Harry, now I do not speak to thee in
     drink, but in tears; not in pleasure, but in passion; not in words
     only, but in woes also:--and yet there is a virtuous man, whom I have
     often noted in thy company, but I know not his name.

     _P. Henry._ What manner of man, an it like your majesty?

     _Falstaff._ A goodly portly man, i'faith, and a corpulent; of a
     cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage; and, as I
     think, his age some fifty, or, by'r-lady, inclining to threescore;
     and now I do remember me, his name is Falstaff: if that man should be
     lewdly given, he deceiveth me; for, Harry, I see virtue in his looks.
     If then the fruit may be known by the tree, as the tree by the fruit,
     then peremptorily I speak it, there is virtue in that Falstaff: him
     keep with, the rest banish. And tell me now, thou naughty varlet,
     tell me, where hast thou been this month?

     _P. Henry._ Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and
     I'll play my father.

     _Falstaff._ Depose me? if thou dost it half so gravely, so
     majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a
     rabbit-sucker, or a poulterer's hare.

     _P. Henry._ Well, here I am set.

     _Falstaff._ And here I stand:--judge, my masters.

     _P. Henry._ Now, Harry, whence come you?

     _Falstaff._ My noble lord, from Eastcheap.

     _P. Henry._ The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.

     _Falstaff._ S'blood, my lord, they are false:--nay, I'll tickle ye
     for a young prince, i'faith.

     _P. Henry._ Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne'er look on
     me. Thou art violently carried away from grace: there is a devil
     haunts thee, in the likeness of a fat old man; a tun of man is thy
     companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that
     bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swoln parcel of dropsies, that
     huge bombard of sack, that stuft cloak-bag of guts, that roasted
     Manning-tree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice,
     that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?
     wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it? wherein neat and
     cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in
     craft? wherein crafty, but in villainy? wherein villainous, but in
     all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?

     _Falstaff._ I would, your grace would take me with you; whom means
     your grace?

     _P. Henry._ That villainous, abominable mis-leader of youth,
     Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.

     _Falstaff._ My lord, the man I know.

     _P. Henry._ I know thou dost.

     _Falstaff._ But to say, I know more harm in him than in myself, were
     to say more than I know. That he is old (the more the pity) his
     white hairs do witness it: but that he is (saving your reverence) a
     whore-master, that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault, God
     help the wicked! if to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old
     host that I know is damned: if to be fat be to be hated, then
     Pharaoh's lean kine are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto,
     banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack
     Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore
     more valiant, being as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy
     Harry's company; banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

     _P. Henry._ I do, I will.

                     [_Knocking; and Hostess and Bardolph go out. Re-enter_

                     BARDOLPH, _running._

     _Bardolph._ O, my lord, my lord; the sheriff, with a most monstrous
     watch, is at the door.

     _Falstaff._ Out, you rogue! play out the play: I have much to say in
     the behalf of that Falstaff."


One of the most characteristic descriptions of Sir John is that which Mrs.
Quickly gives of him when he asks her "What is the gross sum that I owe
thee?"

     "_Hostess._ Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself, and the money
     too. Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my
     Dolphin-chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire on Wednesday
     in Whitsun-week, when the Prince broke thy head for likening his
     father to a singing man of Windsor; thou didst swear to me then, as I
     was washing thy wound, to marry me, and make me my lady thy wife.
     Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher's wife, come
     in then, and call me gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a mess of
     vinegar; telling us, she had a good dish of prawns; whereby thou didst
     desire to eat some; whereby I told thee they were ill for a green
     wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to
     be no more so familiarity with such poor people; saying, that ere long
     they should call me madam? And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me
     fetch thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book-oath; deny it,
     if thou canst."


This scene is to us the most convincing proof of Falstaff's power of
gaining over the good will of those he was familiar with, except indeed
Bardolph's somewhat profane exclamation on hearing the account of his
death, "Would I were with him, wheresoe'er he is, whether in heaven or
hell."

One of the topics of exulting superiority over others most common in Sir
John's mouth is his corpulence and the exterior marks of good living which
he carries about him, thus "turning his vices into commodity." He accounts
for the friendship between the Prince and Poins, from "their legs being
both of a bigness;" and compares Justice Shallow to "a man made after
supper of a cheese-paring." There cannot be a more striking gradation of
character than that between Falstaff and Shallow, and Shallow and Silence.
It seems difficult at first to fall lower than the squire; but this fool,
great as he is, finds an admirer and humble foil in his cousin Silence.
Vain of his acquaintance with Sir John, who makes a butt of him, he
exclaims, "Would, cousin Silence, that thou had'st seen that which this
knight and I have seen!"--"Aye, Master Shallow, we have heard the chimes
at midnight," says Sir John. To Falstaff's observation, "I did not think
Master Silence had been a man of this mettle," Silence answers, "Who, I? I
have been merry twice and once ere now." What an idea is here conveyed of
a prodigality of living? What good husbandry and economical self-denial in
his pleasures? What a stock of lively recollections? It is curious that
Shakspeare has ridiculed in Justice Shallow, who was "in some authority
under the king," that disposition to unmeaning tautology which is the
regal infirmity of later times, and which, it may be supposed, he acquired
from talking to his cousin Silence, and receiving no answers.

     "_Falstaff._ You have here a goodly dwelling, and a rich.

     _Shallow._ Barren, barren, barren; beggars all, beggars all, Sir
     John: marry, good air. Spread Davy, spread Davy. Well said, Davy.

     _Falstaff._ This Davy serves you for good uses.

     _Shallow._ A good varlet, a good varlet, a very good varlet. By the
     mass, I have drunk too much sack at supper. A good varlet. Now sit
     down, now sit down. Come, cousin."


The true spirit of humanity, the thorough knowledge of the stuff we are
made of, the practical wisdom with the seeming fooleries in the whole of
the garden-scene at Shallow's country-seat, and just before in the
exquisite dialogue between him and Silence on the death of old Double,
have no parallel anywhere else. In one point of view, they are laughable
in the extreme; in another they are equally affecting, if it is affecting
to shew _what a little thing is human life_, what a poor forked creature
man is!


TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL

This is justly considered as one of the most delightful of Shakspeare's
comedies. It is full of sweetness and pleasantry. It is perhaps too
good-natured for comedy. It has little satire, and no spleen. It aims at
the ludicrous rather than the ridiculous. It makes us laugh at the follies
of mankind, not despise them, and still less bear any ill-will towards
them. Shakspeare's comic genius resembles the bee rather in its power of
extracting sweets from weeds or poisons, than in leaving a sting behind
it. He gives the most amusing exaggeration of the prevailing foibles of
his characters, but in a way that they themselves, instead of being
offended at, would almost join in to humour; he rather contrives
opportunities for them to shew themselves off in the happiest lights, than
renders them contemptible in the perverse construction of the wit or
malice of others.--There is a certain stage of society in which people
become conscious of their peculiarities and absurdities, affect to
disguise what they are, and set up pretensions to what they are not. This
gives rise to a corresponding style of comedy, the object of which is to
detect the disguises of self-love, and to make reprisals on these
preposterous assumptions of vanity, by marking the contrast between the
real and the affected character as severely as possible, and denying to
those, who would impose on us for what they are not, even the merit which
they have. This is the comedy of artificial life, of wit and satire, such
as we see it in Congreve, Wycherley, Vanburgh, etc. To this succeeds a
state of society from which the same sort of affectation and pretence are
banished by a greater knowledge of the world or by their successful
exposure on the stage; and which by neutralising the materials of comic
character, both natural and artificial, leaves no comedy at all--but _the
sentimental_. Such is our modern comedy. There is a period in the progress
of manners anterior to both these, in which the foibles and follies of
individuals are of nature's planting, not the growth of art or study; in
which they are therefore unconscious of them themselves, or care not who
knows them, if they can but have their whim out; and in which, as there is
no attempt at imposition, the spectators rather receive pleasure from
humouring the inclinations of the persons they laugh at, than wish to give
them pain by exposing their absurdity. This may be called the comedy of
nature, and it is the comedy which we generally find in
Shakspeare.--Whether the analysis here given be just or not, the spirit of
his comedies is evidently quite distinct from that of the authors above
mentioned, as it is in its essence the same with that of Cervantes, and
also very frequently of Molière, though he was more systematic in his
extravagance than Shakspeare. Shakspeare's comedy is of a pastoral and
poetical cast. Folly is indigenous to the soil, and shoots out with
native, happy, unchecked luxuriance. Absurdity has every encouragement
afforded it; and nonsense has room to flourish in. Nothing is stunted by
the churlish, icy hand of indifference or severity. The poet runs riot in
a conceit, and idolises a quibble. His whole object is to turn the meanest
or rudest objects to a pleasurable account. The relish which he has of a
pun, or of the quaint humour of a low character, does not interfere with
the delight with which he describes a beautiful image, or the most refined
love. The Clown's forced jests do not spoil the sweetness of the character
of Viola; the same house is big enough to hold Malvolio, the Countess,
Maria, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew Ague-cheek. For instance, nothing can fall
much lower than this last character in intellect or morals: yet how are
his weaknesses nursed and dandled by Sir Toby into something "high
fantastical," when on Sir Andrew's commendation of himself for dancing and
fencing, Sir Toby answers--"Wherefore are these things hid? Wherefore have
these gifts a curtain before them? Are they like to take dust like
mistress Moll's picture? Why dost thou not go to church in a galliard, and
come home in a coranto? My very walk should be a jig! I would not so much
as make water but in a cinque-pace. What dost thou mean? Is this a world
to hide virtues in? I did think by the excellent constitution of thy leg,
it was framed under the star of a galliard!"--How Sir Toby, Sir Andrew,
and the Clown afterwards _chirp over their cups_, how they "rouse the
night-owl in a catch, able to draw three souls out of one weaver!" What
can be better than Sir Toby's unanswerable answer to Malvolio, "Dost thou
think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and
ale?"--In a word, the best turn is given to everything, instead of the
worst. There is a constant infusion of the romantic and enthusiastic, in
proportion as the characters are natural and sincere: whereas, in the more
artificial style of comedy, everything gives way to ridicule and
indifference, there being nothing left but affectation on one side, and
incredulity on the other.--Much as we like Shakspeare's comedies, we
cannot agree with Dr. Johnson that they are better than his tragedies; nor
do we like them half so well. If his inclination to comedy sometimes led
him to trifle with the seriousness of tragedy, the poetical and
impassioned passages are the best parts of his comedies. The great and
secret charm of TWELFTH NIGHT is the character of Viola. Much as we like
catches and cakes and ale, there is something that we like better. We have
a friendship for Sir Toby; we patronise Sir Andrew; we have an
understanding with the Clown, a sneaking kindness for Maria and her
rogueries; we feel a regard for Malvolio, and sympathise with his gravity,
his smiles, his cross garters, his yellow stockings, and imprisonment in
the stocks. But there is something that excites in us a stronger feeling
than all this--it is Viola's confession of her love.

  "_Duke._ What's her history?

  _Viola._ _A blank, my lord, she never told her love:_
  She let concealment, like a worm i' th' bud.
  Feed on her damask cheek: she pin'd in thought,
  And with a green and yellow melancholy,
  She sat like Patience on a monument,
  Smiling at grief. _Was not this love indeed?_
  We men may say more, swear more, but indeed,
  Our shews are more than will; for still we prove
  Much in our vows, but little in our love.

  _Duke._ But died thy sister of her love, my boy?

  _Viola._ I am all the daughters of my father's house,
  And all the brothers too;--and yet I know not."--


Shakspeare alone could describe the effect of his own poetry.

  "Oh, it came o'er the ear like the sweet south
  That breathes upon a bank of violets,
  Stealing and giving odour."

What we so much admire here is not the image of Patience on a monument,
which has been generally quoted, but the lines before and after it. "They
give a very echo to the seat where love is throned." How long ago it is
since we first learnt to repeat them; and still, still they vibrate on the
heart, like the sounds which the passing wind draws from the trembling
strings of a harp left on some desert shore! There are other passages of
not less impassioned sweetness. Such is Olivia's address to Sebastian,
whom she supposes to have already deceived her in a promise of marriage.

  "Blame not this haste of mine: if you mean well,
  Now go with me and with this holy man
  Into the chantry by: there before him,
  And underneath that consecrated roof,
  Plight me the full assurance of your faith,
  _That my most jealous and too doubtful soul_
  _May live at peace_."



V

MILTON


Shakspeare discovers in his writings little religious enthusiasm, and an
indifference to personal reputation; he had none of the bigotry of his
age, and his political prejudices were not very strong. In these respects,
as well as in every other, he formed a direct contrast to Milton. Milton's
works are a perpetual invocation to the Muses; a hymn to Fame. He had his
thoughts constantly fixed on the contemplation of the Hebrew theocracy,
and of a perfect commonwealth; and he seized the pen with a hand just warm
from the touch of the ark of faith. His religious zeal infused its
character into his imagination; so that he devotes himself with the same
sense of duty to the cultivation of his genius, as he did to the exercise
of virtue, or the good of his country. The spirit of the poet, the
patriot, and the prophet, vied with each other in his breast. His mind
appears to have held equal communion with the inspired writers, and with
the bards and sages of ancient Greece and Rome;--

  "Blind Thamyris, and blind Mæonides,
  And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old."

He had a high standard, with which he was always comparing himself,
nothing short of which could satisfy his jealous ambition. He thought of
nobler forms and nobler things than those he found about him. He lived
apart, in the solitude of his own thoughts, carefully excluding from his
mind whatever might distract its purposes, or alloy its purity, or damp
its zeal. "With darkness and with dangers compassed round," he had the
mighty models of antiquity always present to his thoughts, and determined
to raise a monument of equal height and glory, "piling up every stone of
lustre from the brook," for the delight and wonder of posterity. He had
girded himself up, and as it were, sanctified his genius to this service
from his youth. "For after," he says, "I had from my first years, by the
ceaseless diligence and care of my father, been exercised to the tongues,
and some sciences as my age could suffer, by sundry masters and teachers,
it was found that whether aught was imposed upon me by them, or betaken to
of my own choice, the style by certain vital signs it had, was likely to
live; but much latelier, in the private academies of Italy, perceiving
that some trifles which I had in memory, composed at under twenty or
thereabout, met with acceptance above what was looked for; I began thus
far to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not
less to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by labour
and intense study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined
with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so
written to after-times as they should not willingly let it die. The
accomplishment of these intentions which have lived within me ever since I
could conceive myself anything worth to my country, lies not but in a
power above man's to promise; but that none hath by more studious ways
endeavoured, and with more unwearied spirit that none shall, that I dare
almost aver of myself, as far as life and free leisure will extend.
Neither do I think it shame to covenant with any knowing reader, that for
some few years yet, I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what
I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of
youth or the vapours of wine; like that which flows at waste from the pen
of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, nor
to be obtained by the invocation of Dame Memory and her Siren daughters,
but by devout prayer to that eternal spirit, who can enrich with all
utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire
of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases: to this
must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation, and
insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs. Although it nothing
content me to have disclosed thus much beforehand; but that I trust hereby
to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the
pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing
solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a
troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, from beholding the bright
countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies."

So that of Spenser:

  "The noble heart that harbours virtuous thought,
    And is with child of glorious great intent,
  Can never rest until it forth hath brought
    The eternal brood of glory excellent."


Milton, therefore, did not write from casual impulse, but after a severe
examination of his own strength, and with a resolution to leave nothing
undone which it was in his power to do. He always labours, and almost
always succeeds. He strives hard to say the finest things in the world,
and he does say them. He adorns and dignifies his subject to the utmost:
he surrounds it with every possible association of beauty or grandeur,
whether moral, intellectual, or physical. He refines on his descriptions
of beauty; loading sweets on sweets, till the sense aches at them; and
raises his images of terror to a gigantic elevation, that "makes Ossa like
a wart." In Milton there is always an appearance of effort: in Shakspeare,
scarcely any.

Milton has borrowed more than any other writer, and exhausted every source
of imitation, sacred or profane; yet he is perfectly distinct from every
other writer. He is a writer of centos, and yet in originality scarcely
inferior to Homer. The power of his mind is stamped on every line. The
fervour of his imagination melts down and renders malleable, as in a
furnace, the most contradictory materials. In reading his works, we feel
ourselves under the influence of a mighty intellect, that the nearer it
approaches to others, becomes more distinct from them. The quantity of art
in him shews the strength of his genius: the weight of his intellectual
obligations would have oppressed any other writer. Milton's learning has
all the effect of intuition. He describes objects, of which he could only
have read in books, with the vividness of actual observation. His
imagination has the force of nature. He makes words tell as pictures.

  "Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seat
  Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
  Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streams."


The word _lucid_ here gives to the idea all the sparkling effect of the
most perfect landscape.

And again:

  "As when a vulture on Imaus bred,
  Whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds,
  Dislodging from a region scarce of prey,
  To gorge the flesh of lambs and yeanling kids
  On hills where flocks are fed, flies towards the springs
  Of Ganges or Hydaspes, Indian streams;
  But in his way lights on the barren plains
  Of Sericana, where Chineses drive
  With sails and wind their cany waggons light."

If Milton had taken a journey for the express purpose, he could not have
described this scenery and mode of life better. Such passages are like
demonstrations of natural history. Instances might be multiplied without
end.

We might be tempted to suppose that the vividness with which he describes
visible objects, was owing to their having acquired an unusual degree of
strength in his mind, after the privation of his sight; but we find the
same palpableness and truth in the descriptions which occur in his early
poems. In Lycidas, he speaks of "the great vision of the guarded mount,"
with that preternatural weight of impression with which it would present
itself suddenly to "the pilot of some small night-foundered skiff;" and
the lines in the Penseroso, describing "the wandering moon,

  "Riding near her highest noon,
  Like one that had been led astray
  Through the heaven's wide pathless way,"

are as if he had gazed himself blind in looking at her. There is also the
same depth of impression in his descriptions of the objects of all the
different senses, whether colours, or sounds, or smells--the same
absorption of his mind in whatever engaged his attention at the time. It
has been indeed objected to Milton, by a common perversity of criticism,
that his ideas were musical rather than picturesque, as if because they
were in the highest degree musical, they must be (to keep the sage
critical balance even, and to allow no one man to possess two qualities at
the same time) proportionably deficient in other respects. But Milton's
poetry is not cast in any such narrow, common-place mould; it is not so
barren of resources. His worship of the Muse was not so simple or
confined. A sound arises "like a steam of rich distilled perfumes;" we
hear the pealing organ, but the incense on the altars is also there, and
the statues of the gods are ranged around! The ear indeed predominates
over the eye, because it is more immediately affected, and because the
language of music blends more immediately with, and forms a more natural
accompaniment to, the variable and indefinite associations of ideas
conveyed by words. But where the associations of the imagination are not
the principal thing, the individual object is given by Milton with equal
force and beauty. The strongest and best proof of this, as a
characteristic power of his mind, is, that the persons of Adam and Eve, of
Satan, etc. are always accompanied, in our imagination, with the grandeur
of the naked figure; they convey to us the ideas of sculpture. As an
instance, take the following:

                                  "He soon
  Saw within ken a glorious Angel stand,
  The same whom John saw also in the sun:
  His back was turned, but not his brightness hid;
  Of beaming sunny rays a golden tiar
  Circled his head, nor less his locks behind
  Illustrious on his shoulders fledge with wings
  Lay waving round; on some great charge employ'd
  He seem'd, or fix'd in cogitation deep.
  Glad was the spirit impure, as now in hope
  To find who might direct his wand'ring flight
  To Paradise, the happy seat of man,
  His journey's end, and our beginning woe.
  But first he casts to change his proper shape,
  Which else might work him danger or delay:
  And now a stripling cherub he appears,
  Not of the prime, yet such as in his face
  Youth smiled celestial, and to every limb
  Suitable grace diffus'd, so well he feign'd:
  Under a coronet his flowing hair
  In curls on either cheek play'd; wings he wore
  Of many a colour'd plume sprinkled with gold,
  His habit fit for speed succinct, and held
  Before his decent steps a silver wand."


The figures introduced here have all the elegance and precision of a Greek
statue; glossy and impurpled, tinged with golden light, and musical as
the strings of Memnon's harp!

Again, nothing can be more magnificent than the portrait of Beelzebub:

  "With Atlantean shoulders fit to bear
  The weight of mightiest monarchies:"

Or the comparison of Satan, as he "lay floating many a rood," to "that sea
beast,"

  "Leviathan, which God of all his works
  Created hugest that swim the ocean-stream!"

What a force of imagination is there in this last expression! What an idea
it conveys of the size of that hugest of created beings, as if it shrunk
up the ocean to a stream, and took up the sea in its nostrils as a very
little thing! Force of style is one of Milton's greatest excellences.
Hence, perhaps, he stimulates us more in the reading, and less afterwards.
The way to defend Milton against all impugners, is to take down the book
and read it.

Milton's blank verse is the only blank verse in the language (except
Shakspeare's) that deserves the name of verse. Dr. Johnson, who had
modelled his ideas of versification on the regular sing-song of Pope,
condemns the Paradise Lost as harsh and unequal. I shall not pretend to
say that this is not sometimes the case; for where a degree of excellence
beyond the mechanical rules of art is attempted, the poet must sometimes
fail. But I imagine that there are more perfect examples in Milton of
musical expression, or of an adaptation of the sound and movement of the
verse to the meaning of the passage, than in all our other writers,
whether of rhyme or blank verse, put together, (with the exception already
mentioned). Spenser is the most harmonious of our stanza writers, as
Dryden is the most sounding and varied of our rhymists. But in neither is
there anything like the same ear for music, the same power of
approximating the varieties of poetical to those of musical rhythm, as
there is in our great epic poet. The sound of his lines is moulded into
the expression of the sentiment, almost of the very image. They rise or
fall, pause or hurry rapidly on, with exquisite art, but without the least
trick or affectation, as the occasion seems to require.

The following are some of the finest instances:

                          "His hand was known
  In Heaven by many a tower'd structure high;--
  Nor was his name unheard or unador'd
  In ancient Greece; and in the Ausonian land
  Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell
  From Heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
  Sheer o'er the crystal battlements; from morn
  To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
  A summer's day; and with the setting sun
  Dropt from the zenith like a falling star
  On Lemnos, the Ægean isle: thus they relate,
  Erring."--

              "But chief the spacious hall
  Thick swarm'd, both on the ground and in the air,
  Brush'd with the hiss of rustling wings. As bees
  In spring time, when the sun with Taurus rides,
  Pour forth their populous youth about the hive
  In clusters; they among fresh dews and flow'rs
  Fly to and fro; or on the smoothed plank,
  The suburb of their straw-built citadel,
  New rubb'd with balm, expatiate, and confer
  Their state affairs. So thick the airy crowd
  Swarm'd and were straiten'd; till the signal giv'n,
  Behold a wonder! They but now who seem'd
  In bigness to surpass earth's giant sons,
  Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
  Throng numberless, like that Pygmean race
  Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy elves,
  Whose midnight revels by a forest side
  Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
  Or dreams he sees, while over-head the moon
  Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth
  Wheels her pale course: they on their mirth and dance
  Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
  At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds."


I can give only another instance, though I have some difficulty in leaving
off.

  "Round he surveys (and well might, where he stood
  So high above the circling canopy
  Of night's extended shade) from th' eastern point
  Of Libra to the fleecy star that bears
  Andromeda far off Atlantic seas
  Beyond the horizon: then from pole to pole
  He views in breadth, and without longer pause
  Down right into the world's first region throws
  His flight precipitant, and winds with ease
  Through the pure marble air his oblique way
  Amongst innumerable stars that shone
  Stars distant, but nigh hand seem'd other worlds;
  Or other worlds they seem'd or happy isles," etc.


The verse, in this exquisitely modulated passage, floats up and down as if
it had itself wings. Milton has himself given us the theory of his
versification--

  "Such as the meeting soul may pierce
  In notes with many a winding bout
  Of linked sweetness long drawn out."


Dr. Johnson and Pope would have converted his vaulting Pegasus into a
rocking-horse. Read any other blank verse but Milton's,--Thomson's,
Young's, Cowper's, Wordsworth's,--and it will be found, from the want of
the same insight into "the hidden soul of harmony," to be mere lumbering
prose.

To proceed to a consideration of the merits of Paradise Lost, in the most
essential point of view, I mean as to the poetry of character and
passion. I shall say nothing of the fable, or of other technical
objections or excellences; but I shall try to explain at once the
foundation of the interest belonging to the poem. I am ready to give up
the dialogues in Heaven, where, as Pope justly observes, "God the Father
turns a school-divine;" nor do I consider the battle of the angels as the
climax of sublimity, or the most successful effort of Milton's pen. In a
word, the interest of the poem arises from the daring ambition and fierce
passions of Satan, and from the account of the paradisaical happiness, and
the loss of it by our first parents. Three-fourths of the work are taken
up with these characters, and nearly all that relates to them is unmixed
sublimity and beauty. The two first books alone are like too massy pillars
of solid gold.

Satan is the most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem; and the
execution is as perfect as the design is lofty. He was the first of
created beings, who, for endeavouring to be equal with the highest, and to
divide the empire of heaven with the Almighty, was hurled down to hell.
His aim was no less than the throne of the universe; his means, myriads of
angelic armies bright, the third part of the heavens, whom he lured after
him with his countenance, and who durst defy the Omnipotent in arms. His
ambition was the greatest, and his punishment was the greatest; but not so
his despair, for his fortitude was as great as his sufferings. His
strength of mind was matchless as his strength of body; the vastness of
his designs did not surpass the firm, inflexible determination with which
he submitted to his irreversible doom, and final loss of all good. His
power of action and of suffering was equal. He was the greatest power that
was ever overthrown, with the strongest will left to resist or to endure.
He was baffled, not confounded. He stood like a tower; or

                          "As when Heaven's fire
  Hath scathed the forest oaks or mountain pines!"

He is still surrounded with hosts of rebel angels, armed warriors, who own
him as their sovereign leader, and with whose fate he sympathises as he
views them round, far as the eye can reach; though he keeps aloof from
them in his own mind, and holds supreme counsel only with his own breast.
An outcast from Heaven, Hell trembles beneath his feet, Sin and Death are
at his heels, and mankind are his easy prey.

  "All is not lost; th' unconquerable will,
  And study of revenge, immortal hate,
  And courage never to submit or yield,
  And what else is not to be overcome,"

are still his. The sense of his punishment seems lost in the magnitude of
it; the fierceness of tormenting flames, is qualified and made innoxious
by the greater fierceness of his pride; the loss of infinite happiness to
himself is compensated in thought, by the power of inflicting infinite
misery on others. Yet Satan is not the principle of malignity, or of the
abstract love of evil--but of the abstract love of power, of pride, of
self-will personified, to which last principle all other good and evil,
and even his own, are subordinate. From this principle he never once
flinches. His love of power and contempt for suffering are never once
relaxed from the highest pitch of intensity. His thoughts burn like a hell
within him; but the power of thought holds dominion in his mind over every
other consideration. The consciousness of a determined purpose, of "that
intellectual being, those thoughts that wander through eternity," though
accompanied with endless pain, he prefers to nonentity, to "being
swallowed up and lost in the wide womb of uncreated night." He expresses
the sum and substance of all ambition in one line: "Fallen cherub, to be
weak is miserable, doing or suffering!" After such a conflict as his, and
such a defeat, to retreat in order, to rally, to make terms, to exist at
all, is something; but he does more than this--he founds a new empire in
hell, and from it conquers this new world, whither he bends his undaunted
flight, forcing his way through nether and surrounding fires. The poet has
not in all this given us a mere shadowy outline; the strength is equal to
the magnitude of the conception. The Achilles of Homer is not more
distinct; the Titans were not more vast; Prometheus chained to his rock
was not a more terrific example of suffering and of crime. Wherever the
figure of Satan is introduced, whether he walks or flies, "rising aloft
incumbent on the dusky air," it is illustrated with the most striking and
appropriate images: so that we see it always before us, gigantic,
irregular, portentous, uneasy, and disturbed--but dazzling in its faded
splendour, the clouded ruins of a god. The deformity of Satan is only in
the depravity of his will; he has no bodily deformity to excite our
loathing or disgust. The horns and tail are not there, poor emblems of the
unbending, unconquered spirit, of the writhing agonies within. Milton was
too magnanimous and open an antagonist to support his argument by the
bye-tricks of a hump and cloven foot; to bring into the fair field of
controversy the good old catholic prejudices of which Tasso and Dante have
availed themselves, and which the mystic German critics would restore. He
relied on the justice of his cause, and did not scruple to give the devil
his due. Some persons may think that he has carried his liberality too
far, and injured the cause he professed to espouse by making him the chief
person in his poem. Considering the nature of his subject, he would be
equally in danger of running into this fault, from his faith in religion,
and his love of rebellion; and perhaps each of these motives had its full
share in determining the choice of his subject.

Not only the figure of Satan, but his speeches in council, his
soliloquies, his address to Eve, his share in the war in heaven; or in the
fall of man, show the same decided superiority of character. To give only
one instance, almost the first speech he makes:

  "Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
  Said then the lost archangel, this the seat
  That we must change for Heaven; this mournful gloom
  For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
  Who now is sov'rain can dispose and bid
  What shall be right: farthest from him is best,
  Whom reason hath equal'd, force hath made supreme
  Above his equals. Farewell happy fields,
  Where joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
  Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell,
  Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
  A mind not to be chang'd by place or time.
  The mind is its own place, and in itself
  Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
  What matter where, if I be still the same,
  And what I should be, all but less than he
  Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
  We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
  Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
  Here we may reign secure, and in my choice,
  To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
  Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."


The whole of the speeches and debates in Pandemonium are well worthy of
the place and the occasion--with Gods for speakers, and angels and
archangels for hearers. There is a decided manly tone in the arguments and
sentiments, an eloquent dogmatism, as if each person spoke from thorough
conviction; an excellence which Milton probably borrowed from his spirit
of partisanship, or else his spirit of partisanship from the natural
firmness and vigour of his mind. In this respect Milton resembles Dante,
(the only modern writer with whom he has any thing in common) and it is
remarkable that Dante, as well as Milton, was a political partisan. That
approximation to the severity of impassioned prose which has been made an
objection to Milton's poetry, and which is chiefly to be met with in these
bitter invectives, is one of its great excellences. The author might here
turn his philippics against Salmasius to good account. The rout in Heaven
is like the fall of some mighty structure, nodding to its base, "with
hideous ruin and combustion down." But, perhaps, of all the passages in
Paradise Lost, the description of the employments of the angels during the
absence of Satan, some of whom "retreated in a silent valley, sing with
notes angelical to many a harp their own heroic deeds and hapless fall by
doom of battle" is the most perfect example of mingled pathos and
sublimity.--What proves the truth of this noble picture in every part, and
that the frequent complaint of want of interest in it is the fault of the
reader, not of the poet, is that when any interest of a practical kind
takes a shape that can be at all turned into this, (and there is little
doubt that Milton had some such in his eye in writing it,) each party
converts it to its own purposes, feels the absolute identity of these
abstracted and high speculations; and that, in fact, a noted political
writer of the present day has exhausted nearly the whole account of Satan
in the Paradise Lost, by applying it to a character whom he considered as
after the devil, (though I do not know whether he would make even that
exception) the greatest enemy of the human race. This may serve to show
that Milton's Satan is not a very insipid personage.

Of Adam and Eve it has been said, that the ordinary reader can feel little
interest in them, because they have none of the passions, pursuits, or
even relations of human life, except that of man and wife, the least
interesting of all others, if not to the parties concerned, at least to
the by-standers. The preference has on this account been given to Homer,
who, it is said, has left very vivid and infinitely diversified pictures
of all the passions and affections, public and private, incident to human
nature,--the relations of son, of brother, parent, friend, citizen, and
many others. Longinus preferred the Iliad to the Odyssey, on account of
the greater number of battles it contains; but I can neither agree to his
criticism, nor assent to the present objection. It is true, there is
little action in this part of Milton's poem; but there is much repose, and
more enjoyment. There are none of the every-day occurrences, contentions,
disputes, wars, fightings, feuds, jealousies, trades, professions,
liveries, and common handicrafts of life; "no kind of traffic; letters are
not known; no use of service, of riches, poverty, contract, succession,
bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard none; no occupation, no treason,
felony, sword, pike, knife, gun, nor need of any engine." So much the
better; thank Heaven, all these were yet to come. But still the die was
cast, and in them our doom was sealed. In them

  "The generations were prepared; the pangs,
  The internal pangs, were ready, the dread strife
  Of poor humanity's afflicted will,
  Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny."


In their first false step we trace all our future woe, with loss of Eden.
But there was a short and precious interval between, like the first blush
of morning before the day is overcast with tempest, the dawn of the world,
the birth of nature from "the unapparent deep," with its first dews and
freshness on its cheek, breathing odours. Theirs was the first delicious
taste of life, and on them depended all that was to come of it. In them
hung trembling all our hopes and fears. They were as yet alone in the
world, in the eye of nature, wondering at their new being, full of
enjoyment and enraptured with one another, with the voice of their Maker
walking in the garden, and ministering angels attendant on their steps,
winged messengers from heaven like rosy clouds descending in their sight.
Nature played around them her virgin fancies wild; and spread for them a
repast where no crude surfeit reigned. Was there nothing in this scene,
which God and nature alone witnessed, to interest a modern critic? What
need was there of action, where the heart was full of bliss and innocence
without it! They had nothing to do but feel their own happiness, and "know
to know no more." "They toiled not, neither did they spin; yet Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." All things seem to
acquire fresh sweetness, and to be clothed with fresh beauty in their
sight. They tasted as it were for themselves and us, of all that there
ever was pure in human bliss. "In them the burthen of the mystery, the
heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world, is
lightened." They stood awhile perfect, but they afterwards fell, and were
driven out of Paradise, tasting the first fruits of bitterness as they had
done of bliss. But their pangs were such as a pure spirit might feel at
the sight--their tears "such as angels weep." The pathos is of that mild
contemplative kind which arises from regret for the loss of unspeakable
happiness, and resignation to inevitable fate. There is none of the
fierceness of intemperate passion, none of the agony of mind and
turbulence of action, which is the result of the habitual struggles of the
will with circumstances, irritated by repeated disappointment, and
constantly setting its desires most eagerly on that which there is an
impossibility of attaining. This would have destroyed the beauty of the
whole picture. They had received their unlooked-for happiness as a free
gift from their Creator's hands, and they submitted to its loss, not
without sorrow, but without impious and stubborn repining.

  "In either hand the hast'ning angel caught
  Our ling'ring parents, and to th' eastern gate
  Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
  To the subjected plain; then disappear'd.
  They looking back, all th' eastern side beheld
  Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
  Wav'd over by that flaming brand, the gate
  With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms:
  Some natural tears they dropt, but wip'd them soon;
  The world was all before them, where to choose
  Their place of rest, and Providence their guide."



VI

POPE


The question, whether Pope was a poet, has hardly yet been settled, and is
hardly worth settling; for if he was not a great poet, he must have been a
great prose-writer, that is, he was a great writer of some sort. He was a
man of exquisite faculties, and of the most refined taste; and as he chose
verse (the most obvious distinction of poetry) as the vehicle to express
his ideas, he has generally passed for a poet, and a good one. If, indeed,
by a great poet, we mean one who gives the utmost grandeur to our
conceptions of nature, or the utmost force to the passions of the heart,
Pope was not in this sense a great poet; for the bent, the characteristic
power of his mind, lay the clean contrary way; namely, in representing
things as they appear to the indifferent observer, stripped of prejudice
and passion, as in his Critical Essays; or in representing them in the
most contemptible and insignificant point of view, as in his Satires; or
in clothing the little with mock-dignity, as in his poems of Fancy; or in
adorning the trivial incidents and familiar relations of life with the
utmost elegance of expression, and all the flattering illusions of
friendship or self-love, as in his Epistles. He was not then distinguished
as a poet of lofty enthusiasm, of strong imagination, with a passionate
sense of the beauties of nature, or a deep insight into the workings of
the heart; but he was a wit, and a critic, a man of sense, of observation,
and the world, with a keen relish for the elegances of art, or of nature
when embellished by art, a quick tact for propriety of thought and
manners as established by the forms and customs of society, a refined
sympathy with the sentiments and habitudes of human life, as he felt them
within the little circle of his family and friends. He was, in a word, the
poet, not of nature, but of art; and the distinction between the two, as
well as I can make it out, is this--The poet of nature is one who, from
the elements of beauty, of power, and of passion in his own breast,
sympathises with whatever is beautiful, and grand, and impassioned in
nature, in its simple majesty, in its immediate appeal to the senses, to
the thoughts and hearts of all men; so that the poet of nature, by the
truth, and depth, and harmony of his mind, may be said to hold communion
with the very soul of nature; to be identified with and to foreknow and to
record the feelings of all men at all times and places, as they are liable
to the same impressions; and to exert the same power over the minds of his
readers, that nature does. He sees things in their eternal beauty, for he
sees them as they are; he feels them in their universal interest, for he
feels them as they affect the first principles of his and our common
nature. Such was Homer, such was Shakspeare, whose works will last as long
as nature, because they are a copy of the indestructible forms and
everlasting impulses of nature, welling out from the bosom as from a
perennial spring, or stamped upon the senses by the hand of their maker.
The power of the imagination in them, is the representative power of all
nature. It has its centre in the human soul, and makes the circuit of the
universe.

Pope was not assuredly a poet of this class, or in the first rank of it.
He saw nature only dressed by art; he judged of beauty by fashion; he
sought for truth in the opinions of the world; he judged of the feelings
of others by his own. The capacious soul of Shakspeare had an intuitive
and mighty sympathy with whatever could enter into the heart of man in
all possible circumstances: Pope had an exact knowledge of all that he
himself loved or hated, wished or wanted. Milton has winged his daring
flight from heaven to earth, through Chaos and old Night. Pope's Muse
never wandered with safety, but from his library to his grotto, or from
his grotto into his library back again. His mind dwelt with greater
pleasure on his own garden, than on the garden of Eden; he could describe
the faultless whole-length mirror that reflected his own person, better
than the smooth surface of the lake that reflects the face of heaven--a
piece of cut-glass or a pair of paste buckles with more brilliance and
effect, than a thousand dew-drops glittering in the sun. He would be more
delighted with a patent lamp, than with "the pale reflex of Cynthia's
brow," that fills the skies with its soft silent lustre, that trembles
through the cottage window, and cheers the watchful mariner on the lonely
wave. In short, he was the poet of personality and of polished life. That
which was nearest to him, was the greatest; the fashion of the day bore
sway in his mind over the immutable laws of nature. He preferred the
artificial to the natural in external objects, because he had a stronger
fellow-feeling with the self-love of the maker or proprietor of a gewgaw,
than admiration of that which was interesting to all mankind. He preferred
the artificial to the natural in passion, because the involuntary and
uncalculating impulses of the one hurried him away with a force and
vehemence with which he could not grapple; while he could trifle with the
conventional and superficial modifications of mere sentiment at will,
laugh at or admire, put them on or off like a masquerade dress, make much
or little of them, indulge them for a longer or a shorter time, as he
pleased; and because while they amused his fancy and exercised his
ingenuity, they never once disturbed his vanity, his levity, or
indifference. His mind was the antithesis of strength and grandeur; its
power was the power of indifference. He had none of the enthusiasm of
poetry: he was in poetry what the sceptic is in religion.

It cannot be denied, that his chief excellence lay more in diminishing,
than in aggrandizing objects; in checking, not in encouraging our
enthusiasm; in sneering at the extravagances of fancy or passion, instead
of giving a loose to them; in describing a row of pins and needles, rather
than the embattled spears of Greeks and Trojans; in penning a lampoon or a
compliment, and in praising Martha Blount.

Shakspeare says,

                  "In Fortune's ray and brightness
  The herd hath more annoyance by the brize
  Than by the tyger: but when the splitting wind
  Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks,
  And flies fled under shade, why then
  The thing of courage,
  As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathise;
  And with an accent tuned in the self-same key,
  Replies to chiding Fortune."


There is none of this rough work in Pope. His Muse was on a
peace-establishment, and grew somewhat effeminate by long ease and
indulgence. He lived in the smiles of fortune, and basked in the favour of
the great. In his smooth and polished verse we meet with no prodigies of
nature, but with miracles of wit; the thunders of his pen are whispered
flatteries; its forked lightnings pointed sarcasms; for "the gnarled oak,"
he gives us "the soft myrtle:" for rocks, and seas, and mountains,
artificial grass-plats, gravel-walks, and tinkling rills; for earthquakes
and tempests, the breaking of a flower-pot, or the fall of a china jar;
for the tug and war of the elements, or the deadly strife of the passions,
we have

  "Calm contemplation and poetic ease."


Yet within this retired and narrow circle how much, and that how
exquisite, was contained! What discrimination, what wit, what delicacy,
what fancy, what lurking spleen, what elegance of thought, what pampered
refinement of sentiment! It is like looking at the world through a
microscope, where everything assumes a new character and a new
consequence, where things are seen in their minutest circumstances and
slightest shades of difference; where the little becomes gigantic, the
deformed beautiful, and the beautiful deformed. The wrong end of the
magnifier is, to be sure, held to every thing, but still the exhibition is
highly curious, and we know not whether to be most pleased or surprised.
Such, at least, is the best account I am able to give of this
extraordinary man, without doing injustice to him or others. It is time to
refer to particular instances in his works.--The Rape of the Lock is the
best or most ingenious of these. It is the most exquisite specimen of
_fillagree_ work ever invented. It is admirable in proportion as it is
made of nothing.

  "More subtle web Arachne cannot spin,
  Nor the fine nets, which oft we woven see
  Of scorched dew, do not in th' air more lightly flee."


It is made of gauze and silver spangles. The most glittering appearance is
given to every thing, to paste, pomatum, billet-doux, and patches. Airs,
languid airs, breathe around;--the atmosphere is perfumed with
affectation. A toilette is described with the solemnity of an altar raised
to the goddess of vanity, and the history of a silver bodkin is given with
all the pomp of heraldry. No pains are spared, no profusion of ornament,
no splendour of poetic diction, to set off the meanest things. The balance
between the concealed irony and the assumed gravity, is as nicely trimmed
as the balance of power in Europe. The little is made great, and the
great little. You hardly know whether to laugh or weep. It is the triumph
of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the
perfection of the mock-heroic! I will give only the two following passages
in illustration of these remarks. Can anything be more elegant and
graceful than the description of Belinda, in the beginning of the second
canto?

  "Not with more glories, in the ethereal plain,
  The sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
  Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
  Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames.
  Fair nymphs, and well-drest youths around her shone,
  But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone.
  On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
  Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
  Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
  Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
  Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
  Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
  Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike;
  And like the sun, they shine on all alike.
  Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
  Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide:
  If to her share some female errors fall.
  Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
    This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
  Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind
  In equal curls, and well conspir'd to deck
  With shining ringlets the smooth iv'ry neck."


The following is the introduction to the account of Belinda's assault upon
the baron bold, who had dissevered one of these locks "from her fair head
for ever and for ever."

  "Now meet thy fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd,
  And drew a deadly bodkin from her side.
  (The same his ancient personage to deck,
  Her great, great grandsire wore about his neck,
  In three seal-rings; which after, melted down,
  Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown;
  Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew,
  The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew:
  Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs,
  Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)"


I do not know how far Pope was indebted for the original idea, or the
delightful execution of this poem, to the Lutrin of Boileau.

The Rape of the Lock is a double-refined essence of wit and fancy, as the
Essay on Criticism is of wit and sense. The quantity of thought and
observation in this work, for so young a man as Pope was when he wrote it,
is wonderful: unless we adopt the supposition, that most men of genius
spend the rest of their lives in teaching others what they themselves have
learned under twenty. The conciseness and felicity of the expression is
equally remarkable. Thus in reasoning on the variety of men's opinions, he
says--

  "'Tis with our judgments, as our watches; none
  Go just alike, yet each believes his own."

Nothing can be more original and happy than the general remarks and
illustrations in the Essay: the critical rules laid down are too much
those of a school, and of a confined one. There is one passage in the
Essay on Criticism in which the author speaks with that eloquent
enthusiasm of the fame of ancient writers, which those will always feel
who have themselves any hope or chance of immortality. I have quoted the
passage elsewhere, but I will repeat it here.

  "Still green with bays each ancient altar stands,
  Above the reach of sacrilegious hands;
  Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage,
  Destructive war, and all-involving age.
  Hail, bards triumphant, born in happier days,
  Immortal heirs of universal praise!
  Whose honours with increase of ages grow,
  As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow."

These lines come with double force and beauty on the reader as they were
dictated by the writer's despair of ever attaining that lasting glory
which he celebrates with such disinterested enthusiasm in others, from the
lateness of the age in which he lived, and from his writing in a tongue,
not understood by other nations, and that grows obsolete and
unintelligible to ourselves at the end of every second century. But he
needed not have thus antedated his own poetical doom--the loss and entire
oblivion of that which can never die. If he had known, he might have
boasted that his "little bark" wafted down the stream of time,

                      "With _theirs_ should sail,
  Pursue the triumph and partake the gale"--

if those who know how to set a due value on the blessing, were not the
last to decide confidently on their own pretensions to it.

There is a cant in the present day about genius, as every thing in poetry:
there was a cant in the time of Pope about sense, as performing all sorts
of wonders. It was a kind of watchword, the shibboleth of a critical party
of the day. As a proof of the exclusive attention which it occupied in
their minds, it is remarkable that in the Essay on Criticism (not a very
long poem) there are no less than half a score successive couplets rhyming
to the word _sense_. This appears almost incredible without giving the
instances, and no less so when they are given.

  "But of the two, less dangerous is the offence,
  To tire our patience than mislead our sense." _lines_ 3, 4.

  "In search of wit these lose their common sense,
  And then turn critics in their own defence." _l._ 28, 29.

  "Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
  And fills up all the mighty void of sense." _l._ 209, 10.

  "Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
  Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense." _l._ 324, 5.

  "Tis not enough no harshness gives offence;
  The sound must seem an echo to the sense." _l._ 364, 5.

  "At every trifle scorn to take offence;
  That always shews great pride, or little sense." _l._ 386, 7.

  "Be silent always, when you doubt your sense,
  And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence." _l._ 366, 7.

  "Be niggards of advice on no pretence,
  For the worst avarice is that of sense." _l._ 578, 9.

  "Strain out the last dull dropping of their sense,
  And rhyme with all the rage of impotence." _l._ 608, 9.

  "Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
  And without method talks us into sense." _l._ 653, 4.


I have mentioned this the more for the sake of those critics who are
bigotted idolisers of our author, chiefly on the score of his correctness.
These persons seem to be of opinion that "there is but one perfect writer,
even Pope." This is, however, a mistake: his excellence is by no means
faultlessness. If he had no great faults, he is full of little errors. His
grammatical construction is often lame and imperfect. In the Abelard and
Eloise, he says--

  "There died the best of passions, Love and Fame."

This is not a legitimate ellipsis. Fame is not a passion, though love is:
but his ear was evidently confused by the meeting of the sounds "love and
fame," as if they of themselves immediately implied "love, and love of
fame." Pope's rhymes are constantly defective, being rhymes to the eye
instead of the ear; and this to a greater degree, not only than in later,
but than in preceding writers. The praise of his versification must be
confined to its uniform smoothness and harmony. In the translation of the
Iliad, which has been considered as his masterpiece in style and
execution, he continually changes the tenses in the same sentence for the
purpose of the rhyme, which shews either a want of technical resources, or
great inattention to punctilious exactness. But to have done with this.

The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is the only exception I can think of, to
the general spirit of the foregoing remarks; and I should be disingenuous
not to acknowledge that it is an exception. The foundation is in the
letters themselves of Abelard and Eloise, which are quite as impressive,
but still in a different way. It is fine as a poem: it is finer as a piece
of high-wrought eloquence. No woman could be supposed to write a finer
love-letter in verse. Besides the richness of the historical materials,
the high _gusto_ of the original sentiments which Pope had to work upon,
there were perhaps circumstances in his own situation which made him enter
into the subject with even more than a poet's feeling. The tears shed are
drops gushing from the heart: the words are burning sighs breathed from
the soul of love. Perhaps the poem to which it bears the greatest
similarity in our language, is Dryden's Tancred and Sigismunda, taken from
Boccaccio. Pope's Eloise will bear this comparison; and after such a test,
with Boccaccio for the original author, and Dryden for the translator, it
need shrink from no other. There is something exceedingly tender and
beautiful in the sound of the concluding lines:

  "If ever chance two wandering lovers brings
  To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs," etc.


The Essay on Man is not Pope's best work. It is a theory which Bolingbroke
is supposed to have given him, and which he expanded into verse. But "he
spins the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument."
All that he says, "the very words, and to the self-same tune," would prove
just as well that whatever is, is _wrong_, as that whatever is, is
_right_. The Dunciad has splendid passages, but in general it is dull,
heavy, and mechanical. The sarcasm already quoted on Settle, the Lord
Mayor's poet, (for at that time there was a city as well as a court poet)

  "Now night descending, the proud scene is o'er,
  But lives in Settle's numbers one day more"--

is the finest inversion of immortality conceivable. It is even better than
his serious apostrophe to the great heirs of glory, the triumphant bards
of antiquity!

The finest burst of severe moral invective in all Pope, is the prophetical
conclusion of the epilogue to the Satires:

  "Virtue may chuse the high or low degree,
  'Tis just alike to virtue, and to me;
  Dwell in a monk, or light upon a king,
  She's still the same belov'd, contented thing.
  Vice is undone if she forgets her birth,
  And stoops from angels to the dregs of earth.
  But 'tis the Fall degrades her to a whore:
  Let Greatness own her, and she's mean no more.
  Her birth, her beauty, crowds and courts confess,
  Chaste matrons praise her, and grave bishops bless;
  In golden chains the willing world she draws,
  And hers the gospel is, and hers the laws;
  Mounts the tribunal, lifts her scarlet head,
  And sees pale Virtue carted in her stead.
  Lo! at the wheels of her triumphal car,
  Old England's Genius, rough with many a scar,
  Dragged in the dust! his arms hang idly round,
  His flag inverted trails along the ground!
  Our youth, all livery'd o'er with foreign gold,
  Before her dance; behind her, crawl the old!
  See thronging millions to the Pagod run,
  And offer country, parent, wife, or son!
  Hear her black trumpet through the land proclaim,
  That _not to be corrupted is the shame_.
  In soldier, churchman, patriot, man in pow'r,
  'Tis av'rice all, ambition is no more!
  See all our nobles begging to be slaves!
  See all our fools aspiring to be knaves!
  The wit of cheats, the courage of a whore,
  Are what ten thousand envy and adore:
  All, all look up with reverential awe,
  At crimes that 'scape or triumph o'er the law;
  While truth, worth, wisdom, daily they decry:
  Nothing is sacred now but villainy.
  Yet may this verse (if such a verse remain)
  Show there was one who held it in disdain."


His Satires are not in general so good as his Epistles. His enmity is
effeminate and petulant from a sense of weakness, as his friendship was
tender from a sense of gratitude. I do not like, for instance, his
character of Chartres, or his characters of women. His delicacy often
borders upon sickliness; his fastidiousness makes others fastidious. But
his compliments are divine; they are equal in value to a house or an
estate. Take the following. In addressing Lord Mansfield, he speaks of the
grave as a scene,

  "Where Murray, long enough his country's pride,
  Shall be no more than Tully, or than Hyde."


To Bolingbroke he says--

  "Why rail they then if but one wreath of mine,
  Oh all-accomplished St. John, deck thy shrine?"

Again, he has bequeathed this praise to Lord Cornbury--

  "Despise low thoughts, low gains:
  Disdain whatever Cornbury disdains;
  Be virtuous and be happy for your pains."


One would think (though there is no knowing) that a descendant of this
nobleman, if there be such a person living, could hardly be guilty of a
mean or paltry action.

The finest piece of personal satire in Pope (perhaps in the world) is his
character of Addison; and this, it may be observed, is of a mixed kind,
made up of his respect for the man, and a cutting sense of his failings.
The other finest one is that of Buckingham, and the best part of that is
the pleasurable

                "Alas! how changed from him,
  That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim:
  Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove,
  The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love!"


Among his happiest and most inimitable effusions are the Epistles to
Arbuthnot, and to Jervas the painter; amiable patterns of the delightful
unconcerned life, blending ease with dignity, which poets and painters
then led. Thus he says to Arbuthnot--

      "Why did I write? What sin to me unknown
  Dipp'd me in ink, my parents' or my own?
  As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
  I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.
  I left no calling for this idle trade,
  No duty broke, no father disobey'd:
  The Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife;
  To help me through this long disease, my life;
  To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care,
  And teach the being you preserv'd to bear.
    But why then publish? Granville the polite,
  And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write;
  Well-natur'd Garth, inflam'd with early praise,
  And Congreve lov'd, and Swift endur'd my lays;
  The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read;
  E'en mitred Rochester would nod the head;
  And St. John's self (great Dryden's friend before)
  With open arms receiv'd one poet more.
  Happy my studies, when by these approv'd!
  Happier their author, when by these belov'd!
  From these the world will judge of men and books,
  Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks."


I cannot help giving also the conclusion of the Epistle to Jervas.

    "Oh, lasting as those colours may they shine,
  Free as thy stroke, yet faultless as thy line;
  New graces yearly like thy works display,
  Soft without weakness, without glaring gay;
  Led by some rule, that guides, but not constrains;
  And finish'd more through happiness than pains,
  The kindred arts shall in their praise conspire,
  One dip the pencil, and one string the lyre.
  Yet should the Graces all thy figures place,
  And breathe an air divine on ev'ry face;
  Yet should the Muses bid my numbers roll
  Strong as their charms, and gentle as their soul;
  With Zeuxis' Helen thy Bridgewater vie,
  And these be sung till Granville's Myra die:
  Alas! how little from the grave we claim!
  Thou but preserv'st a face, and I a name."


And shall we cut ourselves off from beauties like these with a theory?
Shall we shut up our books, and seal up our senses, to please the dull
spite and inordinate vanity of those "who have eyes, but they see
not--ears, but they hear not--and understandings, but they understand
not,"--and go about asking our blind guides, whether Pope was a poet or
not? It will never do. Such persons, when you point out to them a fine
passage in Pope, turn it off to something of the same sort in some other
writer. Thus they say that the line, "I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers
came," is pretty, but taken from that of Ovid--_Et quum conabar scribere,
versus erat_. They are safe in this mode of criticism: there is no danger
of any one's tracing their writings to the classics.

Pope's letters and prose writings neither take away from, nor add to his
poetical reputation. There is, occasionally, a littleness of manner, and
an unnecessary degree of caution. He appears anxious to say a good thing
in every word, as well as every sentence. They, however, give a very
favourable idea of his moral character in all respects; and his letters to
Atterbury, in his disgrace and exile, do equal honour to both. If I had to
choose, there are one or two persons, and but one or two, that I should
like to have been better than Pope!



VII

ON THE PERIODICAL ESSAYISTS

"The proper study of mankind is man."


I now come to speak of that sort of writing which has been so successfully
cultivated in this country by our periodical Essayists, and which consists
in applying the talents and resources of the mind to all that mixed mass
of human affairs, which, though not included under the head of any regular
art, science, or profession, falls under the cognisance of the writer, and
"comes home to the business and bosoms of men." _Quicquid agunt homines
nostri farrago libelli_, is the general motto of this department of
literature. It does not treat of minerals or fossils, of the virtues of
plants, or the influence of planets; it does not meddle with forms of
belief or systems of philosophy, nor launch into the world of spiritual
existences; but it makes familiar with the world of men and women, records
their actions, assigns their motives, exhibits their whims, characterises
their pursuits in all their singular and endless variety, ridicules their
absurdities, exposes their inconsistencies, "holds the mirror up to
nature, and shews the very age and body of the time its form and
pressure;" takes minutes of our dress, air, looks, words, thoughts, and
actions; shews us what we are, and what we are not; plays the whole game
of human life over before us, and by making us enlightened spectators of
its many-coloured scenes, enables us (if possible) to become tolerably
reasonable agents in the one in which we have to perform a part. "The act
and practic part of life is thus made the mistress of our theorique." It
is the best and most natural course of study. It is in morals and manners
what the experimental is in natural philosophy, as opposed to the
dogmatical method. It does not deal in sweeping clauses of proscription
and anathema, but in nice distinction and liberal constructions. It makes
up its general accounts from details, its few theories from many facts. It
does not try to prove all black or all white as it wishes, but lays on the
intermediate colours, (and most of them not unpleasing ones,) as it finds
them blended with "the web of our life, which is of a mingled yarn, good
and ill together." It inquires what human life is and has been, to shew
what it ought to be. It follows it into courts and camps, into town and
country, into rustic sports or learned disputations, into the various
shades of prejudice or ignorance, of refinement or barbarism, into its
private haunts or public pageants, into its weaknesses and littlenesses,
its professions and its practices--before it pretends to distinguish right
from wrong, or one thing from another. How, indeed, should it do so
otherwise?

  "Quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
  Plenius et melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit."

The writers I speak of are, if not moral philosophers, moral historians,
and that's better: or if they are both, they found the one character upon
the other; their premises precede their conclusions; and we put faith in
their testimony, for we know that it is true.

Montaigne was the first person who in his Essays led the way to this kind
of writing among the moderns. The great merit of Montaigne then was, that
he may be said to have been the first who had the courage to say as an
author what he felt as a man. And as courage is generally the effect of
conscious strength, he was probably led to do so by the richness, truth,
and force of his own observations on books and men. He was, in the truest
sense, a man of original mind, that is, he had the power of looking at
things for himself, or as they really were, instead of blindly trusting
to, and fondly repeating what others told him that they were. He got rid
of the go-cart of prejudice and affectation, with the learned lumber that
follows at their heels, because he could do without them. In taking up his
pen he did not set up for a philosopher, wit, orator, or moralist, but he
became all these by merely daring to tell us whatever passed through his
mind, in its naked simplicity and force, that he thought any ways worth
communicating. He did not, in the abstract character of an author,
undertake to say all that could be said upon a subject, but what in his
capacity as an inquirer after truth he happened to know about it. He was
neither a pedant nor a bigot. He neither supposed that he was bound to
know all things, nor that all things were bound to conform to what he had
fancied or would have them to be. In treating of men and manners, he spoke
of them as he found them, not according to preconceived notions and
abstract dogmas; and he began by teaching us what he himself was. In
criticising books he did not compare them with rules and systems, but told
us what he saw to like or dislike in them. He did not take his standard of
excellence "according to an exact scale" of Aristotle, or fall out with a
work that was good for any thing, because "not one of the angles at the
four corners was a right one." He was, in a word, the first author who was
not a bookmaker, and who wrote not to make converts of others to
established creeds and prejudices, but to satisfy his own mind of the
truth of things. In this respect we know not which to be most charmed
with, the author or the man. There is an inexpressible frankness and
sincerity, as well as power, in what he writes. There is no attempt at
imposition or concealment, no juggling tricks or solemn mouthing, no
laboured attempts at proving himself always in the right, and every body
else in the wrong; he says what is uppermost, lays open what floats at the
top or the bottom of his mind, and deserves Pope's character of him, where
he professes to

      "----pour out all as plain
  As downright Shippen, or as old Montaigne."[128]

He does not converse with us like a pedagogue with his pupil, whom he
wishes to make as great a blockhead as himself, but like a philosopher and
friend who has passed through life with thought and observation, and is
willing to enable others to pass through it with pleasure and profit. A
writer of this stamp, I confess, appears to me as much superior to a
common bookworm, as a library of real books is superior to a mere
book-case, painted and lettered on the outside with the names of
celebrated works. As he was the first to attempt this new way of writing,
so the same strong natural impulse which prompted the undertaking, carried
him to the end of his career. The same force and honesty of mind which
urged him to throw off the shackles of custom and prejudice, would enable
him to complete his triumph over them. He has left little for his
successors to achieve in the way of just and original speculation on human
life. Nearly all the thinking of the two last centuries of that kind which
the French denominate _morale observatrice_, is to be found in Montaigne's
Essays: there is the germ, at least, and generally much more. He sowed the
seed and cleared away the rubbish, even where others have reaped the
fruit, or cultivated and decorated the soil to a greater degree of nicety
and perfection. There is no one to whom the old Latin adage is more
applicable than to Montaigne, "_Pereant isti qui ante nos nostra
dixerunt_." There has been no new impulse given to thought since his time.
Among the specimens of criticisms on authors which he has left us, are
those on Virgil, Ovid, and Boccaccio, in the account of books which he
thinks worth reading, or (which is the same thing) which he finds he can
read in his old age, and which may be reckoned among the few criticisms
which are worth reading at any age.[129]

Montaigne's Essays were translated into English by Charles Cotton, who was
one of the wits and poets of the age of Charles II; and Lord Halifax, one
of the noble critics of that day, declared it to be "the book in the world
he was the best pleased with." This mode of familiar Essay-writing, free
from the trammels of the schools, and the airs of professed authorship,
was successfully imitated, about the same time, by Cowley and Sir William
Temple, in their miscellaneous Essays, which are very agreeable and
learned talking upon paper. Lord Shaftesbury, on the contrary, who aimed
at the same easy, _dégagé_ mode of communicating his thoughts to the
world, has quite spoiled his matter, which is sometimes valuable, by his
manner, in which he carries a certain flaunting, flowery, figurative,
flirting style of amicable condescension to the reader, to an excess more
tantalising than the most starched and ridiculous formality of the age of
James I. There is nothing so tormenting as the affectation of ease and
freedom from affectation.

The ice being thus thawed, and the barrier that kept authors at a distance
from common-sense and feeling broken through, the transition was not
difficult from Montaigne and his imitators, to our Periodical Essayists.
These last applied the same unrestrained expression of their thoughts to
the more immediate and passing scenes of life, to temporary and local
matters; and in order to discharge the invidious office of _Censor Morum_
more freely, and with less responsibility, assumed some fictitious and
humorous disguise, which, however, in a great degree corresponded to their
own peculiar habits and character. By thus concealing their own name and
person under the title of the Tatler, Spectator, etc. they were enabled to
inform us more fully of what was passing in the world, while the dramatic
contrast and ironical point of view to which the whole is subjected,
added a greater liveliness and _piquancy_ to the descriptions. The
philosopher and wit here commences newsmonger, makes himself master of
"the perfect spy o' th' time," and from his various walks and turns
through life, brings home little curious specimens of the humours,
opinions, and manners of his contemporaries, as the botanist brings home
different plants and weeds, or the mineralogist different shells and
fossils, to illustrate their several theories, and be useful to mankind.

The first of these papers that was attempted in this country was set up by
Steele in the beginning of the last century; and of all our Periodical
Essayists, the Tatler (for that was the name he assumed) has always
appeared to me the most amusing and agreeable. Montaigne, whom I have
proposed to consider as the father of this kind of personal authorship
among the moderns, in which the reader is admitted behind the curtain, and
sits down with the writer in his gown and slippers, was a most magnanimous
and undisguised egotist; but Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. was the more
disinterested gossip of the two. The French author is contented to
describe the peculiarities of his own mind and constitution, which he does
with a copious and unsparing hand. The English journalist good-naturedly
lets you into the secret both of his own affairs and those of others. A
young lady, on the other side Temple Bar, cannot be seen at her glass for
half a day together, but Mr. Bickerstaff takes due notice of it; and he
has the first intelligence of the symptoms of the _belle_ passion
appearing in any young gentleman at the West-end of the town. The
departures and arrivals of widows with handsome jointures, either to bury
their grief in the country, or to procure a second husband in town, are
punctually recorded in his pages. He is well acquainted with the
celebrated beauties of the preceding age at the court of Charles II; and
the old gentleman (as he feigns himself) often grows romantic in
recounting "the disastrous strokes which his youth suffered" from the
glances of their bright eyes, and their unaccountable caprices. In
particular, he dwells with a secret satisfaction on the recollection of
one of his mistresses, who left him for a richer rival, and whose constant
reproach to her husband, on occasion of any quarrel between them, was "I,
that might have married the famous Mr. Bickerstaff, to be treated in this
manner!" The club at the Trumpet consists of a set of persons almost as
well worth knowing as himself. The cavalcade of the justice of the peace,
the knight of the shire, the country squire, and the young gentleman, his
nephew, who came to wait on him at his chambers, in such form and
ceremony, seem not to have settled the order of their precedence to this
hour;[130] and I should hope that the upholsterer and his companions, who
used to sun themselves in the Green Park, and who broke their rest and
fortunes to maintain the balance of power in Europe, stand as fair a
chance for immortality as some modern politicians. Mr. Bickerstaff himself
is a gentleman and a scholar, a humourist, and a man of the world; with a
great deal of nice easy _naïveté_ about him. If he walks out and is caught
in a shower of rain, he makes amends for this unlucky accident by a
criticism on the shower in Virgil, and concludes with a burlesque copy of
verses on a city-shower. He entertains us, when he dates from his own
apartment, with a quotation from Plutarch, or a moral reflection; from the
Grecian coffee-house with politics; and from Wills', or the Temple, with
the poets and players, the beaux and men of wit and pleasure about town.
In reading the pages of the Tatler, we seem as if suddenly carried back to
the age of Queen Anne, of toupees and full-bottomed periwigs. The whole
appearance of our dress and manners undergoes a delightful metamorphosis.
The beaux and the belles are of a quite different species from what they
are at present; we distinguish the dappers, the smarts, and the pretty
fellows, as they pass by Mr. Lilly's shop-windows in the Strand; we are
introduced to Betterton and Mrs. Oldfield behind the scenes; are made
familiar with the persons and performances of Will Estcourt or Tom Durfey;
we listen to a dispute at a tavern, on the merits of the Duke of
Marlborough, or Marshal Turenne; or are present at the first rehearsal of
a play by Vanbrugh, or the reading of a new poem by Mr. Pope. The
privilege of thus virtually transporting ourselves to past times, is even
greater than that of visiting distant places in reality. London, a hundred
years ago, would be much better worth seeing than Paris at the present
moment.

It will be said, that all this is to be found, in the same or a greater
degree, in the Spectator. For myself, I do not think so; or at least,
there is in the last work a much greater proportion of commonplace matter.
I have, on this account, always preferred the Tatler to the Spectator.
Whether it is owing to my having been earlier or better acquainted with
the one than the other, my pleasure in reading these two admirable works
is not in proportion to their comparative reputation. The Tatler contains
only half the number of volumes, and, I will venture to say, nearly an
equal quantity of sterling wit and sense. "The first sprightly runnings"
are there: it has more of the original spirit, more of the freshness and
stamp of nature. The indications of character and strokes of humour are
more true and frequent; the reflections that suggest themselves arise more
from the occasion, and are less spun out into regular dissertations. They
are more like the remarks which occur in sensible conversation, and less
like a lecture. Something is left to the understanding of the reader.
Steele seems to have gone into his closet chiefly to set down what he
observed out of doors. Addison seems to have spent most of his time in his
study, and to have spun out and wire-drawn the hints, which he borrowed
from Steele, or took from nature, to the utmost. I am far from wishing to
depreciate Addison's talents, but I am anxious to do justice to Steele,
who was, I think, upon the whole, a less artificial and more original
writer. The humorous descriptions of Steele resemble loose sketches, or
fragments of a comedy; those of Addison are rather comments or ingenious
paraphrases on the genuine text. The characters of the club, not only in
the Tatler, but in the Spectator, were drawn by Steele. That of Sir Roger
de Coverley is among the number. Addison has, however, gained himself
immortal honour by his manner of filling up this last character. Who is
there that can forget, or be insensible to, the inimitable nameless graces
and varied traits of nature and of old English character in it--to his
unpretending virtues and amiable weaknesses--to his modesty, generosity,
hospitality, and eccentric whims--to the respect of his neighbours, and
the affection of his domestics--to his wayward, hopeless, secret passion
for his fair enemy, the widow, in which there is more of real romance and
true delicacy than in a thousand tales of knight-errantry--(we perceive
the hectic flush of his cheek, the faltering of his tongue in speaking of
her bewitching airs and "the whiteness of her hand")--to the havoc he
makes among the game in his neighbourhood--to his speech from the bench,
to shew the Spectator what is thought of him in the country--to his
unwillingness to be put up as a sign-post, and his having his own likeness
turned into the Saracen's head--to his gentle reproof of the baggage of a
gipsy that tells him "he has a widow in his line of life"--to his doubts
as to the existence of witchcraft, and protection of reputed witches--to
his account of the family pictures, and his choice of a chaplain--to his
falling asleep at church, and his reproof of John Williams, as soon as he
recovered from his nap, for talking in sermon-time. The characters of
Will. Wimble and Will. Honeycomb are not a whit behind their friend, Sir
Roger, in delicacy and felicity. The delightful simplicity and
good-humoured officiousness in the one, are set off by the graceful
affectation and courtly pretension in the other. How long since I first
became acquainted with these two characters in the Spectator! What
old-fashioned friends they seem, and yet I am not tired of them, like so
many other friends, nor they of me! How airy these abstractions of the
poet's pen stream over the dawn of our acquaintance with human life! how
they glance their fairest colours on the prospect before us! how pure they
remain in it to the last, like the rainbow in the evening-cloud, which the
rude hand of time and experience can neither soil nor dissipate! What a
pity that we cannot find the reality, and yet if we did, the dream would
be over. I once thought I knew a Will. Wimble, and a Will. Honeycomb, but
they turned out but indifferently; the originals in the Spectator still
read, word for word, the same that they always did. We have only to turn
to the page, and find them where we left them!--Many of the most exquisite
pieces in the Tatler, it is to be observed, are Addison's, as the Court of
Honour, and the Personification of Musical Instruments, with almost all
those papers that form regular sets or series. I do not know whether the
picture of the family of an old college acquaintance, in the Tatler, where
the children run to let Mr. Bickerstaff in at the door, and where the one
that loses the race that way, turns back to tell the father that he is
come; with the nice gradation of incredulity in the little boy who is got
into Guy of Warwick, and the Seven Champions, and who shakes his head at
the improbability of Æsop's Fables, is Steele's or Addison's, though I
believe it belongs to the former. The account of the two sisters, one of
whom held up her head higher than ordinary, from having on a pair of
flowered garters, and that of the married lady who complained to the
Tatler of the neglect of her husband, with her answers to some _home_
questions that were put to her, are unquestionably Steele's.--If the
Tatler is not inferior to the Spectator as a record of manners and
character, it is superior to it in the interest of many of the stories.
Several of the incidents related there by Steele have never been surpassed
in the heart-rending pathos of private distress. I might refer to those of
the lover and his mistress, when the theatre, in which they were, caught
fire; of the bridegroom, who by accident kills his bride on the day of
their marriage; the story of Mr. Eustace and his wife; and the fine dream
about his own mistress when a youth. What has given its superior
reputation to the Spectator, is the greater gravity of its pretensions,
its moral dissertations and critical reasonings, by which I confess myself
less edified than by other things, which are thought more lightly of.
Systems and opinions change, but nature is always true. It is the moral
and didactic tone of the Spectator which makes us apt to think of Addison
(according to Mandeville's sarcasm) as "a parson in a tie-wig." Many of
his moral Essays are, however, exquisitely beautiful and quite happy. Such
are the reflections on cheerfulness, those in Westminster Abbey, on the
Royal Exchange, and particularly some very affecting ones on the death of
a young lady in the fourth volume. These, it must be allowed, are the
perfection of elegant sermonising. His critical Essays are not so good. I
prefer Steele's occasional selection of beautiful poetical passages,
without any affectation of analysing their beauties, to Addison's
finer-spun theories. The best criticism in the Spectator, that on the
Cartoons of Raphael, of which Mr. Fuseli has availed himself with great
spirit in his Lectures, is by Steele.[131] I owed this acknowledgment to a
writer who has so often put me in good humour with myself, and every thing
about me, when few things else could, and when the tomes of casuistry and
ecclesiastical history, with which the little duodecimo volumes of the
Tatler were overwhelmed and surrounded, in the only library to which I had
access when a boy, had tried their tranquillising effects upon me in vain.
I had not long ago in my hands, by favour of a friend, an original copy of
the quarto edition of the Tatler, with a list of the subscribers. It is
curious to see some names there which we should hardly think of (that of
Sir Isaac Newton is among them,) and also to observe the degree of
interest excited by those of the different persons, which is not
determined according to the rules of the Herald's College. One literary
name lasts as long as a whole race of heroes and their descendants! The
Guardian, which followed the Spectator, was, as may be supposed, inferior
to it.

The dramatic and conversational turn which forms the distinguishing
feature and greatest charm of the Spectator and Tatler, is quite lost in
the Rambler by Dr. Johnson. There is no reflected light thrown on human
life from an assumed character, nor any direct one from a display of the
author's own. The Tatler and Spectator are, as it were, made up of notes
and memorandums of the events and incidents of the day, with finished
studies after nature, and characters fresh from the life, which the writer
moralises upon, and turns to account as they come before him: the Rambler
is a collection of moral Essays, or scholastic theses, written on set
subjects, and of which the individual characters and incidents are merely
artificial illustrations, brought in to give a pretended relief to the
dryness of didactic discussion. The Rambler is a splendid and imposing
common-place-book of general topics, and rhetorical declamation on the
conduct and business of human life. In this sense, there is hardly a
reflection that has been suggested on such subjects which is not to be
found in this celebrated work, and there is, perhaps, hardly a reflection
to be found in it which had not been already suggested and developed by
some other author, or in the common course of conversation. The mass of
intellectual wealth here heaped together is immense, but it is rather the
result of gradual accumulation, the produce of the general intellect,
labouring in the mine of knowledge and reflection, than dug out of the
quarry, and dragged into the light by the industry and sagacity of a
single mind. I am not here saying that Dr. Johnson was a man without
originality, compared with the ordinary run of men's minds, but he was not
a man of original thought or genius, in the sense in which Montaigne or
Lord Bacon was. He opened no new vein of precious ore, nor did he light
upon any single pebbles of uncommon size and unrivalled lustre. We seldom
meet with anything to "give us pause;" he does not set us thinking for the
first time. His reflections present themselves like reminiscences; do not
disturb the ordinary march of our thoughts; arrest our attention by the
stateliness of their appearance, and the costliness of their garb, but
pass on and mingle with the throng of our impressions. After closing the
volumes of the Rambler, there is nothing that we remember as a new truth
gained to the mind, nothing indelibly stamped upon the memory; nor is
there any passage that we wish to turn to as embodying any known
principle or observation, with such force and beauty that justice can only
be done to the idea in the author's own words. Such, for instance, are
many of the passages to be found in Burke, which shine by their own light,
belong to no class, have neither equal nor counterpart, and of which we
say that no one but the author could have written them! There is neither
the same boldness of design, nor mastery of execution in Johnson. In the
one, the spark of genius seems to have met with its congenial matter: the
shaft is sped; the forked lightning dresses up the face of nature in
ghastly smiles, and the loud thunder rolls far away from the ruin that is
made. Dr. Johnson's style, on the contrary, resembles rather the rumbling
of mimic thunder at one of our theatres; and the light he throws upon a
subject is like the dazzling effect of phosphorus, or an _ignis fatuus_ of
words. There is a wide difference, however, between perfect originality
and perfect common-place: neither ideas nor expressions are trite or
vulgar because they are not quite new. They are valuable, and ought to be
repeated, if they have not become quite common; and Johnson's style both
of reasoning and imagery holds the middle rank between startling novelty
and vapid common-place. Johnson has as much originality of thinking as
Addison; but then he wants his familiarity of illustration, knowledge of
character, and delightful humour. What most distinguishes Dr. Johnson from
other writers is the pomp and uniformity of his style. All his periods are
cast in the same mould, are of the same size and shape, and consequently
have little fitness to the variety of things he professes to treat of. His
subjects are familiar, but the author is always upon stilts. He has
neither ease nor simplicity, and his efforts at playfulness, in part,
remind one of the lines in Milton:--

                               "----The elephant
  To make them sport wreath'd his proboscis lithe."

His Letters from Correspondents, in particular, are more pompous and
unwieldy than what he writes in his own person. This want of relaxation
and variety of manner has, I think, after the first effects of novelty and
surprise were over, been prejudicial to the matter. It takes from the
general power, not only to please, but to instruct. The monotony of style
produces an apparent monotony of ideas. What is really striking and
valuable, is lost in the vain ostentation and circumlocution of the
expression; for when we find the same pains and pomp of diction bestowed
upon the most trifling as upon the most important parts of a sentence or
discourse, we grow tired of distinguishing between pretension and reality,
and are disposed to confound the tinsel and bombast of the phraseology
with want of weight in the thoughts. Thus, from the imposing and oracular
nature of the style, people are tempted at first to imagine that our
author's speculations are all wisdom and profundity: till having found out
their mistake in some instances, they suppose that there is nothing but
common-place in them, concealed under verbiage and pedantry; and in both
they are wrong. The fault of Dr. Johnson's style is, that it reduces all
things to the same artificial and unmeaning level. It destroys all shades
of difference, the association between words and things. It is a perpetual
paradox and innovation. He condescends to the familiar till we are ashamed
of our interest in it: he expands the little till it looks big. "If he
were to write a fable of little fishes," as Goldsmith said of him, "he
would make them speak like great whales." We can no more distinguish the
most familiar objects in his descriptions of them, than we can a
well-known face under a huge painted mask. The structure of his sentences,
which was his own invention, and which has been generally imitated since
his time, is a species of rhyming in prose, where one clause answers to
another in measure and quantity, like the tagging of syllables at the end
of a verse; the close of the period follows as mechanically as the
oscillation of a pendulum, the sense is balanced with the sound; each
sentence, revolving round its centre of gravity, is contained with itself
like a couplet, and each paragraph forms itself into a stanza. Dr. Johnson
is also a complete balance-master in the topics of morality. He never
encourages hope, but he counteracts it by fear; he never elicits a truth,
but he suggests some objection in answer to it. He seizes and alternately
quits the clue of reason, lest it should involve him in the labyrinths of
endless error: he wants confidence in himself and his fellows. He dares
not trust himself with the immediate impressions of things, for fear of
compromising his dignity; or follow them into their consequences, for fear
of committing his prejudices. His timidity is the result, not of
ignorance, but of morbid apprehension. "He runs the great circle, and is
still at home." No advance is made by his writings in any sentiment, or
mode of reasoning. Out of the pale of established authority and received
dogmas, all is sceptical, loose, and desultory: he seems in imagination to
strengthen the dominion of prejudice, as he weakens and dissipates that of
reason; and round the rock of faith and power, on the edge of which he
slumbers blindfold and uneasy, the waves and billows of uncertain and
dangerous opinion roar and heave for evermore. His Rasselas is the most
melancholy and debilitating moral speculation that ever was put forth.
Doubtful of the faculties of his mind, as of his organs of vision, Johnson
trusted only to his feelings and his fears. He cultivated a belief in
witches as an out-guard to the evidences of religion; and abused Milton,
and patronised Lauder, in spite of his aversion to his countrymen, as a
step to secure the existing establishment in church and state. This was
neither right feeling nor sound logic.

The most triumphant record of the talents and character of Johnson is to
be found in Boswell's Life of him. The man was superior to the author.
When he threw aside his pen, which he regarded as an incumbrance, he
became not only learned and thoughtful, but acute, witty, humorous,
natural, honest; hearty and determined, "the king of good fellows and wale
of old men." There are as many smart repartees, profound remarks, and keen
invectives to be found in Boswell's "inventory of all he said," as are
recorded of any celebrated man. The life and dramatic play of his
conversation forms a contrast to his written works. His natural powers and
undisguised opinions were called out in convivial intercourse. In public,
he practised with the foils on: in private, he unsheathed the sword of
controversy, and it was "the Ebro's temper." The eagerness of opposition
roused him from his natural sluggishness and acquired timidity; he
returned blow for blow; and whether the trial were of argument or wit,
none of his rivals could boast much of the encounter. Burke seems to have
been the only person who had a chance with him; and it is the unpardonable
sin of Boswell's work, that he has purposely omitted their combats of
strength and skill. Goldsmith asked, "Does he wind into a subject like a
serpent, as Burke does?" And when exhausted with sickness, he himself
said, "If that fellow Burke were here now, he would kill me." It is to be
observed, that Johnson's colloquial style was as blunt, direct, and
downright, as his style of studied composition was involved and
circuitous. As when Topham Beauclere and Langton knocked him up at his
chambers, at three in the morning, and he came to the door with the poker
in his hand, but seeing them, exclaimed, "What, is it you, my lads? then
I'll have a frisk with you!" and he afterwards reproaches Langton, who
was a literary milksop, for leaving them to go to an engagement "with some
_un-idead_ girls." What words to come from the mouth of the great moralist
and lexicographer! His good deeds were as many as his good sayings. His
domestic habits, his tenderness to servants, and readiness to oblige his
friends; the quantity of strong tea that he drank to keep down sad
thoughts; his many labours reluctantly begun, and irresolutely laid aside;
his honest acknowledgment of his own, and indulgence to the weaknesses of
others; his throwing himself back in the post-chaise with Boswell, and
saying, "Now I think I am a good-humoured fellow," though nobody thought
him so, and yet he was; his quitting the society of Garrick and his
actresses, and his reason for it; his dining with Wilkes, and his kindness
to Goldsmith; his sitting with the young ladies on his knee at the Mitre,
to give them good advice, in which situation, if not explained, he might
be taken for Falstaff; and last and noblest, his carrying the unfortunate
victim of disease and dissipation on his back up through Fleet Street, (an
act which realises the parable of the good Samaritan)--all these, and
innumerable others, endear him to the reader, and must be remembered to
his lasting honour. He had faults, but they lie buried with him. He had
his prejudices and his intolerant feelings; but he suffered enough in the
conflict of his own mind with them. For if no man can be happy in the free
exercise of his reason, no wise man can be happy without it. His were not
time-serving, heartless, hypocritical prejudices; but deep, inwoven, not
to be rooted out but with life and hope, which he found from old habit
necessary to his own peace of mind, and thought so to the peace of
mankind. I do not hate, but love him for them. They were between himself
and his conscience; and should be left to that higher tribunal, "where
they in trembling hope repose, the bosom of his Father and his God." In a
word, he has left behind him few wiser or better men.

The herd of his imitators shewed what he was by their disproportionate
effects. The Periodical Essayists, that succeeded the Rambler, are, and
deserve to be, little read at present. The Adventurer, by Hawksworth, is
completely trite and vapid, aping all the faults of Johnson's style,
without any thing to atone for them. The sentences are often absolutely
unmeaning; and one half of each might regularly be left blank. The World,
and Connoisseur, which followed, are a little better; and in the last of
these there is one good idea, that of a man in indifferent health, who
judges of every one's title to respect from their possession of this
blessing, and bows to a sturdy beggar with sound limbs and a florid
complexion, while he turns his back upon a lord who is a valetudinarian.

Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, like all his works, bears the stamp of
the author's mind. It does not "go about to cozen reputation without the
stamp of merit." He is more observing, more original, more natural and
picturesque than Johnson. His work is written on the model of the Persian
Letters; and contrives to give an abstracted and somewhat perplexing view
of things, by opposing foreign prepossessions to our own, and thus
stripping objects of their customary disguises. Whether truth is elicited
in this collision of contrary absurdities, I do not know; but I confess
the process is too ambiguous and full of intricacy to be very amusing to
my plain understanding. For light summer reading, it is like walking in a
garden full of traps and pitfalls. It necessarily gives rise to paradoxes,
and there are some very bold ones in the Essays, which would subject an
author less established to no very agreeable sort of _censura literaria_.
Thus the Chinese philosopher exclaims very unadvisedly, "The bonzes and
priests of all religions keep up superstition and imposture: all
reformations begin with the laity." Goldsmith, however, was staunch in his
practical creed, and might bolt speculative extravagances with impunity.
There is a striking difference in this respect between him and Addison,
who, if he attacked authority, took care to have common sense on his side,
and never hazarded anything offensive to the feelings of others, or on the
strength of his own discretional opinion. There is another inconvenience
in this assumption of an exotic character and tone of sentiment, that it
produces an inconsistency between the knowledge which the individual has
time to acquire, and which the author is bound to communicate. Thus the
Chinese has not been in England three days before he is acquainted with
the characters of the three countries which compose this kingdom, and
describes them to his friend at Canton, by extracts from the newspapers of
each metropolis. The nationality of Scotchmen is thus
ridiculed:--"_Edinburgh._ We are positive when we say, that Sanders
Macgregor, lately executed for horse-stealing, is not a native of
Scotland, but born at Carrickfergus." Now this is very good; but how
should our Chinese philosopher find it out by instinct? Beau Tibbs, a
prominent character in this little work, is the best comic sketch since
the time of Addison; unrivalled in his finery, his vanity, and his
poverty.

I have only to mention the names of the Lounger and the Mirror, which are
ranked by the author's admirers with Sterne for sentiment, and with
Addison for humour. I shall not enter into that: but I know that the story
of La Roche is not like the story of Le Fevre, nor one hundredth part so
good. Do I say this from prejudice to the author? No: for I have read his
novels. Of the Man of the World I cannot think so favourably as some
others; nor shall I here dwell on the picturesque and romantic beauties
of Julia de Roubigné, the early favourite of the author of Rosamond Gray;
but of the Man of Feeling I would speak with grateful recollections: nor
is it possible to forget the sensitive, irresolute, interesting Harley;
and that lone figure of Miss Walton in it, that floats in the horizon, dim
and ethereal, the day-dream of her lover's youthful fancy--better, far
better than all the realities of life!



VIII

THE ENGLISH NOVELISTS


There is an exclamation in one of Gray's Letters--"Be mine to read eternal
new romances of Marivaux and Crebillon!"--If I did not utter a similar
aspiration at the conclusion of the last new novel which I read (I would
not give offence by being more particular as to the name) it was not from
any want of affection for the class of writing to which it belongs: for,
without going so far as the celebrated French philosopher, who thought
that more was to be learnt from good novels and romances than from the
gravest treatises on history and morality, yet there are few works to
which I am oftener tempted to turn for profit or delight, than to the
standard productions in this species of composition. We find there a close
imitation of men and manners; we see the very web and texture of society
as it really exists, and as we meet with it when we come into the world.
If poetry has "something more divine in it," this savours more of
humanity. We are brought acquainted with the motives and characters of
mankind, imbibe our notions of virtue and vice from practical examples,
and are taught a knowledge of the world through the airy medium of
romance. As a record of past manners and opinions, too, such writings
afford the best and fullest information. For example, I should be at a
loss where to find in any authentic documents of the same period so
satisfactory an account of the general state of society, and of moral,
political, and religious feeling in the reign of George II, as we meet
with in the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his friend Mr. Abraham Adams.
This work, indeed, I take to be a perfect piece of statistics in its kind.
In looking into any regular history of that period, into a learned and
eloquent charge to a grand jury or the clergy of a diocese, or into a
tract on controversial divinity, we should hear only of the ascendancy of
the Protestant succession, the horrors of Popery, the triumph of civil and
religious liberty, the wisdom and moderation of the sovereign, the
happiness of the subject, and the flourishing state of manufactures and
commerce. But if we really wish to know what all these fine-sounding names
come to, we cannot do better than turn to the works of those, who having
no other object than to imitate nature, could only hope for success from
the fidelity of their pictures; and were bound (in self-defence) to reduce
the boasts of vague theorists and the exaggerations of angry disputants to
the mortifying standard of reality. Extremes are said to meet: and the
works of imagination, as they are called, sometimes come the nearest to
truth and nature. Fielding in speaking on this subject, and vindicating
the use and dignity of the style of writing in which he excelled against
the loftier pretensions of professed historians, says that in their
productions nothing is true but the names and dates, whereas in his
everything is true but the names and dates. If so, he has the advantage on
his side.

I will here confess, however, that I am a little prejudiced on the point
in question; and that the effect of many fine speculations has been lost
upon me, from an early familiarity with the most striking passages in the
work to which I have just alluded. Thus nothing can be more captivating
than the description somewhere given by Mr. Burke of the indissoluble
connection between learning and nobility; and of the respect universally
paid by wealth to piety and morals. But the effect of this ideal
representation has always been spoiled by my recollection of Parson Adams
sitting over his cup of ale in Sir Thomas Booby's kitchen. Echard "On the
Contempt of the Clergy" is, in like manner, a very good book, and "worthy
of all acceptation:" but, somehow, an unlucky impression of the reality of
Parson Trulliber involuntarily checks the emotions of respect, to which it
might otherwise give rise: while, on the other hand, the lecture which
Lady Booby reads to Lawyer Scout on the immediate expulsion of Joseph and
Fanny from the parish casts no very favourable light on the flattering
accounts of our practical jurisprudence which are to be found in
Blackstone or De Lolme. The most moral writers, after all, are those who
do not pretend to inculcate any moral. The professed moralist almost
unavoidably degenerates into the partisan of a system; and the philosopher
is too apt to warp the evidence to his own purpose. But the painter of
manners gives the facts of human nature, and leaves us to draw the
inference: if we are not able to do this, or do it ill, at least it is our
own fault.

The first-rate writers in this class, of course, are few; but those few we
may reckon among the greatest ornaments and best benefactors of our kind.
There is a certain set of them who, as it were, take their rank by the
side of reality, and are appealed to as evidence on all questions
concerning human nature. The principal of these are Cervantes and Le Sage,
who may be considered as having been naturalised among ourselves; and, of
native English growth, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Sterne.[132] As
this is a department of criticism which deserves more attention than has
been usually bestowed upon it, I shall here venture to recur (not from
choice, but necessity) to what I have said upon it in a well-known
periodical publication; and endeavour to contribute my mite towards
settling the standard of excellence, both as to degree and kind, in these
several writers....

There is very little to warrant the common idea that Fielding was an
imitator of Cervantes, except his own declaration of such an intention in
the title-page of Joseph Andrews, the romantic turn of the character of
Parson Adams (the only romantic character in his works), and the
proverbial humour of Partridge, which is kept up only for a few pages.
Fielding's novels are, in general, thoroughly his own; and they are
thoroughly English. What they are most remarkable for, is neither
sentiment, nor imagination, nor wit, nor even humour, though there is an
immense deal of this last quality; but profound knowledge of human nature,
at least of English nature; and masterly pictures of the characters of men
as he saw them existing. This quality distinguishes all his works, and is
shown almost equally in all of them. As a painter of real life, he was
equal to Hogarth; as a mere observer of human nature, he was little
inferior to Shakspeare, though without any of the genius and poetical
qualities of his mind. His humour is less rich and laughable than
Smollett's; his wit as often misses as hits; he has none of the fine
pathos of Richardson or Sterne; but he has brought together a greater
variety of characters in common life, marked with more distinct
peculiarities, and without an atom of caricature, than any other novel
writer whatever. The extreme subtlety of observation on the springs of
human conduct in ordinary characters, is only equalled by the ingenuity of
contrivance in bringing those springs into play, in such a manner as to
lay open their smallest irregularity. The detection is always complete,
and made with the certainty and skill of a philosophical experiment, and
the obviousness and familiarity of a casual observation. The truth of the
imitation is indeed so great, that it has been argued that Fielding must
have had his materials ready-made to his hands, and was merely a
transcriber of local manners and individual habits. For this conjecture,
however, there seems to be no foundation. His representations, it is true,
are local and individual; but they are not the less profound and
conclusive. The feeling of the general principles of human nature,
operating in particular circumstances, is always intense, and uppermost in
his mind; and he makes use of incident and situation only to bring out
character.

It is scarcely necessary to give any illustrations. Tom Jones is full of
them. There is the account, for example, of the gratitude of the elder
Blifil to his brother, for assisting him to obtain the fortune of Miss
Bridget Alworthy by marriage; and of the gratitude of the poor in his
neighbourhood to Alworthy himself, who had done so much good in the
country that he had made every one in it his enemy. There is the account
of the Latin dialogues between Partridge and his maid, of the assault made
on him during one of these by Mrs. Partridge, and the severe bruises he
patiently received on that occasion, after which the parish of Little
Baddington rung with the story, that the school-master had killed his
wife. There is the exquisite keeping in the character of Blifil, and the
want of it in that of Jones. There is the gradation in the lovers of Molly
Seagrim; the philosopher Square succeeding to Tom Jones, who again finds
that he himself had succeeded to the accomplished Will. Barnes, who had
the first possession of her person, and had still possession of her heart,
Jones being only the instrument of her vanity, as Square was of her
interest. Then there is the discreet honesty of Black George, the learning
of Thwackum and Square, and the profundity of Squire Western, who
considered it as a physical impossibility that his daughter should fall in
love with Tom Jones. We have also that gentleman's disputes with his
sister, and the inimitable appeal of that lady to her niece.--"I was never
so handsome as you, Sophy: yet I had something of you formerly. I was
called the cruel Parthenissa. Kingdoms and states, as Tully Cicero says,
undergo alteration, and so must the human form!" The adventure of the same
lady with the highwayman, who robbed her of her jewels while he
complimented her beauty, ought not to be passed over, nor that of Sophia
and her muff, nor the reserved coquetry of her cousin Fitzpatrick, nor the
description of Lady Bellaston, nor the modest overtures of the pretty
widow Hunt, nor the indiscreet babblings of Mrs. Honour. The moral of this
book has been objected to, without much reason; but a more serious
objection has been made to the want of refinement and elegance in two
principal characters. We never feel this objection, indeed, while we are
reading the book; but at other times we have something like a lurking
suspicion that Jones was but an awkward fellow, and Sophia a pretty
simpleton. I do not know how to account for this effect, unless it is that
Fielding's constantly assuring us of the beauty of his hero, and the good
sense of his heroine, at last produces a distrust of both. The story of
Tom Jones is allowed to be unrivalled: and it is this circumstance,
together with the vast variety of characters, that has given the History
of a Foundling so decided a preference over Fielding's other novels. The
characters themselves, both in Amelia and Joseph Andrews, are quite equal
to any of those in Tom Jones. The account of Miss Matthews and Ensign
Hibbert, in the former of these; the way in which that lady reconciles
herself to the death of her father; the inflexible Colonel Bath; the
insipid Mrs. James, the complaisant Colonel Trent, the demure, sly,
intriguing, equivocal Mrs. Bennet, the lord who is her seducer, and who
attempts afterwards to seduce Amelia by the same mechanical process of a
concert-ticket, a book, and the disguise of a great-coat; his little, fat,
short-nosed, red-faced, good-humoured accomplice, the keeper of the
lodging-house, who, having no pretensions to gallantry herself, has a
disinterested delight in forwarding the intrigues and pleasures of others
(to say nothing of honest Atkinson, the story of the miniature-picture of
Amelia, and the hashed mutton, which are in a different style,) are
masterpieces of description. The whole scene at the lodging-house, the
masquerade, etc., in Amelia, are equal in interest to the parallel scenes
in Tom Jones, and even more refined in the knowledge of character. For
instance, Mrs. Bennet is superior to Mrs. Fitzpatrick in her own way. The
uncertainty, in which the event of her interview with her former seducer
is left, is admirable. Fielding was a master of what may be called the
_double entendre_ of character, and surprises you no less by what he
leaves in the dark, (hardly known to the persons themselves) than by the
unexpected discoveries he makes of the real traits and circumstances in a
character with which, till then, you find you were unacquainted. There is
nothing at all heroic, however, in the usual style of his delineations. He
does not draw lofty characters or strong passions; all his persons are of
the ordinary stature as to intellect; and possess little elevation of
fancy, or energy of purpose. Perhaps, after all, Parson Adams is his
finest character. It is equally true to nature, and more ideal than any of
the others. Its unsuspecting simplicity makes it not only more amiable,
but doubly amusing, by gratifying the sense of superior sagacity in the
reader. Our laughing at him does not once lessen our respect for him. His
declaring that he would willingly walk ten miles to fetch his sermon on
vanity, merely to convince Wilson of his thorough contempt of this vice,
and his consoling himself for the loss of his Æschylus, by suddenly
recollecting that he could not read it if he had it, because it is dark,
are among the finest touches of _naïveté_. The night-adventures at Lady
Booby's with Beau Didapper, and the amiable Slipslop, are the most
ludicrous; and that with the huntsman, who draws off the hounds from the
poor Parson, because they would be spoiled by following _vermin_, the most
profound. Fielding did not often repeat himself; but Dr. Harrison, in
Amelia, may be considered as a variation of the character of Adams: so
also is Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield; and the latter part of that work,
which sets out so delightfully, an almost entire plagiarism from Wilson's
account of himself, and Adams's domestic history.

Smollett's first novel, Roderick Random, which is also his best, appeared
about the same time as Fielding's Tom Jones; and yet it has a much more
modern air with it: but this may be accounted for from the circumstance
that Smollett was quite a young man at the time, whereas Fielding's manner
must have been formed long before. The style of Roderick Random is more
easy and flowing than that of Tom Jones; the incidents follow one another
more rapidly (though, it must be confessed, they never come in such a
throng, or are brought out with the same dramatic effect); the humour is
broader, and as effectual; and there is very nearly, if not quite, an
equal interest excited by the story. What, then, is it that gives the
superiority to Fielding? It is the superior insight into the springs of
human character, and the constant developement of that character through
every change of circumstance. Smollett's humour often arises from the
situation of the persons, or the peculiarity of their external
appearance; as, from Roderick Random's carrotty locks, which hung down
over his shoulders like a pound of candles, or Strap's ignorance of
London, and the blunders that follow from it. There is a tone of vulgarity
about all his productions. The incidents frequently resemble detached
anecdotes taken from a newspaper or magazine; and, like those in Gil Blas,
might happen to a hundred other characters. He exhibits the ridiculous
accidents and reverses to which human life is liable, not "the stuff" of
which it is composed. He seldom probes to the quick, or penetrates beyond
the surface; and, therefore, he leaves no stings in the minds of his
readers, and in this respect is far less interesting than Fielding. His
novels always enliven, and never tire us: we take them up with pleasure,
and lay them down without any strong feeling of regret. We look on and
laugh, as spectators of a highly amusing scene, without closing in with
the combatants, or being made parties in the event. We read Roderick
Random as an entertaining story; for the particular accidents and modes of
life which it describes have ceased to exist: but we regard Tom Jones as a
real history; because the author never stops short of those essential
principles which lie at the bottom of all our actions, and in which we
feel an immediate interest--_intus et in cute_. Smollett excels most as
the lively caricaturist: Fielding as the exact painter and profound
metaphysician. I am far from maintaining that this account applies
uniformly to the productions of these two writers; but I think that, as
far as they essentially differ, what I have stated is the general
distinction between them. Roderick Random is the purest of Smollett's
novels: I mean in point of style and description. Most of the incidents
and characters are supposed to have been taken from the events of his own
life; and are, therefore, truer to nature. There is a rude conception of
generosity in some of his characters, of which Fielding seems to have been
incapable, his amiable persons being merely good-natured. It is owing to
this that Strap is superior to Partridge; as there is a heartiness and
warmth of feeling in some of the scenes between Lieutenant Bowling and his
nephew, which is beyond Fielding's power of impassioned writing. The whole
of the scene on ship-board is a most admirable and striking picture, and,
I imagine, very little if at all exaggerated, though the interest it
excites is of a very unpleasant kind, because the irritation and
resistance to petty oppression can be of no avail. The picture of the
little profligate French friar, who was Roderick's travelling companion,
and of whom he always kept to the windward, is one of Smollett's most
masterly sketches. Peregrine Pickle is no great favourite of mine, and
Launcelot Greaves was not worthy of the genius of the author.

Humphry Clinker and Count Fathom are both equally admirable in their way.
Perhaps the former is the most pleasant gossiping novel that ever was
written; that which gives the most pleasure with the least effort to the
reader. It is quite as amusing as going the journey could have been; and
we have just as good an idea of what happened on the road, as if we had
been of the party. Humphry Clinker himself is exquisite; and his
sweetheart, Winifred Jenkins, not much behind him. Matthew Bramble, though
not altogether original, is excellently supported, and seems to have been
the prototype of Sir Anthony Absolute in the Rivals. But Lismahago is the
flower of the flock. His tenaciousness in argument is not so delightful as
the relaxation of his logical severity, when he finds his fortune
mellowing in the wintry smiles of Mrs. Tabitha Bramble. This is the
best-preserved and most severe of all Smollett's characters. The
resemblance to Don Quixote is only just enough to make it interesting to
the critical reader, without giving offence to any body else. The
indecency and filth in this novel are what must be allowed to all
Smollett's writings.--The subject and characters in Count Fathom are, in
general, exceedingly disgusting: the story is also spun out to a degree of
tediousness in the serious and sentimental parts; but there is more power
of writing occasionally shewn in it than in any of his works. I need only
refer to the fine and bitter irony of the Count's address to the country
of his ancestors on his landing in England; to the robber-scene in the
forest, which has never been surpassed; to the Parisian swindler who
personates a raw English country squire (Western is tame in the
comparison); and to the story of the seduction in the west of England. It
would be difficult to point out, in any author, passages written with more
force and mastery than these.

It is not a very difficult undertaking to class Fielding or Smollett;--the
one as an observer of the characters of human life, the other as a
describer of its various eccentricities. But it is by no means so easy to
dispose of Richardson, who was neither an observer of the one, nor a
describer of the other; but who seemed to spin his materials entirely out
of his own brain, as if there had been nothing existing in the world
beyond the little room in which he sat writing. There is an artificial
reality about his works, which is no where else to be met with. They have
the romantic air of a pure fiction, with the literal minuteness of a
common diary. The author had the strongest matter-of-fact imagination that
ever existed, and wrote the oddest mixture of poetry and prose. He does
not appear to have taken advantage of anything in actual nature, from one
end of his works to the other; and yet, throughout all his works,
voluminous as they are--(and this, to be sure, is one reason why they are
so,)--he sets about describing every object and transaction, as if the
whole had been given in on evidence by an eye-witness. This kind of high
finishing from imagination is an anomaly in the history of human genius;
and, certainly, nothing so fine was ever produced by the same accumulation
of minute parts. There is not the least distraction, the least
forgetfulness of the end: every circumstance is made to tell. I cannot
agree that this exactness of detail produces heaviness; on the contrary,
it gives an appearance of truth, and a positive interest to the story; and
we listen with the same attention as we should to the particulars of a
confidential communication. I at one time used to think some parts of Sir
Charles Grandison rather trifling and tedious, especially the long
description of Miss Harriet Byron's wedding-clothes, till I was told of
two young ladies who had severally copied out the whole of that very
description for their own private gratification. After that, I could not
blame the author.

The effect of reading this work is like an increase of kindred. You find
yourself all of a sudden introduced into the midst of a large family, with
aunts and cousins to the third and fourth generation, and grandmothers
both by the father's and mother's side;--and a very odd set of people they
are, but people whose real existence and personal identity you can no more
dispute than your own senses, for you see and hear all that they do or
say. What is still more extraordinary, all this extreme elaborateness in
working out the story, seems to have cost the author nothing; for it is
said, that the published works are mere abridgments. I have heard (though
this I suspect must be a pleasant exaggeration) that Sir Charles Grandison
was originally written in eight and twenty volumes.

Pamela is the first of Richardson's productions, and the very child of his
brain. Taking the general idea of the character of a modest and beautiful
country girl, and of the ordinary situation in which she is placed, he
makes out all the rest, even to the smallest circumstance, by the mere
force of a reasoning imagination. It would seem as if a step lost, would
be as fatal here as in a mathematical demonstration. The development of
the character is the most simple, and comes the nearest to nature that it
can do, without being the same thing. The interest of the story increases
with the dawn of understanding and reflection in the heroine: her
sentiments gradually expand themselves, like opening flowers. She writes
better every time, and acquires a confidence in herself, just as a girl
would do, writing such letters in such circumstances; and yet it is
certain _that no girl would write such letters in such circumstances_.
What I mean is this:--Richardson's nature is always the nature of
sentiment and reflection, not of impulse or situation. He furnishes his
characters, on every occasion, with the presence of mind of the author. He
makes them act, not as they would from the impulse of the moment, but as
they might upon reflection, and upon a careful review of every motive and
circumstance in their situation. They regularly sit down to write letters:
and if the business of life consisted in letter-writing, and was carried
on by the post (like a Spanish game at chess), human nature would be what
Richardson represents it. All actual objects and feelings are blunted and
deadened by being presented through a medium which may be true to reason,
but is false in nature. He confounds his own point of view with that of
the immediate actors in the scene; and hence presents you with a
conventional and factitious nature, instead of that which is real. Dr.
Johnson seems to have preferred this truth of reflection to the truth of
nature, when he said that there was more knowledge of the human heart in a
page of Richardson, than in all Fielding. Fielding, however, saw more of
the practical results, and understood the principles as well; but he had
not the same power of speculating upon their possible results, and
combining them in certain ideal forms of passion and imagination, which
was Richardson's real excellence.

It must be observed, however, that it is this mutual good understanding,
and comparing of notes between the author and the persons he describes;
his infinite circumspection, his exact process of ratiocination and
calculation, which gives such an appearance of coldness and formality to
most of his characters,--which makes prudes of his women, and coxcombs of
his men. Every thing is too conscious in his works. Every thing is
distinctly brought home to the mind of the actors in the scene, which is a
fault undoubtedly: but then it must be confessed, every thing is brought
home in its full force to the mind of the reader also; and we feel the
same interest in the story as if it were our own. Can anything be more
beautiful or more affecting than Pamela's reproaches to her "lumpish
heart," when she is sent away from her master's at her own request; its
lightness, when she is sent for back; the joy which the conviction of the
sincerity of his love diffuses in her heart, like the coming on of spring;
the artifice of the stuff gown; the meeting with Lady Davers after her
marriage; and the trial-scene with her husband? Who ever remained
insensible to the passion of Lady Clementina, except Sir Charles Grandison
himself, who was the object of it? Clarissa is, however, his masterpiece,
if we except Lovelace. If she is fine in herself, she is still finer in
his account of her. With that foil, her purity is dazzling indeed: and she
who could triumph by her virtue, and the force of her love, over the
regality of Lovelace's mind, his wit, his person, his accomplishments, and
his spirit, conquers all hearts. I should suppose that never sympathy more
deep or sincere was excited than by the heroine of Richardson's romance,
except by the calamities of real life. The links in this wonderful chain
of interest are not more finely wrought, than their whole weight is
overwhelming and irresistible. Who can forget the exquisite gradations of
her long dying-scene, or the closing of the coffin-lid, when Miss Howe
comes to take her last leave of her friend; or the heart-breaking
reflection that Clarissa makes on what was to have been her wedding-day?
Well does a certain writer exclaim--

  "Books are a real world, both pure and good,
  Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
  Our pastime and our happiness may grow!"


Richardson's wit was unlike that of any other writer--his humour was so
too. Both were the effect of intense activity of mind--laboured, and yet
completely effectual. I might refer to Lovelace's reception and
description of Hickman, when he calls out Death in his ear, as the name of
the person with whom Clarissa had fallen in love; and to the scene at the
glove-shop. What can be more magnificent than his enumeration of his
companions--"Belton, so pert and so pimply--Tourville, so fair and so
foppish!" etc. In casuistry this author is quite at home; and, with a
boldness greater even than his puritanical severity, has exhausted every
topic on virtue and vice. There is another peculiarity in Richardson, not
perhaps so uncommon, which is, his systematically preferring his most
insipid characters to his finest, though both were equally his own
invention, and he must be supposed to have understood something of their
qualities. Thus he preferred the little, selfish, affected, insignificant
Miss Byron, to the divine Clementina; and again, Sir Charles Grandison, to
the nobler Lovelace. I have nothing to say in favour of Lovelace's
morality; but Sir Charles is the prince of coxcombs,--whose eye was never
once taken from his own person, and his own virtues; and there is nothing
which excites so little sympathy as this excessive egotism.

It remains to speak of Sterne; and I shall do it in few words. There is
more of _mannerism_ and affectation in him, and a more immediate reference
to preceding authors; but his excellences, where he is excellent, are of
the first order. His characters are intellectual and inventive, like
Richardson's; but totally opposite in the execution. The one are made out
by continuity, and patient repetition of touches: the others, by glancing
transitions and graceful apposition. His style is equally different from
Richardson's: it is at times the most rapid, the most happy, the most
idiomatic of any that is to be found. It is the pure essence of English
conversational style. His works consist only of _morceaux_--of brilliant
passages. I wonder that Goldsmith, who ought to have known better, should
call him "a dull fellow." His wit is poignant, though artificial; and his
characters (though the groundwork of some of them had been laid before)
have yet invaluable original differences; and the spirit of the execution,
the master-strokes constantly thrown into them, are not to be surpassed.
It is sufficient to name them;--Yorick, Dr. Slop, Mr. Shandy; My Uncle
Toby, Trim, Susanna, and the Widow Wadman. In these he has contrived to
oppose, with equal felicity and originality, two characters, one of pure
intellect, and the other of pure good nature, in My Father and My Uncle
Toby. There appears to have been in Sterne a vein of dry, sarcastic
humour, and of extreme tenderness of feeling; the latter sometimes carried
to affectation, as in the tale of Maria, and the apostrophe to the
recording angel; but at other times pure, and without blemish. The story
of Le Fevre is perhaps the finest in the English language. My Father's
restlessness, both of body and mind, is inimitable. It is the model from
which all those despicable performances against modern philosophy ought to
have been copied, if their authors had known any thing of the subject they
were writing about. My Uncle Toby is one of the finest compliments ever
paid to human nature. He is the most unoffending of God's creatures; or,
as the French express it, _un tel petit bon homme_! Of his bowling-green,
his sieges, and his amours, who would say or think any thing amiss!



IX

CHARACTER OF MR. BURKE, 1807[133]


The following speech is perhaps the fairest specimen I could give of Mr.
Burke's various talents as a speaker. The subject itself is not the most
interesting, nor does it admit of that weight and closeness of reasoning
which he displayed on other occasions. But there is no single speech which
can convey a satisfactory idea of his powers of mind: to do him justice,
it would be necessary to quote all his works; the only specimen of Burke
is, _all that he wrote_. With respect to most other speakers, a specimen
is generally enough, or more than enough. When you are acquainted with
their manner, and see what proficiency they have made in the mechanical
exercise of their profession, with what facility they can borrow a simile,
or round a period, how dexterously they can argue, and object, and rejoin,
you are satisfied; there is no other difference in their speeches than
what arises from the difference of the subjects. But this was not the case
with Burke. He brought his subjects along with him; he drew his materials
from himself. The only limits which circumscribed his variety were the
stores of his own mind. His stock of ideas did not consist of a few meagre
facts, meagrely stated, of half a dozen common-places tortured in a
thousand different ways: but his mine of wealth was a profound
understanding, inexhaustible as the human heart, and various as the
sources of nature. He therefore enriched every subject to which he applied
himself, and new subjects were only the occasions of calling forth fresh
powers of mind which had not been before exerted. It would therefore be in
vain to look for the proof of his powers in any one of his speeches or
writings: they all contain some additional proof of power. In speaking of
Burke, then, I shall speak of the whole compass and circuit of his
mind--not of that small part or section of him which I have been able to
give: to do otherwise would be like the story of the man who put the brick
in his pocket, thinking to shew it as the model of a house. I have been
able to manage pretty well with respect to all my other speakers, and
curtailed them down without remorse. It was easy to reduce them within
certain limits, to fix their spirit, and condense their variety; by having
a certain quantity given, you might infer all the rest; it was only the
same thing over again. But who can bind Proteus, or confine the roving
flight of genius?

Burke's writings are better than his speeches, and indeed his speeches are
writings. But he seemed to feel himself more at ease, to have a fuller
possession of his faculties in addressing the public, than in addressing
the House of Commons. Burke was _raised_ into public life: and he seems to
have been prouder of this new dignity than became so great a man. For this
reason, most of his speeches have a sort of parliamentary preamble to
them: there is an air of affected modesty, and ostentatious trifling in
them: he seems fond of coqueting with the House of Commons, and is
perpetually calling the Speaker out to dance a minuet with him, before he
begins. There is also something like an attempt to stimulate the
superficial dulness of his hearers by exciting their surprise, by running
into extravagance: and he sometimes demeans himself by condescending to
what may be considered as bordering too much upon buffoonery, for the
amusement of the company. Those lines of Milton were admirably applied to
him by some one--"The elephant to make them sport wreathed his proboscis
lithe." The truth is, that he was out of his place in the House of
Commons; he was eminently qualified to shine as a man of genius, as the
instructor of mankind, as the brightest luminary of his age: but he had
nothing in common with that motley crew of knights, citizens, and
burgesses. He could not be said to be "native and endued unto that
element." He was above it; and never appeared like himself, but when,
forgetful of the idle clamours of party, and of the little views of little
men, he appealed to his country, and the enlightened judgment of mankind.

I am not going to make an idle panegyric on Burke (he has no need of it);
but I cannot help looking upon him as the chief boast and ornament of the
English House of Commons. What has been said of him is, I think, strictly
true, that "he was the most eloquent man of his time: his wisdom was
greater than his eloquence." The only public man that in my opinion can be
put in any competition with him, is Lord Chatham: and he moved in a sphere
so very remote, that it is almost impossible to compare them. But though
it would perhaps be difficult to determine which of them excelled most in
his particular way, there is nothing in the world more easy than to point
out in what their peculiar excellences consisted. They were in every
respect the reverse of each other. Chatham's eloquence was popular: his
wisdom was altogether plain and practical. Burke's eloquence was that of
the poet; of the man of high and unbounded fancy: his wisdom was profound
and contemplative. Chatham's eloquence was calculated to make men _act_;
Burke's was calculated to make them _think_. Chatham could have roused the
fury of a multitude, and wielded their physical energy as he pleased:
Burke's eloquence carried conviction into the mind of the retired and
lonely student, opened the recesses of the human breast, and lighted up
the face of nature around him. Chatham supplied his hearers with motives
to immediate action: Burke furnished them with _reasons_ for action which
might have little effect upon them at the time, but for which they would
be the wiser and better all their lives after. In research, in
originality, in variety of knowledge, in richness of invention, in depth
and comprehension of mind, Burke had as much the advantage of Lord Chatham
as he was excelled by him in plain common sense, in strong feeling, in
steadiness of purpose, in vehemence, in warmth, in enthusiasm, and energy
of mind. Burke was the man of genius, of fine sense, and subtle reasoning;
Chatham was a man of clear understanding; of strong sense, and violent
passions. Burke's mind was satisfied with speculation: Chatham's was
essentially _active_: it could not rest without an object. The power which
governed Burke's mind was his Imagination; that which gave its _impetus_
to Chatham's was Will. The one was almost the creature of pure intellect,
the other of physical temperament.

There are two very different ends which a man of genius may propose to
himself either in writing or speaking, and which will accordingly give
birth to very different styles. He can have but one of these two objects;
either to enrich or strengthen the mind; either to furnish us with new
ideas, to lead the mind into new trains of thought, to which it was before
unused, and which it was incapable of striking out for itself; or else to
collect and embody what we already knew, to rivet our old impressions more
deeply; to make what was before plain still plainer, and to give to that
which was familiar all the effect of novelty. In the one case we receive
an accession to the stock of our ideas; in the other, an additional
degree of life and energy is infused into them: our thoughts continue to
flow in the same channels, but their pulse is quickened and invigorated. I
do not know how to distinguish these different styles better than by
calling them severally the inventive and refined, or the impressive and
vigorous styles. It is only the subject-matter of eloquence, however,
which is allowed to be remote or obscure. The things in themselves may be
subtle and recondite, but they must be dragged out of their obscurity and
brought struggling to the light; they must be rendered plain and palpable,
(as far as it is in the wit of man to do so) or they are no longer
eloquence. That which by its natural impenetrability, and in spite of
every effort, remains dark and difficult, which is impervious to every
ray, on which the imagination can shed no lustre, which can be clothed
with no beauty, is not a subject for the orator or poet. At the same time
it cannot be expected that abstract truths or profound observations should
ever be placed in the same strong and dazzling points of view as natural
objects and mere matters of fact. It is enough if they receive a reflex
and borrowed lustre, like that which cheers the first dawn of morning,
where the effect of surprise and novelty gilds every object, and the joy
of beholding another world gradually emerging out of the gloom of night,
"a new creation rescued from his reign," fills the mind with a sober
rapture. Philosophical eloquence is in writing what _chiaro scuro_ is in
painting; he would be a fool who should object that the colours in the
shaded part of a picture were not so bright as those on the opposite side;
the eye of the connoisseur receives an equal delight from both, balancing
the want of brilliancy and effect with the greater delicacy of the tints,
and difficulty of the execution. In judging of Burke, therefore, we are to
consider first the style of eloquence which he adopted, and secondly the
effects which he produced with it. If he did not produce the same effects
on vulgar minds, as some others have done, it was not for want of power,
but from the turn and direction of his mind.[134] It was because his
subjects, his ideas, his arguments, were less vulgar. The question is not
whether he brought certain truths equally home to us, but how much nearer
he brought them than they were before. In my opinion, he united the two
extremes of refinement and strength in a higher degree than any other
writer whatever.

The subtlety of his mind was undoubtedly that which rendered Burke a less
popular writer and speaker than he otherwise would have been. It weakened
the impression of his observations upon others, but I cannot admit that it
weakened the observations themselves; that it took anything from their
real weight and solidity. Coarse minds think all that is subtle, futile:
that because it is not gross and obvious and palpable to the senses, it is
therefore light and frivolous, and of no importance in the real affairs of
life; thus making their own confined understandings the measure of truth,
and supposing that whatever they do not distinctly perceive, is nothing.
Seneca, who was not one of the vulgar, also says, that subtle truths are
those which have the least substance in them, and consequently approach
nearest to nonentity. But for my own part I cannot help thinking that the
most important truths must be the most refined and subtle; for that very
reason, that they must comprehend a great number of particulars, and
instead of referring to any distinct or positive fact, must point out the
combined effects of an extensive chain of causes, operating gradually,
remotely, and collectively, and therefore imperceptibly. General
principles are not the less true or important because from their nature
they elude immediate observation; they are like the air, which is not the
less necessary because we neither see nor feel it, or like that secret
influence which binds the world together, and holds the planets in their
orbits. The very same persons who are the most forward to laugh at all
systematic reasoning as idle and impertinent, you will the next moment
hear exclaiming bitterly against the baleful effects of new-fangled
systems of philosophy, or gravely descanting on the immense importance of
instilling sound principles of morality into the mind. It would not be a
bold conjecture, but an obvious truism to say, that all the great changes
which have been brought about in the moral world, either for the better or
worse, have been introduced not by the bare statement of facts, which are
things already known, and which must always operate nearly in the same
manner, but by the development of certain opinions and abstract principles
of reasoning on life and manners, on the origin of society and man's
nature in general, which being obscure and uncertain, vary from time to
time, and produce correspondent changes in the human mind. They are the
wholesome dew and rain, or the mildew and pestilence that silently
destroy. To this principle of generalization all religious creeds, the
institutions of wise lawgivers, and the systems of philosophers, owe their
influence.

It has always been with me a test of the sense and candour of any one
belonging to the opposite party, whether he allowed Burke to be a great
man. Of all the persons of this description that I have ever known, I
never met with above one or two who would make this concession; whether it
was that party feelings ran too high to admit of any real candour, or
whether it was owing to an essential vulgarity in their habits of
thinking, they all seemed to be of opinion that he was a wild enthusiast,
or a hollow sophist, who was to be answered by bits of facts, by smart
logic, by shrewd questions, and idle songs. They looked upon him as a man
of disordered intellects, because he reasoned in a style to which they had
not been used and which confounded their dim perceptions. If you said that
though you differed with him in sentiment, yet you thought him an
admirable reasoner, and a close observer of human nature, you were
answered with a loud laugh, and some hackneyed quotation. "Alas! Leviathan
was not so tamed!" They did not know whom they had to contend with. The
corner stone, which the builders rejected, became the head-corner, though
to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; for indeed I
cannot discover that he was much better understood by those of his own
party, if we may judge from the little affinity there is between his mode
of reasoning and theirs.--The simple clue to all his reasonings on
politics is, I think, as follows. He did not agree with some writers, that
that mode of government is necessarily the best which is the cheapest. He
saw in the construction of society other principles at work, and other
capacities of fulfilling the desires, and perfecting the nature of man,
besides those of securing the equal enjoyment of the means of animal life,
and doing this at as little expense as possible. He thought that the wants
and happiness of men were not to be provided for, as we provide for those
of a herd of cattle, merely by attending to their physical necessities. He
thought more nobly of his fellows. He knew that man had affections and
passions and powers of imagination, as well as hunger and thirst and the
sense of heat and cold. He took his idea of political society from the
pattern of private life, wishing, as he himself expresses it, to
incorporate the domestic charities with the orders of the state, and to
blend them together. He strove to establish an analogy between the compact
that binds together the community at large, and that which binds together
the several families that compose it. He knew that the rules that form the
basis of private morality are not founded in reason, that is, in the
abstract properties of those things which are the subjects of them, but in
the nature of man, and his capacity of being affected by certain things
from habit, from imagination, and sentiment, as well as from reason.

Thus, the reason why a man ought to be attached to his wife and children
is not, surely, that they are better than others, (for in this case every
one else ought to be of the same opinion) but because he must be chiefly
interested in those things which are nearest to him, and with which he is
best acquainted, since his understanding cannot reach equally to every
thing; because he must be most attached to those objects which he has
known the longest, and which by their situation have actually affected him
the most, not those which in themselves are the most affecting, whether
they have ever made any impression on him or no; that is, because he is by
his nature the creature of habit and feeling, and because it is reasonable
that he should act in conformity to his nature. Burke was so far right in
saying that it is no objection to an institution that it is founded in
_prejudice_, but the contrary, if that prejudice is natural and right;
that is, if it arises from those circumstances which are properly subjects
of feeling and association, not from any defect or perversion of the
understanding in those things which fall strictly under its jurisdiction.
On this profound maxim he took his stand. Thus he contended, that the
prejudice in favour of nobility was natural and proper, and fit to be
encouraged by the positive institutions of society; not on account of the
real or personal merit of the individuals, but because such an institution
has a tendency to enlarge and raise the mind, to keep alive the memory of
past greatness, to connect the different ages of the world together, to
carry back the imagination over a long tract of time, and feed it with the
contemplation of remote events: because it is natural to think highly of
that which inspires us with high thoughts, which has been connected for
many generations with splendour, and affluence, and dignity, and power,
and privilege. He also conceived, that by transferring the respect from
the person to the thing, and thus rendering it steady and permanent, the
mind would be habitually formed to sentiments of deference, attachment,
and fealty, to whatever else demanded its respect: that it would be led to
fix its view on what was elevated and lofty, and be weaned from that low
and narrow jealousy which never willingly or heartily admits of any
superiority in others, and is glad of every opportunity to bring down all
excellence to a level with its own miserable standard. Nobility did not
therefore exist to the prejudice of the other orders of the state, but by,
and for them. The inequality of the different orders of society did not
destroy the unity and harmony of the whole. The health and well-being of
the moral world was to be promoted by the same means as the beauty of the
natural world; by contrast, by change, by light and shade, by variety of
parts, by order and proportion. To think of reducing all mankind to the
same insipid level, seemed to him the same absurdity as to destroy the
inequalities of surface in a country, for the benefit of agriculture and
commerce. In short, he believed that the interests of men in society
should be consulted, and their several stations and employments assigned,
with a view to their nature, not as physical, but as moral beings, so as
to nourish their hopes, to lift their imagination, to enliven their fancy,
to rouse their activity, to strengthen their virtue, and to furnish the
greatest number of objects of pursuit and means of enjoyment to beings
constituted as man is, consistently with the order and stability of the
whole.

The same reasoning might be extended farther. I do not say that his
arguments are conclusive; but they are profound and _true_, as far as they
go. There may be disadvantages and abuses necessarily interwoven with his
scheme, or opposite advantages of infinitely greater value, to be derived
from another order of things and state of society. This however does not
invalidate either the truth or importance of Burke's reasoning; since the
advantages he points out as connected with the mixed form of government
are really and necessarily inherent in it: since they are compatible in
the same degree with no other; since the principle itself on which he
rests his argument (whatever we may think of the application) is of the
utmost weight and moment; and since on whichever side the truth lies, it
is impossible to make a fair decision without having the opposite side of
the question clearly and fully stated to us. This Burke has done in a
masterly manner. He presents to you one view or face of society. Let him,
who thinks he can, give the reverse side with equal force, beauty, and
clearness. It is said, I know, that truth is _one_; but to this I cannot
subscribe, for it appears to me that truth is _many_. There are as many
truths as there are things and causes of action and contradictory
principles at work in society. In making up the account of good and evil,
indeed, the final result must be one way or the other; but the particulars
on which that result depends are infinite and various.

It will be seen from what I have said, that I am very far from agreeing
with those who think that Burke was a man without understanding, and a
merely florid writer. There are two causes which have given rise to this
calumny; namely, that narrowness of mind which leads men to suppose that
the truth lies entirely on the side of their own opinions, and that
whatever does not make for them is absurd and irrational; secondly, a
trick we have of confounding reason with judgment, and supposing that it
is merely the province of the understanding to pronounce sentence, and not
to give in evidence, or argue the case; in short, that it is a passive,
not an active faculty. Thus there are persons who never run into any
extravagance, because they are so buttressed up with the opinions of
others on all sides, that they cannot lean much to one side or the other;
they are so little moved with any kind of reasoning, that they remain at
an equal distance from every extreme, and are never very far from the
truth, because the slowness of their faculties will not suffer them to
make much progress in error. These are persons of great judgment. The
scales of the mind are pretty sure to remain even, when there is nothing
in them. In this sense of the word, Burke must be allowed to have wanted
judgment, by all those who think that he was wrong in his conclusions. The
accusation of want of judgment, in fact, only means that you yourself are
of a different opinion. But if in arriving at one error he discovered a
hundred truths, I should consider myself a hundred times more indebted to
him than if, stumbling on that which I consider as the right side of the
question, he had committed a hundred absurdities in striving to establish
his point. I speak of him now merely as an author, or as far as I and
other readers are concerned with him; at the same time, I should not
differ from any one who may be disposed to contend that the consequences
of his writings as instruments of political power have been tremendous,
fatal, such as no exertion of wit or knowledge or genius can ever
counteract or atone for.

Burke also gave a hold to his antagonists by mixing up sentiment and
imagery with his reasoning; so that being unused to such a sight in the
region of politics, they were deceived, and could not discern the fruit
from the flowers. Gravity is the cloke of wisdom; and those who have
nothing else think it an insult to affect the one without the other,
because it destroys the only foundation on which their pretensions are
built. The easiest part of reason is dulness; the generality of the world
are therefore concerned in discouraging any example of unnecessary
brilliancy that might tend to show that the two things do not always go
together. Burke in some measure dissolved the spell. It was discovered,
that his gold was not the less valuable for being wrought into elegant
shapes, and richly embossed with curious figures; that the solidity of a
building is not destroyed by adding to it beauty and ornament; and that
the strength of a man's understanding is not always to be estimated in
exact proportion to his want of imagination. His understanding was not the
less real, because it was not the only faculty he possessed. He justified
the description of the poet,--

  "How charming is divine philosophy!
  Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,
  But musical as is Apollo's lute!"

Those who object to this union of grace and beauty with reason, are in
fact weak-sighted people, who cannot distinguish the noble and majestic
form of Truth from that of her sister Folly, if they are dressed both
alike! But there is always a difference even in the adventitious ornaments
they wear, which is sufficient to distinguish them.

Burke was so far from being a gaudy or flowery writer, that he was one of
the severest writers we have. His words are the most like things; his
style is the most strictly suited to the subject. He unites every extreme
and every variety of composition; the lowest and the meanest words and
descriptions with the highest. He exults in the display of power, in
shewing the extent, the force, and intensity of his ideas; he is led on by
the mere impulse and vehemence of his fancy, not by the affectation of
dazzling his readers by gaudy conceits or pompous images. He was
completely carried away by his subject. He had no other object but to
produce the strongest impression on his reader, by giving the truest, the
most characteristic, the fullest, and most forcible description of things,
trusting to the power of his own mind to mould them into grace and beauty.
He did not produce a splendid effect by setting fire to the light vapours
that float in the regions of fancy, as the chemists make fine colours with
phosphorus, but by the eagerness of his blows struck fire from the flint,
and melted the hardest substances in the furnace of his imagination. The
wheels of his imagination did not catch fire from the rottenness of the
materials, but from the rapidity of their motion. One would suppose, to
hear people talk of Burke, that his style was such as would have suited
the "Lady's Magazine"; soft, smooth, showy, tender, insipid, full of fine
words, without any meaning. The essence of the gaudy or glittering style
consists in producing a momentary effect by fine words and images brought
together, without order or connexion. Burke most frequently produced an
effect by the remoteness and novelty of his combinations, by the force of
contrast, by the striking manner in which the most opposite and
unpromising materials were harmoniously blended together; not by laying
his hands on all the fine things he could think of, but by bringing
together those things which he knew would blaze out into glorious light by
their collision. The florid style is a mixture of affectation and
common-place. Burke's was an union of untameable vigour and originality.

Burke was not a verbose writer. If he sometimes multiplies words, it is
not for want of ideas, but because there are no words that fully express
his ideas, and he tries to do it as well as he can by different ones. He
had nothing of the _set_ or formal style, the measured cadence, and
stately phraseology of Johnson, and most of our modern writers. This
style, which is what we understand by the _artificial_, is all in one key.
It selects a certain set of words to represent all ideas whatever, as the
most dignified and elegant, and excludes all others as low and vulgar. The
words are not fitted to the things, but the things to the words. Every
thing is seen through a false medium. It is putting a mask on the face of
nature, which may indeed hide some specks and blemishes, but takes away
all beauty, delicacy, and variety. It destroys all dignity or elevation,
because nothing can be raised where all is on a level, and completely
destroys all force, expression, truth, and character, by arbitrarily
confounding the differences of things, and reducing every thing to the
same insipid standard. To suppose that this stiff uniformity can add any
thing to real grace or dignity, is like supposing that the human body in
order to be perfectly graceful, should never deviate from its upright
posture. Another mischief of this method is, that it confounds all ranks
in literature. Where there is no room for variety, no discrimination, no
nicety to be shewn in matching the idea with its proper word, there can be
no room for taste or elegance. A man must easily learn the art of writing,
when every sentence is to be cast in the same mould: where he is only
allowed the use of one word, he cannot choose wrong, nor will he be in
much danger of making himself ridiculous by affectation or false glitter,
when, whatever subject he treats of, he must treat of it in the same way.
This indeed is to wear golden chains for the sake of ornament.

Burke was altogether free from the pedantry which I have here endeavoured
to expose. His style was as original, as expressive, as rich and varied,
as it was possible: his combinations were as exquisite, as playful, as
happy, as unexpected, as bold and daring, as his fancy. If any thing, he
ran into the opposite extreme of too great an inequality, if truth and
nature could ever be carried to an extreme.

Those who are best acquainted with the writings and speeches of Burke will
not think the praise I have here bestowed on them exaggerated. Some proof
will be found of this in the following extracts. But the full proof must
be sought in his works at large, and particularly in the "Thoughts on the
Discontents"; in his "Reflections on the French Revolution"; in his
"Letter to the Duke of Bedford"; and in the "Regicide Peace." The two last
of these are perhaps the most remarkable of all his writings, from the
contrast they afford to each other. The one is the most delightful
exhibition of wild and brilliant fancy, that is to be found in English
prose, but it is too much like a beautiful picture painted upon gauze; it
wants something to support it: the other is without ornament, but it has
all the solidity, the weight, the gravity of a judicial record. It seems
to have been written with a certain constraint upon himself, and to shew
those who said he could not _reason_, that his arguments might be stripped
of their ornaments without losing any thing of their force. It is
certainly, of all his works, that in which he has shewn most power of
logical deduction, and the only one in which he has made any important use
of facts. In general he certainly paid little attention to them: they were
the playthings of his mind, he saw them as he pleased, not as they were;
with the eye of the philosopher or the poet, regarding them only in their
general principle, or as they might serve to decorate his subject. This is
the natural consequence of much imagination: things that are probable are
elevated into the rank of realities. To those who can reason on the
essences of things, or who can invent according to nature, the
experimental proof is of little value. This was the case with Burke. In
the present instance, however, he seems to have forced his mind into the
service of facts: and he succeeded completely. His comparison between our
connection with France or Algiers, and his account of the conduct of the
war, are as clear, as convincing, as forcible examples of this kind of
reasoning, as are any where to be met with. Indeed I do not think there is
any thing in Fox (whose mind was purely historical) or in Chatham, (who
attended to feelings more than facts) that will bear a comparison with
them.

Burke has been compared to Cicero--I do not know for what reason. Their
excellences are as different, and indeed as opposite, as they well can be.
Burke had not the polished elegance, the glossy neatness, the artful
regularity, the exquisite modulation of Cicero: he had a thousand times
more richness and originality of mind, more strength and pomp of diction.

It has been well observed, that the ancients had no word that properly
expresses what we mean by the word _genius_. They perhaps had not the
thing. Their minds appear to have been too exact, too retentive, too
minute and subtle, too sensible to the external differences of things, too
passive under their impressions, to admit of those bold and rapid
combinations, those lofty flights of fancy, which, glancing from heaven to
earth, unite the most opposite extremes, and draw the happiest
illustrations from things the most remote. Their ideas were kept too
confined and distinct by the material form or vehicle in which they were
conveyed, to unite cordially together, or be melted down in the
imagination. Their metaphors are taken from things of the same class, not
from things of different classes; the general analogy, not the individual
feeling, directs them in their choice. Hence, as Dr. Johnson observed,
their similes are either repetitions of the same idea, or so obvious and
general as not to lend any additional force to it; as when a huntress is
compared to Diana, or a warrior rushing into battle to a lion rushing on
his prey. Their _forte_ was exquisite art and perfect imitation. Witness
their statues and other things of the same kind. But they had not that
high and enthusiastic fancy which some of our own writers have shewn. For
the proof of this, let any one compare Milton and Shakspeare with Homer
and Sophocles, or Burke with Cicero.

It may be asked whether Burke was a poet. He was so only in the general
vividness of his fancy, and in richness of invention. There may be
poetical passages in his works, but I certainly think that his writings in
general are quite distinct from poetry; and that for the reason before
given, namely, that the subject-matter of them is not poetical. The finest
part of them are illustrations or personifications of dry abstract
ideas;[135] and the union between the idea and the illustration is not of
that perfect and pleasing kind as to constitute poetry, or indeed to be
admissible, but for the effect intended to be produced by it; that is, by
every means in our power to give animation and attraction to subjects in
themselves barren of ornament, but which at the same time are pregnant
with the most important consequences, and in which the understanding and
the passions are equally interested.

I have heard it remarked by a person, to whose opinion I would sooner
submit than to a general council of critics, that the sound of Burke's
prose is not musical; that it wants cadence; and that instead of being so
lavish of his imagery as is generally supposed, he seemed to him to be
rather parsimonious in the use of it, always expanding and making the most
of his ideas. This may be true if we compare him with some of our poets,
or perhaps with some of our early prose writers, but not if we compare him
with any of our political writers or parliamentary speakers. There are
some very fine things of Lord Bolingbroke's on the same subjects, but not
equal to Burke's. As for Junius, he is at the head of his class; but that
class is not the highest. He has been said to have more dignity than
Burke. Yes--if the stalk of a giant is less dignified than the strut of a
_petit-maître_. I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of Junius, but
grandeur is not the character of his composition; and if it is not to be
found in Burke, it is to be found nowhere.



X

MR. WORDSWORTH


Mr. Wordsworth's genius is a pure emanation of the Spirit of the Age. Had
he lived in any other period of the world, he would never have been heard
of. As it is, he has some difficulty to contend with the hebetude of his
intellect, and the meanness of his subject. With him "lowliness is young
ambition's ladder;" but he finds it a toil to climb in this way the steep
of Fame. His homely Muse can hardly raise her wing from the ground, nor
spread her hidden glories to the sun. He has "no figures nor no fantasies,
which busy _passion_ draws in the brains of men:" neither the gorgeous
machinery of mythologic lore, nor the splendid colours of poetic diction.
His style is vernacular: he delivers household truths. He sees nothing
loftier than human hopes; nothing deeper than the human heart. This he
probes, this he tampers with, this he poises, with all its incalculable
weight of thought and feeling, in his hands, and at the same time calms
the throbbing pulses of his own heart, by keeping his eye ever fixed on
the face of nature. If he can make the life-blood flow from the wounded
breast, this is the living colouring with which he paints his verse: if he
can assuage the pain or close up the wound with the balm of solitary
musing, or the healing power of plants and herbs and "skyey influences,"
this is the sole triumph of his art. He takes the simplest elements of
nature and of the human mind, the mere abstract conditions inseparable
from our being, and tries to compound a new system of poetry from them;
and has perhaps succeeded as well as any one could. "_Nihil humani a me
alienum puto_"--is the motto of his works. He thinks nothing low or
indifferent of which this can be affirmed: every thing that professes to
be more than this, that is not an absolute essence of truth and feeling,
he holds to be vitiated, false, and spurious. In a word, his poetry is
founded on setting up an opposition (and pushing it to the utmost length)
between the natural and the artificial: between the spirit of humanity,
and the spirit of fashion and of the world!

It is one of the innovations of the time. It partakes of, and is carried
along with, the revolutionary movement of our age: the political changes
of the day were the model on which he formed and conducted his poetical
experiments. His Muse (it cannot be denied, and without this we cannot
explain its character at all) is a levelling one. It proceeds on a
principle of equality, and strives to reduce all things to the same
standard. It is distinguished by a proud humility. It relies upon its own
resources, and disdains external show and relief. It takes the commonest
events and objects, as a test to prove that nature is always interesting
from its inherent truth and beauty, without any of the ornaments of dress
or pomp of circumstances to set it off. Hence the unaccountable mixture of
seeming simplicity and real abstruseness in the _Lyrical Ballads_. Fools
have laughed at, wise men scarcely understand them. He takes a subject or
a story merely as pegs or loops to hang thought and feeling on; the
incidents are trifling, in proportion to his contempt for imposing
appearances; the reflections are profound, according to the gravity and
aspiring pretensions of his mind.

His popular, inartificial style gets rid (at a blow) of all the trappings
of verse, of all the high places of poetry: "the cloud-capt towers, the
solemn temples, the gorgeous palaces," are swept to the ground, and "like
the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind." All the
traditions of learning, all the superstitions of age, are obliterated and
effaced. We begin _de novo_, on a _tabula rasa_ of poetry. The purple
pall, the nodding plume of tragedy, are exploded as mere pantomime and
trick, to return to the simplicity of truth and nature. Kings, queens,
priests, nobles, the altar and the throne, the distinctions of rank,
birth, wealth, power, "the judge's robe, the marshal's truncheon, the
ceremony that to great ones 'longs," are not to be found here. The author
tramples on the pride of art with greater pride. The Ode and Epode, the
Strophe and the Antistrophe, he laughs to scorn. The harp of Homer, the
trump of Pindar and of Alcæus are still. The decencies of costume, the
decorations of vanity are stripped off without mercy as barbarous, idle,
and Gothic. The jewels in the crisped hair, the diadem on the polished
brow are thought meretricious, theatrical, vulgar; and nothing contents
his fastidious taste beyond a simple garland of flowers. Neither does he
avail himself of the advantages which nature or accident holds out to him.
He chooses to have his subject a foil to his invention, to owe nothing but
to himself. He gathers manna in the wilderness, he strikes the barren rock
for the gushing moisture. He elevates the mean by the strength of his own
aspirations; he clothes the naked with beauty and grandeur from the stores
of his own recollections. No cypress grove loads his verse with funeral
pomp: but his imagination lends "a sense of joy

  "To the bare trees and mountains bare,
  And grass in the green field."

No storm, no shipwreck startles us by its horrors: but the rainbow lifts
its head in the cloud, and the breeze sighs through the withered fern. No
sad vicissitude of fate, no overwhelming catastrophe in nature deforms his
page: but the dewdrop glitters on the bending flower, the tear collects in
the glistening eye.

  "Beneath the hills, along the flowery vales,
  The generations are prepared; the pangs,
  The internal pangs are ready; the dread strife
  Of poor humanity's afflicted will,
  Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny."

As the lark ascends from its low bed on fluttering wing, and salutes the
morning skies; so Mr. Wordsworth's unpretending Muse, in russet guise,
scales the summits of reflection, while it makes the round earth its
footstool, and its home!

Possibly a good deal of this may be regarded as the effect of disappointed
views and an inverted ambition. Prevented by native pride and indolence
from climbing the ascent of learning or greatness, taught by political
opinions to say to the vain pomp and glory of the world, "I hate ye,"
seeing the path of classical and artificial poetry blocked up by the
cumbrous ornaments of style and turgid _common-places_, so that nothing
more could be achieved in that direction but by the most ridiculous
bombast or the tamest servility; he has turned back partly from the bias
of his mind, partly perhaps from a judicious policy--has struck into the
sequestered vale of humble life, sought out the Muse among sheep-cotes and
hamlets and the peasant's mountain-haunts, has discarded all the tinsel
pageantry of verse, and endeavoured (not in vain) to aggrandise the
trivial and add the charm of novelty to the familiar. No one has shown the
same imagination in raising trifles into importance: no one has displayed
the same pathos in treating of the simplest feelings of the heart.
Reserved, yet haughty, having no unruly or violent passions, (or those
passions having been early suppressed,) Mr. Wordsworth has passed his life
in solitary musing, or in daily converse with the face of nature. He
exemplifies in an eminent degree the power of _association_; for his
poetry has no other source or character. He has dwelt among pastoral
scenes, till each object has become connected with a thousand feelings, a
link in the chain of thought, a fibre of his own heart. Every one is by
habit and familiarity strongly attached to the place of his birth, or to
objects that recall the most pleasing and eventful circumstances of his
life. But to the author of the _Lyrical Ballads_, nature is a kind of
home; and he may be said to take a personal interest in the universe.
There is no image so insignificant that it has not in some mood or other
found the way into his heart: no sound that does not awaken the memory of
other years--

  "To him the meanest flower that blows can give
  Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

The daisy looks up to him with sparkling eye as an old acquaintance: the
cuckoo haunts him with sounds of early youth not to be expressed: a
linnet's nest startles him with boyish delight: an old withered thorn is
weighed down with a heap of recollections: a grey cloak, seen on some wild
moor, torn by the wind, or drenched in the rain, afterwards becomes an
object of imagination to him: even the lichens on the rock have a life and
being in his thoughts. He has described all these objects in a way and
with an intensity of feeling that no one else had done before him, and has
given a new view or aspect of nature. He is in this sense the most
original poet now living, and the one whose writings could the least be
spared: for they have no substitute elsewhere. The vulgar do not read
them, the learned, who see all things through books, do not understand
them, the great despise, the fashionable may ridicule them: but the author
has created himself an interest in the heart of the retired and lonely
student of nature, which can never die. Persons of this class will still
continue to feel what he has felt: he has expressed what they might in
vain wish to express, except with glistening eye and faultering tongue!
There is a lofty philosophic tone, a thoughtful humanity, infused into his
pastoral vein. Remote from the passions and events of the great world, he
has communicated interest and dignity to the primal movements of the heart
of man, and ingrafted his own conscious reflections on the casual thoughts
of hinds and shepherds. Nursed amidst the grandeur of mountain scenery, he
has stooped to have a nearer view of the daisy under his feet, or plucked
a branch of white-thorn from the spray: but in describing it, his mind
seems imbued with the majesty and solemnity of the objects around him--the
tall rock lifts its head in the erectness of his spirit; the cataract
roars in the sound of his verse; and in its dim and mysterious meaning,
the mists seem to gather in the hollows of Helvellyn, and the forked
Skiddaw hovers in the distance. There is little mention of mountainous
scenery in Mr. Wordsworth's poetry; but by internal evidence one might be
almost sure that it is written in a mountainous country, from its
bareness, its simplicity, its loftiness, and its depth!

His later philosophic productions have a somewhat different character.
They are a departure from, a dereliction of his first principles. They are
classical and courtly. They are polished in style, without being gaudy;
dignified in subject, without affectation. They seem to have been composed
not in a cottage at Grasmere, but among the half-inspired groves and
stately recollections of Cole-Orton. We might allude in particular, for
examples of what we mean, to the lines on a Picture by Claude Lorraine,
and to the exquisite poem, entitled _Laodamia_. The last of these
breathes the pure spirit of the finest fragments of antiquity--the
sweetness, the gravity, the strength, the beauty and the languor of
death--

  "Calm contemplation and majestic pains."

Its glossy brilliancy arises from the perfection of the finishing, like
that of careful sculpture, not from gaudy colouring--the texture of the
thoughts has the smoothness and solidity of marble. It is a poem that
might be read aloud in Elysium, and the spirits of departed heroes and
sages would gather round to listen to it! Mr. Wordsworth's philosophic
poetry, with a less glowing aspect and less tumult in the veins than Lord
Byron's on similar occasions, bends a calmer and keener eye on mortality;
the impression, if less vivid, is more pleasing and permanent; and we
confess it (perhaps it is a want of taste and proper feeling) that there
are lines and poems of our author's, that we think of ten times for once
that we recur to any of Lord Byron's. Or if there are any of the latter's
writings, that we can dwell upon in the same way, that is, as lasting and
heart-felt sentiments, it is when, laying aside his usual pomp and
pretension, he descends with Mr. Wordsworth to the common ground of a
disinterested humanity. It may be considered as characteristic of our
poet's writings, that they either make no impression on the mind at all,
seem mere _nonsense-verses_, or that they leave a mark behind them that
never wears out. They either

  "Fall blunted from the indurated breast"--

without any perceptible result, or they absorb it like a passion. To one
class of readers he appears sublime, to another (and we fear the largest)
ridiculous. He has probably realised Milton's wish,--"and fit audience
found, though few:" but we suspect he is not reconciled to the
alternative. There are delightful passages in the EXCURSION, both of
natural description and of inspired reflection (passages of the latter
kind that in the sound of the thoughts and of the swelling language
resemble heavenly symphonies, mournful _requiems_ over the grave of human
hopes); but we must add, in justice and in sincerity, that we think it
impossible that this work should ever become popular, even in the same
degree as the _Lyrical Ballads_. It affects a system without having any
intelligible clue to one; and instead of unfolding a principle in various
and striking lights, repeats the same conclusions till they become flat
and insipid. Mr. Wordsworth's mind is obtuse, except as it is the organ
and the receptacle of accumulated feelings: it is not analytic, but
synthetic; it is reflecting, rather than theoretical. The EXCURSION, we
believe, fell still-born from the press. There was something abortive, and
clumsy, and ill-judged in the attempt. It was long and laboured. The
personages, for the most part, were low, the fare rustic: the plan raised
expectations which were not fulfilled, and the effect was like being
ushered into a stately hall and invited to sit down to a splendid banquet
in the company of clowns, and with nothing but successive courses of
apple-dumplings served up. It was not even _toujours perdrix_!

Mr. Wordsworth, in his person, is above the middle size, with marked
features, and an air somewhat stately and Quixotic. He reminds one of some
of Holbein's heads, grave, saturnine, with a slight indication of sly
humour, kept under by the manners of the age or by the pretensions of the
person. He has a peculiar sweetness in his smile, and great depth and
manliness and a rugged harmony, in the tones of his voice. His manner of
reading his own poetry is particularly imposing; and in his favourite
passages his eye beams with preternatural lustre, and the meaning labours
slowly up from his swelling breast. No one who has seen him at these
moments could go away with an impression that he was a "man of no mark or
likelihood." Perhaps the comment of his face and voice is necessary to
convey a full idea of his poetry. His language may not be intelligible,
but his manner is not to be mistaken. It is clear that he is either mad or
inspired. In company, even in a _tête-à-tête_, Mr. Wordsworth is often
silent, indolent, and reserved. If he is become verbose and oracular of
late years, he was not so in his better days. He threw out a bold or an
indifferent remark without either effort or pretension, and relapsed into
musing again. He shone most (because he seemed most roused and animated)
in reciting his own poetry, or in talking about it. He sometimes gave
striking views of his feelings and trains of association in composing
certain passages; or if one did not always understand his distinctions,
still there was no want of interest--there was a latent meaning worth
inquiring into, like a vein of ore that one cannot exactly hit upon at the
moment, but of which there are sure indications. His standard of poetry is
high and severe, almost to exclusiveness. He admits of nothing below,
scarcely of any thing above himself. It is fine to hear him talk of the
way in which certain subjects should have been treated by eminent poets,
according to his notions of the art. Thus he finds fault with Dryden's
description of Bacchus in the _Alexander's Feast_, as if he were a mere
good-looking youth, or boon companion--

  "Flushed with a purple grace,
  He shows his honest face"--

instead of representing the God returning from the conquest of India,
crowned with vine-leaves, and drawn by panthers, and followed by troops
of satyrs, of wild men and animals that he had tamed. You would think, in
hearing him speak on this subject, that you saw Titian's picture of the
meeting of _Bacchus_ and _Ariadne_--so classic were his conceptions, so
glowing his style. Milton is his great idol, and he sometimes dares to
compare himself with him. His Sonnets, indeed, have something of the same
high-raised tone and prophetic spirit. Chaucer is another prime favourite
of his, and he has been at the pains to modernize some of the Canterbury
Tales. Those persons who look upon Mr. Wordsworth as a merely puerile
writer, must be rather at a loss to account for his strong predilection
for such geniuses as Dante and Michael Angelo. We do not think our author
has any very cordial sympathy with Shakspeare. How should he? Shakspeare
was the least of an egotist of anybody in the world. He does not much
relish the variety and scope of dramatic composition. "He hates those
interlocutions between Lucius and Caius." Yet Mr. Wordsworth himself wrote
a tragedy when he was young; and we have heard the following energetic
lines quoted from it, as put into the mouth of a person smit with remorse
for some rash crime:

                "Action is momentary,
  The motion of a muscle this way or that;
  Suffering is long, obscure, and infinite!"

Perhaps for want of light and shade, and the unshackled spirit of the
drama, this performance was never brought forward. Our critic has a great
dislike to Gray, and a fondness for Thomson and Collins. It is mortifying
to hear him speak of Pope and Dryden, whom, because they have been
supposed to have all the possible excellences of poetry, he will allow to
have none. Nothing, however, can be fairer, or more amusing, than the way
in which he sometimes exposes the unmeaning verbiage of modern poetry.
Thus, in the beginning of Dr. Johnson's _Vanity of Human Wishes_--

  "Let observation with extensive view
  Survey mankind from China to Peru"--

he says there is a total want of imagination accompanying the words, the
same idea is repeated three times under the disguise of a different
phraseology: it comes to this--"let _observation_, with extensive
_observation_, _observe_ mankind;" or take away the first line, and the
second,

  "Survey mankind from China to Peru,"

literally conveys the whole. Mr. Wordsworth is, we must say, a perfect
Drawcansir as to prose writers. He complains of the dry reasoners and
matter-of-fact people for their want of _passion_; and he is jealous of
the rhetorical declaimers and rhapsodists as trenching on the province of
poetry. He condemns all French writers (as well of poetry as prose) in the
lump. His list in this way is indeed small. He approves of Walton's
Angler, Paley, and some other writers of an inoffensive modesty of
pretension. He also likes books of voyages and travels, and Robinson
Crusoe. In art, he greatly esteems Bewick's woodcuts, and Waterloo's
sylvan etchings. But he sometimes takes a higher tone, and gives his mind
fair play. We have known him enlarge with a noble intelligence and
enthusiasm on Nicolas Poussin's fine landscape-compositions, pointing out
the unity of design that pervades them, the superintending mind, the
imaginative principle that brings all to bear on the same end; and
declaring he would not give a rush for any landscape that did not express
the time of day, the climate, the period of the world it was meant to
illustrate, or had not this character of _wholeness_ in it. His eye also
does justice to Rembrandt's fine and masterly effects. In the way in which
that artist works something out of nothing, and transforms the stump of a
tree, a common figure into an _ideal_ object, by the gorgeous light and
shade thrown upon it, he perceives an analogy to his own mode of investing
the minute details of nature with an atmosphere of sentiment; and in
pronouncing Rembrandt to be a man of genius, feels that he strengthens his
own claim to the title. It has been said of Mr. Wordsworth, that "he hates
conchology, that he hates the Venus of Medicis." But these, we hope, are
mere epigrams and _jeux-d'esprit_, as far from truth as they are free from
malice; a sort of running satire or critical clenches--

  "Where one for sense and one for rhyme
  Is quite sufficient at one time."

We think, however, that if Mr. Wordsworth had been a more liberal and
candid critic, he would have been a more sterling writer. If a greater
number of sources of pleasure had been open to him, he would have
communicated pleasure to the world more frequently. Had he been less
fastidious in pronouncing sentence on the works of others, his own would
have been received more favourably, and treated more leniently. The
current of his feelings is deep, but narrow; the range of his
understanding is lofty and aspiring rather than discursive. The force, the
originality, the absolute truth and identity with which he feels some
things, makes him indifferent to so many others. The simplicity and
enthusiasm of his feelings, with respect to nature, renders him bigotted
and intolerant in his judgments of men and things. But it happens to him,
as to others, that his strength lies in his weakness; and perhaps we have
no right to complain. We might get rid of the cynic and the egotist, and
find in his stead a common-place man. We should "take the good the Gods
provide us:" a fine and original vein of poetry is not one of their most
contemptible gifts, and the rest is scarcely worth thinking of, except as
it may be a mortification to those who expect perfection from human
nature; or who have been idle enough at some period of their lives, to
deify men of genius as possessing claims above it. But this is a chord
that jars, and we shall not dwell upon it.

Lord Byron we have called, according to the old proverb, "the spoiled
child of fortune:" Mr. Wordsworth might plead, in mitigation of some
peculiarities, that he is "the spoiled child of disappointment." We are
convinced, if he had been early a popular poet, he would have borne his
honours meekly, and would have been a person of great _bonhommie_ and
frankness of disposition. But the sense of injustice and of undeserved
ridicule sours the temper and narrows the views. To have produced works of
genius, and to find them neglected or treated with scorn is one of the
heaviest trials of human patience. We exaggerate our own merits when they
are denied by others, and are apt to grudge and cavil at every particle of
praise bestowed on those to whom we feel a conscious superiority. In mere
self-defence we turn against the world, when it turns against us; brood
over the undeserved slights we receive; and thus the genial current of the
soul is stopped, or vents itself in effusions of petulance and
self-conceit. Mr. Wordsworth has thought too much of contemporary critics
and criticism; and less than he ought of the award of posterity, and of
the opinion, we do not say of private friends, but of those who were made
so by their admiration of his genius. He did not court popularity by a
conformity to established models, and he ought not to have been surprised
that his originality was not understood as a matter of course. He has
_gnawed too much on the bridle_; and has often thrown out crusts to the
critics, in mere defiance or as a point of honour when he was challenged,
which otherwise his own good sense would have withheld. We suspect that
Mr. Wordsworth's feelings are a little morbid in this respect, or that he
resents censure more than he is gratified by praise. Otherwise, the tide
has turned much in his favour of late years--he has a large body of
determined partisans--and is at present sufficiently in request with the
public to save or relieve him from the last necessity to which a man of
genius can be reduced--that of becoming the God of his own idolatry!



XI

MR. COLERIDGE


The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers; and the reason is,
that the world is growing old. We are so far advanced in the Arts and
Sciences, that we live in retrospect, and doat on past achievements. The
accumulation of knowledge has been so great, that we are lost in wonder at
the height it has reached, instead of attempting to climb or add to it;
while the variety of objects distracts and dazzles the looker-on. What
_niche_ remains unoccupied? What path untried? What is the use of doing
anything, unless we could do better than all those who have gone before
us? What hope is there of this? We are like those who have been to see
some noble monument of art, who are content to admire without thinking of
rivalling it; or like guests after a feast, who praise the hospitality of
the donor "and thank the bounteous Pan"--perhaps carrying away some
trifling fragments; or like the spectators of a mighty battle, who still
hear its sound afar off, and the clashing of armour and the neighing of
the war-horse and the shout of victory is in their ears, like the rushing
of innumerable waters!

MR. COLERIDGE has "a mind reflecting ages past:" his voice is like the
echo of the congregated roar of the "dark rearward and abyss" of thought.
He who has seen a mouldering tower by the side of a chrystal lake, hid by
the mist, but glittering in the wave below, may conceive the dim,
gleaming, uncertain intelligence of his eye: he who has marked the evening
clouds uprolled (a world of vapours), has seen the picture of his mind,
unearthly, unsubstantial, with gorgeous tints and ever-varying forms--

  "That which was now a horse, even with a thought
  The rack dislimns, and makes it indistinct
  As water is in water."


Our author's mind is (as he himself might express it) _tangential_. There
is no subject on which he has not touched, none on which he has rested.
With an understanding fertile, subtle, expansive, "quick, forgetive,
apprehensive," beyond all living precedent, few traces of it will perhaps
remain. He lends himself to all impressions alike; he gives up his mind
and liberty of thought to none. He is a general lover of art and science,
and wedded to no one in particular. He pursues knowledge as a mistress,
with outstretched hands and winged speed; but as he is about to embrace
her, his Daphne turns--alas! not to a laurel! Hardly a speculation has
been left on record from the earliest time, but it is loosely folded up in
Mr. Coleridge's memory, like a rich, but somewhat tattered piece of
tapestry: we might add (with more seeming than real extravagance), that
scarce a thought can pass through the mind of man, but its sound has at
some time or other passed over his head with rustling pinions. On whatever
question or author you speak, he is prepared to take up the theme with
advantage--from Peter Abelard down to Thomas Moore, from the subtlest
metaphysics to the politics of the _Courier_. There is no man of genius,
in whose praise he descants, but the critic seems to stand above the
author, and "what in him is weak, to strengthen, what is low, to raise and
support:" nor is there any work of genius that does not come out of his
hands like an illuminated Missal, sparkling even in its defects. If Mr.
Coleridge had not been the most impressive talker of his age, he would
probably have been the finest writer; but he lays down his pen to make
sure of an auditor, and mortgages the admiration of posterity for the
stare of an idler. If he had not been a poet, he would have been a
powerful logician; if he had not dipped his wing in the Unitarian
controversy, he might have soared to the very summit of fancy. But in
writing verse, he is trying to subject the Muse to _transcendental_
theories: in his abstract reasoning, he misses his way by strewing it with
flowers. All that he has done of moment, he had done twenty years ago:
since then, he may be said to have lived on the sound of his own voice.
Mr. Coleridge is too rich in intellectual wealth, to need to task himself
to any drudgery: he has only to draw the sliders of his imagination, and a
thousand subjects expand before him, startling him with their brilliancy,
or losing themselves in endless obscurity--

  "And by the force of blear illusion,
  They draw him on to his confusion."

What is the little he could add to the stock, compared with the countless
stores that lie about him, that he should stoop to pick up a name, or to
polish an idle fancy? He walks abroad in the majesty of an universal
understanding, eyeing the "rich strond," or golden sky above him, and
"goes sounding on his way," in eloquent accents, uncompelled and free!

Persons of the greatest capacity are often those, who for this reason do
the least; for surveying themselves from the highest point of view, amidst
the infinite variety of the universe, their own share in it seems
trifling, and scarce worth a thought, and they prefer the contemplation of
all that is, or has been, or can be, to the making a coil about doing
what, when done, is no better than vanity. It is hard to concentrate all
our attention and efforts on one pursuit, except from ignorance of
others; and without this concentration of our faculties, no great progress
can be made in any one thing. It is not merely that the mind is not
capable of the effort; it does not think the effort worth making. Action
is one; but thought is manifold. He whose restless eye glances through the
wide compass of nature and art, will not consent to have "his own nothings
monstered:" but he must do this, before he can give his whole soul to
them. The mind, after "letting contemplation have its fill," or

  "Sailing with supreme dominion
  Through the azure deep of air,"

sinks down on the ground, breathless, exhausted, powerless, inactive; or
if it must have some vent to its feelings, seeks the most easy and
obvious; is soothed by friendly flattery, lulled by the murmur of
immediate applause, thinks as it were aloud, and babbles in its dreams! A
scholar (so to speak) is a more disinterested and abstracted character
than a mere author. The first looks at the numberless volumes of a
library, and says, "All these are mine;" the other points to a single
volume (perhaps it may be an immortal one) and says, "My name is written
on the back of it." This is a puny and groveling ambition, beneath the
lofty amplitude of Mr. Coleridge's mind. No, he revolves in his wayward
soul, or utters to the passing wind, or discourses to his own shadow,
things mightier and more various!--Let us draw the curtain, and unlock the
shrine.

Learning rocked him in his cradle, and while yet a child,

  "He lisped in numbers, for the numbers came."

At sixteen he wrote his _Ode on Chatterton_, and he still reverts to that
period with delight, not so much as it relates to himself (for that
string of his own early promise of fame rather jars than otherwise) but as
exemplifying the youth of a poet. Mr. Coleridge talks of himself, without
being an egotist, for in him the individual is always merged in the
abstract and general. He distinguished himself at school and at the
University by his knowledge of the classics, and gained several prizes for
Greek epigrams. How many men are there (great scholars, celebrated names
in literature) who having done the same thing in their youth, have no
other idea all the rest of their lives but of this achievement, of a
fellowship and dinner, and who, installed in academic honours, would look
down on our author as a mere strolling bard! At Christ's Hospital, where
he was brought up, he was the idol of those among his schoolfellows, who
mingled with their bookish studies the music of thought and of humanity;
and he was usually attended round the cloisters by a group of these
(inspiring and inspired) whose hearts, even then, burnt within them as he
talked, and where the sounds yet linger to mock ELIA on his way, still
turning pensive to the past! One of the finest and rarest parts of Mr.
Coleridge's conversation, is when he expatiates on the Greek tragedians
(not that he is not well acquainted, when he pleases, with the epic poets,
or the philosophers, or orators, or historians of antiquity)--on the
subtle reasonings and melting pathos of Euripides, on the harmonious
gracefulness of Sophocles, tuning his love-laboured song, like sweetest
warblings from a sacred grove; on the high-wrought, trumpet-tongued
eloquence of Æschylus, whose Prometheus, above all, is like an Ode to
Fate, and a pleading with Providence, his thoughts being let loose as his
body is chained on his solitary rock, and his afflicted will (the emblem
of mortality)

  "Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny."

As the impassioned critic speaks and rises in his theme, you would think
you heard the voice of the Man hated by the Gods, contending with the wild
winds as they roar, and his eye glitters with the spirit of Antiquity!

Next, he was engaged with Hartley's tribes of mind, "etherial braid,
thought-woven,"--and he busied himself for a year or two with vibrations
and vibratiuncles, and the great law of association that binds all things
in its mystic chain, and the doctrine of Necessity (the mild teacher of
Charity) and the Millennium, anticipative of a life to come--and he
plunged deep into the controversy on Matter and Spirit, and, as an escape
from Dr. Priestley's Materialism, where he felt himself imprisoned by the
logician's spell, like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree, he became suddenly
enamoured of Bishop Berkeley's fairy-world,[136] and used in all companies
to build the universe, like a brave poetical fiction, of fine words--and
he was deep-read in Malebranche, and in Cudworth's Intellectual System (a
huge pile of learning, unwieldy, enormous) and in Lord Brook's
hieroglyphic theories, and in Bishop Butler's Sermons, and in the Duchess
of Newcastle's fantastic folios, and in Clarke and South and Tillotson,
and all the fine thinkers and masculine reasoners of that age--and
Leibnitz's _Pre-established Harmony_ reared its arch above his head, like
the rainbow in the cloud, covenanting with the hopes of man--and then he
fell plump, ten thousand fathoms down (but his wings saved him harmless)
into the _hortus siccus_ of Dissent, where he pared religion down to the
standard of reason, and stripped faith of mystery, and preached Christ
crucified and the Unity of the Godhead, and so dwelt for a while in the
spirit of John Huss and Jerome of Prague and Socinus and old John Zisca,
and ran through Neal's History of the Puritans, and Calamy's
Non-Conformists' Memorial, having like thoughts and passions with
them--but then Spinoza became his God, and he took up the vast chain of
being in his hand, and the round world became the centre and the soul of
all things in some shadowy sense, forlorn of meaning, and around him he
beheld the living traces and the sky-pointing proportions of the mighty
Pan--but poetry redeemed him from this spectral philosophy, and he bathed
his heart in beauty, and gazed at the golden light of heaven, and drank of
the spirit of the universe, and wandered at eve by fairy-stream or
fountain,

       ----"When he saw nought but beauty,
  When he heard the voice of that Almighty One
  In every breeze that blew, or wave that murmured"--

and wedded with truth in Plato's shade, and in the writings of Proclus and
Plotinus saw the ideas of things in the eternal mind, and unfolded all
mysteries with the Schoolmen and fathomed the depths of Duns Scotus and
Thomas Aquinas, and entered the third heaven with Jacob Behmen, and walked
hand in hand with Swedenborg through the pavilions of the New Jerusalem,
and sung his faith in the promise and in the word in his _Religious
Musings_--and lowering himself from that dizzy height, poised himself on
Milton's wings, and spread out his thoughts in charity with the glad prose
of Jeremy Taylor, and wept over Bowles's Sonnets, and studied Cowper's
blank verse, and betook himself to Thomson's Castle of Indolence, and
sported with the wits of Charles the Second's days and of Queen Anne, and
relished Swift's style and that of the John Bull (Arbuthnot's we mean, not
Mr. Croker's), and dallied with the British Essayists and Novelists, and
knew all qualities of more modern writers with a learned spirit, Johnson,
and Goldsmith, and Junius, and Burke, and Godwin, and the Sorrows of
Werter, and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Voltaire, and Marivaux, and
Crebillon, and thousands more--now "laughed with Rabelais in his easy
chair" or pointed to Hogarth, or afterwards dwelt on Claude's classic
scenes, or spoke with rapture of Raphael, and compared the women at Rome
to figures that had walked out of his pictures, or visited the Oratory of
Pisa, and described the works of Giotto and Ghirlandaio and Massaccio, and
gave the moral of the picture of the Triumph of Death, where the beggars
and the wretched invoke his dreadful dart, but the rich and mighty of the
earth quail and shrink before it; and in that land of siren sights and
sounds, saw a dance of peasant girls, and was charmed with lutes and
gondolas,--or wandered into Germany and lost himself in the labyrinths of
the Hartz Forest and of the Kantean philosophy, and amongst the cabalistic
names of Fichtè and Schelling and Lessing, and God knows who--this was
long after, but all the former while he had nerved his heart and filled
his eyes with tears, as he hailed the rising orb of liberty, since
quenched in darkness and in blood, and had kindled his affections at the
blaze of the French Revolution, and sang for joy when the towers of the
Bastile and the proud places of the insolent and the oppressor fell, and
would have floated his bark, freighted with fondest fancies, across the
Atlantic wave with Southey and others to seek for peace and freedom--

  "In Philarmonia's undivided dale!"

Alas! "Frailty, thy name is _Genius_!"--What is become of all this mighty
heap of hope, of thought, of learning, and humanity? It has ended in
swallowing doses of oblivion and in writing paragraphs in the
_Courier_.--Such and so little is the mind of man!

It was not to be supposed that Mr. Coleridge could keep on at the rate he
set off; he could not realize all he knew or thought, and less could not
fix his desultory ambition; other stimulants supplied the place, and kept
up the intoxicating dream, the fever and the madness of his early
impressions. Liberty (the philosopher's and the poet's bride) had fallen a
victim, meanwhile, to the murderous practice of the hag, Legitimacy.
Proscribed by court-hirelings, too romantic for the herd of vulgar
politicians, our enthusiast stood at bay, and at last turned on the pivot
of a subtle casuistry to the _unclean side_: but his discursive reason
would not let him trammel himself into a poet-laureate or
stamp-distributor, and he stopped, ere he had quite passed that well-known
"bourne from whence no traveller returns"--and so has sunk into torpid,
uneasy repose, tantalized by useless resources, haunted by vain
imaginings, his lips idly moving, but his heart for ever still, or, as the
shattered chords vibrate of themselves, making melancholy music to the ear
of memory! Such is the fate of genius in an age, when in the unequal
contest with sovereign wrong, every man is ground to powder who is not
either a born slave, or who does not willingly and at once offer up the
yearnings of humanity and the dictates of reason as a welcome sacrifice to
besotted prejudice and loathsome power.

Of all Mr. Coleridge's productions, the _Ancient Mariner_ is the only one
that we could with confidence put into any person's hands, on whom we
wished to impress a favourable idea of his extraordinary powers. Let
whatever other objections be made to it, it is unquestionably a work of
genius--of wild, irregular, overwhelming imagination, and has that rich,
varied movement in the verse, which gives a distant idea of the lofty or
changeful tones of Mr. Coleridge's voice. In the _Christobel_, there is
one splendid passage on divided friendship. The _Translation of Schiller's
Wallenstein_ is also a masterly production in its kind, faithful and
spirited. Among his smaller pieces there are occasional bursts of pathos
and fancy, equal to what we might expect from him; but these form the
exception, and not the rule. Such, for instance, is his affecting Sonnet
to the author of the Robbers.

  "Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die,
    If through the shudd'ring midnight I had sent
    From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent,
  That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry--
  That in no after-moment aught less vast
    Might stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout
    Black horror scream'd, and all her goblin rout
  From the more with'ring scene diminish'd pass'd.
  Ah! Bard tremendous in sublimity!
    Could I behold thee in thy loftier mood,
  Wand'ring at eve, with finely frenzied eye,
    Beneath some vast old tempest-swinging wood!
    Awhile, with mute awe gazing, I would brood,
  Then weep aloud in a wild ecstasy."

His Tragedy, entitled _Remorse_, is full of beautiful and striking
passages, but it does not place the author in the first rank of dramatic
writers. But if Mr. Coleridge's works do not place him in that rank, they
injure instead of conveying a just idea of the man, for he himself is
certainly in the first class of general intellect.

If our author's poetry is inferior to his conversation, his prose is
utterly abortive. Hardly a gleam is to be found in it of the brilliancy
and richness of those stores of thought and language that he pours out
incessantly, when they are lost like drops of water in the ground. The
principal work, in which he has attempted to embody his general view of
things, is the FRIEND, of which, though it contains some noble passages
and fine trains of thought, prolixity and obscurity are the most frequent
characteristics.



XII

MR. SOUTHEY


Perhaps the most pleasing and striking of all Mr. Southey's poems are not
his triumphant taunts hurled against oppression, are not his glowing
effusions to Liberty, but those in which, with a mild melancholy, he seems
conscious of his own infirmities of temper, and to feel a wish to correct
by thought and time the precocity and sharpness of his disposition. May
the quaint but affecting aspiration expressed in one of these be
fulfilled, that as he mellows into maturer age, all such asperities may
wear off, and he himself become

  "Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree!"


Mr. Southey's prose-style can hardly be too much praised. It is plain,
clear, pointed, familiar, perfectly modern in its texture, but with a
grave and sparkling admixture of _archaisms_ in its ornaments and
occasional phraseology. He is the best and most natural prose-writer of
any poet of the day; we mean that he is far better than Lord Byron, Mr.
Wordsworth, or Mr. Coleridge, for instance. The manner is perhaps superior
to the matter, that is, in his Essays and Reviews. There is rather a want
of originality and even of _impetus_: but there is no want of playful or
biting satire, of ingenuity, of casuistry, of learning and of information.
He is "full of wise saws and modern" (as well as ancient) "instances." Mr.
Southey may not always convince his opponents; but he seldom fails to
stagger, never to gall them. In a word, we may describe his style by
saying that it has not the body or thickness of port wine, but it is like
clear sherry, with kernels of old authors thrown into it!--He also excels
as an historian and prose-translator. His histories abound in information,
and exhibit proofs of the most indefatigable patience and industry. By no
uncommon process of the mind, Mr. Southey seems willing to steady the
extreme levity of his opinions and feelings by an appeal to facts. His
translations of the Spanish and French romances are also executed _con
amore_, and with the literary fidelity of a mere linguist. That of the
_Cid_, in particular, is a masterpiece. Not a word could be altered for
the better in the old scriptural style which it adopts in conformity to
the original. It is no less interesting in itself, or as a record of high
and chivalrous feelings and manners, than it is worthy of perusal as a
literary curiosity.

Mr. Southey's conversation has a little resemblance to a common-place
book; his habitual deportment to a piece of clock-work. He is not
remarkable either as a reasoner or an observer: but he is quick,
unaffected, replete with anecdote, various and retentive in his reading,
and exceedingly happy in his play upon words, as most scholars are who
give their minds this sportive turn. We have chiefly seen Mr. Southey in
company where few people appear to advantage, we mean in that of Mr.
Coleridge. He has not certainly the same range of speculation, nor the
same flow of sounding words, but he makes up by the details of knowledge
and by a scrupulous correctness of statement for what he wants in
originality of thought, or impetuous declamation. The tones of Mr.
Coleridge's voice are eloquence: those of Mr. Southey are meagre, shrill,
and dry. Mr. Coleridge's _forte_ is conversation, and he is conscious of
this: Mr. Southey evidently considers writing as his stronghold, and if
gravelled in an argument, or at a loss for an explanation, refers to
something he has written on the subject, or brings out his port-folio,
doubled down in dog-ears, in confirmation of some fact. He is scholastic
and professional in his ideas. He sets more value on what he writes than
on what he says: he is perhaps prouder of his library than of his own
productions--themselves a library! He is more simple in his manners than
his friend Mr. Coleridge; but at the same time less cordial or
conciliating. He is less vain, or has less hope of pleasing, and therefore
lays himself less out to please. There is an air of condescension in his
civility. With a tall, loose figure, a peaked austerity of countenance,
and no inclination to _embonpoint_, you would say he has something
puritanical, something ascetic in his appearance. He answers to
Mandeville's description of Addison, "a parson in a tye-wig." He is not a
boon companion, nor does he indulge in the pleasures of the table, nor in
any other vice; nor are we aware that Mr. Southey is chargeable with any
human frailty but--_want of charity_! Having fewer errors to plead guilty
to, he is less lenient to those of others. He was born an age too late.
Had he lived a century or two ago, he would have been a happy as well as
blameless character. But the distraction of the time has unsettled him,
and the multiplicity of his pretensions have jostled with each other. No
man in our day (at least no man of genius) has led so uniformly and
entirely the life of a scholar from boyhood to the present hour, devoting
himself to learning with the enthusiasm of an early love, with the
severity and constancy of a religious vow--and well would it have been for
him if he had confined himself to this, and not undertaken to pull down or
to patch up the State! However irregular in his opinions, Mr. Southey is
constant, unremitting, mechanical in his studies, and the performance of
his duties. There is nothing Pindaric or Shandean here. In all the
relations and charities of private life, he is correct, exemplary,
generous, just. We never heard a single impropriety laid to his charge;
and if he has many enemies, few men can boast more numerous or stauncher
friends.--The variety and piquancy of his writings form a striking
contrast to the mode in which they are produced. He rises early, and
writes or reads till breakfast-time. He writes or reads after breakfast
till dinner, after dinner till tea, and from tea till bed-time--

  "And follows so the ever-running year
  With profitable labour to his grave.--"

on Derwent's banks, beneath the foot of Skiddaw. Study serves him for
business, exercise, recreation. He passes from verse to prose, from
history to poetry, from reading to writing, by a stop-watch. He writes a
fair hand without blots, sitting upright in his chair, leaves off when he
comes to the bottom of the page, and changes the subject for another, as
opposite as the Antipodes. His mind is after all rather the recipient and
transmitter of knowledge, than the originator of it. He has hardly grasp
of thought enough to arrive at any great leading truth. His passions do
not amount to more than irritability. With some gall in his pen, and
coldness in his manner, he has a great deal of kindness in his heart. Rash
in his opinions, he is steady in his attachments--and is a man, in many
particulars admirable, in all respectable--his political inconsistency
alone excepted!



XIII

ELIA


So Mr. Charles Lamb chooses to designate himself; and as his lucubrations
under this _nom de guerre_ have gained considerable notice from the
public, we shall here attempt to describe his style and manner, and to
point out his beauties and defects.

Mr. Lamb, though he has borrowed from previous sources, instead of
availing himself of the most popular and admired, has groped out his way,
and made his most successful researches among the more obscure and
intricate, though certainly not the least pithy or pleasant of our
writers. He has raked among the dust and cobwebs of a remote period, has
exhibited specimens of curious relics, and pored over moth-eaten, decayed
manuscripts, for the benefit of the more inquisitive and discerning part
of the public. Antiquity after a time has the grace of novelty, as old
fashions revived are mistaken for new ones; and a certain quaintness and
singularity of style is an agreeable relief to the smooth and insipid
monotony of modern composition. Mr. Lamb has succeeded not by conforming
to the _Spirit of the Age_, but in opposition to it. He does not march
boldly along with the crowd, but steals off the pavement to pick his way
in the contrary direction. He prefers _bye-ways_ to _highways_. When the
full tide of human life pours along to some festive show, to some pageant
of a day, Elia would stand on one side to look over an old book-stall, or
stroll down some deserted pathway in search of a pensive description over
a tottering door-way, or some quaint device in architecture, illustrative
of embryo art and ancient manners. Mr. Lamb has the very soul of an
antiquarian, as this implies a reflecting humanity; the film of the past
hovers for ever before him. He is shy, sensitive, the reverse of every
thing coarse, vulgar, obtrusive, and _common-place_. He would fain
"shuffle off this mortal coil," and his spirit clothes itself in the garb
of elder time, homelier, but more durable. He is borne along with no
pompous paradoxes, shines in no glittering tinsel of a fashionable
phraseology; is neither fop nor sophist. He has none of the turbulence or
froth of new-fangled opinions. His style runs pure and clear, though it
may often take an underground course, or be conveyed through old-fashioned
conduit-pipes. Mr. Lamb does not court popularity, nor strut in gaudy
plumes, but shrinks from every kind of ostentatious and obvious pretension
into the retirement of his own mind.

  "The self-applauding bird, the peacock see:--
  Mark what a sumptuous pharisee is he!
  Meridian sun-beams tempt him to unfold
  His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold:
  He treads as if, some solemn music near,
  His measured step were governed by his ear:
  And seems to say--'Ye meaner fowl, give place,
  I am all splendour, dignity, and grace!'
  Not so the pheasant on his charms presumes,
  Though he too has a glory in his plumes.
  He, Christian-like, retreats with modest mien
  To the close copse or far sequestered green,
  And shines without desiring to be seen."


These lines well describe the modest and delicate beauties of Mr. Lamb's
writings, contrasted with the lofty and vainglorious pretensions of some
of his contemporaries. This gentleman is not one of those who pay all
their homage to the prevailing idol: he thinks that

  "Newborn gauds are made and moulded of things past,"

nor does he

  "Give to dust that is a little gilt
  More laud than gilt o'er-dusted."

His convictions "do not in broad rumor lie," nor are they "set off to the
world in the glistering foil" of fashion; but "live and breathe aloft in
those pure eyes, and perfect judgment of all-seeing _time_." Mr. Lamb
rather affects and is tenacious of the obscure and remote: of that which
rests on its own intrinsic and silent merit; which scorns all alliance, or
even the suspicion of owing any thing to noisy clamour, to the glare of
circumstances. There is a fine tone of _chiaro-scuro_, a moral perspective
in his writings. He delights to dwell on that which is fresh to the eye of
memory; he yearns after and covets what soothes the frailty of human
nature. That touches him most nearly which is withdrawn to a certain
distance, which verges on the borders of oblivion:--that piques and
provokes his fancy most, which is hid from a superficial glance. That
which, though gone by, is still remembered, is in his view more genuine,
and has given more "vital signs that it will live," than a thing of
yesterday, that may be forgotten to-morrow. Death has in this sense the
spirit of life in it; and the shadowy has to our author something
substantial in it. Ideas savour most of reality in his mind; or rather his
imagination loiters on the edge of each, and a page of his writings
recalls to our fancy the _stranger_ on the grate, fluttering in its dusky
tenuity, with its idle superstition and hospitable welcome!

Mr. Lamb has a distaste to new faces, to new books, to new buildings, to
new customs. He is shy of all imposing appearances, of all assumptions of
self-importance, of all adventitious ornaments, of all mechanical
advantage, even to a nervous excess. It is not merely that he does not
rely upon or ordinarily avail himself of them; he holds them in
abhorrence, he utterly abjures and discards them, and places a great gulph
between him and them. He disdains all the vulgar artifices of authorship,
all the cant of criticism, and helps to notoriety. He has no grand
swelling theories to attract the visionary and the enthusiast, no passing
topics to allure the thoughtless and the vain. He evades the present, he
mocks the future. His affections revert to and settle on the past, but
then, even this must have something personal and local in it to interest
him deeply and thoroughly; he pitches his tent in the suburbs of existing
manners; brings down the account of character to the few straggling
remains of the last generation; seldom ventures beyond the bills of
mortality, and occupies that nice point between egotism and disinterested
humanity. No one makes the tour of our southern metropolis, or describes
the manners of the last age, so well as Mr. Lamb--with so fine, and yet so
formal an air--with such vivid obscurity, with such arch piquancy, such
picturesque quaintness, such smiling pathos. How admirably he has sketched
the former inmates of the South-Sea House: what "fine fretwork he makes of
their double and single entries!" With what a firm, yet subtle pencil he
has embodied _Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist_! How notably he embalms a
battered _beau_; how delightfully an amour, that was cold forty years ago,
revives in his pages! With what well-disguised humour, he introduces us to
his relations, and how freely he serves up his friends! Certainly, some of
his portraits are _fixtures_, and will do to hang up as lasting and lively
emblems of human infirmity. Then there is no one who has so sure an ear
for "the chimes at midnight," not even excepting Mr. Justice Shallow; nor
could Master Silence himself take his "cheese and pippins" with a more
significant and satisfactory air. With what a gusto Mr. Lamb describes the
inns and courts of law, the Temple and Gray's-Inn, as if he had been a
student there for the last two hundred years, and had been as well
acquainted with the person of Sir Francis Bacon as he is with his portrait
or writings! It is hard to say whether St. John's Gate is connected with
more intense and authentic associations in his mind, as a part of old
London Wall, or as the frontispiece (time out of mind) of the Gentleman's
Magazine. He haunts Watling-street like a gentle spirit; the avenues to
the play-houses are thick with panting recollections, and
Christ's-Hospital still breathes the balmy breath of infancy in his
description of it! Whittington and his Cat are a fine hallucination for
Mr. Lamb's historic Muse, and we believe he never heartily forgave a
certain writer who took the subject of Guy Faux out of his hands. The
streets of London are his fairy-land, teeming with wonder, with life and
interest to his retrospective glance, as it did to the eager eye of
childhood; he has contrived to weave its tritest traditions into a bright
and endless romance!

Mr. Lamb's taste in books is also fine, and it is peculiar. It is not the
worse for a little _idiosyncrasy_. He does not go deep into the Scotch
novels, but he is at home in Smollett or Fielding. He is little read in
Junius or Gibbon, but no man can give a better account of Burton's Anatomy
of Melancholy, or Sir Thomas Brown's Urn-Burial, or Fuller's Worthies, or
John Bunyan's Holy War. No one is more unimpressible to a specious
declamation: no one relishes a recondite beauty more. His admiration of
Shakspeare and Milton does not make him despise Pope; and he can read
Parnell with patience, and Gay with delight. His taste in French and
German literature is somewhat defective; nor has he made much progress in
the science of Political Economy or other abstruse studies, though he has
read vast folios of controversial divinity, merely for the sake of the
intricacy of style, and to save himself the pain of thinking. Mr. Lamb is
a good judge of prints and pictures. His admiration of Hogarth does credit
to both, particularly when it is considered that Leonardo da Vinci is his
next greatest favourite, and that his love of the _actual_ does not
proceed from a want of taste for the _ideal_. His worst fault is an
over-eagerness of enthusiasm, which occasionally makes him take a surfeit
of his highest favourites.--Mr. Lamb excels in familiar conversation
almost as much as in writing, when his modesty does not overpower his
self-possession. He is as little of a proser as possible, but he _blurts_
out the finest wit and sense in the world. He keeps a good deal in the
back-ground at first, till some excellent conceit pushes him forward, and
then he abounds in whim and pleasantry. There is a primitive simplicity
and self-denial about his manners; and a Quakerism in his personal
appearance, which is, however, relieved by a fine Titian head, full of
dumb eloquence! Mr. Lamb is a general favourite with those who know him.
His character is equally singular and amiable. He is endeared to his
friends not less by his foibles than his virtues; he ensures their esteem
by the one, and does not wound their self-love by the other. He gains
ground in the opinion of others, by making no advances in his own. We
easily admire genius where the diffidence of the possessor makes our
acknowledgment of merit seem like a sort of patronage, or act of
condescension, as we willingly extend our good offices where they are not
exacted as obligations, or repaid with sullen indifference.--The style of
the Essays of Elia is liable to the charge of a certain _mannerism_. His
sentences are cast in the mould of old authors; his expressions are
borrowed from them; but his feelings and observations are genuine and
original, taken from actual life, or from his own breast; and he may be
said (if any one can) "to have coined his heart for _jests_," and to have
split his brain for fine distinctions! Mr. Lamb, from the peculiarity of
his exterior and address as an author, would probably never have made his
way by detached and independent efforts; but, fortunately for himself and
others, he has taken advantage of the Periodical Press, where he has been
stuck into notice, and the texture of his compositions is assuredly fine
enough to bear the broadest glare of popularity that has hitherto shone
upon them. Mr. Lamb's literary efforts have procured him civic honours (a
thing unheard of in our times), and he has been invited, in his character
of ELIA, to dine at a select party with the Lord Mayor. We should prefer
this distinction to that of being poet-laureat. We would recommend to Mr.
Waithman's perusal (if Mr. Lamb has not anticipated us) the _Rosamond
Gray_ and the _John Woodvil_ of the same author, as an agreeable relief to
the noise of a City feast, and the heat of city elections. A friend, a
short time ago, quoted some lines[137] from the last-mentioned of these
works, which meeting Mr. Godwin's eye, he was so struck with the beauty of
the passage, and with a consciousness of having seen it before, that he
was uneasy till he could recollect where, and after hunting in vain for it
in Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and other not unlikely places, sent
to Mr. Lamb to know if he could help him to the author!



XIV

SIR WALTER SCOTT


Sir Walter has found out (oh, rare discovery!) that facts are better than
fiction; that there is no romance like the romance of real life; and that
if we can but arrive at what men feel, do, and say in striking and
singular situations, the result will be "more lively, audible, and full of
vent," than the fine-spun cobwebs of the brain. With reverence be it
spoken, he is like the man who having to imitate the squeaking of a pig
upon the stage, brought the animal under his coat with him. Our author has
conjured up the actual people he has to deal with, or as much as he could
get of them, in "their habits as they lived." He has ransacked old
chronicles, and poured the contents upon his page; he has squeezed out
musty records; he has consulted wayfaring pilgrims, bed-rid sybils; he has
invoked the spirits of the air; he has conversed with the living and the
dead, and let them tell their story their own way; and by borrowing of
others, has enriched his own genius with everlasting variety, truth, and
freedom. He has taken his materials from the original, authentic sources,
in large concrete masses, and not tampered with or too much frittered them
away. He is only the amanuensis of truth and history. It is impossible to
say how fine his writings in consequence are, unless we could describe how
fine nature is. All that portion of the history of his country that he has
touched upon (wide as the scope is) the manners, the personages, the
events, the scenery, lives over again in his volumes. Nothing is
wanting--the illusion is complete. There is a hurtling in the air, a
trampling of feet upon the ground, as these perfect representations of
human character or fanciful belief come thronging back upon our
imaginations. We will merely recall a few of the subjects of his pencil to
the reader's recollection; for nothing we could add, by way of note or
commendation, could make the impression more vivid.

There is (first and foremost, because the earliest of our acquaintance)
the Baron of Bradwardine, stately, kind-hearted, whimsical, pedantic; and
Flora MacIvor (whom even _we_ forgive for her Jacobitism), the fierce Vich
Ian Vohr, and Evan Dhu, constant in death, and Davie Gellatly roasting his
eggs or turning his rhymes with restless volubility, and the two
stag-hounds that met Waverley, as fine as ever Titian painted, or Paul
Veronese:--then there is old Balfour of Burley, brandishing his sword and
his Bible with fire-eyed fury, trying a fall with the insolent, gigantic
Bothwell at the 'Change-house, and vanquishing him at the noble battle of
Loudon-hill; there is Bothwell himself, drawn to the life, proud, cruel,
selfish, profligate, but with the love-letters of the gentle Alice
(written thirty years before), and his verses to her memory found in his
pocket after his death: in the same volume of _Old Mortality_ is that lone
figure, like a figure in Scripture, of the woman sitting on the stone at
the turning to the mountain, to warn Burley that there is a lion in his
path; and the fawning Claverhouse, beautiful as a panther, smooth-looking,
blood-spotted; and the fanatics, Macbriar and Mucklewrath, crazed with
zeal and sufferings; and the inflexible Morton, and the faithful Edith,
who refused to "give her hand to another while her heart was with her
lover in the deep and dead sea." And in the _Heart of Mid Lothian_ we have
Effie Deans (that sweet, faded flower) and Jeanie, her more than sister,
and old David Deans, the patriarch of St. Leonard's Crags, and Butler, and
Dumbiedikes, eloquent in his silence, and Mr. Bartoline Saddle-tree and
his prudent helpmate, and Porteous swinging in the wind, and Madge
Wildfire, full of finery and madness, and her ghastly mother.--Again,
there is Meg Merrilies, standing on her rock, stretched on her bier with
"her head to the east," and Dirk Hatterick (equal to Shakspeare's Master
Barnardine), and Glossin, the soul of an attorney, and Dandy Dinmont, with
his terrier-pack and his pony Dumple, and the fiery Colonel Mannering, and
the modish old counsellor Pleydell, and Dominie Sampson,[138] and Rob Roy
(like the eagle in his eyry), and Baillie Nicol Jarvie, and the inimitable
Major Galbraith, and Rashleigh Osbaldistone, and Die Vernon, the best of
secret-keepers; and in the _Antiquary_, the ingenious and abstruse Mr.
Jonathan Oldbuck, and the old beadsman Edie Ochiltree, and that
preternatural figure of old Edith Elspeith, a living shadow, in whom the
lamp of life had been long extinguished, had it not been fed by remorse
and "thick-coming" recollections; and that striking picture of the effects
of feudal tyranny and fiendish pride, the unhappy Earl of Glenallan; and
the Black Dwarf, and his friend Habbie of the Heughfoot (the cheerful
hunter), and his cousin Grace Armstrong, fresh and laughing like the
morning; and the _Children of the Mist_, and the baying of the bloodhound
that tracks their steps at a distance (the hollow echoes are in our ears
now), and Amy and her hapless love, and the villain Varney, and the deep
voice of George of Douglas--and the immoveable Balafre, and Master Oliver
the Barber in Quentin Durward--and the quaint humour of the Fortunes of
Nigel, and the comic spirit of Peveril of the Peak--and the fine old
English romance of Ivanhoe. What a list of names! What a host of
associations! What a thing is human life! What a power is that of genius!
What a world of thought and feeling is thus rescued from oblivion! How
many hours of heartfelt satisfaction has our author given to the gay and
thoughtless! How many sad hearts has he soothed in pain and solitude! It
is no wonder that the public repay with lengthened applause and gratitude
the pleasure they receive. He writes as fast as they can read, and he does
not write himself down. He is always in the public eye, and we do not tire
of him. His worst is better than any other person's best. His
_back-grounds_ (and his later works are little else but back-grounds
capitally made out) are more attractive than the principal figures and
most complicated actions of other writers. His works (taken together) are
almost like a new edition of human nature. This is indeed to be an author!

The political bearing of the _Scotch Novels_ has been a considerable
recommendation to them. They are a relief to the mind, rarefied as it has
been with modern philosophy, and heated with ultra-radicalism. At a time
also, when we bid fair to revive the principles of the Stuarts, it is
interesting to bring us acquainted with their persons and misfortunes. The
candour of Sir Walter's historic pen levels our bristling prejudices on
this score, and sees fair play between Roundheads and Cavaliers, between
Protestant and Papist. He is a writer reconciling all the diversities of
human nature to the reader. He does not enter into the distinctions of
hostile sects or parties, but treats of the strength or the infirmity of
the human mind, of the virtues or vices of the human breast, as they are
to be found blended in the whole race of mankind. Nothing can show more
handsomely or be more gallantly executed. There was a talk at one time
that our author was about to take Guy Faux for the subject of one of his
novels, in order to put a more liberal and humane construction on the
Gunpowder Plot than our "No Popery" prejudices have hitherto permitted.
Sir Walter is a professed _clarifier_ of the age from the vulgar and still
lurking old-English antipathy to Popery and Slavery. Through some odd
process of _servile_ logic, it should seem, that in restoring the claims
of the Stuarts by the courtesy of romance, the House of Brunswick are more
firmly seated in point of fact, and the Bourbons, by collateral reasoning,
become legitimate! In any other point of view, we cannot possibly conceive
how Sir Walter imagines "he has done something to revive the declining
spirit of loyalty" by these novels. His loyalty is founded on _would-be_
treason: he props the actual throne by the shadow of rebellion. Does he
really think of making us enamoured of the "good old times" by the
faithful and harrowing portraits he has drawn of them? Would he carry us
back to the early stages of barbarism, of clanship, of the feudal system
as "a consummation devoutly to be wished?" Is he infatuated enough, or
does he so dote and drivel over his own slothful and self-willed
prejudices, as to believe that he will make a single convert to the beauty
of Legitimacy, that is, of lawless power and savage bigotry, when he
himself is obliged to apologize for the horrors he describes, and even
render his descriptions credible to the modern reader by referring to the
authentic history of these delectable times? He is indeed so besotted as
to the moral of his own story, that he has even the blindness to go out of
his way to have a fling at _flints_ and _dungs_ (the contemptible
ingredients, as he would have us believe, of a modern rabble) at the very
time when he is describing a mob of the twelfth century--a mob (one should
think) after the writer's own heart, without one particle of modern
philosophy or revolutionary politics in their composition, who were to a
man, to a hair, just what priests, and kings, and nobles _let_ them be,
and who were collected to witness (a spectacle proper to the times) the
burning of the lovely Rebecca at a stake for a sorceress, because she was
a Jewess, beautiful and innocent, and the consequent victim of insane
bigotry and unbridled profligacy. And it is at this moment (when the heart
is kindled and bursting with indignation at the revolting abuses of
self-constituted power) that Sir Walter _stops the press_ to have a sneer
at the people, and to put a spoke (as he thinks) in the wheel of upstart
innovation! This is what he "calls backing his friends"--it is thus he
administers charms and philtres to our love of Legitimacy, makes us
conceive a horror of all reform, civil, political, or religious, and would
fain put down the _Spirit of the Age_. The author of Waverley might just
as well get up and make a speech at a dinner at Edinburgh, abusing Mr.
Mac-Adam for his improvements in the roads, on the ground that they were
nearly _impassable_ in many places "sixty years since;" or object to Mr.
Peel's _Police-Bill_, by insisting that Hounslow-Heath was formerly a
scene of greater interest and terror to highwaymen and travellers, and cut
a greater figure in the Newgate Calendar than it does at present.--Oh!
Wickliff, Luther, Hampden, Sidney, Somers, mistaken Whigs, and thoughtless
Reformers in religion and politics, and all ye, whether poets or
philosophers, heroes or sages, inventors of arts or sciences, patriots,
benefactors of the human race, enlighteners and civilisers of the world,
who have (so far) reduced opinion to reason, and power to law, who are the
cause that we no longer burn witches and heretics at slow fires, that the
thumb-screws are no longer applied by ghastly, smiling judges, to extort
confession of imputed crimes from sufferers for conscience sake; that men
are no longer strung up like acorns on trees without judge or jury, or
hunted like wild beasts through thickets and glens, who have abated the
cruelty of priests, the pride of nobles, the divinity of kings in former
times: to whom we owe it, that we no longer wear round our necks the
collar of Gurth the swineherd, and of Wamba the jester; that the castles
of great lords are no longer the dens of banditti, whence they issue with
fire and sword to lay waste the land; that we no longer expire in
loathsome dungeons without knowing the cause, or have our right hands
struck off for raising them in self-defence against wanton insult; that we
can sleep without fear of being burnt in our beds, or travel without
making our wills; that no Amy Robsarts are thrown down trap-doors by
Richard Varneys with impunity; that no Red-Reiver of Westburn-Flat sets
fire to peaceful cottages; that no Claverhouse signs cold-blooded
death-warrants in sport; that we have no Tristan the Hermit, or
Petit-André, crawling near us, like spiders, and making our flesh creep,
and our hearts sicken within us at every movement of our lives--ye who
have produced this change in the face of nature and society, return to
earth once more, and beg pardon of Sir Walter and his patrons, who sigh at
not being able to undo all that you have done! Leaving this question,
there are two other remarks which we wished to make on the Novels. The one
was, to express our admiration of the good-nature of the mottos, in which
the author has taken occasion to remember and quote almost every living
author (whether illustrious or obscure) but himself--an indirect argument
in favour of the general opinion as to the source from which they
spring--and the other was, to hint our astonishment at the innumerable and
incessant instances of bad and slovenly English in them, more, we believe,
than in any other works now printed. We should think the writer could not
possibly read the manuscript after he has once written it, or overlook
the press.

If there were a writer, who "born for the universe"--

                 "----Narrow'd his mind,
  And to party gave up what was meant for mankind----"

who, from the height of his genius looking abroad into nature, and
scanning the recesses of the human heart, "winked and shut his
apprehension up" to every thought and purpose that tended to the future
good of mankind--who, raised by affluence, the reward of successful
industry, and by the voice of fame above the want of any but the most
honourable patronage, stooped to the unworthy arts of adulation, and
abetted the views of the great with the pettifogging feelings of the
meanest dependant on office--who, having secured the admiration of the
public (with the probable reversion of immortality), showed no respect for
himself, for that genius that had raised him to distinction, for that
nature which he trampled under foot--who, amiable, frank, friendly, manly
in private life, was seized with the dotage of age and the fury of a
woman, the instant politics were concerned--who reserved all his candour
and comprehensiveness of view for history, and vented his littleness,
pique, resentment, bigotry, and intolerance on his contemporaries--who
took the wrong side, and defended it by unfair means--who, the moment his
own interest or the prejudices of others interfered, seemed to forget all
that was due to the pride of intellect, to the sense of manhood--who,
praised, admired by men of all parties alike, repaid the public liberality
by striking a secret and envenomed blow at the reputation of every one who
was not the ready tool of power--who strewed the slime of rankling malice
and mercenary scorn over the bud and promise of genius, because it was not
fostered in the hotbed of corruption, or warped by the trammels of
servility--who supported the worst abuses of authority in the worst
spirit--who joined a gang of desperadoes to spread calumny, contempt,
infamy, wherever they were merited by honesty or talent on a different
side--who officiously undertook to decide public questions by private
insinuations, to prop the throne by nicknames, and the altar by lies--who
being (by common consent), the finest, the most humane and accomplished
writer of his age, associated himself with and encouraged the lowest
panders of a venal press; deluging, nauseating the public mind with the
offal and garbage of Billingsgate abuse and vulgar _slang_; showing no
remorse, no relenting or compassion towards the victims of this nefarious
and organized system of party-proscription, carried on under the mask of
literary criticism and fair discussion, insulting the misfortunes of some,
and trampling on the early grave of others--

  "Who would not grieve if such a man there be?
  Who would not weep if Atticus were he?"

But we believe there is no other age or country in the world (but ours),
in which such genius could have been so degraded!



XV

LORD BYRON


Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott are among writers now living[139] the two,
who would carry away a majority of suffrages as the greatest geniuses of
the age. The former would, perhaps, obtain the preference with fine
gentlemen and ladies (squeamishness apart)--the latter with the critics
and the vulgar. We shall treat of them in the same connection, partly on
account of their distinguished pre-eminence, and partly because they
afford a complete contrast to each other. In their poetry, in their prose,
in their politics, and in their tempers, no two men can be more unlike.

If Sir Walter Scott may be thought by some to have been

  "Born universal heir to all humanity,"

it is plain Lord Byron can set up no such pretension. He is, in a striking
degree, the creature of his own will. He holds no communion with his kind;
but stands alone, without mate or fellow--

  "As if a man were author of himself,
  And owned no other kin."

He is like a solitary peak, all access to which is cut off not more by
elevation than distance. He is seated on a lofty eminence, "cloud-capt,"
or reflecting the last rays of setting suns; and in his poetical moods
reminds us of the fabled Titans, retired to a ridgy steep, playing on
their Pan's-pipes, and taking up ordinary men and things in their hands
with haughty indifference. He raises his subject to himself, or tramples
on it; he neither stoops to, nor loses himself in it. He exists not by
sympathy, but by antipathy. He scorns all things, even himself. Nature
must come to him to sit for her picture--he does not go to her. She must
consult his time, his convenience, and his humour; and wear a _sombre_ or
a fantastic garb, or his Lordship turns his back upon her. There is no
ease, no unaffected simplicity of manner, no "golden mean." All is
strained, or petulant in the extreme. His thoughts are sphered and
crystalline; his style "prouder than when blue Iris bends;" his spirit
fiery, impatient, wayward, indefatigable. Instead of taking his
impressions from without, in entire and almost unimpaired masses, he
moulds them according to his own temperament, and heats the materials of
his imagination in the furnace of his passions.--Lord Byron's verse glows
like a flame, consuming everything in its way; Sir Walter Scott's glides
like a river, clear, gentle, harmless. The poetry of the first scorches,
that of the last scarcely warms. The light of the one proceeds from an
internal source, ensanguined, sullen, fixed; the other reflects the hues
of Heaven, or the face of nature, glancing vivid and various. The
productions of the Northern Bard have the rust and the freshness of
antiquity about them; those of the Noble Poet cease to startle from their
extreme ambition of novelty, both in style and matter. Sir Walter's rhymes
are "silly sooth "--

  "And dally with the innocence of thought,
  Like the old age"--

his Lordship's Muse spurns _the olden time_, and affects all the
supercilious airs of a modern fine lady and an upstart. The object of the
one writer is to restore us to truth and nature: the other chiefly thinks
how he shall display his own power, or vent his spleen, or astonish the
reader either by starting new subjects and trains of speculation, or by
expressing old ones in a more striking and emphatic manner than they have
been expressed before. He cares little what it is he says, so that he can
say it differently from others. This may account for the charges of
plagiarism which have been repeatedly brought against the Noble Poet--if
he can borrow an image or sentiment from another, and heighten it by an
epithet or an allusion of greater force and beauty than is to be found in
the original passage, he thinks he shows his superiority of execution in
this in a more marked manner than if the first suggestion had been his
own. It is not the value of the observation itself he is solicitous about;
but he wishes to shine by contrast--even nature only serves as a foil to
set off his style. He therefore takes the thoughts of others (whether
contemporaries or not) out of their mouths, and is content to make them
his own, to set his stamp upon them, by imparting to them a more
meretricious gloss, a higher relief, a greater loftiness of tone, and a
characteristic inveteracy of purpose. Even in those collateral ornaments
of modern style, slovenliness, abruptness, and eccentricity (as well as in
terseness and significance), Lord Byron, when he pleases, defies
competition and surpasses all his contemporaries. Whatever he does, he
must do in a more decided and daring manner than any one else--he lounges
with extravagance, and yawns so as to alarm the reader! Self-will,
passion, the love of singularity, a disdain of himself and of others (with
a conscious sense that this is among the ways and means of procuring
admiration) are the proper categories of his mind: he is a lordly writer,
is above his own reputation, and condescends to the Muses with a scornful
grace!

Lord Byron, who in his politics is a _liberal_, in his genius is haughty
and aristocratic: Walter Scott, who is an aristocrat in principle, is
popular in his writings, and is (as it were) equally _servile_ to nature
and to opinion. The genius of Sir Walter is essentially imitative, or
"denotes a foregone conclusion:" that of Lord Byron is self-dependent; or
at least requires no aid, is governed by no law, but the impulses of its
own will. We confess, however much we may admire independence of feeling
and erectness of spirit in general or practical questions, yet in works of
genius we prefer him who bows to the authority of nature, who appeals to
actual objects, to mouldering superstitions, to history, observation, and
tradition, before him who only consults the pragmatical and restless
workings of his own breast, and gives them out as oracles to the world. We
like a writer (whether poet or prose-writer) who takes in (or is willing
to take in) the range of half the universe in feeling, character,
description, much better than we do one who obstinately and invariably
shuts himself up in the Bastile of his own ruling passions. In short, we
had rather be Sir Walter Scott (meaning thereby the Author of Waverley)
than Lord Byron, a hundred times over. And for the reason just given,
namely, that he casts his descriptions in the mould of nature,
ever-varying, never tiresome, always interesting and always instructive,
instead of casting them constantly in the mould of his own individual
impressions. He gives us man as he is, or as he was, in almost every
variety of situation, action, and feeling. Lord Byron makes man after his
own image, woman after his own heart; the one is a capricious tyrant, the
other a yielding slave; he gives us the misanthrope and the voluptuary by
turns; and with these two characters, burning or melting in their own
fires, he makes out everlasting centos of himself. He hangs the cloud, the
film of his existence over all outward things--sits in the centre of his
thoughts, and enjoys dark night, bright day, the glitter and the gloom "in
cell monastic"--we see the mournful pall, the crucifix, the death's-heads,
the faded chaplet of flowers, the gleaming tapers, the agonized brow of
genius, the wasted form of beauty--but we are still imprisoned in a
dungeon, a curtain intercepts our view, we do not breathe freely the air
of nature or of our own thoughts--the other admired author draws aside the
curtain, and the veil of egotism is rent, and he shows us the crowd of
living men and women, the endless groups, the landscape back-ground, the
cloud and the rainbow, and enriches our imaginations and relieves one
passion by another, and expands and lightens reflection, and takes away
that tightness at the breast which arises from thinking or wishing to
think that there is nothing in the world out of a man's self!--In this
point of view, the Author of Waverley is one of the greatest teachers of
morality that ever lived, by emancipating the mind from petty, narrow, and
bigotted prejudices: Lord Byron is the greatest pamperer of those
prejudices, by seeming to think there is nothing else worth encouraging
but the seeds or the full luxuriant growth of dogmatism and self-conceit.
In reading the _Scotch Novels_, we never think about the author, except
from a feeling of curiosity respecting our unknown benefactor: in reading
Lord Byron's works, he himself is never absent from our minds. The
colouring of Lord Byron's style, however rich and dipped in Tyrian dyes,
is nevertheless opaque, is in itself an object of delight and wonder: Sir
Walter Scott's is perfectly transparent. In studying the one, you seem to
gaze at the figures cut in stained glass, which exclude the view beyond,
and where the pure light of Heaven is only a means of setting off the
gorgeousness of art: in reading the other, you look through a noble window
at the clear and varied landscape without. Or to sum up the distinction
in one word, Sir Walter Scott is the most _dramatic_ writer now living;
and Lord Byron is the least so.--It would be difficult to imagine that the
Author of Waverley is in the smallest degree a pedant; as it would be hard
to persuade ourselves that the Author of Childe Harold and Don Juan is not
a coxcomb, though a provoking and sublime one. In this decided preference
given to Sir Walter Scott over Lord Byron, we distinctly include the
prose-works of the former; for we do not think his poetry alone by any
means entitles him to that precedence. Sir Walter in his poetry, though
pleasing and natural, is a comparative trifler: it is in his anonymous
productions that he has shown himself for what he is!--

_Intensity_ is the great and prominent distinction of Lord Byron's
writings. He seldom gets beyond force of style, nor has he produced any
regular work or masterly whole. He does not prepare any plan beforehand,
nor revise and retouch what he has written with polished accuracy. His
only object seems to be to stimulate himself and his readers for the
moment--to keep both alive, to drive away ennui, to substitute a feverish
and irritable state of excitement for listless indolence or even calm
enjoyment. For this purpose he pitches on any subject at random without
much thought or delicacy--he is only impatient to begin--and takes care to
adorn and enrich it as he proceeds with "thoughts that breathe and words
that burn." He composes (as he himself has said) whether he is in the
bath, in his study, or on horseback--he writes as habitually as others
talk or think--and whether we have the inspiration of the Muse or not, we
always find the spirit of the man of genius breathing from his verse. He
grapples with his subject, and moves, penetrates, and animates it by the
electric force of his own feelings. He is often monotonous, extravagant,
offensive; but he is never dull, or tedious, but when he writes prose.
Lord Byron does not exhibit a new view of nature, or raise insignificant
objects into importance by the romantic associations with which he
surrounds them; but generally (at least) takes common-place thoughts and
events and endeavours to express them in stronger and statelier language
than others. His poetry stands like a Martello tower by the side of his
subject. He does not, like Mr. Wordsworth, lift poetry from the ground, or
create a sentiment out of nothing. He does not describe a daisy or a
periwinkle, but the cedar or the cypress; not "poor men's cottages, but
princes' palaces." His Childe Harold contains a lofty and impassioned
review of the great events of history, of the mighty objects left as
wrecks of time, but he dwells chiefly on what is familiar to the mind of
every schoolboy; has brought out few new traits of feeling or thought; and
has done no more than justice to the reader's preconceptions by the
sustained force and brilliancy of his style and imagery.

Lord Byron's earlier productions, _Lara_, the _Corsair_, etc. were wild
and gloomy romances, put into rapid and shining verse. They discover the
madness of poetry, together with the inspiration; sullen, moody,
capricious, fierce, inexorable, gloating on beauty, thirsting for revenge,
hurrying from the extremes of pleasure to pain, but with nothing
permanent, nothing healthy or natural. The gaudy decorations and the
morbid sentiments remind one of flowers strewed over the face of death! In
his _Childe Harold_ (as has been just observed) he assumes a lofty and
philosophic tone, and "reasons high of providence, fore-knowledge, will,
and fate." He takes the highest points in the history of the world, and
comments on them from a more commanding eminence: he shows us the
crumbling monuments of time, he invokes the great names, the mighty spirit
of antiquity. The universe is changed into a stately mausoleum:--in
solemn measures he chaunts a hymn to fame. Lord Byron has strength and
elevation enough to fill up the moulds of our classical and time-hallowed
recollections, and to rekindle the earliest aspirations of the mind after
greatness and true glory with a pen of fire. The names of Tasso, of
Ariosto, of Dante, of Cincinnatus, of Cæsar, of Scipio, lose nothing of
their pomp or their lustre in his hands, and when he begins and continues
a strain of panegyric on such subjects, we indeed sit down with him to a
banquet of rich praise, brooding over imperishable glories,

  "Till Contemplation has her fill."

Lord Byron seems to cast himself indignantly from "this bank and shoal of
time," or the frail tottering bark that bears up modern reputation, into
the huge sea of ancient renown, and to revel there with untired, outspread
plume. Even this in him is spleen--his contempt of his contemporaries
makes him turn back to the lustrous past, or project himself forward to
the dim future!--Lord Byron's tragedies, Faliero,[140] Sardanapalus, etc.
are not equal to his other works. They want the essence of the drama. They
abound in speeches and descriptions, such as he himself might make either
to himself or others, lolling on his couch of a morning, but do not carry
the reader out of the poet's mind to the scenes and events recorded. They
have neither action, character, nor interest, but are a sort of _gossamer_
tragedies, spun out, and glittering, and spreading a flimsy veil over the
face of nature. Yet he spins them on. Of all that he has done in this way,
the _Heaven and Earth_ (the same subject as Mr. Moore's _Loves of the
Angels_) is the best. We prefer it even to _Manfred_. _Manfred_ is merely
himself with a fancy-drapery on: but in the dramatic fragment published in
the _Liberal_, the space between Heaven and Earth, the stage on which his
characters have to pass to and fro, seems to fill his Lordship's
imagination; and the Deluge, which he has so finely described, may be said
to have drowned all his own idle humours.

We must say we think little of our author's turn for satire. His "English
Bards and Scotch Reviewers" is dogmatical and insolent, but without
refinement or point. He calls people names, and tries to transfix a
character with an epithet, which does not stick, because it has no other
foundation than his own petulance and spite; or he endeavours to degrade
by alluding to some circumstance of external situation. He says of Mr.
Wordsworth's poetry, that "it is his aversion." That may be: but whose
fault is it? This is the satire of a lord, who is accustomed to have all
his whims or dislikes taken for gospel, and who cannot be at the pains to
do more than signify his contempt or displeasure. If a great man meets
with a rebuff which he does not like, he turns on his heel, and this
passes for a repartee. The Noble Author says of a celebrated barrister and
critic, that he was "born in a garret sixteen stories high." The
insinuation is not true; or if it were, it is low. The allusion degrades
the person who makes it, not him to whom it is applied. This is also the
satire of a person of birth and quality, who measures all merit by
external rank, that is, by his own standard. So his Lordship, in a "Letter
to the Editor of my Grandmother's Review," addresses him fifty times as
"_my dear Robarts_;" nor is there any other wit in the article. This is
surely a mere assumption of superiority from his Lordship's rank, and is
the sort of _quizzing_ he might use to a person who came to hire himself
as a valet to him at _Long's_--the waiters might laugh, the public will
not. In like manner, in the controversy about Pope, he claps Mr. Bowles on
the back with a coarse facetious familiarity, as if he were his chaplain
whom he had invited to dine with him, or was about to present to a
benefice. The reverend divine might submit to the obligation, but he has
no occasion to subscribe to the jest. If it is a jest that Mr. Bowles
should be a parson, and Lord Byron a peer, the world knew this before;
there was no need to write a pamphlet to prove it.

The _Don Juan_ indeed has great power; but its power is owing to the force
of the serious writing, and to the oddity of the contrast between that and
the flashy passages with which it is interlarded. From the sublime to the
ridiculous there is but one step. You laugh and are surprised that any one
should turn round and _travestie_ himself: the drollery is in the utter
discontinuity of ideas and feelings. He makes virtue serve as a foil to
vice; _dandyism_ is (for want of any other) a variety of genius. A
classical intoxication is followed by the splashing of soda-water, by
frothy effusions of ordinary bile. After the lightning and the hurricane,
we are introduced to the interior of the cabin and the contents of the
wash-hand basins. The solemn hero of tragedy plays _Scrub_ in the farce.
This is "very tolerable and not to be endured." The Noble Lord is almost
the only writer who has prostituted his talents in this way. He hallows in
order to desecrate; takes a pleasure in defacing the images of beauty his
hands have wrought; and raises our hopes and our belief in goodness to
Heaven only to dash them to the earth again, and break them in pieces the
more effectually from the very height they have fallen. Our enthusiasm for
genius or virtue is thus turned into a jest by the very person who has
kindled it, and who thus fatally quenches the spark of both. It is not
that Lord Byron is sometimes serious and sometimes trifling, sometimes
profligate, and sometimes moral--but when he is most serious and most
moral, he is only preparing to mortify the unsuspecting reader by putting
a pitiful _hoax_ upon him. This is a most unaccountable anomaly. It is as
if the eagle were to build its eyry in a common sewer, or the owl were
seen soaring to the mid-day sun. Such a sight might make one laugh, but
one would not wish or expect it to occur more than once![141]

In fact, Lord Byron is the spoiled child of fame as well as fortune. He
has taken a surfeit of popularity, and is not contented to delight, unless
he can shock the public. He would force them to admire in spite of decency
and common-sense--he would have them read what they would read in no one
but himself, or he would not give a rush for their applause. He is to be
"a chartered libertine," from whom insults are favours, whose contempt is
to be a new incentive to admiration. His Lordship is hard to please: he is
equally averse to notice or neglect, enraged at censure and scorning
praise. He tries the patience of the town to the very utmost, and when
they show signs of weariness or disgust, threatens to _discard_ them. He
says he will write on, whether he is read or not. He would never write
another page, if it were not to court popular applause, or to affect a
superiority over it. In this respect also, Lord Byron presents a striking
contrast to Sir Walter Scott. The latter takes what part of the public
favour falls to his share, without grumbling (to be sure, he has no reason
to complain); the former is always quarrelling with the world about his
_modicum_ of applause, the _spolia opima_ of vanity, and ungraciously
throwing the offerings of incense heaped on his shrine back in the faces
of his admirers. Again, there is no taint in the writings of the Author of
Waverley, all is fair and natural and _above-board_: he never outrages
the public mind. He introduces no anomalous character: broaches no
staggering opinion. If he goes back to old prejudices and superstitions as
a relief to the modern reader, while Lord Byron floats on swelling
paradoxes--

  "Like proud seas under him;"

if the one defers too much to the spirit of antiquity, the other panders
to the spirit of the age, goes to the very edge of extreme and licentious
speculation, and breaks his neck over it. Grossness and levity are the
playthings of his pen. It is a ludicrous circumstance that he should have
dedicated his _Cain_ to the worthy Baronet! Did the latter ever
acknowledge the obligation? We are not nice, not very nice; but we do not
particularly approve those subjects that shine chiefly from their
rottenness: nor do we wish to see the Muses dressed out in the flounces of
a false or questionable philosophy, like _Portia_ and _Nerissa_ in the
garb of Doctors of Law. We like metaphysics as well as Lord Byron; but not
to see them making flowery speeches, nor dancing a measure in the fetters
of verse. We have as good as hinted, that his Lordship's poetry consists
mostly of a tissue of superb common-places; even his paradoxes are
_common-place_. They are familiar in the schools: they are only new and
striking in his dramas and stanzas, by being out of place. In a word, we
think that poetry moves best within the circle of nature and received
opinion: speculative theory and subtle casuistry are forbidden ground to
it. But Lord Byron often wanders into this ground wantonly, wilfully, and
unwarrantably. The only apology we can conceive for the spirit of some of
Lord Byron's writings, is the spirit of some of those opposed to him. They
would provoke a man to write anything. "Farthest from them is best." The
extravagance and license of the one seems a proper antidote to the
bigotry and narrowness of the other. The first _Vision of Judgment_ was a
set-off to the second, though

  "None but itself could be its parallel."


Perhaps the chief cause of most of Lord Byron's errors is, that he is that
anomaly in letters and in society, a Noble Poet. It is a double privilege,
almost too much for humanity. He has all the pride of birth and genius.
The strength of his imagination leads him to indulge in fantastic
opinions; the elevation of his rank sets censure at defiance, he becomes a
pampered egotist. He has a seat in the House of Lords, a niche in the
Temple of Fame. Everyday mortals, opinions, things, are not good enough
for him to touch or think of. A mere nobleman is, in his estimation, but
"the tenth transmitter of a foolish face:" a mere man of genius is no
better than a worm. His Muse is also a lady of quality. The people are not
polite enough for him: the Court is not sufficiently intellectual. He
hates the one and despises the other. By hating and despising others, he
does not learn to be satisfied with himself. A fastidious man soon grows
querulous and splenetic. If there is nobody but ourselves to come up to
our idea of fancied perfection, we easily get tired of our idol. When a
man is tired of what he is, by a natural perversity he sets up for what he
is not. If he is a poet, he pretends to be a metaphysician: if he is a
patrician in rank and feeling, he would fain be one of the people. His
ruling motive is not the love of the people, but of distinction;--not of
truth, but of singularity. He patronises men of letters out of vanity, and
deserts them from caprice, or from the advice of friends. He embarks in an
obnoxious publication to provoke censure, and leaves it to shift for
itself for fear of scandal. We do not like Sir Walter's gratuitous
servility: we like Lord Byron's preposterous _liberalism_ little better.
He may affect the principles of equality, but he resumes his privilege of
peerage, upon occasion. His Lordship has made great offers of service to
the Greeks--money and horses. He is at present in Cephalonia, waiting the
event!

       *       *       *       *       *

We had written thus far when news came of the death of Lord Byron, and put
an end at once to a strain of somewhat peevish invective, which was
intended to meet his eye, not to insult his memory. Had we known that we
were writing his epitaph, we must have done it with a different feeling.
As it is, we think it better and more like himself, to let what we had
written stand, than to take up our leaden shafts, and try to melt them
into "tears of sensibility," or mould them into dull praise, and an
affected show of candour. We were not silent during the author's
life-time, either for his reproof or encouragement (such as we could give,
and _he_ did not disdain to accept) nor can we now turn undertakers' men
to fix the glittering plate upon his coffin, or fall into the procession
of popular woe.--Death cancels every thing but truth; and strips a man of
every thing but genius and virtue. It is a sort of natural canonization.
It makes the meanest of us sacred--it installs the poet in his
immortality, and lifts him to the skies. Death is the great assayer of the
sterling ore of talent. At his touch the drossy particles fall off, the
irritable, the personal, the gross, and mingle with the dust--the finer
and more ethereal part mounts with the winged spirit to watch over our
latest memory, and protect our bones from insult. We consign the least
worthy qualities to oblivion, and cherish the nobler and imperishable
nature with double pride and fondness. Nothing could show the real
superiority of genius in a more striking point of view than the idle
contests and the public indifference about the place of Lord Byron's
interment, whether in Westminster Abbey or his own family-vault. A king
must have a coronation--a nobleman a funeral-procession.--The man is
nothing without the pageant. The poet's cemetery is the human mind, in
which he sows the seeds of never-ending thought--his monument is to be
found in his works:

  "Nothing can cover his high fame but Heaven;
  No pyramids set off his memory,
  But the eternal substance of his greatness."

Lord Byron is dead: he also died a martyr to his zeal in the cause of
freedom, for the last, best hopes of man. Let that be his excuse and his
epitaph!



XVI

ON POETRY IN GENERAL


The best general notion which I can give of poetry is, that it is the
natural impression of any object or event, by its vividness exciting an
involuntary movement of imagination and passion, and producing, by
sympathy, a certain modulation of the voice, or sounds, expressing it.

In treating of poetry, I shall speak first of the subject-matter of it,
next of the forms of expression to which it gives birth, and afterwards of
its connection with harmony of sound.

Poetry is the language of the imagination and the passions. It relates to
whatever gives immediate pleasure or pain to the human mind. It comes home
to the bosoms and businesses of men; for nothing but what so comes home to
them in the most general and intelligible shape, can be a subject for
poetry. Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature
and itself. He who has a contempt for poetry, cannot have much respect for
himself, or for any thing else. It is not a mere frivolous accomplishment,
(as some persons have been led to imagine) the trifling amusement of a few
idle readers or leisure hours--it has been the study and delight of
mankind in all ages. Many people suppose that poetry is something to be
found only in books, contained in lines of ten syllables with like
endings: but wherever there is a sense of beauty, or power, or harmony, as
in the motion of a wave of the sea, in the growth of a flower that
"spreads its sweet leaves to the air and dedicates its beauty to the
sun,"--_there_ is poetry, in its birth. If history is a grave study,
poetry may be said to be a graver: its materials lie deeper, and are
spread wider. History treats, for the most part, of the cumbrous and
unwieldy masses of things, the empty cases in which the affairs of the
world are packed, under the heads of intrigue or war, in different states,
and from century to century: but there is no thought or feeling that can
have entered into the mind of man, which he would be eager to communicate
to others, or which they would listen to with delight, that is not a fit
subject for poetry. It is not a branch of authorship: it is "the stuff of
which our life is made." The rest is "mere oblivion," a dead letter: for
all that is worth remembering in life, is the poetry of it. Fear is
poetry, hope is poetry, love is poetry, hatred is poetry; contempt,
jealousy, remorse, admiration, wonder, pity, despair, or madness, are all
poetry. Poetry is that fine particle within us, that expands, rarefies,
refines, raises our whole being: without it "man's life is poor as
beast's." Man is a poetical animal: and those of us who do not study the
principles of poetry, act upon them all our lives, like Molière's
_Bourgeois Gentilhomme_, who had always spoken prose without knowing it.
The child is a poet in fact, when he first plays at hide-and-seek, or
repeats the story of Jack the Giant-killer; the shepherd-boy is a poet,
when he first crowns his mistress with a garland of flowers; the
countryman, when he stops to look at the rainbow; the city-apprentice,
when he gazes after the Lord-Mayor's show; the miser, when he hugs his
gold; the courtier, who builds his hopes upon a smile; the savage, who
paints his idol with blood; the slave, who worships a tyrant, or the
tyrant, who fancies himself a god;--the vain, the ambitious, the proud,
the choleric man, the hero and the coward, the beggar and the king, the
rich and the poor, the young and the old, all live in a world of their
own making; and the poet does no more than describe what all the others
think and act. If his art is folly and madness, it is folly and madness at
second hand. "There is warrant for it." Poets alone have not "such
seething brains, such shaping fantasies, that apprehend more than cooler
reason" can.

  "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
  Are of imagination all compact.
  One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
  The madman. While the lover, all as frantic,
  Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
  The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling,
  Doth glance from heav'n to earth, from earth to heav'n;
  And as imagination bodies forth
  The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
  Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing
  A local habitation and a name.
  Such tricks hath strong imagination."


If poetry is a dream, the business of life is much the same. If it is a
fiction, made up of what we wish things to be, and fancy that they are,
because we wish them so, there is no other nor better reality. Ariosto has
described the loves of Angelica and Medoro; but was not Medoro, who carved
the name of his mistress on the barks of trees, as much enamoured of her
charms as he? Homer has celebrated the anger of Achilles: but was not the
hero as mad as the poet? Plato banished the poets from his Commonwealth,
lest their descriptions of the natural man should spoil his mathematical
man, who was to be without passions and affections, who was neither to
laugh nor weep, to feel sorrow nor anger, to be cast down nor elated by
any thing. This was a chimera, however, which never existed but in the
brain of the inventor; and Homer's poetical world has outlived Plato's
philosophical Republic.

Poetry then is an imitation of nature, but the imagination and the
passions are a part of man's nature. We shape things according to our
wishes and fancies, without poetry; but poetry is the most emphatical
language that can be found for those creations of the mind "which ecstacy
is very cunning in." Neither a mere description of natural objects, nor a
mere delineation of natural feelings, however distinct or forcible,
constitutes the ultimate end and aim of poetry, without the heightenings
of the imagination. The light of poetry is not only a direct but also a
reflected light, that while it shows us the object, throws a sparkling
radiance on all around it: the flame of the passions, communicated to the
imagination, reveals to us, as with a flash of lightning, the inmost
recesses of thought, and penetrates our whole being. Poetry represents
forms chiefly as they suggest other forms; feelings, as they suggest forms
or other feelings. Poetry puts a spirit of life and motion into the
universe. It describes the flowing, not the fixed. It does not define the
limits of sense, or analyze the distinctions of the understanding, but
signifies the excess of the imagination beyond the actual or ordinary
impression of any object or feeling. The poetical impression of any object
is that uneasy, exquisite sense of beauty or power that cannot be
contained within itself; that is impatient of all limit; that (as flame
bends to flame) strives to link itself to some other image of kindred
beauty or grandeur; to enshrine itself, as it were, in the highest forms
of fancy, and to relieve the aching sense of pleasure by expressing it in
the boldest manner, and by the most striking examples of the same quality
in other instances. Poetry, according to Lord Bacon, for this reason "has
something divine in it, because it raises the mind and hurries it into
sublimity, by conforming the shows of things to the desires of the soul,
instead of subjecting the soul to external things, as reason and history
do." It is strictly the language of the imagination; and the imagination
is that faculty which represents objects, not as they are in themselves,
but as they are moulded by other thoughts and feelings, into an infinite
variety of shapes and combinations of power. This language is not the less
true to nature, because it is false in point of fact; but so much the more
true and natural, if it conveys the impression which the object under the
influence of passion makes on the mind. Let an object, for instance, be
presented to the senses in a state of agitation or fear--and the
imagination will distort or magnify the object, and convert it into the
likeness of whatever is most proper to encourage the fear. "Our eyes are
made the fools" of our other faculties. This is the universal law of the
imagination,

  "That if it would but apprehend some joy,
  It comprehends some bringer of that joy:
  Or in the night imagining some fear,
  How easy is a bush suppos'd a bear!"

When Iachimo says of Imogen,

                 "The flame o' th' taper
  Bows toward her, and would under-peep her lids
  To see the enclosed lights"--

this passionate interpretation of the motion of the flame to accord with
the speaker's own feelings, is true poetry. The lover, equally with the
poet, speaks of the auburn tresses of his mistress as locks of shining
gold, because the least tinge of yellow in the hair has, from novelty and
a sense of personal beauty, a more lustrous effect to the imagination than
the purest gold. We compare a man of gigantic stature to a tower: not that
he is any thing like so large, but because the excess of his size beyond
what we are accustomed to expect, or the usual size of things of the same
class, produces by contrast a greater feeling of magnitude and ponderous
strength than another object of ten times the same dimensions. The
intensity of the feeling makes up for the disproportion of the objects.
Things are equal to the imagination, which have the power of affecting the
mind with an equal degree of terror, admiration, delight, or love. When
Lear calls upon the heavens to avenge his cause, "for they are old like
him," there is nothing extravagant or impious in this sublime
identification of his age with theirs; for there is no other image which
could do justice to the agonising sense of his wrongs and his despair!

Poetry is the high-wrought enthusiasm of fancy and feeling. As in
describing natural objects, it impregnates sensible impressions with the
forms of fancy, so it describes the feelings of pleasure or pain, by
blending them with the strongest movements of passion, and the most
striking forms of nature. Tragic poetry, which is the most impassioned
species of it, strives to carry on the feeling to the utmost point of
sublimity or pathos, by all the force of comparison or contrast; loses the
sense of present suffering in the imaginary exaggeration of it; exhausts
the terror or pity by an unlimited indulgence of it; grapples with
impossibilities in its desperate impatience of restraint; throws us back
upon the past, forward into the future; brings every moment of our being
or object of nature in startling review before us; and in the rapid whirl
of events, lifts us from the depths of woe to the highest contemplations
on human life. When Lear says, of Edgar, "Nothing but his unkind daughters
could have brought him to this;" what a bewildered amazement, what a
wrench of the imagination, that cannot be brought to conceive of any other
cause of misery than that which has bowed it down, and absorbs all other
sorrow in its own! His sorrow, like a flood, supplies the sources of all
other sorrow. Again, when he exclaims in the mad scene, "The little dogs
and all, Tray, Blanche, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me!" it is
passion lending occasion to imagination to make every creature in league
against him, conjuring up ingratitude and insult in their least looked-for
and most galling shapes, searching every thread and fibre of his heart,
and finding out the last remaining image of respect or attachment in the
bottom of his breast, only to torture and kill it! In like manner the "So
I am" of Cordelia gushes from her heart like a torrent of tears, relieving
it of a weight of love and of supposed ingratitude, which had pressed upon
it for years. What a fine return of the passion upon itself is that in
Othello--with what a mingled agony of regret and despair he clings to the
last traces of departed happiness--when he exclaims,

                          "Oh now, for ever
  Farewel the tranquil mind. Farewel content;
  Farewel the plumed troops and the big wars,
  That make ambition virtue! Oh farewel!
  Farewel the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
  The spirit-stirring drum, th' ear-piercing fife,
  The royal banner, and all quality,
  Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war:
  And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
  Th' immortal Jove's dread clamours counterfeit,
  Farewel! Othello's occupation's gone!"

How his passion lashes itself up and swells and rages like a tide in its
sounding course, when, in answer to the doubts expressed of his returning
love, he says,

  "Never, Iago. Like to the Pontic sea,
  Whose icy current and compulsive course
  Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
  To the Propontic and the Hellespont:
  Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,
  Shall ne'er look back, ne'er ebb to humble love,
  Till that a capable and wide revenge
  Swallow them up."--

The climax of his expostulation afterwards with Desdemona is at that line,

  "But there where I had garner'd up my heart,
  To be discarded thence!"--


One mode in which the dramatic exhibition of passion excites our sympathy
without raising our disgust is, that in proportion as it sharpens the edge
of calamity and disappointment, it strengthens the desire of good. It
enhances our consciousness of the blessing, by making us sensible of the
magnitude of the loss. The storm of passion lays bare and shews us the
rich depths of the human soul: the whole of our existence, the sum total
of our passions and pursuits, of that which we desire and that which we
dread, is brought before us by contrast; the action and re-action are
equal; the keenness of immediate suffering only gives us a more intense
aspiration after, and a more intimate participation with the antagonist
world of good; makes us drink deeper of the cup of human life; tugs at the
heart-strings; loosens the pressure about them; and calls the springs of
thought and feeling into play with tenfold force.

Impassioned poetry is an emanation of the moral and intellectual part of
our nature, as well as of the sensitive--of the desire to know, the will
to act, and the power to feel; and ought to appeal to these different
parts of our constitution, in order to be perfect. The domestic or prose
tragedy, which is thought to be the most natural, is in this sense the
least so, because it appeals almost exclusively to one of these faculties,
our sensibility. The tragedies of Moore and Lillo, for this reason,
however affecting at the time, oppress and lie like a dead weight upon the
mind, a load of misery which it is unable to throw off: the tragedy of
Shakspeare, which is true poetry, stirs our inmost affections; abstracts
evil from itself by combining it with all the forms of imagination, and
with the deepest workings of the heart, and rouses the whole man within
us.

The pleasure, however, derived from tragic poetry, is not anything
peculiar to it as poetry, as a fictitious and fanciful thing. It is not an
anomaly of the imagination. It has its source and ground-work in the
common love of strong excitement. As Mr. Burke observes, people flock to
see a tragedy; but if there were a public execution in the next street,
the theatre would very soon be empty. It is not then the difference
between fiction and reality that solves the difficulty. Children are
satisfied with the stories of ghosts and witches in plain prose: nor do
the hawkers of full, true, and particular accounts of murders and
executions about the streets, find it necessary to have them turned into
penny ballads, before they can dispose of these interesting and authentic
documents. The grave politician drives a thriving trade of abuse and
calumnies poured out against those whom he makes his enemies for no other
end than that he may live by them. The popular preacher makes less
frequent mention of heaven than of hell. Oaths and nicknames are only a
more vulgar sort of poetry or rhetoric. We are as fond of indulging our
violent passions as of reading a description of those of others. We are as
prone to make a torment of our fears, as to luxuriate in our hopes of
good. If it be asked, Why we do so? the best answer will be, Because we
cannot help it. The sense of power is as strong a principle in the mind as
the love of pleasure. Objects of terror and pity exercise the same
despotic control over it as those of love or beauty. It is as natural to
hate as to love, to despise as to admire, to express our hatred or
contempt, as our love or admiration.

  "Masterless passion sways us to the mood
  Of what it likes or loathes."


Not that we like what we loathe; but we like to indulge our hatred and
scorn of it; to dwell upon it, to exasperate our idea of it by every
refinement of ingenuity and extravagance of illustration; to make it a
bugbear to ourselves, to point it out to others in all the splendour of
deformity, to embody it to the senses, to stigmatise it by name, to
grapple with it in thought, in action, to sharpen our intellect, to arm
our will against it, to know the worst we have to contend with, and to
contend with it to the utmost. Poetry is only the highest eloquence of
passion, the most vivid form of expression that can be given to our
conception of any thing, whether pleasurable or painful, mean or
dignified, delightful or distressing. It is the perfect coincidence of the
image and the words with the feeling we have, and of which we cannot get
rid in any other way, that gives an instant "satisfaction to the thought."
This is equally the origin of wit and fancy, of comedy and tragedy, of the
sublime and pathetic. When Pope says of the Lord Mayor's shew,--

  "Now night descending, the proud scene is o'er,
  But lives in Settle's numbers one day more!"

when Collins makes Danger, with "limbs of giant mould,"

              "Throw him on the steep
  Of some loose hanging rock asleep:"

when Lear calls out in extreme anguish,

  "Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend.
  How much more hideous shew'st in a child
  Than the sea-monster!"

--the passion of contempt in the one case, of terror in the other, and of
indignation in the last, is perfectly satisfied. We see the thing
ourselves, and shew it to others as we feel it to exist, and as, in spite
of ourselves, we are compelled to think of it. The imagination, by thus
embodying and turning them to shape, gives an obvious relief to the
indistinct and importunate cravings of the will.--We do not wish the thing
to be so; but we wish it to appear such as it is. For knowledge is
conscious power; and the mind is no longer, in this case, the dupe, though
it may be the victim of vice or folly.

Poetry is in all its shapes the language of the imagination and the
passions, of fancy and will. Nothing, therefore, can be more absurd than
the outcry which has been sometimes raised by frigid and pedantic critics,
for reducing the language of poetry to the standard of common sense and
reason: for the end and use of poetry, "both at the first and now, was and
is to hold the mirror up to nature," seen through the medium of passion
and imagination, not divested of that medium by means of literal truth or
abstract reason. The painter of history might as well be required to
represent the face of a person who has just trod upon a serpent with the
still-life expression of a common portrait, as the poet to describe the
most striking and vivid impressions which things can be supposed to make
upon the mind, in the language of common conversation. Let who will strip
nature of the colours and the shapes of fancy, the poet is not bound to do
so; the impressions of common sense and strong imagination, that is, of
passion and indifference, cannot be the same, and they must have a
separate language to do justice to either. Objects must strike differently
upon the mind, independently of what they are in themselves, as long as we
have a different interest in them, as we see them in a different point of
view, nearer or at a greater distance (morally or physically speaking)
from novelty, from old acquaintance, from our ignorance of them, from our
fear of their consequences, from contrast, from unexpected likeness. We
can no more take away the faculty of the imagination, than we can see all
objects without light or shade. Some things must dazzle us by their
preternatural light; others must hold us in suspense, and tempt our
curiosity to explore their obscurity. Those who would dispel these various
illusions, to give us their drab-coloured creation in their stead, are not
very wise. Let the naturalist, if he will, catch the glow-worm, carry it
home with him in a box, and find it next morning nothing but a little grey
worm; let the poet or the lover of poetry visit it at evening, when
beneath the scented hawthorn and the crescent moon it has built itself a
palace of emerald light. This is also one part of nature, one appearance
which the glow-worm presents, and that not the least interesting; so
poetry is one part of the history of the human mind, though it is neither
science nor philosophy. It cannot be concealed, however, that the progress
of knowledge and refinement has a tendency to circumscribe the limits of
the imagination, and to clip the wings of poetry. The province of the
imagination is principally visionary, the unknown and undefined: the
understanding restores things to their natural boundaries, and strips them
of their fanciful pretensions. Hence the history of religious and poetical
enthusiasm is much the same; and both have received a sensible shock from
the progress of experimental philosophy. It is the undefined and uncommon
that gives birth and scope to the imagination: we can only fancy what we
do not know. As in looking into the mazes of a tangled wood we fill them
with what shapes we please, with ravenous beasts, with caverns vast, and
drear enchantments, so, in our ignorance of the world about us, we make
gods or devils of the first object we see, and set no bounds to the wilful
suggestions of our hopes and fears.

  "And visions, as poetic eyes avow,
  Hang on each leaf and cling to every bough."

There can never be another Jacob's dream. Since that time, the heavens
have gone farther off, and grown astronomical. They have become averse to
the imagination, nor will they return to us on the squares of the
distances, or on Doctor Chalmers's Discourses. Rembrandt's picture brings
the matter nearer to us.--It is not only the progress of mechanical
knowledge, but the necessary advances of civilization that are
unfavourable to the spirit of poetry. We not only stand in less awe of the
preternatural world, but we can calculate more surely, and look with more
indifference, upon the regular routine of this. The heroes of the fabulous
ages rid the world of monsters and giants. At present we are less exposed
to the vicissitudes of good or evil, to the incursions of wild beasts or
"bandit fierce," or to the unmitigated fury of the elements. The time has
been that "our fell of hair would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir as
life were in it." But the police spoils all; and we now hardly so much as
dream of a midnight murder. Macbeth is only tolerated in this country for
the sake of the music; and in the United States of America, where the
philosophical principles of government are carried still farther in theory
and practice, we find that the Beggar's Opera is hooted from the stage.
Society, by degrees, is constructed into a machine that carries us safely
and insipidly from one end of life to the other, in a very comfortable
prose style.

  "Obscurity her curtain round them drew,
  And siren Sloth a dull quietus sung."

The remarks which have been here made, would, in some measure, lead to a
solution of the question of the comparative merits of painting and poetry.
I do not mean to give any preference, but it should seem that the argument
which has been sometimes set up, that painting must affect the
imagination more strongly, because it represents the image more
distinctly, is not well founded. We may assume without much temerity, that
poetry is more poetical than painting. When artists or connoisseurs talk
on stilts about the poetry of painting, they shew that they know little
about poetry, and have little love for the art. Painting gives the object
itself; poetry what it implies. Painting embodies what a thing contains in
itself: poetry suggests what exists out of it, in any manner connected
with it. But this last is the proper province of the imagination. Again,
as it relates to passion, painting gives the event, poetry the progress of
events: but it is during the progress, in the interval of expectation and
suspense, while our hopes and fears are strained to the highest pitch of
breathless agony, that the pinch of the interest lies

  "Between the acting of a dreadful thing
  And the first motion, all the interim is
  Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.
  The mortal instruments are then in council;
  And the state of man, like to a little kingdom,
  Suffers then the nature of an insurrection."


But by the time that the picture is painted, all is over. Faces are the
best part of a picture; but even faces are not what we chiefly remember in
what interests us most.--But it may be asked then, Is there any thing
better than Claude Lorraine's landscapes, than Titian's portraits, than
Raphael's cartoons, or the Greek statues? Of the two first I shall say
nothing, as they are evidently picturesque, rather than imaginative.
Raphael's cartoons are certainly the finest comments that ever were made
on the Scriptures. Would their effect be the same if we were not
acquainted with the text? But the New Testament existed before the
cartoons. There is one subject of which there is no cartoon, Christ
washing the feet of the disciples the night before his death. But that
chapter does not need a commentary! It is for want of some such
resting-place for the imagination that the Greek statues are little else
than specious forms. They are marble to the touch and to the heart. They
have not an informing principle within them. In their faultless excellence
they appear sufficient to themselves. By their beauty they are raised
above the frailties of passion or suffering. By their beauty they are
deified. But they are not objects of religious faith to us, and their
forms are a reproach to common humanity. They seem to have no sympathy
with us, and not to want our admiration.

Poetry in its matter and form is natural imagery or feeling, combined with
passion and fancy. In its mode of conveyance, it combines the ordinary use
of language, with musical expression. There is a question of long standing
in what the essence of poetry consists; or what it is that determines why
one set of ideas should be expressed in prose, another in verse. Milton
has told us his idea of poetry in a single line--

        "Thoughts that voluntary move
  Harmonious numbers."


As there are certain sounds that excite certain movements, and the song
and dance go together, so there are, no doubt, certain thoughts that lead
to certain tones of voice, or modulations of sound, and change "the words
of Mercury into the songs of Apollo." There is a striking instance of this
adaptation of the movement of sound and rhythm to the subject, in
Spenser's description of the Satyrs accompanying Una to the cave of
Sylvanus.

    "So from the ground she fearless doth arise
      And walketh forth without suspect of crime.
    They, all as glad as birds of joyous prime,
      Thence lead her forth, about her dancing round,
    Shouting and singing all a shepherd's rhyme:
      And with green branches strewing all the ground,
  Do worship her as queen with olive garland crown'd.

    And all the way their merry pipes they sound,
      That all the woods with doubled echo ring;
    And with their horned feet do wear the ground,
      Leaping like wanton kids in pleasant spring;
    So towards old Sylvanus they her bring,
      Who with the noise awaked, cometh out."

  _Faery Queen_, b. i. c. vi.

On the contrary, there is nothing either musical or natural in the
ordinary construction of language. It is a thing altogether arbitrary and
conventional. Neither in the sounds themselves, which are the voluntary
signs of certain ideas, nor in their grammatical arrangements in common
speech, is there any principle of natural imitation, or correspondence to
the individual ideas, or to the tone of feeling with which they are
conveyed to others. The jerks, the breaks, the inequalities, and
harshnesses of prose are fatal to the flow of a poetical imagination, as a
jolting road or a stumbling horse disturbs the reverie of an absent man.
But poetry makes these odds all even. It is the music of language,
answering to the music of the mind, untying as it were "the secret soul of
harmony." Wherever any object takes such a hold of the mind as to make us
dwell upon it, and brood over it, melting the heart in tenderness, or
kindling it to a sentiment of enthusiasm;--wherever a movement of
imagination or passion is impressed on the mind, by which it seeks to
prolong and repeat the emotion, to bring all other objects into accord
with it, and to give the same movement of harmony, sustained and
continuous, or gradually varied according to the occasion, to the sounds
that express it--this is poetry. The musical in sound is the sustained and
continuous; the musical in thought is the sustained and continuous also.
There is a near connection between music and deep-rooted passion. Mad
people sing. As often as articulation passes naturally into intonation,
there poetry begins. Where one idea gives a tone and colour to others,
where one feeling melts others into it, there can be no reason why the
same principle should not be extended to the sounds by which the voice
utters these emotions of the soul, and blends syllables and lines into
each other. It is to supply the inherent defect of harmony in the
customary mechanism of language, to make the sound an echo to the sense,
when the sense becomes a sort of echo to itself--to mingle the tide of
verse, "the golden cadences of poetry," with the tide of feeling, flowing
and murmuring as it flows--in short, to take the language of the
imagination from off the ground, and enable it to spread its wings where
it may indulge its own impulses--

  "Sailing with supreme dominion
  Through the azure deep of air"--

without being stopped, or fretted, or diverted with the abruptnesses and
petty obstacles, and discordant flats and sharps of prose, that poetry was
invented. It is to common language, what springs are to a carriage, or
wings to feet. In ordinary speech we arrive at a certain harmony by the
modulations of voice: in poetry the same thing is done systematically by a
regular collocation of syllables. It has been well observed, that every
one who declaims warmly, or grows intent upon a subject, rises into a sort
of blank verse or measured prose. The merchant, as described in Chaucer,
went on his way "sounding always the increase of his winning." Every
prose-writer has more or less of rhythmical adaptation, except poets, who,
when deprived of the regular mechanism of verse, seem to have no principle
of modulation left in their writings.

An excuse might be made for rhyme in the same manner. It is but fair that
the ear should linger on the sounds that delight it, or avail itself of
the same brilliant coincidence and unexpected recurrence of syllables,
that have been displayed in the invention and collocation of images. It is
allowed that rhyme assists the memory; and a man of wit and shrewdness has
been heard to say, that the only four good lines of poetry are the
well-known ones which tell the number of days in the months of the year.

  "Thirty days hath September," etc.

But if the jingle of names assists the memory, may it not also quicken the
fancy? and there are other things worth having at our fingers' ends,
besides the contents of the almanac.--Pope's versification is tiresome,
from its excessive sweetness and uniformity. Shakspeare's blank verse is
the perfection of dramatic dialogue.

All is not poetry that passes for such: nor does verse make the whole
difference between poetry and prose. The Iliad does not cease to be poetry
in a literal translation; and Addison's Campaign has been very properly
denominated a Gazette in rhyme. Common prose differs from poetry, as
treating for the most part either of such trite, familiar, and irksome
matters of fact, as convey no extraordinary impulse to the imagination, or
else of such difficult and laborious processes of the understanding, as do
not admit of the wayward or violent movements either of the imagination or
the passions.

I will mention three works which come as near to poetry as possible
without absolutely being so, namely, the Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson
Crusoe, and the Tales of Boccaccio. Chaucer and Dryden have translated
some of the last into English rhyme, but the essence and the power of
poetry was there before. That which lifts the spirit above the earth,
which draws the soul out of itself with indescribable longings, is poetry
in kind, and generally fit to become so in name, by being "married to
immortal verse." If it is of the essence of poetry to strike and fix the
imagination, whether we will or no, to make the eye of childhood glisten
with the starting tear, to be never thought of afterwards with
indifference, John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe may be permitted to pass for
poets in their way. The mixture of fancy and reality in the Pilgrim's
Progress was never equalled in any allegory. His pilgrims walk above the
earth, and yet are on it. What zeal, what beauty, what truth of fiction!
What deep feeling in the description of Christian's swimming across the
water at last, and in the picture of the Shining Ones within the gates,
with wings at their backs and garlands on their heads, who are to wipe all
tears from his eyes! The writer's genius, though not "dipped in dews of
Castalie," was baptised with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The prints in
this book are no small part of it. If the confinement of Philoctetes in
the island of Lemnos was a subject for the most beautiful of all the Greek
tragedies, what shall we say to Robinson Crusoe in his? Take the speech of
the Greek hero on leaving his cave, beautiful as it is, and compare it
with the reflections of the English adventurer in his solitary place of
confinement. The thoughts of home, and of all from which he is for ever
cut off, swell and press against his bosom, as the heaving ocean rolls its
ceaseless tide against the rocky shore, and the very beatings of his heart
become audible in the eternal silence that surrounds him. Thus he says,

     "As I walked about, either in my hunting, or for viewing the country,
     the anguish of my soul at my condition would break out upon me on a
     sudden, and my very heart would die within me to think of the woods,
     the mountains, the deserts I was in; and how I was a prisoner,
     locked up with the eternal bars and bolts of the ocean, in an
     uninhabited wilderness, without redemption. In the midst of the
     greatest composures of my mind, this would break out upon me like a
     storm, and make me wring my hands, and weep like a child. Sometimes
     it would take me in the middle of my work, and I would immediately
     sit down and sigh, and look upon the ground for an hour or two
     together, and this was still worse to me, for if I could burst out
     into tears, or vent myself in words, it would go off, and the grief
     having exhausted itself would abate."


The story of his adventures would not make a poem like the Odyssey, it is
true; but the relator had the true genius of a poet. It has been made a
question whether Richardson's romances are poetry; and the answer perhaps
is, that they are not poetry, because they are not romance. The interest
is worked up to an inconceivable height; but it is by an infinite number
of little things, by incessant labour and calls upon the attention, by a
repetition of blows that have no rebound in them. The sympathy excited is
not a voluntary contribution, but a tax. Nothing is unforced and
spontaneous. There is a want of elasticity and motion. The story does not
"give an echo to the seat where love is throned." The heart does not
answer of itself like a chord in music. The fancy does not run on before
the writer with breathless expectation, but is dragged along with an
infinite number of pins and wheels, like those with which the Lilliputians
dragged Gulliver pinioned to the royal palace.--Sir Charles Grandison is a
coxcomb. What sort of a figure would he cut, translated into an epic poem,
by the side of Achilles? Clarissa, the divine Clarissa, is too interesting
by half. She is interesting in her ruffles, in her gloves, her samplers,
her aunts and uncles--she is interesting in all that is uninteresting.
Such things, however intensely they may be brought home to us, are not
conductors to the imagination. There is infinite truth and feeling in
Richardson; but it is extracted from a _caput mortuum_ of circumstances;
it does not evaporate of itself. His poetical genius is like Ariel
confined in a pine-tree, and requires an artificial process to let it out.
Shakspeare says--

               "Our poesy is as a gum
  Which issues whence 'tis nourished, our gentle flame
  Provokes itself, and like the current flies
  Each bound it chafes."[142]


I shall conclude this general account with some remarks on four of the
principal works of poetry in the world, at different periods of
history--Homer, the Bible, Dante, and let me add, Ossian. In Homer, the
principle of action or life is predominant; in the Bible, the principle of
faith and the idea of Providence; Dante is a personification of blind
will; and in Ossian we see the decay of life, and the lag end of the
world. Homer's poetry is the heroic: it is full of life and action: it is
bright as the day, strong as a river. In the vigour of his intellect, he
grapples with all the objects of nature, and enters into all the relations
of social life. He saw many countries, and the manners of many men; and he
has brought them all together in his poem. He describes his heroes going
to battle with a prodigality of life, arising from an exuberance of animal
spirits: we see them before us, their number, and their order of battle,
poured out upon the plain, "all plumed like estriches, like eagles newly
bathed, wanton as goats, wild as young bulls, youthful as May, and
gorgeous as the sun at midsummer," covered with glittering armour, with
dust and blood; while the Gods quaff their nectar in golden cups, or
mingle in the fray; and the old men assembled on the walls of Troy rise up
with reverence as Helen passes by them. The multitude of things in Homer
is wonderful; their splendour, their truth, their force, and variety. His
poetry is, like his religion, the poetry of number and form: he describes
the bodies as well as the souls of men.

The poetry of the Bible is that of imagination and of faith: it is
abstract and disembodied: it is not the poetry of form, but of power; not
of multitude, but of immensity, it does not divide into many, but
aggrandizes into one. Its ideas of nature are like its ideas of God. It is
not the poetry of social life, but of solitude: each man seems alone in
the world with the original forms of nature, the rocks, the earth, and the
sky. It is not the poetry of action or heroic enterprise, but of faith in
a supreme Providence, and resignation to the power that governs the
universe. As the idea of God was removed farther from humanity, and a
scattered polytheism, it became more profound and intense as it became
more universal, for the Infinite is present to every thing: "If we fly
into the uttermost parts of the earth, it is there also; if we turn to the
east or the west, we cannot escape from it." Man is thus aggrandised in
the image of his Maker. The history of the patriarchs is of this kind;
they are founders of the chosen race of people, the inheritors of the
earth; they exist in the generations which are to come after them. Their
poetry, like their religious creed, is vast, unformed, obscure, and
infinite; a vision is upon it--an invisible hand is suspended over it. The
spirit of the Christian religion consists in the glory hereafter to be
revealed; but in the Hebrew dispensation, Providence took an immediate
share in the affairs of this life. Jacob's dream arose out of this
intimate communion between heaven and earth: it was this that let down, in
the sight of the youthful patriarch, a golden ladder from the sky to the
earth, with angels ascending and descending upon it, and shed a light upon
the lonely place, which can never pass away. The story of Ruth, again, is
as if all the depth of natural affection in the human race was involved in
her breast. There are descriptions in the book of Job more prodigal of
imagery, more intense in passion, than anything in Homer, as that of the
state of his prosperity, and of the vision that came upon him by night.
The metaphors in the Old Testament are more boldly figurative. Things were
collected more into masses, and gave a greater _momentum_ to the
imagination.

Dante was the father of modern poetry, and he may therefore claim a place
in this connection. His poem is the first great step from Gothic darkness
and barbarism; and the struggle of thought in it to burst the thraldom in
which the human mind had been so long held, is felt in every page. He
stood bewildered, not appalled, on that dark shore which separates the
ancient and the modern world; and saw the glories of antiquity dawning
through the abyss of time, while revelation opened its passage to the
other world. He was lost in wonder at what had been done before him, and
he dared to emulate it. Dante seems to have been indebted to the Bible for
the gloomy tone of his mind, as well as for the prophetic fury which
exalts and kindles his poetry; but he is utterly unlike Homer. His genius
is not a sparkling flame, but the sullen heat of a furnace. He is power,
passion, self-will personified. In all that relates to the descriptive or
fanciful part of poetry, he bears no comparison to many who had gone
before, or who have come after him; but there is a gloomy abstraction in
his conceptions, which lies like a dead weight upon the mind; a benumbing
stupor, a breathless awe, from the intensity of the impression; a terrible
obscurity, like that which oppresses us in dreams; an identity of
interest, which moulds every object to its own purposes, and clothes all
things with the passions and imaginations of the human soul,--that make
amends for all other deficiencies. The immediate objects he presents to
the mind are not much in themselves, they want grandeur, beauty, and
order; but they become every thing by the force of the character he
impresses upon them. His mind lends its own power to the objects which it
contemplates, instead of borrowing it from them. He takes advantage even
of the nakedness and dreary vacuity of his subject. His imagination
peoples the shades of death, and broods over the silent air. He is the
severest of all writers, the most hard and impenetrable, the most opposite
to the flowery and glittering; who relies most on his own power, and the
sense of it in others, and who leaves most room to the imagination of his
readers. Dante's only endeavour is to interest; and he interests by
exciting our sympathy with the emotion by which he is himself possessed.
He does not place before us the objects by which that emotion has been
created; but he seizes on the attention, by shewing us the effect they
produce on his feelings; and his poetry accordingly gives the same
thrilling and overwhelming sensation, which is caught by gazing on the
face of a person who has seen some object of horror. The improbability of
the events, the abruptness and monotony in the Inferno, are excessive: but
the interest never flags, from the continued earnestness of the author's
mind. Dante's great power is in combining internal feelings with external
objects. Thus the gate of hell, on which that withering inscription is
written, seems to be endowed with speech and consciousness, and to utter
its dread warning, not without a sense of mortal woes. This author
habitually unites the absolutely local and individual with the greatest
wildness and mysticism. In the midst of the obscure and shadowy regions of
the lower world, a tomb suddenly rises up with the inscription, "I am the
tomb of Pope Anastasius the Sixth": and half the personages whom he has
crowded into the Inferno are his own acquaintance. All this, perhaps,
tends to heighten the effect by the bold intermixture of realities, and by
an appeal, as it were, to the individual knowledge and experience of the
reader. He affords few subjects for picture. There is, indeed, one
gigantic one, that of Count Ugolino, of which Michael Angelo made a
bas-relief, and which Sir Joshua Reynolds ought not to have painted.

Another writer whom I shall mention last, and whom I cannot persuade
myself to think a mere modern in the groundwork, is Ossian. He is a
feeling and a name that can never be destroyed in the minds of his
readers. As Homer is the first vigour and lustihed, Ossian is the decay
and old age of poetry. He lives only in the recollection and regret of the
past. There is one impression which he conveys more entirely than all
other poets, namely, the sense of privation, the loss of all things, of
friends, of good name, of country--he is even without God in the world. He
converses only with the spirits of the departed; with the motionless and
silent clouds. The cold moonlight sheds its faint lustre on his head; the
fox peeps out of the ruined tower; the thistle waves its beard to the
wandering gale; and the strings of his harp seem, as the hand of age, as
the tale of other times, passes over them, to sigh and rustle like the
dry reeds in the winter's wind! The feeling of cheerless desolation, of
the loss of the pith and sap of existence, of the annihilation of the
substance, and the clinging to the shadow of all things as in a mock
embrace, is here perfect. In this way, the lamentation of Selma for the
loss of Salgar is the finest of all. If it were indeed possible to shew
that this writer was nothing, it would only be another instance of
mutability, another blank made, another void left in the heart, another
confirmation of that feeling which makes him so often complain, "Roll on,
ye dark brown years, ye bring no joy on your wing to Ossian!"



XVII

MY FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH POETS


My father was a Dissenting Minister at W--m in Shropshire; and in the year
1798 (the figures that compose that date are to me like the "dreaded name
of Demogorgon)" Mr. Coleridge came to Shrewsbury, to succeed Mr. Rowe in
the spiritual charge of a Unitarian Congregation there. He did not come
till late on the Saturday afternoon before he was to preach; and Mr. Rowe,
who himself went down to the coach in a state of anxiety and expectation,
to look for the arrival of his successor, could find no one at all
answering the description but a round-faced man in a short black coat
(like a shooting jacket) which hardly seemed to have been made for him,
but who seemed to be talking at a great rate to his fellow-passengers. Mr.
Rowe had scarce returned to give an account of his disappointment, when
the round-faced man in black entered, and dissipated all doubts on the
subject, by beginning to talk. He did not cease while he staid; nor has he
since, that I know of. He held the good town of Shrewsbury in delightful
suspense for three weeks that he remained there, "fluttering the _proud
Salopians_ like an eagle in a dove-cote;" and the Welch mountains that
skirt the horizon with their tempestuous confusion, agree to have heard no
such mystic sounds since the days of

  "High-born Hoel's harp or soft Llewellyn's lay!"

As we passed along between W--m and Shrewsbury, and I eyed their blue tops
seen through the wintry branches, or the red rustling leaves of the
sturdy oak-trees by the road-side, a sound was in my ears as of a Siren's
song; I was stunned, startled with it, as from deep sleep; but I had no
notion then that I should ever be able to express my admiration to others
in motley imagery or quaint allusion, till the light of his genius shone
into my soul, like the sun's rays glittering in the puddles of the road. I
was at that time dumb, inarticulate, helpless, like a worm by the
way-side, crushed, bleeding, lifeless; but now, bursting the deadly bands
that "bound them,

  "With Styx nine times round them,"

my ideas float on winged words, and as they expand their plumes, catch the
golden light of other years. My soul has indeed remained in its original
bondage, dark, obscure, with longings infinite and unsatisfied; my heart,
shut up in the prison-house of this rude clay, has never found, nor will
it ever find, a heart to speak to; but that my understanding also did not
remain dumb and brutish, or at length found a language to express itself,
I owe to Coleridge. But this is not to my purpose.

My father lived ten miles from Shrewsbury, and was in the habit of
exchanging visits with Mr. Rowe, and with Mr. Jenkins of Whitchurch (nine
miles farther on) according to the custom of Dissenting Ministers in each
other's neighbourhood. A line of communication is thus established, by
which the flame of civil and religious liberty is kept alive, and
nourishes its smouldering fire unquenchable, like the fires in the
Agamemnon of Æschylus, placed at different stations, that waited for ten
long years to announce with their blazing pyramids the destruction of
Troy. Coleridge had agreed to come over to see my father, according to the
courtesy of the country, as Mr. Rowe's probable successor; but in the
meantime I had gone to hear him preach the Sunday after his arrival. A
poet and a philosopher getting up into a Unitarian pulpit to preach the
Gospel, was a romance in these degenerate days, a sort of revival of the
primitive spirit of Christianity, which was not to be resisted.

It was in January, 1798, that I rose one morning before day-light, to walk
ten miles in the mud, and went to hear this celebrated person preach.
Never, the longest day I have to live, shall I have such another walk as
this cold, raw, comfortless one, in the winter of the year 1798.--_Il y a
des impressions que ni le tems ni les circonstances peuvent effacer.
Dusse-je vivre des siècles entiers, le doux tems de ma jeunesse ne peut
renaître pour moi, ni s'effacer jamais dans ma mémoire._ When I got there,
the organ was playing the 100th psalm, and, when it was done, Mr.
Coleridge rose and gave out his text, "And he went up into the mountain to
pray, HIMSELF, ALONE." As he gave out this text, his voice "rose like a
steam of rich distilled perfumes," and when he came to the two last words,
which he pronounced loud, deep, and distinct, it seemed to me, who was
then young, as if the sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human
heart, and as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through
the universe. The idea of St. John came into my mind, "of one crying in
the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, and whose food was locusts
and wild honey." The preacher then launched into his subject, like an
eagle dallying with the wind. The sermon was upon peace and war; upon
church and state--not their alliance, but their separation--on the spirit
of the world and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as
opposed to one another. He talked of those who had "inscribed the cross of
Christ on banners dripping with human gore." He made a poetical and
pastoral excursion,--and to shew the fatal effects of war, drew a striking
contrast between the simple shepherd boy, driving his team afield, or
sitting under the hawthorn, piping to his flock, "as though he should
never be old," and the same poor country-lad, crimped, kidnapped, brought
into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy,
with his hair sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a long cue at his
back, and tricked out in the loathsome finery of the profession of blood.

  "Such were the notes our once-lov'd poet sung."

And for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the
music of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy had met together, Truth and
Genius had embraced, under the eye and with the sanction of Religion. This
was even beyond my hopes. I returned home well satisfied. The sun that was
still labouring pale and wan through the sky, obscured by thick mists,
seemed an emblem of the _good cause_; and the cold dank drops of dew that
hung half melted on the beard of the thistle, had something genial and
refreshing in them; for there was a spirit of hope and youth in all
nature, that turned everything into good. The face of nature had not then
the brand of JUS DIVINUM on it:

  "Like to that sanguine flower inscrib'd with woe."


On the Tuesday following, the half-inspired speaker came. I was called
down into the room where he was, and went half-hoping, half-afraid. He
received me very graciously, and I listened for a long time without
uttering a word. I did not suffer in his opinion by my silence. "For those
two hours," he afterwards was pleased to say, "he was conversing with W.
H.'s forehead!" His appearance was different from what I had anticipated
from seeing him before. At a distance, and in the dim light of the
chapel, there was to me a strange wildness in his aspect, a dusky
obscurity, and I thought him pitted with the small-pox. His complexion was
at that time clear, and even bright--

  "As are the children of yon azure sheen."

His forehead was broad and high, light as if built of ivory, with large
projecting eyebrows, and his eyes rolling beneath them like a sea with
darkened lustre. "A certain tender bloom his face o'erspread," a purple
tinge as we see it in the pale thoughtful complexions of the Spanish
portrait-painters, Murillo and Velasquez. His mouth was gross, voluptuous,
open, eloquent; his chin good-humoured and round; but his nose, the rudder
of the face, the index of the will, was small, feeble, nothing--like what
he has done. It might seem that the genius of his face as from a height
surveyed and projected him (with sufficient capacity and huge aspiration)
into the world unknown of thought and imagination, with nothing to support
or guide his veering purpose, as if Columbus had launched his adventurous
course for the New World in a scallop, without oars or compass. So at
least I comment on it after the event. Coleridge in his person was rather
above the common size, inclining to the corpulent, or like Lord Hamlet,
"somewhat fat and pursy." His hair (now, alas! grey) was then black and
glossy as the raven's, and fell in smooth masses over his forehead. This
long pendulous hair is peculiar to enthusiasts, to those whose minds tend
heavenward; and is traditionally inseparable (though of a different
colour) from the pictures of Christ. It ought to belong, as a character,
to all who preach _Christ crucified_, and Coleridge was at that time one
of those!

It was curious to observe the contrast between him and my father, who was
a veteran in the cause, and then declining into the vale of years. He had
been a poor Irish lad, carefully brought up by his parents, and sent to
the University of Glasgow (where he studied under Adam Smith) to prepare
him for his future destination. It was his mother's proudest wish to see
her son a Dissenting Minister. So if we look back to past generations (as
far as eye can reach) we see the same hopes, fears, wishes, followed by
the same disappointments, throbbing in the human heart; and so we may see
them (if we look forward) rising up for ever, and disappearing, like
vapourish bubbles, in the human breast! After being tossed about from
congregation to congregation in the heats of the Unitarian controversy,
and squabbles about the American war, he had been relegated to an obscure
village, where he was to spend the last thirty years of his life, far from
the only converse that he loved, the talk about disputed texts of
Scripture and the cause of civil and religious liberty. Here he passed his
days, repining but resigned, in the study of the Bible, and the perusal of
the Commentators,--huge folios, not easily got through, one of which would
outlast a winter! Why did he pore on these from morn to night (with the
exception of a walk in the fields or a turn in the garden to gather
brocoli-plants or kidney beans of his own rearing, with no small degree of
pride and pleasure)?--Here were "no figures nor no fantasies,"--neither
poetry nor philosophy--nothing to dazzle, nothing to excite modern
curiosity; but to his lack-lustre eyes there appeared, within the pages of
the ponderous, unwieldy, neglected tomes, the sacred name of JEHOVAH in
Hebrew capitals: pressed down by the weight of the style, worn to the last
fading thinness of the understanding, there were glimpses, glimmering
notions of the patriarchal wanderings, with palm-trees hovering in the
horizon, and processions of camels at the distance of three thousand
years; there was Moses with the Burning Bush, the number of the Twelve
Tribes, types, shadows, glosses on the law and the prophets; there were
discussions (dull enough) on the age of Methuselah, a mighty speculation!
there were outlines, rude guesses at the shape of Noah's Ark and of the
riches of Solomon's Temple; questions as to the date of the creation,
predictions of the end of all things; the great lapses of time, the
strange mutations of the globe were unfolded with the voluminous leaf, as
it turned over; and though the soul might slumber with an hieroglyphic
veil of inscrutable mysteries drawn over it, yet it was in a slumber
ill-exchanged for all the sharpened realities of sense, wit, fancy, or
reason. My father's life was comparatively a dream; but it was a dream of
infinity and eternity, of death, the resurrection, and a judgment to come!

No two individuals were ever more unlike than were the host and his guest.
A poet was to my father a sort of nondescript: yet whatever added grace to
the Unitarian cause was to him welcome. He could hardly have been more
surprised or pleased, if our visitor had worn wings. Indeed, his thoughts
had wings; and as the silken sounds rustled round our little wainscoted
parlour, my father threw back his spectacles over his forehead, his white
hairs mixing with its sanguine hue; and a smile of delight beamed across
his rugged cordial face, to think that Truth had found a new ally in
Fancy![143] Besides, Coleridge seemed to take considerable notice of me,
and that of itself was enough. He talked very familiarly, but agreeably,
and glanced over a variety of subjects. At dinner-time he grew more
animated, and dilated in a very edifying manner on Mary Wolstonecraft and
Mackintosh. The last, he said, he considered (on my father's speaking of
his _Vindiciæ Gallicæ_ as a capital performance) as a clever scholastic
man--a master of the topics,--or as the ready warehouseman of letters, who
knew exactly where to lay his hand on what he wanted, though the goods
were not his own. He thought him no match for Burke, either in style or
matter. Burke was a metaphysician, Mackintosh a mere logician. Burke was
an orator (almost a poet) who reasoned in figures, because he had an eye
for nature: Mackintosh, on the other hand, was a rhetorician, who had only
an eye to common-places. On this I ventured to say that I had always
entertained a great opinion of Burke, and that (as far as I could find)
the speaking of him with contempt might be made the test of a vulgar
democratical mind. This was the first observation I ever made to
Coleridge, and he said it was a very just and striking one. I remember the
leg of Welsh mutton and the turnips on the table that day had the finest
flavour imaginable. Coleridge added that Mackintosh and Tom. Wedgwood (of
whom, however, he spoke highly) had expressed a very indifferent opinion
of his friend Mr. Wordsworth, on which he remarked to them--"He strides on
so far before you, that he dwindles in the distance!" Godwin had once
boasted to him of having carried on an argument with Mackintosh for three
hours with dubious success; Coleridge told him--"If there had been a man
of genius in the room, he would have settled the question in five
minutes." He asked me if I had ever seen Mary Wolstonecraft, and I said, I
had once for a few moments, and that she seemed to me to turn off Godwin's
objections to something she advanced with quite a playful, easy air. He
replied, that "this was only one instance of the ascendancy which people
of imagination exercised over those of mere intellect." He did not rate
Godwin very high[144] (this was caprice or prejudice, real or affected)
but he had a great idea of Mrs. Wolstonecraft's powers of conversation,
none at all of her talent for book-making. We talked a little about
Holcroft. He had been asked if he was not much struck _with_ him, and he
said, he thought himself in more danger of being struck by him. I
complained that he would not let me get on at all, for he required a
definition of every the commonest word, exclaiming, "What do you mean by a
_sensation_, Sir? What do you mean by an _idea_?" This, Coleridge said,
was barricadoing the road to truth: it was setting up a turnpike-gate at
every step we took. I forget a great number of things, many more than I
remember; but the day passed off pleasantly, and the next morning Mr.
Coleridge was to return to Shrewsbury. When I came down to breakfast, I
found that he had just received a letter from his friend, T. Wedgwood,
making him an offer of 150 _l._ a-year if he chose to wave his present
pursuit, and devote himself entirely to the study of poetry and
philosophy. Coleridge seemed to make up his mind to close with this
proposal in the act of tying on one of his shoes. It threw an additional
damp on his departure. It took the wayward enthusiast quite from us to
cast him into Deva's winding vales, or by the shores of old romance.
Instead of living at ten miles distance, of being the pastor of a
Dissenting congregation at Shrewsbury, he was henceforth to inhabit the
Hill of Parnassus, to be a Shepherd on the Delectable Mountains. Alas! I
knew not the way thither, and felt very little gratitude for Mr.
Wedgwood's bounty. I was presently relieved from this dilemma; for Mr.
Coleridge, asking for a pen and ink, and going to a table to write
something on a bit of card, advanced towards me with undulating step, and
giving me the precious document, said that that was his address, _Mr.
Coleridge, Nether-Stowey, Somersetshire_; and that he should be glad to
see me there in a few weeks' time, and, if I chose, would come half-way to
meet me. I was not less surprised than the shepherd-boy (this simile is to
be found in Cassandra) when he sees a thunderbolt fall close at his feet.
I stammered out my acknowledgments and acceptance of this offer (I thought
Mr. Wedgwood's annuity a trifle to it) as well as I could; and this mighty
business being settled, the poet-preacher took leave, and I accompanied
him six miles on the road. It was a fine morning in the middle of winter,
and he talked the whole way. The scholar in Chaucer is described as going

  ----"Sounding on his way."

So Coleridge went on his. In digressing, in dilating, in passing from
subject to subject, he appeared to me to float in air, to slide on ice. He
told me in confidence (going along) that he should have preached two
sermons before he accepted the situation at Shrewsbury, one on Infant
Baptism, the other on the Lord's Supper, shewing that he could not
administer either, which would have effectually disqualified him for the
object in view. I observed that he continually crossed me on the way by
shifting from one side of the foot-path to the other. This struck me as an
odd movement; but I did not at that time connect it with any instability
of purpose or involuntary change of principle, as I have done since. He
seemed unable to keep on in a strait line. He spoke slightingly of Hume
(whose Essay on Miracles he said was stolen from an objection started in
one of South's sermons--_Credat Judæus Appella_!) I was not very much
pleased at this account of Hume, for I had just been reading, with
infinite relish, that completest of all metaphysical _choke-pears_, his
_Treatise on Human Nature_, to which the _Essays_, in point of scholastic
subtlety and close reasoning, are mere elegant trifling, light
summer-reading. Coleridge even denied the excellence of Hume's general
style, which I think betrayed a want of taste or candour. He however made
me amends by the manner in which he spoke of Berkeley. He dwelt
particularly on his _Essay on Vision_ as a masterpiece of analytical
reasoning. So it undoubtedly is. He was exceedingly angry with Dr. Johnson
for striking the stone with his foot, in allusion to this author's Theory
of Matter and Spirit, and saying, "Thus I confute him, Sir." Coleridge
drew a parallel (I don't know how he brought about the connection) between
Bishop Berkeley and Tom Paine. He said the one was an instance of a
subtle, the other of an acute mind, than which no two things could be more
distinct. The one was a shop-boy's quality, the other the characteristic
of a philosopher. He considered Bishop Butler as a true philosopher, a
profound and conscientious thinker, a genuine reader of nature and of his
own mind. He did not speak of his _Analogy_, but of his _Sermons at the
Rolls' Chapel_, of which I had never heard. Coleridge somehow always
contrived to prefer the _unknown_ to the _known_. In this instance he was
right. The _Analogy_ is a tissue of sophistry, of wire-drawn, theological
special-pleading; the _Sermons_ (with the Preface to them) are in a fine
vein of deep, matured reflection, a candid appeal to our observation of
human nature, without pedantry and without bias. I told Coleridge I had
written a few remarks, and was sometimes foolish enough to believe that I
had made a discovery on the same subject (the _Natural Disinterestedness
of the Human Mind_)--and I tried to explain my view of it to Coleridge,
who listened with great willingness, but I did not succeed in making
myself understood. I sat down to the task shortly afterwards for the
twentieth time, got new pens and paper, determined to make clear work of
it, wrote a few meagre sentences in the skeleton-style of a mathematical
demonstration, stopped half-way down the second page; and, after trying in
vain to pump up any words, images, notions, apprehensions, facts, or
observations, from that gulph of abstraction in which I had plunged myself
for four or five years preceding, gave up the attempt as labour in vain,
and shed tears of helpless despondency on the blank unfinished paper. I
can write fast enough now. Am I better than I was then? Oh no! One truth
discovered, one pang of regret at not being able to express it, is better
than all the fluency and flippancy in the world. Would that I could go
back to what I then was! Why can we not revive past times as we can
revisit old places? If I had the quaint Muse of Sir Philip Sidney to
assist me, I would write a _Sonnet to the Road between W--m and
Shrewsbury_, and immortalise every step of it by some fond enigmatical
conceit. I would swear that the very milestones had ears, and that
Harmer-hill stooped with all its pines, to listen to a poet, as he passed!
I remember but one other topic of discourse in this walk. He mentioned
Paley, praised the naturalness and clearness of his style, but condemned
his sentiments, thought him a mere time-serving casuist, and said that
"the fact of his work on Moral and Political Philosophy being made a
text-book in our Universities was a disgrace to the national character."
We parted at the six-mile stone; and I returned homeward pensive but much
pleased. I had met with unexpected notice from a person, whom I believed
to have been prejudiced against me. "Kind and affable to me had been his
condescension, and should be honoured ever with suitable regard." He was
the first poet I had known, and he certainly answered to that inspired
name. I had heard a great deal of his powers of conversation, and was not
disappointed. In fact, I never met with any thing at all like them, either
before or since. I could easily credit the accounts which were circulated
of his holding forth to a large party of ladies and gentlemen, an evening
or two before, on the Berkeleian Theory, when he made the whole material
universe look like a transparency of fine words; and another story (which
I believe he has somewhere told himself) of his being asked to a party at
Birmingham, of his smoking tobacco and going to sleep after dinner on a
sofa, where the company found him to their no small surprise, which was
increased to wonder when he started up of a sudden, and rubbing his eyes,
looked about him, and launched into a three-hours' description of the
third heaven, of which he had had a dream, very different from Mr.
Southey's Vision of Judgment, and also from that other Vision of Judgment,
which Mr. Murray, the Secretary of the Bridge-street Junto, has taken into
his especial keeping!

On my way back, I had a sound in my ears, it was the voice of Fancy: I had
a light before me, it was the face of Poetry. The one still lingers there,
the other has not quitted my side! Coleridge in truth met me half-way on
the ground of philosophy, or I should not have been won over to his
imaginative creed. I had an uneasy, pleasurable sensation all the time,
till I was to visit him. During those months the chill breath of winter
gave me a welcoming; the vernal air was balm and inspiration to me. The
golden sun-sets, the silver star of evening, lighted me on my way to new
hopes and prospects. _I was to visit Coleridge in the spring._ This
circumstance was never absent from my thoughts, and mingled with all my
feelings. I wrote to him at the time proposed, and received an answer
postponing my intended visit for a week or two, but very cordially urging
me to complete my promise then. This delay did not damp, but rather
increase my ardour. In the mean time, I went to Llangollen Vale, by way of
initiating myself in the mysteries of natural scenery; and I must say I
was enchanted with it. I had been reading Coleridge's description of
England, in his fine _Ode on the Departing Year_, and I applied it, _con
amore_, to the objects before me. That valley was to me (in a manner) the
cradle of a new existence; in the river that winds through it, my spirit
was baptised in the waters of Helicon!

I returned home, and soon after set out on my journey with unworn heart
and untired feet. My way lay through Worcester and Gloucester, and by
Upton, where I thought of Tom Jones and the adventure of the muff. I
remember getting completely wet through one day, and stopping at an inn (I
think it was at Tewkesbury) where I sat up all night to read Paul and
Virginia. Sweet were the showers in early youth that drenched my body, and
sweet the drops of pity that fell upon the books I read! I recollect a
remark of Coleridge's upon this very book, that nothing could shew the
gross indelicacy of French manners and the entire corruption of their
imagination more strongly than the behaviour of the heroine in the last
fatal scene, who turns away from a person on board the sinking vessel,
that offers to save her life, because he has thrown off his clothes to
assist him in swimming. Was this a time to think of such a circumstance? I
once hinted to Wordsworth, as we were sailing in his boat on Grasmere
lake, that I thought he had borrowed the idea of his _Poems on the Naming
of Places_ from the local inscriptions of the same kind in Paul and
Virginia. He did not own the obligation, and stated some distinction
without a difference, in defence of his claim to originality. Any the
slightest variation would be sufficient for this purpose in his mind; for
whatever _he_ added or omitted would inevitably be worth all that any one
else had done, and contain the marrow of the sentiment.--I was still two
days before the time fixed for my arrival, for I had taken care to set out
early enough. I stopped these two days at Bridgewater, and when I was
tired of sauntering on the banks of its muddy river, returned to the inn,
and read Camilla. So have I loitered my life away, reading books, looking
at pictures, going to plays, hearing, thinking, writing on what pleased me
best. I have wanted only one thing to make me happy; but wanting that,
have wanted every thing!

I arrived, and was well received. The country about Nether Stowey is
beautiful, green and hilly, and near the sea-shore. I saw it but the other
day, after an interval of twenty years, from a hill near Taunton. How was
the map of my life spread out before me, as the map of the country lay at
my feet! In the afternoon, Coleridge took me over to All-Foxden, a
romantic old family-mansion of the St. Aubins, where Wordsworth lived. It
was then in the possession of a friend of the poet's, who gave him the
free use of it. Somehow that period (the time just after the French
Revolution) was not a time when _nothing was given for nothing_. The mind
opened, and a softness might be perceived coming over the heart of
individuals, beneath "the scales that fence" our self-interest. Wordsworth
himself was from home, but his sister kept house, and set before us a
frugal repast; and we had free access to her brother's poems, the _Lyrical
Ballads_, which were still in manuscript, or in the form of _Sybilline
Leaves_. I dipped into a few of these with great satisfaction, and with
the faith of a novice. I slept that night in an old room with blue
hangings, and covered with the round-faced family-portraits of the age of
George I. and II. and from the wooded declivity of the adjoining park that
overlooked my window, at the dawn of day, could

  ----"hear the loud stag speak."


In the outset of life (and particularly at this time I felt it so) our
imagination has a body to it. We are in a state between sleeping and
waking, and have indistinct but glorious glimpses of strange shapes, and
there is always something to come better than what we see. As in our
dreams the fulness of the blood gives warmth and reality to the coinage of
the brain, so in youth our ideas are clothed, and fed, and pampered with
our good spirits; we breathe thick with thoughtless happiness, the weight
of future years presses on the strong pulses of the heart, and we repose
with undisturbed faith in truth and good. As we advance, we exhaust our
fund of enjoyment and of hope. We are no longer wrapped in _lamb's-wool_,
lulled in Elysium. As we taste the pleasures of life, their spirit
evaporates, the sense palls; and nothing is left but the phantoms, the
lifeless shadows of what _has been_!

That morning, as soon as breakfast was over, we strolled out into the
park, and seating ourselves on the trunk of an old ash-tree that stretched
along the ground, Coleridge read aloud with a sonorous and musical voice,
the ballad of _Betty Foy_. I was not critically or sceptically inclined. I
saw touches of truth and nature, and took the rest for granted. But in the
_Thorn_, the _Mad Mother_, and the _Complaint of a Poor Indian Woman_, I
felt that deeper power and pathos which have been since acknowledged,

  "In spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,"

as the characteristics of this author; and the sense of a new style and a
new spirit in poetry came over me. It had to me something of the effect
that arises from the turning up of the fresh soil, or of the first welcome
breath of Spring,

  "While yet the trembling year is unconfirmed."

Coleridge and myself walked back to Stowey that evening, and his voice
sounded high

  "Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
  Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,"

as we passed through echoing grove, by fairy stream or waterfall, gleaming
in the summer moonlight! He lamented that Wordsworth was not prone enough
to belief in the traditional superstitions of the place, and that there
was a something corporeal, a _matter-of-fact-ness_, a clinging to the
palpable, or often to the petty, in his poetry, in consequence. His genius
was not a spirit that descended to him through the air; it sprung out of
the ground like a flower, or unfolded itself from a green spray, on which
the gold-finch sang. He said, however (if I remember right), that this
objection must be confined to his descriptive pieces, that his philosophic
poetry had a grand and comprehensive spirit in it, so that his soul seemed
to inhabit the universe like a palace, and to discover truth by intuition,
rather than by deduction. The next day Wordsworth arrived from Bristol at
Coleridge's cottage. I think I see him now. He answered in some degree to
his friend's description of him, but was more gaunt and Don Quixote-like.
He was quaintly dressed (according to the _costume_ of that unconstrained
period) in a brown fustian jacket and striped pantaloons. There was
something of a roll, a lounge in his gait, not unlike his own Peter Bell.
There was a severe, worn pressure of thought about his temples, a fire in
his eye (as if he saw something in objects more than the outward
appearance) an intense high narrow forehead, a Roman nose, cheeks furrowed
by strong purpose and feeling, and a convulsive inclination to laughter
about the mouth, a good deal at variance with the solemn, stately
expression of the rest of his face. Chantrey's bust wants the marking
traits; but he was teazed into making it regular and heavy: Haydon's head
of him, introduced into the _Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem_, is the
most like his drooping weight of thought and expression. He sat down and
talked very naturally and freely, with a mixture of clear gushing accents
in his voice, a deep guttural intonation, and a strong tincture of the
northern _burr_, like the crust on wine. He instantly began to make havoc
of the half of a Cheshire cheese on the table, and said triumphantly that
"his marriage with experience had not been so unproductive as Mr.
Southey's in teaching him a knowledge of the good things of this life." He
had been to see the _Castle Spectre_ by Monk Lewis, while at Bristol, and
described it very well. He said "it fitted the taste of the audience like
a glove." This _ad captandum_ merit was however by no means a
recommendation of it, according to the severe principles of the new
school, which reject rather than court popular effect. Wordsworth, looking
out of the low, latticed window, said, "How beautifully the sun sets on
that yellow bank!" I thought within myself, "With what eyes these poets
see nature!" and ever after, when I saw the sun-set stream upon the
objects facing it, conceived I had made a discovery, or thanked Mr.
Wordsworth for having made one for me! We went over to All-Foxden again
the day following, and Wordsworth read us the story of Peter Bell in the
open air; and the comment upon it by his face and voice was very different
from that of some later critics! Whatever might be thought of the poem,
"his face was as a book where men might read strange matters," and he
announced the fate of his hero in prophetic tones. There is a _chaunt_ in
the recitation both of Coleridge and Wordsworth, which acts as a spell
upon the hearer, and disarms the judgment. Perhaps they have deceived
themselves by making habitual use of this ambiguous accompaniment.
Coleridge's manner is more full, animated, and varied; Wordsworth's more
equable, sustained, and internal. The one might be termed more _dramatic_,
the other more _lyrical_. Coleridge has told me that he himself liked to
compose in walking over uneven ground, or breaking through the straggling
branches of a copse wood; whereas Wordsworth always wrote (if he could)
walking up and down a strait gravel-walk, or in some spot where the
continuity of his verse met with no collateral interruption. Returning
that same evening, I got into a metaphysical argument with Wordsworth,
while Coleridge was explaining the different notes of the nightingale to
his sister, in which we neither of us succeeded in making ourselves
perfectly clear and intelligible. Thus I passed three weeks at Nether
Stowey and in the neighbourhood, generally devoting the afternoons to a
delightful chat in an arbour made of bark by the poet's friend Tom Poole,
sitting under two fine elm-trees, and listening to the bees humming round
us, while we quaffed our _flip_. It was agreed, among other things, that
we should make a jaunt down the Bristol-Channel, as far as Linton. We set
off together on foot, Coleridge, John Chester, and I. This Chester was a
native of Nether Stowey, one of those who were attracted to Coleridge's
discourse as flies are to honey, or bees in swarming-time to the sound of
a brass pan. He "followed in the chace, like a dog who hunts, not like one
that made up the cry." He had on a brown cloth coat, boots, and corduroy
breeches, was low in stature, bow-legged, had a drag in his walk like a
drover, which he assisted by a hazel switch, and kept on a sort of trot by
the side of Coleridge, like a running footman by a state coach, that he
might not lose a syllable or sound, that fell from Coleridge's lips. He
told me his private opinion, that Coleridge was a wonderful man. He
scarcely opened his lips, much less offered an opinion the whole way: yet
of the three, had I to chuse during that journey, I would be John Chester.
He afterwards followed Coleridge into Germany, where the Kantean
philosophers were puzzled how to bring him under any of their categories.
When he sat down at table with his idol, John's felicity was complete; Sir
Walter Scott's or Mr. Blackwood's, when they sat down at the same table
with the King, was not more so. We passed Dunster on our right, a small
town between the brow of a hill and the sea. I remember eyeing it
wistfully as it lay below us: contrasted with the woody scene around, it
looked as clear, as pure, as _embrowned_ and ideal as any landscape I have
seen since, of Gaspar Poussin's or Domenichino's. We had a long day's
march--(our feet kept time to the echoes of Coleridge's tongue)--through
Minehead and by the Blue Anchor, and on to Linton, which we did not reach
till near midnight, and where we had some difficulty in making a lodgment.
We however knocked the people of the house up at last, and we were repaid
for our apprehensions and fatigue by some excellent rashers of fried bacon
and eggs. The view in coming along had been splendid. We walked for miles
and miles on dark brown heaths overlooking the channel, with the Welsh
hills beyond, and at times descended into little sheltered valleys close
by the sea-side, with a smuggler's face scowling by us, and then had to
ascend conical hills with a path winding up through a coppice to a barren
top, like a monk's shaven crown, from one of which I pointed out to
Coleridge's notice the bare masts of a vessel on the very edge of the
horizon and within the red-orbed disk of the setting sun, like his own
spectre-ship in the _Ancient Mariner_. At Linton the character of the
sea-coast becomes more marked and rugged. There is a place called the
_Valley of Rocks_ (I suspect this was only the poetical name for it)
bedded among precipices overhanging the sea, with rocky caverns beneath,
into which the waves dash, and where the sea-gull for ever wheels its
screaming flight. On the tops of these are huge stones thrown transverse,
as if an earthquake had tossed them there, and behind these is a fretwork
of perpendicular rocks, something like the _Giant's Causeway_. A
thunderstorm came on while we were at the inn, and Coleridge was running
out bareheaded to enjoy the commotion of the elements in the _Valley of
Rocks_, but as if in spite, the clouds only muttered a few angry sounds,
and let fall a few refreshing drops. Coleridge told me that he and
Wordsworth were to have made this place the scene of a prose-tale, which
was to have been in the manner of, but far superior to, the _Death of
Abel_, but they had relinquished the design. In the morning of the second
day, we breakfasted luxuriously in an old-fashioned parlour, on tea,
toast, eggs, and honey, in the very sight of the bee-hives from which it
had been taken, and a garden full of thyme and wild flowers that had
produced it. On this occasion Coleridge spoke of Virgil's Georgics, but
not well. I do not think he had much feeling for the classical or elegant.
It was in this room that we found a little worn-out copy of the _Seasons_,
lying in a window-seat, on which Coleridge exclaimed, "_That_ is true
fame!" He said Thomson was a great poet, rather than a good one; his style
was as meretricious as his thoughts were natural. He spoke of Cowper as
the best modern poet. He said the _Lyrical Ballads_ were an experiment
about to be tried by him and Wordsworth, to see how far the public taste
would endure poetry written in a more natural and simple style than had
hitherto been attempted; totally discarding the artifices of poetical
diction, and making use only of such words as had probably been common in
the most ordinary language since the days of Henry II. Some comparison was
introduced between Shakspeare and Milton. He said "he hardly knew which to
prefer. Shakspeare appeared to him a mere stripling in the art; he was as
tall and as strong, with infinitely more activity than Milton, but he
never appeared to have come to man's estate; or if he had, he would not
have been a man, but a monster." He spoke with contempt of Gray, and with
intolerance of Pope. He did not like the versification of the latter. He
observed that "the ears of these couplet-writers might be charged with
having short memories, that could not retain the harmony of whole
passages." He thought little of Junius as a writer; he had a dislike of
Dr. Johnson; and a much higher opinion of Burke as an orator and
politician, than of Fox or Pitt. He however thought him very inferior in
richness of style and imagery to some of our elder prose-writers,
particularly Jeremy Taylor. He liked Richardson, but not Fielding; nor
could I get him to enter into the merits of _Caleb Williams_.[145] In
short, he was profound and discriminating with respect to those authors
whom he liked, and where he gave his judgment fair play; capricious,
perverse, and prejudiced in his antipathies and distastes. We loitered on
the "ribbed sea-sands," in such talk as this, a whole morning, and I
recollect met with a curious sea-weed, of which John Chester told us the
country name! A fisherman gave Coleridge an account of a boy that had been
drowned the day before, and that they had tried to save him at the risk of
their own lives. He said "he did not know how it was that they ventured,
but, Sir, we have a _nature_ towards one another." This expression,
Coleridge remarked to me, was a fine illustration of that theory of
disinterestedness which I (in common with Butler) had adopted. I broached
to him an argument of mine to prove that _likeness_ was not mere
association of ideas. I said that the mark in the sand put one in mind of
a man's foot, not because it was part of a former impression of a man's
foot (for it was quite new) but because it was like the shape of a man's
foot. He assented to the justness of this distinction (which I have
explained at length elsewhere, for the benefit of the curious) and John
Chester listened; not from any interest in the subject, but because he was
astonished that I should be able to suggest any thing to Coleridge that he
did not already know. We returned on the third morning, and Coleridge
remarked the silent cottage-smoke curling up the valleys where, a few
evenings before, we had seen the lights gleaming through the dark.

In a day or two after we arrived at Stowey we set out, I on my return
home, and he for Germany. It was a Sunday morning, and he was to preach
that day for Dr. Toulmin of Taunton. I asked him if he had prepared any
thing for the occasion? He said he had not even thought of the text, but
should as soon as we parted. I did not go to hear him,--this was a
fault,--but we met in the evening at Bridgewater. The next day we had a
long day's walk to Bristol, and sat down, I recollect, by a well-side on
the road, to cool ourselves and satisfy our thirst, when Coleridge
repeated to me some descriptive lines from his tragedy of Remorse; which I
must say became his mouth and that occasion better than they, some years
after, did Mr. Elliston's and the Drury-lane boards,--

  "Oh memory! shield me from the world's poor strife,
  And give those scenes thine everlasting life."


I saw no more of him for a year or two, during which period he had been
wandering in the Hartz Forest in Germany; and his return was cometary,
meteorous, unlike his setting out. It was not till some time after that I
knew his friends Lamb and Southey. The last always appears to me (as I
first saw him) with a common-place book under his arm, and the first with
a _bon-mot_ in his mouth. It was at Godwin's that I met him with Holcroft
and Coleridge, where they were disputing fiercely which was the best--_Man
as he was, or man as he is to be_. "Give me," says Lamb, "man as he is
_not_ to be." This saying was the beginning of a friendship between us,
which I believe still continues.--Enough of this for the present.

  "But there is matter for another rhyme,
  And I to this may add a second tale."



XVIII

ON THE CONVERSATION OF AUTHORS


The soul of conversation is sympathy.--Authors should converse chiefly
with authors, and their talk should be of books. "When Greek meets Greek,
then comes the tug of war." There is nothing so pedantic as pretending not
to be pedantic. No man can get above his pursuit in life: it is getting
above himself, which is impossible. There is a Free-masonry in all things.
You can only speak to be understood, but this you cannot be, except by
those who are in the secret. Hence an argument has been drawn to supersede
the necessity of conversation altogether; for it has been said, that there
is no use in talking to people of sense, who know all that you can tell
them, nor to fools, who will not be instructed. There is, however, the
smallest encouragement to proceed, when you are conscious that the more
you really enter into a subject, the farther you will be from the
comprehension of your hearers--and that the more proofs you give of any
position, the more odd and out-of-the-way they will think your notions.
C---- is the only person who can talk to all sorts of people, on all sorts
of subjects, without caring a farthing for their understanding one word he
says--and _he_ talks only for admiration and to be listened to, and
accordingly the least interruption puts him out. I firmly believe he would
make just the same impression on half his audiences, if he purposely
repeated absolute nonsense with the same voice and manner and
inexhaustible flow of undulating speech! In general, wit shines only by
reflection. You must take your cue from your company--must rise as they
rise, and sink as they fall. You must see that your good things, your
knowing allusions, are not flung away, like the pearls in the adage. What
a check it is to be asked a foolish question; to find that the first
principles are not understood! You are thrown on your back immediately,
the conversation is stopped like a country-dance by those who do not know
the figure. But when a set of adepts, of _illuminati_, get about a
question, it is worth while to hear them talk. They may snarl and quarrel
over it, like dogs; but they pick it bare to the bone, they masticate it
thoroughly.

This was the case formerly at L----'s--where we used to have many lively
skirmishes at their Thursday evening parties. I doubt whether the
Small-coal man's musical parties could exceed them. Oh! for the pen of
John Buncle to consecrate a _petit souvenir_ to their memory!--There was
L---- himself, the most delightful, the most provoking, the most witty and
sensible of men. He always made the best pun, and the best remark in the
course of the evening. His serious conversation, like his serious writing,
is his best. No one ever stammered out such fine, piquant, deep, eloquent
things in half a dozen half sentences as he does. His jests scald like
tears: and he probes a question with a play upon words. What a keen,
laughing, hair-brained vein of home-felt truth! What choice venom! How
often did we cut into the haunch of letters, while we discussed the haunch
of mutton on the table! How we skimmed the cream of criticism! How we got
into the heart of controversy! How we picked out the marrow of authors!
"And, in our flowing cups, many a good name and true was freshly
remembered." Recollect (most sage and critical reader) that in all this I
was but a guest! Need I go over the names? They were but the old
everlasting set--Milton and Shakespeare, Pope and Dryden, Steele and
Addison, Swift and Gay, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Richardson, Hogarth's
prints, Claude's landscapes, the Cartoons at Hampton-court, and all those
things, that, having once been, must ever be. The Scotch Novels had not
then been heard of: so we said nothing about them. In general, we were
hard upon the moderns. The author of the Rambler was only tolerated in
Boswell's Life of him; and it was as much as anyone could do to edge in a
word for Junius. L---- could not bear Gil Blas. This was a fault. I
remember the greatest triumph I ever had was in persuading him, after some
years' difficulty, that Fielding was better than Smollett. On one
occasion, he was for making out a list of persons famous in history that
one would wish to see again--at the head of whom were Pontius Pilate, Sir
Thomas Browne, and Dr. Faustus--but we black-balled most of his list! But
with what a gusto would he describe his favourite authors, Donne, or Sir
Philip Sidney, and call their most crabbed passages _delicious_! He tried
them on his palate as epicures taste olives, and his observations had a
smack in them, like a roughness on the tongue. With what discrimination he
hinted a defect in what he admired most--as in saying that the display of
the sumptuous banquet in Paradise Regained was not in true keeping, as the
simplest fare was all that was necessary to tempt the extremity of
hunger--and stating that Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost were too much like
married people. He has furnished many a text for C---- to preach upon.
There was no fuss or cant about him: nor were his sweets or his sours ever
diluted with one particle of affectation. I cannot say that the party at
L----'s were all of one description. There were honorary members,
lay-brothers. Wit and good fellowship was the motto inscribed over the
door. When a stranger came in, it was not asked, "Has he written
anything?"--we were above that pedantry; but we waited to see what he
could do. If he could take a hand at piquet, he was welcome to sit down.
If a person liked any thing, if he took snuff heartily, it was sufficient.
He would understand, by analogy, the pungency of other things, besides
Irish blackguard or Scotch rappee. A character was good any where, in a
room or on paper. But we abhorred insipidity, affectation, and fine
gentlemen. There was one of our party who never failed to mark "two for
his Nob" at cribbage, and he was thought no mean person. This was Ned
P----, and a better fellow in his way breathes not. There was ----, who
asserted some incredible matter of fact as a likely paradox, and settled
all controversies by an _ipse dixit_, a _fiat_ of his will, hammering out
many a hard theory on the anvil of his brain--the Baron Munchausen of
politics and practical philosophy:--there was Captain ----, who had you at
an advantage by never understanding you:--there was Jem White, the author
of Falstaff's Letters, who the other day left this dull world to go in
search of more kindred spirits, "turning like the latter end of a lover's
lute:"--there was A----, who sometimes dropped in, the Will Honeycomb of
our set--and Mrs. R----, who being of a quiet turn, loved to hear a noisy
debate. An utterly uninformed person might have supposed this a scene of
vulgar confusion and uproar. While the most critical question was pending,
while the most difficult problem in philosophy was solving, P---- cried
out, "That's game," and M. B. muttered a quotation over the last remains
of a veal-pie at a side-table. Once, and once only, the literary interest
overcame the general. For C---- was riding the high German horse, and
demonstrating the Categories of the Transcendental philosophy to the
author of the Road to Ruin; who insisted on his knowledge of German, and
German metaphysics, having read the _Critique of Pure Reason_ in the
original. "My dear Mr. Holcroft," said C----, in a tone of infinitely
provoking conciliation, "you really put me in mind of a sweet pretty
German girl, about fifteen, that I met with in the Hartz forest in
Germany--and who one day, as I was reading the Limits of the Knowable and
the Unknowable, the profoundest of all his works, with great attention,
came behind my chair, and leaning over, said, What, _you_ read Kant? Why,
_I_ that am a German born, don't understand him!" This was too much to
bear, and Holcroft, starting up, called out in no measured tone, "Mr.
C----, you are the most eloquent man I ever met with, and the most
troublesome with your eloquence!" P---- held the cribbage-peg that was to
mark him game, suspended in his hand; and the whist table was silent for a
moment. I saw Holcroft down stairs, and, on coming to the landing-place in
Mitre-court, he stopped me to observe, that "he thought Mr. C---- a very
clever man, with a great command of language, but that he feared he did
not always affix very precise ideas to the words he used." After he was
gone, we had our laugh out, and went on with the argument on the nature of
Reason, the Imagination, and the Will. I wish I could find a publisher for
it: it would make a supplement to the _Biographia Literaria_ in a volume
and a half octavo.

Those days are over! An event, the name of which I wish never to mention,
broke up our party, like a bombshell thrown into the room: and now we
seldom meet----

  "Like angels' visits, short and far between."

There is no longer the same set of persons, nor of associations. L----
does not live where he did. By shifting his abode, his notions seem less
fixed. He does not wear his old snuff-coloured coat and breeches. It
looks like an alteration in his style. An author and a wit should have a
separate costume, a particular cloth: he should present something positive
and singular to the mind, like Mr. Douce of the Museum. Our faith in the
religion of letters will not bear to be taken to pieces, and put together
again by caprice or accident. L. H---- goes there sometimes. He has a fine
vinous spirit about him, and tropical blood in his veins: but he is better
at his own table. He has a great flow of pleasantry and delightful animal
spirits: but his hits do not tell like L----'s; you cannot repeat them the
next day. He requires not only to be appreciated, but to have a select
circle of admirers and devotees, to feel himself quite at home. He sits at
the head of a party with great gaiety and grace; has an elegant manner and
turn of features; is never at a loss--_aliquando sufflaminandus erat_--has
continual sportive sallies of wit or fancy; tells a story capitally;
mimics an actor, or an acquaintance to admiration; laughs with great glee
and good-humour at his own or other people's jokes; understands the point
of an equivoque, or an observation immediately; has a taste and knowledge
of books, of music, of medals; manages an argument adroitly; is genteel
and gallant, and has a set of bye-phrases and quaint allusions always at
hand to produce a laugh:--if he has a fault, it is that he does not listen
so well as he speaks, is impatient of interruption, and is fond of being
looked up to, without considering by whom. I believe, however, he has
pretty well seen the folly of this. Neither is his ready display of
personal accomplishment and variety of resources an advantage to his
writings. They sometimes present a desultory and slipshod appearance,
owing to this very circumstance. The same things that tell, perhaps, best,
to a private circle round the fireside, are not always intelligible to the
public, nor does he take pains to make them so. He is too confident and
secure of his audience. That which may be entertaining enough with the
assistance of a certain liveliness of manner, may read very flat on paper,
because it is abstracted from all the circumstances that had set it off to
advantage. A writer should recollect that he has only to trust to the
immediate impression of words, like a musician who sings without the
accompaniment of an instrument. There is nothing to help out, or slubber
over, the defects of the voice in the one case, nor of the style in the
other. The reader may, if he pleases, get a very good idea of L. H----'s
conversation from a very agreeable paper he has lately published, called
the _Indicator_, than which nothing can be more happily conceived or
executed.

The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.
Authors in general are not good listeners. Some of the best talkers are,
on this account, the worst company; and some who are very indifferent, but
very great talkers, are as bad. It is sometimes wonderful to see how a
person, who has been entertaining or tiring a company by the hour
together, drops his countenance as if he had been shot, or had been seized
with a sudden lock-jaw, the moment anyone interposes a single observation.
The best converser I know is, however, the best listener. I mean Mr.
Northcote, the painter. Painters by their profession are not bound to
shine in conversation, and they shine the more. He lends his ear to an
observation, as if you had brought him a piece of news, and enters into it
with as much avidity and earnestness, as if it interested himself
personally. If he repeats an old remark or story, it is with the same
freshness and point as for the first time. It always arises out of the
occasion, and has the stamp of originality. There is no parroting of
himself. His look is a continual, ever-varying history-piece of what
passes in his mind. His face is as a book. There need no marks of
interjection or interrogation to what he says. His manner is quite
picturesque. There is an excess of character and _naïveté_ that never
tires. His thoughts bubble up and sparkle, like beads on old wine. The
fund of anecdote, the collection of curious particulars, is enough to set
up any common retailer of jests, that dines out every day; but these are
not strung together like a row of galley-slaves, but are always introduced
to illustrate some argument or bring out some fine distinction of
character. The mixture of spleen adds to the sharpness of the point, like
poisoned arrows. Mr. Northcote enlarges with enthusiasm on the old
painters, and tells good things of the new. The only thing he ever vexed
me in was his liking the _Catalogue Raisonnée_. I had almost as soon hear
him talk of Titian's pictures (which he does with tears in his eyes, and
looking just like them) as see the originals, and I had rather hear him
talk of Sir Joshua's than see them. He is the last of that school who knew
Goldsmith and Johnson. How finely he describes Pope! His elegance of mind,
his figure, his character were not unlike his own. He does not resemble a
modern Englishman, but puts one in mind of a Roman Cardinal or Spanish
Inquisitor. I never ate or drank with Mr. Northcote; but I have lived on
his conversation with undiminished relish ever since I can remember,--and
when I leave it, I come out into the street with feelings lighter and more
etherial than I have at any other time.--One of his _tête-à-têtes_ would
at any time make an Essay; but he cannot write himself, because he loses
himself in the connecting passages, is fearful of the effect, and wants
the habit of bringing his ideas into one focus or point of view. A _lens_
is necessary to collect the diverging rays, the refracted and broken
angular lights of conversation on paper. Contradiction is half the battle
in talking--the being startled by what others say, and having to answer
on the spot. You have to defend yourself, paragraph by paragraph,
parenthesis within parenthesis. Perhaps it might be supposed that a person
who excels in conversation and cannot write, would succeed better in
dialogue. But the stimulus, the immediate irritation would be wanting; and
the work would read flatter than ever, from not having the very thing it
pretended to have.

Lively sallies and connected discourse are very different things. There
are many persons of that impatient and restless turn of mind, that they
cannot wait a moment for a conclusion, or follow up the thread of any
argument. In the hurry of conversation their ideas are somehow huddled
into sense; but in the intervals of thought, leave a great gap between.
Montesquieu said, he often lost an idea before he could find words for it:
yet he dictated, by way of saving time, to an amanuensis. This last is, in
my opinion, a vile method, and a solecism in authorship. Horne Tooke,
among other paradoxes, used to maintain, that no one could write a good
style who was not in the habit of talking and hearing the sound of his own
voice. He might as well have said that no one could relish a good style
without reading it aloud, as we find common people do to assist their
apprehension. But there is a method of trying periods on the ear, or
weighing them with the scales of the breath, without any articulate sound.
Authors, as they write, may be said to "hear a sound so fine, there's
nothing lives 'twixt it and silence." Even musicians generally compose in
their heads. I agree that no style is good that is not fit to be spoken or
read aloud with effect. This holds true not only of emphasis and cadence,
but also with regard to natural idiom and colloquial freedom. Sterne's was
in this respect the best style that ever was written. You fancy that you
hear the people talking. For a contrary reason, no college-man writes a
good style, or understands it when written. Fine writing is with him all
verbiage and monotony--a translation into classical centos or hexameter
lines.

That which I have just mentioned is among many instances I could give of
ingenious absurdities advanced by Mr. Tooke in the heat and pride of
controversy. A person who knew him well, and greatly admired his talents,
said of him that he never (to his recollection) heard him defend an
opinion which he thought right, or in which he believed him to be himself
sincere. He indeed provoked his antagonists into the toils by the very
extravagance of his assertions, and the teasing sophistry by which he
rendered them plausible. His temper was prompter to his skill. He had the
manners of a man of the world, with great scholastic resources. He flung
everyone else off his guard, and was himself immovable. I never knew
anyone who did not admit his superiority in this kind of warfare. He put a
full stop to one of C----'s long-winded prefatory apologies for his youth
and inexperience, by saying abruptly, "Speak up, young man!" and, at
another time, silenced a learned professor, by desiring an explanation of
a word which the other frequently used, and which, he said, he had been
many years trying to get at the meaning of,--the copulative Is! He was the
best intellectual fencer of his day. He made strange havoc of Fuseli's
fantastic hieroglyphics, violent humours, and oddity of dialect.--Curran,
who was sometimes of the same party, was lively and animated in convivial
conversation, but dull in argument; nay, averse to anything like reasoning
or serious observation, and had the worst taste I ever knew. His favourite
critical topics were to abuse Milton's Paradise Lost, and Romeo and
Juliet. Indeed, he confessed a want of sufficient acquaintance with books
when he found himself in literary society in London. He and Sheridan once
dined at John Kemble's with Mrs. Inchbald and Mary Wolstonecraft, when
the discourse almost wholly turned on Love, "from noon to dewy eve, a
summer's day!" What a subject! What speakers, and what hearers! What would
I not give to have been there, had I not learned it all from the bright
eyes of Amaryllis, and may one day make a _Table-talk_ of it!--Peter
Pindar was rich in anecdote and grotesque humour, and profound in
technical knowledge both of music, poetry, and painting, but he was gross
and overbearing. Wordsworth sometimes talks like a man inspired on
subjects of poetry (his own out of the question)--Coleridge well on every
subject, and G--dwin on none. To finish this subject--Mrs. M----'s
conversation is as fine-cut as her features, and I like to sit in the room
with that sort of coronet face. What she said leaves a flavour, like fine
green tea. H--t's is like champagne, and N----'s like anchovy sandwiches.
H--yd--n's is like a game at trap-ball: L----'s like snap-dragon: and my
own (if I do not mistake the matter) is not very much unlike a game at
nine-pins!... One source of the conversation of authors, is the character
of other authors, and on that they are rich indeed. What things they say!
What stories they tell of one another, more particularly of their friends!
If I durst only give some of these confidential communications!... The
reader may perhaps think the foregoing a specimen of them:--but indeed he
is mistaken.

I do not know of any greater impertinence, than for an obscure individual
to set about pumping a character of celebrity. "Bring him to me," said a
Doctor Tronchin, speaking of Rousseau, "that I may see whether he has
anything in him." Before you can take measure of the capacity of others,
you ought to be sure that they have not taken measure of yours. They may
think you a spy on them, and may not like their company. If you really
want to know whether another person can talk well, begin by saying a good
thing yourself, and you will have a right to look for a rejoinder. "The
best tennis-players," says Sir Fopling Flutter, "make the best matches."

      ----------------For wit is like a rest
  Held up at tennis, which men do the best
  With the best players.


We hear it often said of a great author, or a great actress, that they are
very stupid people in private. But he was a fool that said so. _Tell me
your company, and I'll tell you your manners._ In conversation, as in
other things, the action and reaction should bear a certain proportion to
each other.--Authors may, in some sense, be looked upon as foreigners, who
are not naturalised even in their native soil. L---- once came down into
the country to see us. He was "like the most capricious poet Ovid among
the Goths." The country people thought him an oddity, and did not
understand his jokes. It would be strange if they had; for he did not make
any, while he staid. But when he crossed the country to Oxford, then he
spoke a little. He and the old colleges were hail-fellow well met; and in
the quadrangles, he "walked gowned."

There is a character of a gentleman; so there is a character of a scholar,
which is no less easily recognised. The one has an air of books about him,
as the other has of good-breeding. The one wears his thoughts as the other
does his clothes, gracefully; and even if they are a little old-fashioned,
they are not ridiculous: they have had their day. The gentleman shows, by
his manner, that he has been used to respect from others: the scholar that
he lays claim to self-respect and to a certain independence of opinion.
The one has been accustomed to the best company; the other has passed his
time in cultivating an intimacy with the best authors. There is nothing
forward or vulgar in the behaviour of the one; nothing shrewd or petulant
in the observations of the other, as if he should astonish the
bye-standers, or was astonished himself at his own discoveries. Good taste
and good sense, like common politeness, are, or are supposed to be,
matters of course. One is distinguished by an appearance of marked
attention to every one present; the other manifests an habitual air of
abstraction and absence of mind. The one is not an upstart with all the
self-important airs of the founder of his own fortune; nor the other a
self-taught man, with the repulsive self-sufficiency which arises from an
ignorance of what hundreds have known before him. We must excuse perhaps a
little conscious family-pride in the one, and a little harmless pedantry
in the other.--As there is a class of the first character which sinks into
the mere gentleman, that is, which has nothing but this sense of
respectability and propriety to support it--so the character of a scholar
not unfrequently dwindles down into the shadow of a shade, till nothing is
left of it but the mere book-worm. There is often something amiable as
well as enviable in this last character. I know one such instance, at
least. The person I mean has an admiration for learning, if he is only
dazzled by its light. He lives among old authors, if he does not enter
much into their spirit. He handles the covers, and turns over the page,
and is familiar with the names and dates. He is busy and self-involved. He
hangs like a film and cobweb upon letters, or is like the dust upon the
outside of knowledge, which should not be rudely brushed aside. He follows
learning as its shadow; but as such, he is respectable. He browzes on the
husk and leaves of books, as the young fawn browzes on the bark and leaves
of trees. Such a one lives all his life in a dream of learning, and has
never once had his sleep broken by a real sense of things. He believes
implicitly in genius, truth, virtue, liberty, because he finds the names
of these things in books. He thinks that love and friendship are the
finest things imaginable, both in practice and theory. The legend of good
women is to him no fiction. When he steals from the twilight of his cell,
the scene breaks upon him like an illuminated missal, and all the people
he sees are but so many figures in a _camera obscura_. He reads the world,
like a favourite volume, only to find beauties in it, or like an edition
of some old work which he is preparing for the press, only to make
emendations in it, and correct the errors that have inadvertently slipt
in. He and his dog Tray are much the same honest, simple-hearted,
faithful, affectionate creatures--if Tray could but read! His mind cannot
take the impression of vice: but the gentleness of his nature turns gall
to milk. He would not hurt a fly. He draws the picture of mankind from the
guileless simplicity of his own heart: and when he dies, his spirit will
take its smiling leave, without having ever had an ill thought of others,
or the consciousness of one in itself!



XIX

OF PERSONS ONE WOULD WISH TO HAVE SEEN

"Come like shadows--so depart."


B---- it was, I think, who suggested this subject, as well as the defence
of Guy Faux, which I urged him to execute. As, however, he would undertake
neither, I suppose I must do both--a task for which he would have been
much fitter, no less from the temerity than the felicity of his pen--

  "Never so sure our rapture to create
  As when it touch'd the brink of all we hate."

Compared with him, I shall, I fear, make but a common-place piece of
business of it; but I should be loth the idea was entirely lost, and
besides I may avail myself of some hints of his in the progress of it. I
am sometimes, I suspect, a better reporter of the ideas of other people
than expounder of my own. I pursue the one too far into paradox or
mysticism; the others I am not bound to follow farther than I like, or
than seems fair and reasonable.

On the question being started, A---- said, "I suppose the two first
persons you would choose to see would be the two greatest names in English
literature, Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Locke?" In this A----, as usual,
reckoned without his host. Every one burst out a laughing at the
expression of B----'s face, in which impatience was restrained by
courtesy. "Yes, the greatest names," he stammered out hastily, "but they
were not persons--not persons."--"Not persons?" said A----, looking wise
and foolish at the same time, afraid his triumph might be premature. "That
is," rejoined B----, "not characters, you know. By Mr. Locke and Sir Isaac
Newton, you mean the Essay on the Human Understanding, and the
_Principia_, which we have to this day. Beyond their contents there is
nothing personally interesting in the men. But what we want to see any one
_bodily_ for, is when there is something peculiar, striking in the
individuals, more than we can learn from their writings, and yet are
curious to know. I dare say Locke and Newton were very like Kneller's
portraits of them. But who could paint Shakspeare?"--"Ay," retorted A----,
"there it is; then I suppose you would prefer seeing him and Milton
instead?"--"No," said B----, "neither. I have seen so much of Shakspeare
on the stage and on book-stalls, in frontispieces and on mantlepieces,
that I am quite tired of the everlasting repetition: and as to Milton's
face, the impressions that have come down to us of it I do not like; it is
too starched and puritanical; and I should be afraid of losing some of the
manna of his poetry in the leaven of his countenance and the precisian's
band and gown."--"I shall guess no more," said A----. "Who is it, then,
you would like to see 'in his habit as he lived,' if you had your choice
of the whole range of English literature?" B---- then named Sir Thomas
Brown and Fulke Greville, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney, as the two
worthies whom he should feel the greatest pleasure to encounter on the
floor of his apartment in their night-gown and slippers, and to exchange
friendly greeting with them. At this A---- laughed outright, and conceived
B---- was jesting with him; but as no one followed his example, he thought
there might be something in it, and waited for an explanation in a state
of whimsical suspense. B---- then (as well as I can remember a
conversation that passed twenty years ago;--how time slips!) went on as
follows. "The reason why I pitch upon these two authors is, that their
writings are riddles, and they themselves the most mysterious of
personages. They resemble the soothsayers of old, who dealt in dark hints
and doubtful oracles; and I should like to ask them the meaning of what no
mortal but themselves, I should suppose, can fathom. There is Dr. Johnson,
I have no curiosity, no strange uncertainty about him: he and Boswell
together have pretty well let me into the secret of what passed through
his mind. He and other writers like him are sufficiently explicit: my
friends, whose repose I should be tempted to disturb, (were it in my
power) are implicit, inextricable, inscrutable.

  "And call up him who left half-told
  The story of Cambuscan bold."


"When I look at that obscure but gorgeous prose-composition (the
_Urn-burial_) I seem to myself to look into a deep abyss, at the bottom of
which are hid pearls and rich treasure; or it is like a stately labyrinth
of doubt and withering speculation, and I would invoke the spirit of the
author to lead me through it. Besides, who would not be curious to see the
lineaments of a man who, having himself been twice married, wished that
mankind were propagated like trees! As to Fulke Greville, he is like
nothing but one of his own 'Prologues spoken by the ghost of an old king
of Ormus,' a truly formidable and inviting personage: his style is
apocalyptical, cabalistical, a knot worthy of such an apparition to untie;
and for the unravelling a passage or two, I would stand the brunt of an
encounter with so portentous a commentator!"--"I am afraid in that case,"
said A----, "that if the mystery were once cleared up, the merit might be
lost;"--and turning to me, whispered a friendly apprehension, that while
B---- continued to admire these old crabbed authors, he would never become
a popular writer. Dr. Donne was mentioned as a writer of the same period,
with a very interesting countenance, whose history was singular, and whose
meaning was often quite as _uncomeatable_, without a personal citation
from the dead, as that of any of his contemporaries. The volume was
produced; and while some one was expatiating on the exquisite simplicity
and beauty of the portrait prefixed to the old edition, A---- got hold of
the poetry, and exclaiming, "What have we here?" read the following:--

  "Here lies a She-Sun and a He-Moon there,
  She gives the best light to his sphere,
  Or each is both and all, and so
  They unto one another nothing owe."


There was no resisting this, till B----, seizing the volume, turned to the
beautiful "Lines to his Mistress," dissuading her from accompanying him
abroad, and read them with suffused features and a faltering tongue.

  "By our first strange and fatal interview,
  By all desires which thereof did ensue,
  By our long starving hopes, by that remorse
  Which my words' masculine persuasive force
  Begot in thee, and by the memory
  Of hurts, which spies and rivals threaten'd me,
  I calmly beg. But by thy father's wrath,
  By all pains which want and divorcement hath,
  I conjure thee; and all the oaths which I
  And thou have sworn to seal joint constancy
  Here I unswear, and overswear them thus.
  Thou shalt not love by ways so dangerous.
  Temper, oh fair Love! love's impetuous rage,
  Be my true mistress still, not my feign'd Page;
  I'll go, and, by thy kind leave, leave behind
  Thee! only worthy to nurse it in my mind.
  Thirst to come back; oh, if thou die before.
  My soul from other lands to thee shall soar.
  Thy (else Almighty) beauty cannot move
  Rage from the seas, nor thy love teach them love,
  Nor tame wild Boreas' harshness; thou hast read
  How roughly he in pieces shivered
  Fair Orithea, whom he swore he lov'd.
  Fall ill or good, 'tis madness to have prov'd
  Dangers unurg'd: Feed on this flattery,
  That absent lovers one with th' other be.
  Dissemble nothing, not a boy; nor change
  Thy body's habit, nor mind; be not strange
  To thyself only. All will spy in thy face
  A blushing, womanly, discovering grace.
  Richly cloth'd apes are called apes, and as soon
  Eclips'd as bright we call the moon the moon.
  Men of France, changeable cameleons.
  Spittles of diseases, shops of fashions,
  Love's fuellers, and the rightest company
  Of players, which upon the world's stage be,
  Will quickly know thee.... O stay here! for thee
  England is only a worthy gallery,
  To walk in expectation; till from thence
  Our greatest King call thee to his presence.
  When I am gone, dream me some happiness,
  Nor let thy looks our long hid love confess,
  Nor praise, nor dispraise me; nor bless, nor curse
  Openly love's force, nor in bed fright thy nurse
  With midnight startings, crying out, Oh, oh,
  Nurse, oh, my love is slain, I saw him go
  O'er the white Alps alone; I saw him, I,
  Assail'd, fight, taken, stabb'd, bleed, fall, and die,
  Augur me better chance, except dread Jove
  Think it enough for me to have had thy love."


Some one then inquired of B---- if we could not see from the window the
Temple-walk in which Chaucer used to take his exercise; and on his name
being put to the vote, I was pleased to find that there was a general
sensation in his favour in all but A----, who said something about the
ruggedness of the metre, and even objected to the quaintness of the
orthography. I was vexed at this superficial gloss, pertinaciously
reducing every thing to its own trite level, and asked "if he did not
think it would be worth while to scan the eye that had first greeted the
Muse in that dim twilight and early dawn of English literature; to see the
head, round which the visions of fancy must have played like gleams of
inspiration or a sudden glory; to watch those lips that "lisped in
numbers, for the numbers came"--as by a miracle, or as if the dumb should
speak? Nor was it alone that he had been the first to tune his native
tongue (however imperfectly to modern ears); but he was himself a noble,
manly character, standing before his age and striving to advance it; a
pleasant humourist withal, who has not only handed down to us the living
manners of his time, but had, no doubt, store of curious and quaint
devices, and would make as hearty a companion as Mine Host of Tabard. His
interview with Petrarch is fraught with interest. Yet I would rather have
seen Chaucer in company with the author of the Decameron, and have heard
them exchange their best stories together,--the Squire's Tale against the
Story of the Falcon, the Wife of Bath's Prologue against the Adventures of
Friar Albert. How fine to see the high mysterious brow which learning then
wore, relieved by the gay, familiar tone of men of the world, and by the
courtesies of genius. Surely, the thoughts and feelings which passed
through the minds of these great revivers of learning, these Cadmuses who
sowed the teeth of letters, must have stamped an expression on their
features, as different from the moderns as their books, and well worth the
perusal. Dante," I continued, "is as interesting a person as his own
Ugolino, one whose lineaments curiosity would as eagerly devour in order
to penetrate his spirit, and the only one of the Italian poets I should
care much to see. There is a fine portrait of Ariosto by no less a hand
than Titian's; light, Moorish, spirited, but not answering our idea. The
same artist's large colossal profile of Peter Aretine is the only
likeness of the kind that has the effect of conversing with 'the mighty
dead,' and this is truly spectral, ghastly, necromantic." B---- put it to
me if I should like to see Spenser as well as Chaucer; and I answered
without hesitation, "No; for that his beauties were ideal, visionary, not
palpable or personal, and therefore connected with less curiosity about
the man. His poetry was the essence of romance, a very halo round the
bright orb of fancy; and the bringing in the individual might dissolve the
charm. No tones of voice could come up to the mellifluous cadence of his
verse; no form but of a winged angel could vie with the airy shapes he has
described. He was (to our apprehensions) rather a "creature of the
element, that lived in the rainbow and played in the plighted clouds,"
than an ordinary mortal. Or if he did appear, I should wish it to be as a
mere vision, like one of his own pageants, and that he should pass by
unquestioned like a dream or sound--

      ----"_That_ was Arion crown'd:
  So went he playing on the wat'ry plain!"


Captain C. muttered something about Columbus, and M. C. hinted at the
Wandering Jew; but the last was set aside as spurious, and the first made
over to the New World.

"I should like," said Miss D----, "to have seen Pope talking with Patty
Blount; and I _have_ seen Goldsmith." Every one turned round to look at
Miss D----, as if by so doing they too could get a sight of Goldsmith.

"Where," asked a harsh croaking voice, "was Dr. Johnson in the years
1745-6? He did not write anything that we know of, nor is there any
account of him in Boswell during those two years. Was he in Scotland with
the Pretender? He seems to have passed through the scenes in the Highlands
in company with Boswell many years after 'with lack-lustre eye,' yet as if
they were familiar to him, or associated in his mind with interests that
he durst not explain. If so, it would be an additional reason for my
liking him; and I would give something to have seen him seated in the tent
with the youthful Majesty of Britain, and penning the Proclamation to all
true subjects and adherents of the legitimate Government."

"I thought," said A----, turning short round upon B----, "that you of the
Lake School did not like Pope?"--"Not like Pope! My dear sir, you must be
under a mistake--I can read him over and over for ever!"--"Why certainly,
the Essay on Man must be allowed to be a master-piece."--"It may be so,
but I seldom look into it."--"Oh! then it's his Satires you admire?"--"No,
not his Satires, but his friendly Epistles and his
compliments."--"Compliments! I did not know he ever made any."--"The
finest," said B----, "that were ever paid by the wit of man. Each of them
is worth an estate for life--nay, is an immortality. There is that superb
one to Lord Cornbury:

  "Despise low joys, low gains:
  Disdain whatever Cornbury disdains;
  Be virtuous, and be happy for your pains.

"Was there ever more artful insinuation of idolatrous praise? And then
that noble apotheosis of his friend Lord Mansfield (however little
deserved), when, speaking of the House of Lords, he adds--

  "Conspicuous scene! another yet is nigh,
  (More silent far) where kings and poets lie;
  Where Murray (long enough his Country's pride)
  Shall be no more than Tully or than Hyde!

"And with what a fine turn of indignant flattery he addresses Lord
Bolingbroke--

  "Why rail they then, if but one wreath of mine,
  Oh! all-accomplish'd St. John, deck thy shrine?

"Or turn," continued B----, with a slight hectic on his cheek and his eye
glistening, "to his list of early friends:

  "But why then publish? Granville the polite,
  And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write;
  Well-natured Garth inflamed with early praise,
  And Congreve loved and Swift endured my lays:
  The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read,
  Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head;
  And St. John's self (great Dryden's friend before)
  Received with open arms one poet more.
  Happy my studies, if by these approved!
  Happier their author, if by these beloved!
  From these the world will judge of men and books,
  Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks."

Here his voice totally failed him, and throwing down the book, he said,
"Do you think I would not wish to have been friends with such a man as
this?"

"What say you to Dryden?"--"He rather made a show of himself, and courted
popularity in that lowest temple of Fame, a coffee-house, so as in some
measure to vulgarize one's idea of him. Pope, on the contrary, reached the
very _beau ideal_ of what a poet's life should be; and his fame while
living seemed to be an emanation from that which was to circle his name
after death. He was so far enviable (and one would feel proud to have
witnessed the rare spectacle in him) that he was almost the only poet and
man of genius who met with his reward on this side of the tomb, who
realized in friends, fortune, the esteem of the world, the most sanguine
hopes of a youthful ambition, and who found that sort of patronage from
the great during his lifetime which they would be thought anxious to
bestow upon him after his death. Read Gay's verses to him on his supposed
return from Greece, after his translation of Homer was finished, and say
if you would not gladly join the bright procession that welcomed him home,
or see it once more land at Whitehall-stairs."--"Still," said Miss D----,
"I would rather have seen him talking with Patty Blount, or riding by in a
coronet-coach with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu!"

E----, who was deep in a game of piquet at the other end of the room,
whispered to M. C. to ask if Junius would not be a fit person to invoke
from the dead. "Yes," said B----, "provided he would agree to lay aside
his mask."

We were now at a stand for a short time, when Fielding was mentioned as a
candidate: only one, however, seconded the proposition. "Richardson?"--"By
all means, but only to look at him through the glass-door of his
back-shop, hard at work upon one of his novels (the most extraordinary
contrast that ever was presented between an author and his works), but not
to let him come behind his counter lest he should want you to turn
customer, nor to go upstairs with him, lest he should offer to read the
first manuscript of Sir Charles Grandison, which was originally written in
eight and twenty volumes octavo, or get out the letters of his female
correspondents, to prove that Joseph Andrews was low."

There was but one statesman in the whole of English history that any one
expressed the least desire to see--Oliver Cromwell, with his fine, frank,
rough, pimply face, and wily policy; and one enthusiast, John Bunyan, the
immortal author of the Pilgrim's Progress. It seemed that if he came into
the room, dreams would follow him, and that each person would nod under
his golden cloud, "nigh-sphered in Heaven," a canopy as strange and
stately as any in Homer.

Of all persons near our own time, Garrick's name was received with the
greatest enthusiasm, who was proposed by J. F----. He presently superseded
both Hogarth and Handel, who had been talked of, but then it was on
condition that he should act in tragedy and comedy, in the play and the
farce, Lear and Wildair and Abel Drugger. What a _sight for sore eyes_
that would be! Who would not part with a year's income at least, almost
with a year of his natural life, to be present at it? Besides, as he could
not act alone, and recitations are unsatisfactory things, what a troop he
must bring with him--the silver-tongued Barry, and Quin, and Shuter and
Weston, and Mrs. Clive and Mrs. Pritchard, of whom I have heard my father
speak as so great a favourite when he was young! This would indeed be a
revival of the dead, the restoring of art; and so much the more desirable,
as such is the lurking scepticism mingled with our overstrained admiration
of past excellence, that though we have the speeches of Burke, the
portraits of Reynolds, the writings of Goldsmith, and the conversation of
Johnson, to show what people could do at that period, and to confirm the
universal testimony to the merits of Garrick; yet, as it was before our
time, we have our misgivings, as if he was probably after all little
better than a Bartlemy-fair actor, dressed out to play Macbeth in a
scarlet coat and laced cocked-hat. For one, I should like to have seen and
heard with my own eyes and ears. Certainly, by all accounts, if any one
was ever moved by the true histrionic _æstus_, it was Garrick. When he
followed the Ghost in Hamlet, he did not drop the sword as most actors do
behind the scenes, but kept the point raised the whole way round, so fully
was he possessed with the idea, or so anxious not to lose sight of his
part for a moment. Once at a splendid dinner-party at Lord -----'s, they
suddenly missed Garrick, and could not imagine what was become of him,
till they were drawn to the window by the convulsive screams and peals of
laughter of a young negro-boy, who was rolling on the ground in an ecstasy
of delight to see Garrick mimicking a turkey-cock in the court-yard, with
his coat-tail stuck out behind, and in a seeming flutter of feathered
rage and pride. Of our party only two persons present had seen the British
Roscius; and they seemed as willing as the rest to renew their
acquaintance with their old favourite.

We were interrupted in the hey-day and mid-career of this fanciful
speculation, by a grumbler in a corner, who declared it was a shame to
make all this rout about a mere player and farce-writer, to the neglect
and exclusion of the fine old dramatists, the contemporaries and rivals of
Shakspeare. B---- said he had anticipated this objection when he had named
the author of Mustapha and Alaham; and out of caprice insisted upon
keeping him to represent the set, in preference to the wild hair-brained
enthusiast Kit Marlowe; to the sexton of St. Ann's, Webster, with his
melancholy yew-trees and death's-heads; to Deckar, who was but a garrulous
proser; to the voluminous Heywood; and even to Beaumont and Fletcher, whom
we might offend by complimenting the wrong author on their joint
productions. Lord Brook, on the contrary, stood quite by himself, or in
Cowley's words, was "a vast species alone." Some one hinted at the
circumstance of his being a lord, which rather startled B----, but he said
a _ghost_ would perhaps dispense with strict etiquette, on being regularly
addressed by his title. Ben Jonson divided our suffrages pretty equally.
Some were afraid he would begin to traduce Shakspeare, who was not present
to defend himself. "If he grows disagreeable," it was whispered aloud,
"there is G---- can match him." At length his romantic visit to Drummond
of Hawthornden was mentioned, and turned the scale in his favour.

B---- inquired if there was any one that was hanged that I would choose to
mention? And I answered, Eugene Aram.[146] The name of the "Admirable
Crichton" was suddenly started as a splendid example of _waste_ talents,
so different from the generality of his countrymen. This choice was
mightily approved by a North-Briton present, who declared himself
descended from that prodigy of learning and accomplishment, and said he
had family-plate in his possession as vouchers for the fact, with the
initials A. C.--_Admirable Crichton_! H---- laughed or rather roared as
heartily at this as I should think he has done for many years.

The last-named Mitre-courtier[147] then wished to know whether there were
any metaphysicians to whom one might be tempted to apply the wizard spell?
I replied, there were only six in modern times deserving the name--Hobbes,
Berkeley, Butler, Hartley, Hume, Leibnitz; and perhaps Jonathan Edwards, a
Massachusetts man.[148] As to the French, who talked fluently of having
_created_ this science, there was not a tittle in any of their writings,
that was not to be found literally in the authors I had mentioned. [Horne
Tooke, who might have a claim to come in under the head of Grammar, was
still living.] None of these names seemed to excite much interest, and I
did not plead for the re-appearance of those who might be thought best
fitted by the abstracted nature of their studies for their present
spiritual and disembodied state, and who, even while on this living
stage, were nearly divested of common flesh and blood. As A---- with an
uneasy fidgetty face was about to put some question about Mr. Locke and
Dugald Stewart, he was prevented by M. C., who observed, "If J---- was
here, he would undoubtedly be for having up those profound and redoubted
scholiasts, Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus." I said; this might be fair
enough in him who had read or fancied he had read the original works, but
I did not see how we could have any right to call up these authors to give
an account of themselves in person, till we had looked into their
writings.

By this time it should seem that some rumour of our whimsical deliberation
had got wind, and had disturbed the _irritable genus_ in their shadowy
abodes, for we received messages from several candidates that we had just
been thinking of. Gray declined our invitation, though he had not yet been
asked: Gay offered to come and bring in his hand the Duchess of Bolton,
the original Polly: Steele and Addison left their cards as Captain Sentry
and Sir Roger de Coverley: Swift came in and sat down without speaking a
word, and quitted the room as abruptly: Otway and Chatterton were seen
lingering on the opposite side of the Styx, but could not muster enough
between them to pay Charon his fare: Thomson fell asleep in the boat, and
was rowed back again--and Burns sent a low fellow, one John Barleycorn, an
old companion of his who had conducted him to the other world, to say that
he had during his lifetime been drawn out of his retirement as a show,
only to be made an exciseman of, and that he would rather remain where he
was. He desired, however, to shake hands by his representative--the hand,
thus held out, was in a burning fever, and shook prodigiously.

The room was hung round with several portraits of eminent painters. While
we were debating whether we should demand speech with these masters of
mute eloquence, whose features were so familiar to us, it seemed that all
at once they glided from their frames, and seated themselves at some
little distance from us. There was Leonardo with his majestic beard and
watchful eye, having a bust of Archimedes before him; next him was
Raphael's graceful head turned round to the Fornarina; and on his other
side was Lucretia Borgia, with calm, golden locks; Michael Angelo had
placed the model of St. Peter's on the table before him; Correggio had an
angel at his side; Titian was seated with his Mistress between himself and
Giorgioni; Guido was accompanied by his own Aurora, who took a dice-box
from him; Claude held a mirror in his hand; Rubens patted a beautiful
panther (led in by a satyr) on the head; Vandyke appeared as his own
Paris, and Rembrandt was hid under furs, gold chains and jewels, which Sir
Joshua eyed closely, holding his hand so as to shade his forehead. Not a
word was spoken; and as we rose to do them homage, they still presented
the same surface to the view. Not being _bonâ-fide_ representations of
living people, we got rid of the splendid apparitions by signs and dumb
show. As soon as they had melted into thin air, there was a loud noise at
the outer door, and we found it was Giotto, Cimabue, and Ghirlandaio, who
had been raised from the dead by their earnest desire to see their
illustrious successors--

              "Whose names on earth
  In Fame's eternal records live for aye!"

Finding them gone, they had no ambition to be seen after them, and
mournfully withdrew. "Egad!" said B----, "those are the very fellows I
should like to have had some talk with, to know how they could see to
paint when all was dark around them?"

"But shall we have nothing to say," interrogated G. J----, "to the Legend
of Good Women?"--"Name, name, Mr. J----," cried H---- in a boisterous tone
of friendly exultation, "name as many as you please, without reserve or
fear of molestation!" J---- was perplexed between so many amiable
recollections, that the name of the lady of his choice expired in a
pensive whiff of his pipe; and B---- impatiently declared for the Duchess
of Newcastle. Mrs. Hutchinson was no sooner mentioned, than she carried
the day from the Duchess. We were the less solicitous on this subject of
filling up the posthumous lists of Good Women, as there was already one in
the room as good, as sensible, and in all respects as exemplary, as the
best of them could be for their lives! "I should like vastly to have seen
Ninon de l'Enclos," said that incomparable person; and this immediately
put us in mind that we had neglected to pay honour due to our friends on
the other side of the Channel: Voltaire, the patriarch of levity, and
Rousseau, the father of sentiment, Montaigne and Rabelais (great in wisdom
and in wit), Molière and that illustrious group that are collected round
him (in the print of that subject) to hear him read his comedy of the
Tartuffe at the house of Ninon; Racine, La Fontaine, Rochefoucault, St.
Evremont, etc.

"There is one person," said a shrill, querulous voice, "I would rather see
than all these--Don Quixote!"

"Come, come!" said H----; "I thought we should have no heroes, real or
fabulous. What say you, Mr. B----? Are you for eking out your shadowy list
with such names as Alexander, Julius Cæsar, Tamerlane, or Ghengis
Khan?"--"Excuse me," said B----, "on the subject of characters in active
life, plotters and disturbers of the world, I have a crotchet of my own,
which I beg leave to reserve."--"No, no! come, out with your
worthies!"--"What do you think of Guy Faux and Judas Iscariot?" H----
turned an eye upon him like a wild Indian, but cordial and full of
smothered glee. "Your most exquisite reason!" was echoed on all sides; and
A---- thought that B---- had now fairly entangled himself. "Why, I cannot
but think," retorted he of the wistful countenance, "that Guy Faux, that
poor fluttering annual scare-crow of straw and rags, is an ill-used
gentleman. I would give something to see him sitting pale and emaciated,
surrounded by his matches and his barrels of gunpowder, and expecting the
moment that was to transport him to Paradise for his heroic self-devotion;
but if I say any more, there is that fellow G---- will make something of
it.--And as to Judas Iscariot, my reason is different. I would fain see
the face of him, who, having dipped his hand in the same dish with the Son
of Man, could afterwards betray him. I have no conception of such a thing;
nor have I ever seen any picture (not even Leonardo's very fine one) that
gave me the least idea of it."--"You have said enough, Mr. B----, to
justify your choice."

"Oh! ever right, Menenius,--ever right!"

"There is only one other person I can ever think of after this," continued
H----; but without mentioning a name that once put on a semblance of
mortality. "If Shakspeare was to come into the room, we should all rise up
to meet him; but if that person was to come into it, we should all fall
down and try to kiss the hem of his garment!"

As a lady present seemed now to get uneasy at the turn the conversation
had taken, we rose up to go. The morning broke with that dim, dubious
light by which Giotto, Cimabue, and Ghirlandaio must have seen to paint
their earliest works; and we parted to meet again and renew similar
topics at night, the next night, and the night after that, till that night
overspread Europe which saw no dawn. The same event, in truth, broke up
our little Congress that broke up the great one. But that was to meet
again: our deliberations have never been resumed.



XX

ON READING OLD BOOKS


I hate to read new books. There are twenty or thirty volumes that I have
read over and over again, and these are the only ones that I have any
desire ever to read at all. It was a long time before I could bring myself
to sit down to the Tales of My Landlord, but now that author's works have
made a considerable addition to my scanty library. I am told that some of
Lady Morgan's are good, and have been recommended to look into Anastasius;
but I have not yet ventured upon that task. A lady, the other day, could
not refrain from expressing her surprise to a friend, who said he had been
reading Delphine:--she asked,--If it had not been published some time
back? Women judge of books as they do of fashions or complexions, which
are admired only "in their newest gloss." That is not my way. I am not one
of those who trouble the circulating libraries much, or pester the
booksellers for mail-coach copies of standard periodical publications. I
cannot say that I am greatly addicted to black-letter, but I profess
myself well versed in the marble bindings of Andrew Millar, in the middle
of the last century; nor does my taste revolt at Thurloe's State Papers,
in Russia leather; or an ample impression of Sir William Temple's Essays,
with a portrait after Sir Godfrey Kneller in front. I do not think
altogether the worse of a book for having survived the author a generation
or two. I have more confidence in the dead than the living. Contemporary
writers may generally be divided into two classes--one's friends or one's
foes. Of the first we are compelled to think too well, and of the last we
are disposed to think too ill, to receive much genuine pleasure from the
perusal, or to judge fairly of the merits of either. One candidate for
literary fame, who happens to be of our acquaintance, writes finely, and
like a man of genius; but unfortunately has a foolish face, which spoils a
delicate passage:--another inspires us with the highest respect for his
personal talents and character, but does not quite come up to our
expectations in print. All these contradictions and petty details
interrupt the calm current of our reflections. If you want to know what
any of the authors were who lived before our time, and are still objects
of anxious inquiry, you have only to look into their works. But the dust
and smoke and noise of modern literature have nothing in common with the
pure, silent air of immortality.

When I take up a work that I have read before (the oftener the better) I
know what I have to expect. The satisfaction is not lessened by being
anticipated. When the entertainment is altogether new, I sit down to it as
I should to a strange dish,--turn and pick out a bit here and there, and
am in doubt what to think of the composition. There is a want of
confidence and security to second appetite. New-fangled books are also
like made-dishes in this respect, that they are generally little else than
hashes and _rifaccimentos_ of what has been served up entire and in a more
natural state at other times. Besides, in thus turning to a well-known
author, there is not only an assurance that my time will not be thrown
away, or my palate nauseated with the most insipid or vilest trash,--but I
shake hands with, and look an old, tried, and valued friend in the
face,--compare notes, and chat the hours away. It is true, we form dear
friendships with such ideal guests--dearer, alas! and more lasting, than
those with our most intimate acquaintance. In reading a book which is an
old favourite with me (say the first novel I ever read) I not only have
the pleasure of imagination and of a critical relish of the work, but the
pleasures of memory added to it. It recalls the same feelings and
associations which I had in first reading it, and which I can never have
again in any other way. Standard productions of this kind are links in the
chain of our conscious being. They bind together the different scattered
divisions of our personal identity. They are land-marks and guides in our
journey through life. They are pegs and loops on which we can hang up, or
from which we can take down, at pleasure, the wardrobe of a moral
imagination, the relics of our best affections, the tokens and records of
our happiest hours. They are "for thoughts and for remembrance!" They are
like Fortunatus's Wishing-Cap--they give us the best riches--those of
Fancy; and transport us, not over half the globe, but (which is better)
over half our lives, at a word's notice!

My father Shandy solaced himself with Bruscambille. Give me for this
purpose a volume of Peregrine Pickle or Tom Jones. Open either of them
anywhere--at the Memoirs of Lady Vane, or the adventures at the masquerade
with Lady Bellaston, or the disputes between Thwackum and Square, or the
escape of Molly Seagrim, or the incident of Sophia and her muff, or the
edifying prolixity of her aunt's lecture--and there I find the same
delightful, busy, bustling scene as ever, and feel myself the same as when
I was first introduced into the midst of it. Nay, sometimes the sight of
an odd volume of these good old English authors on a stall, or the name
lettered on the back among others on the shelves of a library, answers the
purpose, revives the whole train of ideas, and sets "the puppets
dallying." Twenty years are struck off the list, and I am a child again.
A sage philosopher, who was not a very wise man, said, that he should like
very well to be young again, if he could take his experience along with
him. This ingenious person did not seem to be aware, by the gravity of his
remark, that the great advantage of being young is to be without this
weight of experience, which he would fain place upon the shoulders of
youth, and which never comes too late with years. Oh! what a privilege to
be able to let this hump, like Christian's burthen, drop from off one's
back, and transport one's-self, by the help of a little musty duodecimo,
to the time when "ignorance was bliss," and when we first got a peep at
the rarée-show of the world, through the glass of fiction--gazing at
mankind, as we do at wild beasts in a menagerie, through the bars of their
cages,--or at curiosities in a museum, that we must not touch! For myself,
not only are the old ideas of the contents of the work brought back to my
mind in all their vividness, but the old associations of the faces and
persons of those I then knew, as they were in their lifetime--the place
where I sat to read the volume, the day when I got it, the feeling of the
air, the fields, the sky--return, and all my early impressions with them.
This is better to me--those places, those times, those persons, and those
feelings that come across me as I retrace the story and devour the page,
are to me better far than the wet sheets of the last new novel from the
Ballantyne press, to say nothing of the Minerva press in
Leadenhall-street. It is like visiting the scenes of early youth. I think
of the time "when I was in my father's house, and my path ran down with
butter and honey,"--when I was a little, thoughtless child, and had no
other wish or care but to con my daily task, and be happy!--Tom Jones, I
remember, was the first work that broke the spell. It came down in numbers
once a fortnight, in Cooke's pocket-edition, embellished with cuts. I had
hitherto read only in school-books, and a tiresome ecclesiastical history
(with the exception of Mrs. Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest): but this
had a different relish with it,--"sweet in the mouth," though not "bitter
in the belly." It smacked of the world I lived in, and in which I was to
live--and shewed me groups, "gay creatures" not "of the element," but of
the earth; not "living in the clouds," but travelling the same road that I
did;--some that had passed on before me, and others that might soon
overtake me. My heart had palpitated at the thoughts of a boarding-school
ball, or gala-day at Midsummer or Christmas: but the world I had found out
in Cooke's edition of the British Novelists was to me a dance through
life, a perpetual gala-day. The six-penny numbers of this work regularly
contrived to leave off just in the middle of a sentence, and in the nick
of a story, where Tom Jones discovers Square behind the blanket; or where
Parson Adams, in the inextricable confusion of events, very undesignedly
gets to bed to Mrs. Slip-slop. Let me caution the reader against this
impression of Joseph Andrews; for there is a picture of Fanny in it which
he should not set his heart on, lest he should never meet with anything
like it; or if he should, it would, perhaps, be better for him that he had
not. It was just like ---- ----! With what eagerness I used to look
forward to the next number, and open the prints! Ah! never again shall I
feel the enthusiastic delight with which I gazed at the figures, and
anticipated the story and adventures of Major Bath and Commodore Trunnion,
of Trim and my Uncle Toby, of Don Quixote and Sancho and Dapple, of Gil
Blas and Dame Lorenza Sephora, of Laura and the fair Lucretia, whose lips
open and shut like buds of roses. To what nameless ideas did they give
rise,--with what airy delights I filled up the outlines, as I hung in
silence over the page!--Let me still recall them, that they may breathe
fresh life into me, and that I may live that birthday of thought and
romantic pleasure over again! Talk of the _ideal_! This is the only true
ideal--the heavenly tints of Fancy reflected in the bubbles that float
upon the spring-tide of human life.

  Oh! Memory! shield me from the world's poor strife,
  And give those scenes thine everlasting life!


The paradox with which I set out is, I hope, less startling than it was;
the reader will, by this time, have been let into my secret. Much about
the same time, or I believe rather earlier, I took a particular
satisfaction in reading Chubb's Tracts, and I often think I will get them
again to wade through. There is a high gusto of polemical divinity in
them; and you fancy that you hear a club of shoemakers at Salisbury,
debating a disputable text from one of St. Paul's Epistles in a
workmanlike style, with equal shrewdness and pertinacity. I cannot say
much for my metaphysical studies, into which I launched shortly after with
great ardour, so as to make a toil of a pleasure. I was presently
entangled in the briars and thorns of subtle distinctions,--of "fate,
free-will, fore-knowledge absolute," though I cannot add that "in their
wandering mazes I found no end;" for I did arrive at some very
satisfactory and potent conclusions; nor will I go so far, however
ungrateful the subject might seem, as to exclaim with Marlowe's
Faustus--"Would I had never seen Wittenberg, never read book"--that is,
never studied such authors as Hartley, Hume, Berkeley, etc. Locke's Essay
on the Human Understanding is, however, a work from which I never derived
either pleasure or profit; and Hobbes, dry and powerful as he is, I did
not read till long afterwards. I read a few poets, which did not much hit
my taste,--for I would have the reader understand, I am deficient in the
faculty of imagination; but I fell early upon French romances and
philosophy, and devoured them tooth-and-nail. Many a dainty repast have I
made of the New Eloise;--the description of the kiss; the excursion on the
water; the letter of St. Preux, recalling the time of their first loves;
and the account of Julia's death; these I read over and over again with
unspeakable delight and wonder. Some years after, when I met with this
work again, I found I had lost nearly my whole relish for it (except some
few parts) and was, I remember, very much mortified with the change in my
taste, which I sought to attribute to the smallness and gilt edges of the
edition I had bought, and its being perfumed with rose-leaves. Nothing
could exceed the gravity, the solemnity with which I carried home and read
the Dedication to the Social Contract, with some other pieces of the same
author, which I had picked up at a stall in a coarse leathern cover. Of
the Confessions I have spoken elsewhere, and may repeat what I have
said--"Sweet is the dew of their memory, and pleasant the balm of their
recollection!" Their beauties are not "scattered like stray-gifts o'er the
earth," but sown thick on the page, rich and rare. I wish I had never read
the Emilius, or read it with less implicit faith. I had no occasion to
pamper my natural aversion to affectation or pretence, by romantic and
artificial means. I had better have formed myself on the model of Sir
Fopling Flutter. There is a class of persons whose virtues and most
shining qualities sink in, and are concealed by, an absorbent ground of
modesty and reserve; and such a one I do, without vanity, profess
myself.[149] Now these are the very persons who are likely to attach
themselves to the character of Emilius, and of whom it is sure to be the
bane. This dull, phlegmatic, retiring humour is not in a fair way to be
corrected, but confirmed and rendered desperate, by being in that work
held up as an object of imitation, as an example of simplicity and
magnanimity--by coming upon us with all the recommendations of novelty,
surprise, and superiority to the prejudices of the world--by being stuck
upon a pedestal, made amiable, dazzling, a _leurre de dupe_! The reliance
on solid worth which it inculcates, the preference of sober truth to gaudy
tinsel, hangs like a mill-stone round the neck of the imagination--"a load
to sink a navy"--impedes our progress, and blocks up every prospect in
life. A man, to get on, to be successful, conspicuous, applauded, should
not retire upon the centre of his conscious resources, but be always at
the circumference of appearances. He must envelop himself in a halo of
mystery--he must ride in an equipage of opinion--he must walk with a train
of self-conceit following him--he must not strip himself to a buff-jerkin,
to the doublet and hose of his real merits, but must surround himself with
a _cortege_ of prejudices, like the signs of the Zodiac--he must seem any
thing but what he is, and then he may pass for any thing he pleases. The
world love to be amused by hollow professions, to be deceived by
flattering appearances, to live in a state of hallucination; and can
forgive every thing but the plain, downright, simple honest truth--such as
we see it chalked out in the character of Emilius.--To return from this
digression, which is a little out of place here.

Books have in a great measure lost their power over me; nor can I revive
the same interest in them as formerly. I perceive when a thing is good,
rather than feel it. It is true,

  Marcian Colonna is a dainty book;

and the reading of Mr. Keats's Eve of St. Agnes lately made me regret that
I was not young again. The beautiful and tender images there conjured up,
"come like shadows--so depart." The "tiger-moth's wings," which he has
spread over his rich poetic blazonry, just flit across my fancy; the
gorgeous twilight window which he has painted over again in his verse, to
me "blushes" almost in vain "with blood of queens and kings." I know how I
should have felt at one time in reading such passages; and that is all.
The sharp luscious flavour, the fine _aroma_ is fled, and nothing but the
stalk, the bran, the husk of literature is left. If any one were to ask me
what I read now, I might answer with my Lord Hamlet in the play--"Words,
words, words."--"What is the matter?"--"_Nothing!_"--They have scarce a
meaning. But it was not always so. There was a time when to my thinking,
every word was a flower or a pearl, like those which dropped from the
mouth of the little peasant-girl in the Fairy tale, or like those that
fall from the great preacher in the Caledonian Chapel! I drank of the
stream of knowledge that tempted, but did not mock my lips, as of the
river of life, freely. How eagerly I slaked my thirst of German sentiment,
"as the hart that panteth for the water-springs;" how I bathed and
revelled, and added my floods of tears to Goëthe's Sorrows of Werter, and
to Schiller's Robbers--

  Giving my stock of more to that which had too much!


I read and assented with all my soul to Coleridge's fine Sonnet,
beginning--

  Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die,
  If through the shuddering midnight I had sent,
  From the dark dungeon of the tow'r time rent,
  That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry!


I believe I may date my insight into the mysteries of poetry from the
commencement of my acquaintance with the authors of the Lyrical Ballads;
at least, my discrimination of the higher sorts--not my predilection for
such writers as Goldsmith or Pope: nor do I imagine they will say I got my
liking for the Novelists, or the comic writers,--for the characters of
Valentine, Tattle, or Miss Prue, from them. If so, I must have got from
them what they never had themselves. In points where poetic diction and
conception are concerned, I may be at a loss, and liable to be imposed
upon: but in forming an estimate of passages relating to common life and
manners, I cannot think I am a plagiarist from any man. I there "know my
cue without a prompter." I may say of such studies--_Intus et in cute_. I
am just able to admire those literal touches of observation and
description, which persons of loftier pretensions overlook and despise. I
think I comprehend something of the characteristic part of Shakspeare; and
in him indeed all is characteristic, even the nonsense and poetry. I
believe it was the celebrated Sir Humphry Davy who used to say, that
Shakspeare was rather a metaphysician than a poet. At any rate, it was not
ill said. I wish that I had sooner known the dramatic writers contemporary
with Shakspeare; for in looking them over about a year ago, I almost
revived my old passion for reading, and my old delight in books, though
they were very nearly new to me. The Periodical Essayists I read long ago.
The Spectator I liked extremely: but the Tatler took my fancy most. I read
the others soon after, the Rambler, the Adventurer, the World, the
Connoisseur: I was not sorry to get to the end of them, and have no desire
to go regularly through them again. I consider myself a thorough adept in
Richardson. I like the longest of his novels best, and think no part of
them tedious; nor should I ask to have any thing better to do than to
read them from beginning to end, to take them up when I chose, and lay
them down when I was tired, in some old family mansion in the country,
till every word and syllable relating to the bright Clarissa, the divine
Clementina, the beautiful Pamela, "with every trick and line of their
sweet favour," were once more "graven in my heart's table."[150] I have a
sneaking kindness for Mackenzie's Julia de Roubignè--for the deserted
mansion, and straggling gilliflowers on the mouldering garden-wall; and
still more for his Man of Feeling; not that it is better, nor so good; but
at the time I read it, I sometimes thought of the heroine, Miss Walton,
and of Miss ---- together, and "that ligament, fine as it was, was never
broken!"--One of the poets that I have always read with most pleasure, and
can wander about in for ever with a sort of voluptuous indolence, is
Spenser; and I like Chaucer even better. The only writer among the
Italians I can pretend to any knowledge of, is Boccacio, and of him I
cannot express half my admiration. His story of the Hawk I could read and
think of from day to day, just as I would look at a picture of Titian's!--

I remember, as long ago as the year 1798, going to a neighbouring town
(Shrewsbury, where Farquhar has laid the plot of his Recruiting Officer)
and bringing home with me, "at one proud swoop," a copy of Milton's
Paradise Lost, and another of Burke's Reflections on the French
Revolution--both which I have still; and I still recollect, when I see
the covers, the pleasure with which I clipped into them as I returned with
my double prize. I was set up for one while. That time is past "with all
its giddy raptures:" but I am still anxious to preserve its memory,
"embalmed with odours."--With respect to the first of these works, I would
be permitted to remark here in passing, that it is a sufficient answer to
the German criticism which has since been started against the character of
Satan (_viz._ that it is not one of disgusting deformity, or pure,
defecated malice) to say that Milton has there drawn, not the abstract
principle of evil, not a devil incarnate, but a fallen angel. This is the
Scriptural account, and the poet has followed it. We may safely retain
such passages as that well-known one--

            ----His form had not yet lost
  All her original brightness; nor appear'd
  Less than archangel ruin'd; and the excess
  Of glory obscur'd--

for the theory, which is opposed to them, "falls flat upon the grunsel
edge, and shames its worshippers." Let us hear no more then of this
monkish cant, and bigotted outcry for the restoration of the horns and
tail of the devil!--Again, as to the other work, Burke's Reflections, I
took a particular pride and pleasure in it, and read it to myself and
others for months afterwards. I had reason for my prejudice in favour of
this author. To understand an adversary is some praise: to admire him is
more. I thought I did both: I knew I did one. From the first time I ever
cast my eyes on anything of Burke's (which was an extract from his Letter
to a Noble Lord in a three-times a week paper, The St. James's Chronicle,
in 1796), I said to myself, "This is true eloquence: this is a man pouring
out his mind on paper." All other style seemed to me pedantic and
impertinent. Dr. Johnson's was walking on stilts; and even Junius's (who
was at that time a favourite with me) with all his terseness, shrunk up
into little antithetic points and well-trimmed sentences. But Burke's
style was forked and playful as the lightning, crested like the serpent.
He delivered plain things on a plain ground; but when he rose, there was
no end of his flights and circumgyrations--and in this very Letter, "he,
like an eagle in a dove-cot, fluttered _his_ Volscians," (the Duke of
Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale[151]) "in Corioli." I did not care for
his doctrines. I was then, and am still, proof against their contagion;
but I admired the author, and was considered as not a very staunch
partisan of the opposite side, though I thought myself that an abstract
proposition was one thing--a masterly transition, a brilliant metaphor,
another. I conceived, too, that he might be wrong in his main argument,
and yet deliver fifty truths in arriving at a false conclusion. I remember
Coleridge assuring me, as a poetical and political set-off to my sceptical
admiration, that Wordsworth had written an Essay on Marriage, which, for
manly thought and nervous expression, he deemed incomparably superior. As
I had not, at that time, seen any specimens of Mr. Wordsworth's prose
style, I could not express my doubts on the subject. If there are greater
prose-writers than Burke, they either lie out of my course of study, or
are beyond my sphere of comprehension. I am too old to be a convert to a
new mythology of genius. The niches are occupied, the tables are full. If
such is still my admiration of this man's misapplied powers, what must it
have been at a time when I myself was in vain trying, year after year, to
write a single Essay, nay, a single page or sentence; when I regarded the
wonders of his pen with the longing eyes of one who was dumb and a
changeling; and when, to be able to convey the slightest conception of my
meaning to others in words, was the height of an almost hopeless ambition!
But I never measured others' excellences by my own defects: though a sense
of my own incapacity, and of the steep, impassable ascent from me to them,
made me regard them with greater awe and fondness. I have thus run through
most of my early studies and favourite authors, some of whom I have since
criticised more at large. Whether those observations will survive me, I
neither know nor do I much care: but to the works themselves, "worthy of
all acceptation," and to the feelings they have always excited in me since
I could distinguish a meaning in language, nothing shall ever prevent me
from looking back with gratitude and triumph. To have lived in the
cultivation of an intimacy with such works, and to have familiarly
relished such names, is not to have lived quite in vain.

There are other authors whom I have never read, and yet whom I have
frequently had a great desire to read, from some circumstance relating to
them. Among these is Lord Clarendon's History of the Grand Rebellion,
after which I have a hankering, from hearing it spoken of by good
judges--from my interest in the events, and knowledge of the characters
from other sources, and from having seen fine portraits of most of them. I
like to read a well-penned character, and Clarendon is said to have been a
master in this way. I should like to read Froissart's Chronicles,
Hollinshed and Stowe, and Fuller's Worthies. I intend, whenever I can, to
read Beaumont and Fletcher all through. There are fifty-two of their
plays, and I have only read a dozen or fourteen of them. A Wife for a
Month, and Thierry and Theodoret, are, I am told, delicious, and I can
believe it. I should like to read the speeches in Thucydides, and
Guicciardini's History of Florence, and Don Quixote in the original. I
have often thought of reading the Loves of Persiles and Sigismunda, and
the Galatea of the same author. But I somehow reserve them like "another
Yarrow." I should also like to read the last new novel (if I could be sure
it was so) of the author of Waverley:--no one would be more glad than I to
find it the best!--



FOOTNOTES:

[1] _Dramatic Essays_, VIII, 415.

[2] "On Living to One's Self," in _Table Talk_.

[3] "On Reading Old Books," pp. 344-45.

[4] "On Criticism," in _Table Talk_.

[5] _Life of Holcroft_, Works, II, 171, n.

[6] "On the Pleasure of Painting," in _Table Talk_.

[7] W. C. Hazlitt: _Lamb and Hazlitt_ (1900), p. 44. The letter in which
these phrases are to be found is dated 1793 by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt, but the
present writer has given a detailed statement of his reasons for believing
that it was written in 1803. See _Nation_, October 19, 1911.

[8] XI, 26.

[9] _Table Talk_, "On the Indian Jugglers."

[10] _Round Table_.

[11] "On Respectable People," in _Plain Speaker_.

[12] "On Paradox and Commonplace," in _Table Talk_.

[13] Hazlitt's _Table Talk_ was included by Stevenson in a youthful
_Catalogus Librorum Carissimorum_. It is interesting that at the same time
that Carlyle was composing _Sartor Resartus_, Hazlitt should have penned
this bit of savage satire. "It has been often made a subject of dispute,
What is the distinguishing characteristic of man? And the answer may,
perhaps, be given that _he is the only animal that dresses_.... Swift has
taken a good bird's-eye view of man's nature, by abstracting the habitual
notions of size, and looking at it in _great_ or in _little_: would that
some one had the boldness and the art to do a similar service, by
stripping off the coat from his back, the vizor from his thoughts, or by
dressing up some other creature in similar mummery! It is not his body
alone that he tampers with, and metamorphoses so successfully; he tricks
out his mind and soul in borrowed finery, and in the admired costume of
gravity and imposture. If he has a desire to commit a base or a cruel
action without remorse and with the applause of the spectators, he has
only to throw the cloak of religion over it, and invoke Heaven to set its
seal on a massacre or a robbery. At one time dirt, at another indecency,
at another rapine, at a fourth rancorous malignity, is decked out and
accredited in the garb of sanctity. The instant there is a flaw, a 'damned
spot' to be concealed, it is glossed over with a doubtful name. Again, we
dress up our enemies in nicknames, and they march to the stake as
assuredly as in _san Benitos_.... Strange, that a reptile should wish to
be thought an angel; or that he should not be content to writhe and grovel
in his native earth, without aspiring to the skies! It is from the love of
dress and finery. He is the Chimney-sweeper on May-day all the year round:
the soot peeps through the rags and tinsel, and all the flowers of
sentiment!" _Aphorisms on Man_, LXIV. Works, XII, 227.

[14] _Round Table_, "On Pedantry."

[15] "Knowledge of the World," XII, 307.

[16] "On Prejudice," XII, 396.

[17] _Table Talk_, "On the Past and Future."

[18] _Table Talk_, "Why Distant Objects Please."

[19] "Love of Power," XI, 268.

[20] _Life of Napoleon_, chap. 34.

[21] "What is the People?" in _Political Essays_, III, 292.

[22] He tells of an experience in crossing the Alps which he intends
should be symbolic of his whole life. From a great distance he thought he
perceived Mont Blanc, but as the driver insisted that it was only a cloud,
"I supposed that I had taken a sudden fancy for a reality. I began in
secret to take myself to task, and to lecture myself for my proneness to
build theories on the foundation of my conjectures and wishes. On turning
round occasionally, however, I observed that this cloud remained in the
same place, and I noticed the circumstance to our guide, as favoring my
first suggestion; for clouds do not usually remain long in the same place.
We disputed the point for half a day, and it was not till the afternoon
when we had reached the other side of the lake of Neufchatel, that this
same cloud rising like a canopy over the point where it had hovered, 'in
shape and station proudly eminent,' he acknowledged it to be Mont Blanc."
_Notes of a Journey Through France and Italy._ Works, IX, 296.

[23] Andrew Lang's _Life of Lockhart_, I, 63. 128-130.

[24] John Scott, the editor of the _London Magazine_, was killed in a duel
arising from his retaliatory attacks on Lockhart and the Blackwood School
of Criticism. See _London Magazine_, II, 509, 666; III, 76, and
"Statement" prefatory to number for February, 1821.

[25] April, 1817.

[26] January, 1818.

[27] "I have been reading Frederick Schlegel.... He is like Hazlitt, in
English, who _talks pimples_--a red and white corruption rising up (in
little imitations of mountains upon maps), but containing nothing, and
discharging nothing, except their own humours." Byron's _Letters_, Jan.
28, 1821 (ed. Prothero, V, 191).

[28] Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke's _Recollections of Writers_, 147.

[29] Joseph Cottle: _Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge_, 465.

[30] Haydon's _Correspondence and Table Talk_, II, 32.

[31] _Plain Speaker_.

[32] _Characteristics_, CCCVII.

[33] "Characteristics," in Carlyle's _Critical and Miscellaneous Essays_
(Chapman and Hall, 1898), III, 32.

[34] "Letter of Elia to Robert Southey," Lamb's Works, ed. Lucas, I, 233.

[35] "On Criticism," in _Table Talk_.

[36] Life of Pope, Johnson's Lives, ed. Birkbeck Hill, IV, 248.

[37] Boswell's Johnson, ed. Birkbeck Hill, II, 89.

[38] _Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope_, I, 170.

[39] See an essay by John Foster on "Poetical Criticism," in _Critical
Essays_, ed. Bohn, I, 144.

[40] Gibbon's Journal, October 3, 1762. Miscellaneous Works, ed. 1814, V,
263.

[41] Review of Mrs. Hemans's Poems, _Edinburgh Review_, October, 1829.
Jeffrey's Works, III, 296.

[42] _Blackwood's Magazine_, II, 670-79.

[43] I, 281 (March, 1820).

[44] _Spirit of the Age_, "William Godwin."

[45] Works, ed. Shedd, IV, 35.

[46] Mr. Saintsbury has applied this phrase to Hazlitt himself, but we
prefer to transfer the honor.

[47] "Savoir bien lire un livre en le jugeant chemin faisant, et sans
cesser de le goûter, c'est presque tout l'art du critique." _Chateaubriand
et son Groupe Littéraire_, I, 234.

[48] _Portraits Contemporains_, "Sonnet d'Hazlitt," II, 515.

[49] _Age of Elizabeth_, "On Miscellaneous Poems," V, 301.

[50] "Thoughts on Taste," XI, 460.

[51] _Conversations of Northcote_, VI, 457.

[52] Cf. Herford: _Age of Wordsworth_, p. 51.

[53] "On the Conduct of Life," XII, 427.

[54] Patmore: _My Friends and Acquaintances_, III, 122.

[55] "On the Conduct of Life," XII, 428. See also the paper "On the Study
of the Classics," in the _Round Table_.

[56] See a note to p. 329.

[57] See Wordsworth's sonnet, "Great men have been among us."

[58] "On Criticism," in _Table Talk_.

[59] "He is the most illuminating and the most thoughtful of all
Rousseau's early English critics.... His essay 'On the Character of
Rousseau' was not surpassed, or approached, as a study of the great writer
until the appearance of Lord Morley's monograph nearly sixty years
afterwards." E. Gosse: _Fortnightly Review_, July, 1912, p. 30.

[60] In the review of Schlegel's _Lectures on the Drama_, Works, X, 78.

[61] See the paper on "John Buncle," in the _Round Table_.

[62] _Correspondence of Macvey Napier_, p. 21.

[63] "On the Pleasure of Painting," in _Table Talk_.

[64] _Dramatic Essays_, VIII, 415.

[65] "On Shakespeare and Milton," p. 44.

[66] "The Periodical Press," X, 203.

[67] "On Criticism," in _Table Talk_.

[68] Cf. "On Reading Old Books," pp. 338-9, where this charge is curiously
echoed by Hazlitt himself.

[69] Ibid., p. 337.

[70] Ibid., p. 340.

[71] "On Shakespeare and Milton," p. 109.

[72] "The English Novelists," VIII, 109.

[73] "Thoughts on Taste," XI, 463.

[74] "On Criticism," in _Table Talk_.

[75] Ibid.

[76] _Characters of Shakespeare_, "Lear."

[77] "On Poetry in General," p. 258.

[78] "On Poetry in General," p. 266.

[79] Hazlitt defends himself on the ground that "the word has these three
_distinct_ meanings in the English language, that is, it signifies the
composition produced, the state of mind or faculty producing it, and, in
certain cases, the subject-matter proper to call forth that state of
mind." _Letter to Gifford_, I, 396.

[80] "On Poetry in General," pp. 268-9.

[81] Ibid., p. 268.

[82] Those interested in the perennial discussion of the relation of
poetry to verse or metre would do well to read the recent interesting
contribution to the subject by Professor Mackail in his _Lectures on
Poetry_ (Longmans, 1912).

[83] "On the Causes of Popular Opinion," XII, 320.

[84] Coleridge: _Table Talk_, Aug. 6, 1832.

[85] _Edinburgh Review_, Feb., 1816. The nature of Hazlitt's debt to
Coleridge, Lamb and Schlegel is to some extent illustrated in the notes to
the present text.

[86] "Whether Genius is Conscious of its Powers," in _Plain Speaker_.

[87] Moore's _Letters and Journals_, May 21, 1821, III, 235.

[88] _Shakespeare's Mädchen und Frauen_.

[89] Review of Schlegel's Lectures, Works, X, III.

[90] "Poetry," XII, 339.

[91] _Characters of Shakespeare's Plays_, "Antony and Cleopatra."

[92] Lowell: _Old English Dramatists_.

[93] _Lecture on the Age of Elizabeth_, "On Beaumont and Fletcher," V, 269.

[94] _Conversation of Northcote_, VI, 393.

[95] _Essays in English Literature_, Second Series. 159-161.

[96] There seems to be no reason for doubting Hazlitt's authorship of the
article in the _Examiner_. See Works, XI, 580.

[97] "William Gifford," in _Spirit of the Age_.

[98] _Select British Poets_. See Works, V, 378.

[99] "Shelley's Posthumous Poems," Works, X, 256 ff.

[100] Hazlitt's syntax is often abbreviated, elliptical, and unregardful
of book rules. Constructions like the following are not uncommon in his
prose: "As a novelist, his Vicar of Wakefield has charmed all Europe....
As a comic writer, his Tony Lumpkin draws forth new powers from Mr.
Liston's face." _Lectures on the English Poets_, "On Swift, Young," etc.,
V, 119, 120.

[101] _Spirit of the Age_, "William Cobbett."

[102] See pp. 210-213.

[103] "On the Living Poets," in _Lectures on the English Poets_, V, 167.

[104] This is the form of the passage as published in the _Literary
Remains_ (1836). That Hazlitt did not attain effects like this offhand, is
evident from the comparative feebleness of the original sound of the
passage in the _Monthly Magazine_: "That we should thus in a manner
outlive ourselves, and dwindle imperceptibly into nothing, is not
surprising, when even in our prime the strongest impressions leave so
little traces of themselves behind, and the last object is driven out by
the succeeding one." "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth," Works, XII,
160.

[105] This passage also shows alterations from the first form. Cf. XII,
152.

[106] _Lectures on the English Poets_. "On Swift, Young, etc.," V, 104.
See also the paper in _Table Talk_ on "Familiar Style."

[107] "I grant thus much, that it is in vain to seek for the word we want,
or endeavour to get at it second-hand, or as a paraphrase on some other
word--it must come of itself, or arise out of an immediate impression or
lively intuition of the subject; that is, the proper word must be
suggested immediately by the thoughts, but it need not be presented as
soon as called for.... Proper expressions rise to the surface from the
heat and fermentation of the mind, like bubbles on an agitated stream. It
is this which produces a clear and sparkling style." "On Application to
Study," in _Plain Speaker_.

[108] _Spirit of the Age_. "Mr. Cobbett."

[109] Ibid., "William Godwin."

[110] "On the Living Poets," _Lectures on English Poets_, V, 144.

[111] _Lectures on the Comic Writers_, "On Wycherley, Congreve, etc.,"
VIII, 70.

[112] _Spirit of the Age_, "Mr. T. Moore," IV, 353.

[113] _Table Talk_, "On Patronage and Puffing."

[114] "L'espèce d'entrain qui accompagne et suit ces fréquents articles
improvisés de verve et lancés à toute vapeur. On s'y met tout entier: on
s'en exagère la valeur dans le moment même, on en mesure l'importance au
bruit, et si cela mène à mieux faire, il n'y a pas grand mal après tout."
_Portraits Contemporains_, II, 515.

[115] "'Range and keenness of appreciation' do not by themselves give
taste, but merely romantic gusto or perceptiveness. In order that gusto
may be elevated to taste it needs to be disciplined and selective. To this
end it must come under the control of an entirely different order of
intuitions, of what I have called the 'back pull toward the centre.' The
romantic one sidedness that is already so manifest in Hazlitt's conception
of taste has, I maintain, gone to seed in Professor Saintsbury." Irving
Babbitt, in _Nation_, May 16, 1912.

[116] T. N. Talfourd: _Edinburgh Review_, Nov., 1820.

[117] _My Literary Passions_, 120.

[118] _Edinburgh Review_, January, 1837.

[119] Thackeray's Works, ed. Trent and Henneman, XXV, 350-51.

[120] Robertson: _Essays Toward a Critical Method_, 81.

[121] Saintsbury's _History of Criticism_ and John Davidson's _Sentences
and Paragraphs_, 113.

[122] In some Roman Catholic countries, pictures in part supplied the
place of the translations of the Bible: and this dumb art arose in the
silence of the written oracles.

[123] See _A Voyage to the Straits of Magellan_, 1594.

[124] Taken from Tasso.

[125] This word is an instance of those unwarrantable freedoms which
Spenser sometimes took with language.

[126]
  "That all with one consent praise new-born gauds,
  Tho' they are made and moulded of things past,
  And give to Dust, that is a little gilt,
  More laud than gold o'er-dusted."

  _Troilus and Cressida._

[127] In the account of her death, a friend has pointed out an instance of
the poet's exact observation of nature:--

  "There is a willow growing o'er a brook,
  That shews its hoary leaves i' th' glassy stream."

The inside of the leaves of the willow, next the water, is of a whitish
colour, and the reflection would therefore be "hoary."

[128] Why Pope should say in reference to him, "Or _more wise_ Charron,"
is not easy to determine.

[129] As an instance of his general power of reasoning, I shall give his
chapter entitled _One Man's Profit is Another's Loss_, in which he has
nearly anticipated Mandeville's celebrated paradox of private vices being
public benefits:--

"Demades, the Athenian, condemned a fellow-citizen, who furnished out
funerals, for demanding too great a price for his goods: and if he got an
estate, it must be by the death of a great many people: but I think it a
sentence ill grounded, forasmuch as no profit can be made, but at the
expense of some other person, and that every kind of gain is by that rule
liable to be condemned. The tradesman thrives by the debauchery of youth,
and the farmer by the dearness of corn; the architect by the ruin of
buildings, the officers of justice by quarrels and law-suits; nay, even
the honour and functions of divines is owing to our mortality and vices.
No physician takes pleasure in the health even of his best friends, said
the ancient Greek comedian, nor soldier in the peace of his country; and
so of the rest. And, what is yet worse, let every one but examine his own
heart, and he will find, that his private wishes spring and grow up at the
expense of some other person. Upon which consideration this thought came
into my head, that nature does not hereby deviate from her general policy;
for the naturalists hold, that the birth, nourishment, and increase of any
one thing, is the decay and corruption of another:

  _Nam quodcunque suis mutatum finibus exit,
  Continuo hoc mors est illius, quod fuit ante._ i.e.

  For what from its own confines chang'd doth pass,
  Is straight the death of what before it was."

  _Vol._ I, _Chap._ XXI.

[130] No. 125.

[131] The antithetical style and verbal paradoxes which Burke was so fond
of, in which the epithet is a seeming contradiction to the substantive,
such as "proud submission and dignified obedience," are, I think, first to
be found in the Tatler.

[132] It is not to be forgotten that the author of Robinson Crusoe was
also an Englishman. His other works, such as the Life of Colonel Jack,
&c., are of the same cast, and leave an impression on the mind more like
that of things than words.

[133] This character was written in a fit of extravagant candour, at a
time when I thought I could do justice, or more than justice, to an enemy,
without betraying a cause.

[134] For instance: he produced less effect on the mob that compose the
English House of Commons than Chatham or Fox, or even Pitt.

[135] As in the comparison of the British Constitution to the "proud keep
of Windsor," etc., the most splendid passage in his works.

[136] Mr. Coleridge named his eldest son (the writer of some beautiful
sonnets) after Hartley, and the second after Berkeley. The third was
called Derwent, after the river of that name. Nothing can be more
characteristic of his mind than this circumstance. All his ideas indeed
are like a river, flowing on for ever, and still murmuring as it flows,
discharging its waters and still replenished--

  "And so by many winding nooks it strays,
  With willing sport to the wild ocean!"

[137] The description of the sports in the forest:

  "To see the sun to bed and to arise,
  Like some hot amourist with glowing eyes," etc.

[138] Perhaps the finest scene in all these novels, is that where the
Dominie meets his pupil, Miss Lucy, the morning after her brother's
arrival.

[139] This essay was written just before Lord Byron's death.

[140]
  "Don Juan was my Moscow, and Faliero
  My Leipsic, and my Mont St. Jean seems Cain."

  _Don Juan_, Canto XI.

[141] This censure applies to the first cantos of DON JUAN much more than
to the last. It has been called a TRISTRAM SHANDY in rhyme: it is rather a
poem written about itself.

[142] Burke's writings are not poetry, notwithstanding the vividness of
the fancy, because the subject matter is abstruse and dry, not natural,
but artificial. The difference between poetry and eloquence is, that the
one is the eloquence of the imagination, and the other of the
understanding. Eloquence tries to persuade the will, and convince the
reason: poetry produces its effects by instantaneous sympathy. Nothing is
a subject for poetry that admits of a dispute. Poets are in general bad
prose-writers, because their images, though fine in themselves, are not to
the purpose, and do not carry on the argument. The French poetry wants the
forms of the imagination. It is didactic more than dramatic. And some of
our own poetry, which has been most admired, is only poetry in the rhyme,
and in the studied use of poetic diction.

[143] My father was one of those who mistook his talent after all. He used
to be very much dissatisfied that I preferred his Letters to his Sermons.
The last were forced and dry; the first came naturally from him. For ease,
half-plays on words, and a supine, monkish, indolent pleasantry, I have
never seen them equalled.

[144] He complained in particular of the presumption of his attempting to
establish the future immortality of man, "without" (as he said) "knowing
what Death was or what Life was"--and the tone in which he pronounced
these two words seemed to convey a complete image of both.

[145] He had no idea of pictures, of Claude or Raphael, and at this time I
had as little as he. He sometimes gives a striking account at present of
the cartoons at Pisa, by Buffamalco and others; of one in particular,
where Death is seen in the air brandishing his scythe, and the great and
mighty of the earth shudder at his approach, while the beggars and the
wretched kneel to him as their deliverer. He would of course understand so
broad and fine a moral as this at any time.

[146] See Newgate Calendar for 1758.

[147] B---- at this time occupied chambers in Mitre-court, Fleet-street.

[148] Lord Bacon is not included in this list, nor do I know where he
should come in. It is not easy to make room for him and his reputation
together. This great and celebrated man in some of his works recommends it
to pour a bottle of claret into the ground of a morning, and to stand over
it, inhaling the perfumes. So he sometimes enriched the dry and barren
soil of speculation with the fine aromatic spirit of his genius. His
"Essays" and his "Advancement of Learning" are works of vast depth and
scope of observation. The last, though it contains no positive
discoveries, is a noble chart of the human intellect, and a guide to all
future inquirers.

[149] Nearly the same sentiment was wittily and happily expressed by a
friend, who had some lottery puffs, which he had been employed to write,
returned on his hands for their too great severity of thought and
classical terseness of style, and who observed on that occasion, that
"Modest merit never can succeed!"

[150] During the peace of Amiens, a young English officer, of the name of
Lovelace, was presented at Buonaparte's levee. Instead of the usual
question, "Where have you served, Sir?" the First Consul immediately
addressed him, "I perceive your name, Sir, is the same as that of the hero
of Richardson's Romance!" Here was a Consul. The young man's uncle, who
was called Lovelace, told me this anecdote while we were stopping together
at Calais. I had also been thinking that his was the same name as that of
the hero of Richardson's Romance. This is one of my reasons for liking
Buonaparte.

[151] He is there called "Citizen Lauderdale." Is this the present earl?



NOTES


[The annotations have not necessarily been introduced at the first
occurrence of any name, and no cross-references have been supplied in the
notes to names which occur in the text more than once. Such information as
the notes supply can be found with the help of the index.--References,
where no other indication is given, will be understood to be to the work
under discussion. The Shakespeare references are to the one-volume Globe
edition.]


THE AGE OF ELIZABETH

This lecture forms the introduction to the series on the "Literature of
the Age of Elizabeth." Hazlitt might have derived hints for it from
Schlegel, who speaks of the zeal for the study of the ancients, the
extensive communication with other lands, the interest in the literature
of Italy and Spain, the progress in experimental philosophy represented by
Bacon, and contrasts the achievements of that age, in a vein which must
have captured Hazlitt's sympathy, with "the pretensions of modern
enlightenment, as it is called, which looks with such contempt on all
preceding ages." The Elizabethans, he goes on to say, "possessed a
fullness of healthy vigour, which showed itself always with boldness, and
sometimes also with petulance. The spirit of chivalry was not yet wholly
extinct, and a queen, who was far more jealous in exacting homage to her
sex than to her throne, and who, with her determination, wisdom, and
magnanimity, was in fact, well qualified to inspire the minds of her
subjects with an ardent enthusiasm, inflamed that spirit to the noblest
love of glory and renown. The feudal independence also still survived in
some measure; the nobility vied with each other in the splendour of dress
and number of retinue, and every great lord had a sort of small court of
his own. The distinction of ranks was as yet strongly marked: a state of
things ardently to be desired by the dramatic poet." "Lectures on Dramatic
Literature," ed. Bohn, p. 349.

P. 1. _Raleigh_, Sir Walter (1552-1618), the celebrated courtier,
explorer, and man of letters.

_Drake_, Sir Francis (1545-1595), the famous sailor, hero of the Armada.

_Coke_, Sir Edward (1552-1634), the great jurist, whose "Institutes,"
better known as Coke upon Littleton, became a famous legal text-book.

_Hooker_, Richard (1553-1600), theologian, author of the "Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity" (1593), a defense of the Anglican Church against
the Puritans and notable also as a masterpiece of English prose.

P. 2. _mere oblivion_. "As You Like It," ii, 7, 165.

_poor, poor dumb names_ [mouths]. "Julius Cæsar," iii, 2, 229.

_Marston_, John (1575-1634). In the third lecture on the "Age of
Elizabeth," Hazlitt calls him "a writer of great merit, who rose to
tragedy from the ground of comedy, and whose _forte_ was not sympathy,
either with the stronger or softer emotions, but an impatient scorn and
bitter indignation against the vices and follies of men, which vented
itself either in comic irony or in lofty invective. He was properly a
satirist. He was not a favourite with his contemporaries, nor they with
him." Works, V, 224. His chief tragedy is "Antonio and Mellida."

_Middleton_, Thomas (1570?-1627), and _Rowley_, William (1585?-1642?). In
the second lecture on the "Age of Elizabeth," Hazlitt associates these two
names. "Rowley appears to have excelled in describing a certain amiable
quietness of disposition and disinterested tone of morality, carried
almost to a paradoxical excess, as in his Fair Quarrel, and in the comedy
of A Woman Never Vexed, which is written, in many parts, with a pleasing
simplicity and _naïveté_ equal to the novelty of the conception.
Middleton's style was not marked by any peculiar quality of his own, but
was made up, in equal proportions, of the faults and excellences common to
his contemporaries.... He is lamentably deficient in the plot and
denouement of the story. It is like the rough draft of a tragedy with a
number of fine things thrown in, and the best made use of first; but it
tends to no fixed goal, and the interest decreases, instead of increasing,
as we read on, for want of previous arrangement and an eye to the
whole.... The author's power is _in_ the subject, not _over_ it; or he is
in possession of excellent materials which he husbands very ill." Works,
V, 214-5. For characters of other dramatists see notes to p. 326.

_How lov'd_. Pope's "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady."

P. 3. _draw the curtain of time_. Cf. "we will draw the curtain and show
you the picture." "Twelfth Night," i, 5, 251.

_within reasonable bounds_. At this point Hazlitt digresses to reprove the
age for its affectation of superiority over other ages and the passage,
not being relevant, has been omitted.

_less than smallest dwarfs_. "Paradise Lost," I, 779.

_desiring this man's art_. Shakespeare's Sonnets, XXIX.

_in shape and gesture_. "Paradise Lost," I, 590.

_Mr. Wordsworth says_. See Sonnet entitled "London, 1802."

P. 4. _drew after him_. "Paradise Lost," II, 692.

_Otway_, Thomas (1652-1685), author of "Venice Preserved," the most
popular post-Shakespearian tragedy of the English stage. Hazlitt notes in
this play a "power of rivetting breathless attention, and stirring the
deepest yearnings of affection.... The awful suspense of the situations,
the conflict of duties and passions, the intimate bonds that unite the
characters together, and that are violently rent asunder like the parting
of soul and body, the solemn march of the tragical events to the fatal
catastrophe that winds up and closes over all, give to this production of
Otway's Muse a charm and power that bind it like a spell on the public
mind, and have made it a proud and inseparable adjunct of the English
stage." Works, V, 354-5.

_Jonson's learned sock_. Milton's "L'Allegro."

P. 6. _The translation of the Bible_. The first important 16th century
translation of the Bible is William Tyndale's version of the New Testament
(1525) and of the Pentateuch (1530). The complete translations are those
of Miles Coverdale (1535), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva or Breeches
Bible (1557), the Bishop's Bible (1568), and the Rheims-Douay Bible--the
New Testament (1582) and the Old Testament (1609-1610). Finally came the
Authorized Version in 1611.

P. 8. _penetrable stuff_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 36.

_his washing_, etc. St. John, xiii.

_above all art_, etc. Cf. Pope's "Epistle to the Earl of Oxford": "Above
all Pain, all Passion, and all Pride."

_My peace_. St. John, xiv, 27.

_they should love_. Ibid., xv, 12.

_Woman, behold_. Ibid., xix, 26.

_his treatment of the woman_. Ibid., viii, 1-12.

_the woman who poured precious ointment_. St. Matthew, xxvi, 6-13; St.
Mark, xiv, 3-9.

_his discourse with the disciples_. St. Luke, xxiv, 13-31.

_his Sermon on the Mount_. St. Matthew, v-vii.

_parable of the Good Samaritan and of the Prodigal Son_. St. Luke, x,
25-37; xv, 11-32.

P. 9. _Who is our neighbour_. Ibid., x, 29.

_to the Jews_, etc. I Corinthians, i, 23.

P. 10. _Soft as sinews_. "Hamlet," iii, 3. 71.

_The best of men_. Dekker, "The Honest Whore," Part I, v, 2, sub fin.

P. 11. _Tasso by Fairfax_. Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), an Italian poet
whose great epic, the "Gerusalemme Liberata," was finished in 1574. The
English translation by Edward Fairfax was published in 1600 as "Godfrey of
Bulloigne, or the Recoverie of Jerusalem."

_Ariosto by Harrington_. Lodovico Ariosto (1474-1533), whose romantic
epic, "Orlando Furioso," was first published in 1516, and translated by
Sir John Harrington in 1591.

_Homer and Hesiod by Chapman_. George Chapman (1559?-1634), poet and
dramatist, published a complete translation of the "Iliad" in 1611, of the
"Odyssey" in 1614, of Homer's "Battle of Frogs and Mice" in 1624, and of
"The Georgicks of Hesiod" in 1618.

_Virgil_. A complete English translation of the "Æneid" was made by Gavin
Douglas, a Scottish poet (1474?-1522), and first printed in London in
1553. There was a translation of the second and fourth books into blank
verse by the Earl of Surrey, published in 1557, but the one most in use
was by Thomas Phaer (1510?-1560), which appeared incompletely in 1558 and
1562 and was completed by Thomas Twyne in 1583.

_Ovid_. There were a number of translators of Ovid during this period,
chief of whom was Arthur Golding, whose version of the "Metamorphoses"
appeared in 1565 and 1567. "The Heroides" were translated by George
Turberville in 1567.

_Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch_. The chief work of Plutarch,
a Greek writer of the first century, is the "Parallel Lives," which was
translated into French by Jacques Amyot in 1559. Sir Thomas North's
translation of Amyot's version in 1579 was the most popular and
influential of all Elizabethan translations.

P. 12. _Boccaccio_, Giovanni (1313-1375), Italian poet and novelist. Among
the English his best known work is the "Decameron," a collection of a
hundred prose tales. Versions of some of these stories appeared in
various Elizabethan collections, such as the "Tragical Tales" translated
by George Turberville in 1587. The first complete translation was
published in 1620 and reprinted in the Tudor Translations in 1909.

_Petrarch_ (1304-1374), Italian humanist and poet, whose sonnets were
widely imitated by French and Italian poets during the Renaissance.

_Dante_ (1265-1321). The author of the "Divine Comedy" was not very well
known to Elizabethan readers. There was no English translation of his poem
attempted till that of Rogers in 1782, and no version worthy of the name
was produced till H. F. Cary's in 1814.

_Aretine_. The name of Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), an Italian satirist who
called himself "the scourge of princes," was well known in England, but
there was no translation of his works.

_Machiavel_. Nicolo Machiavelli (1468-1527), a Florentine statesman, whose
name had an odious association because of the supposedly diabolical policy
of government set forth in his "Prince." But this work was not translated
till 1640. His "Art of War" had been rendered into English in 1560 and his
"Florentine History" in 1595.

_Castiglione_, Baldassare (1478-1529). "Il Cortegiano," setting forth the
idea of a gentleman, was translated as "The Courtier" by Thomas Hoby in
1561 and was very influential in English life.

_Ronsard_, Pierre de (1524-1585), the chief French lyric poet of the
sixteenth century, whose sonnets had considerable vogue in England.

_Du Bartas_, Guillaume de Saluste (1544-1590), author of "La Semaine, ou
la Création du Monde" (1578), "La Seconde Semaine" (1584), translated as
the "Divine Weeks and Works" (1592 ff.) by Joshua Sylvester.

P. 13. _Fortunate fields_. "Paradise Lost," III, 568.

_Prospero's Enchanted Island_. Eden's "History of Travayle," 1577, is now
given as the probable source of Setebos, etc.

_Right well I wote_. "Faërie Queene," II, Introduction, 1-3.

P. 14. _Lear is founded_. Shakespeare's actual sources were probably
Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain" (c. 1130) and
Holinshed's "Chronicle."

_Othello on an Italian novel_, from the "Hecatommithi" of Giraldi Cinthio
(1565).

_Hamlet on a Danish, Macbeth on a Scottish tradition_. The story of Hamlet
is first found in Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish chronicler of the tenth
century. Shakespeare probably drew it from the "Histoires Tragiques" of
Belleforest. "Macbeth" was based on Holinshed's "Chronicle of Scottish
History."

P. 15. _those bodiless creations_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 138.

_Your face_. "Macbeth," i, 5, 63.

_Tyrrell and Forrest_, persons hired by Richard III to murder the young
princes in the Tower. See "Richard III," iv, 2-3.

_thick and slab_. "Macbeth," iv, 1, 32.

_snatched a_ [wild and] _fearful joy_. Gray's "Ode on a Distant Prospect
of Eton College."

P. 16. _Fletcher the poet_. John Fletcher the dramatist died of the plague
in 1625.

_The course of true love_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," i, 1, 34.

_The age of chivalry was not then quite gone._ Cf. Burke: "Reflections on
the French Revolution" (ed. Bohn, II, 348): "But the age of chivalry is
gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and
the glory of Europe is extinguished forever."

_fell a martyr_. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), poet, soldier, and
statesman, received his mortal wound in the thigh at the battle of Zutphen
because, in emulation of Sir William Pelham, he threw off his greaves
before entering the fight.

_the gentle Surrey_. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1518?-1547), was
distinguished as an innovator in English poetry as well as for his
knightly prowess.

_who prized black eyes_. "Sessions of the Poets," verse 20.

_Like strength reposing_. "'Tis might half slumb'ring on its own right
arm." Keats's "Sleep and Poetry," 237.

P. 17. _they heard the tumult_. "I behold the tumult and am still."
Cowper's "Task," IV, 99.

_descriptions of hunting and other athletic games_. See "Midsummer Night's
Dream," iv, 1, 107 ff., and "Two Noble Kinsmen," iii.

_An ingenious and agreeable writer_. Nathan Drake (1766-1836), author of
"Shakespeare and his Times" (1817). In describing the life of the country
squire Drake remarks: "The luxury of eating and of good cooking were well
understood in the days of Elizabeth, and the table of the country-squire
frequently groaned beneath the burden of its dishes; at Christmas and at
Easter especially, the hall became the scene of great festivity." Chap. V.
(ed. 1838, p. 37).

_Return from Parnassus_. Hazlitt gives an account of this play in the
"Literature of the Age of Elizabeth," Lecture V.

P. 18. _it snowed_. "Canterbury Tales," Prologue, 345.

_as Mr. Lamb observes_, in a note to Marston's "What You Will" in the
"Specimens of Dramatic Literature" (ed. Lucas, 1, 44): "The blank
uniformity to which all professional distinctions in apparel have been
long hastening, is one instance of the decay of Symbols among us, which,
whether it has contributed or not to make us a more intellectual, has
certainly made us a less imaginative people." Cf. Schlegel's remark in the
first note.

_in act_. "Othello," i, I, 62.

_description of a mad-house_. "Honest Whore," Part 1, v. 2.

_A Mad World, My Masters_, the title of a comedy by Middleton.

P. 19. _Music and painting are not our forte._ Cf. Hazlitt's review of the
"Life of Reynolds" (X, 186-87): "Were our ancestors insensible to the
charms of nature, to the music of thought, to deeds of virtue or heroic
enterprise? No. But they saw them in their mind's eye: they felt them at
their heart's core, and there only. They did not translate their
perceptions into the language of sense: they did not embody them in
visible images, but in breathing words. They were more taken up with what
an object suggested to combine with the infinite stores of fancy or trains
of feeling, than with the single object itself; more intent upon the moral
inference, the tendency and the result, than the appearance of things,
however imposing or expressive, at any given moment of time.... We should
say that the eye in warmer climates drinks in greater pleasure from
external sights, is more open and porous to them, as the ear is to sounds;
that the sense of immediate delight is fixed deeper in the beauty of the
object; that the greater life and animation of character gives a greater
spirit and intensity of expression to the face, making finer subjects for
history and portrait; and that the circumstances in which a people are
placed in a genial atmosphere, are more favourable to the study of nature
and of the human form."

_like birdlime_. "Othello," ii, 1, 126.

P. 20. _Materiam superabat opus_. Ovid's "Metamorphoses," II, 5.

_Pan is a God_. Lyly's "Midas," iv, 1.


SPENSER

This is the latter half of the lecture on Chaucer and Spenser from the
"English Poets."

P. 21. _Spenser flourished_, etc. Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599), served as
secretary to Sir Henry Sidney in Ireland in 1577, and went again in 1580
as secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, the Queen's new deputy to Ireland. He
was driven out by a revolt of the Irish in 1598. "A View of the State of
Ireland, written dialogue-wise between Eudoxus and Irenæus ... in 1596"
was first printed in 1633.

_description of the bog of Allan_. "Faërie Queene," II, ix, 16.

_Treatment he received from Burleigh_. Hazlitt refers to this treatment
specifically in the essay "On Respectable People" (XI, 435): "Spenser,
kept waiting for the hundred pounds which Burleigh grudged him 'for a
song,' might feel the mortification of his situation; but the statesman
never felt any diminution of his sovereign's favour in consequence of it."
The facts, as they are recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography,"
are as follows: "The queen gave proof of her appreciation by bestowing a
pension on the poet. According to an anecdote, partly reported by
Manningham, the diarist (Diary, p. 43), and told at length by Fuller, Lord
Burghley, in his capacity of treasurer, protested against the largeness of
the sum which the queen suggested, and was directed by her to give the
poet what was reasonable. He received the formal grant of £50 a year in
February 1590-1." Cf. Spenser's lines in "Mother Hubbard's Tale," 895 ff.

_Though much later than Chaucer_. The rest of this paragraph and most of
the points elaborated in this lecture appeared in Hazlitt's review of
Sismondi's "Literature of the South" in 1815 (X, 73 ff.).

_Spenser's poetry is all fairyland._ In a lecture delivered in February,
1818, three years after Hazlitt's remarks had appeared in the Edinburgh
Review, Coleridge spoke as follows: "You will take especial note of the
marvellous independence and true imaginative absence of all particular
space or time in the Faery Queene. It is in the domains neither of history
or geography; it is ignorant of all artificial boundary, all material
obstacles; it is truly in the land of Faery, that is, of mental space. The
poet has placed you in a dream, a charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor
have the power, to inquire where you are, or how you got there." Works,
IV, 250.

P. 22. _clap on high_. "Faërie Queene," III, xii, 23.

_In green vine leaves_. I, iv, 22.

_Upon the top_. I, vii, 32.

P. 23. _In reading the Faërie Queene_, etc. See III, ix, 10; I, vii; II,
vi, 5; III, xii.

_and mask_. "L'Allegro."

_And more to lull_. I, i, 41.

_honey-heavy dew of slumber_. "Julius Cæsar," ii, 1, 230.

_Eftsoons they heard_. II, xii, 70.

P. 25. _House of Pride_. I, iv, 4.

_Cave of Mammon_. II, vii, 28.

_Cave of Despair_. I, ix, 33.

_the account of Memory_. II, ix, 54.

_description of Belphoebe_. II, iii, 21.

_story of Florimel_. III, vii, 12.

_Gardens of Adonis_. III, vi, 29.

_Bower of Bliss_. II, xii, 42.

_Mask of Cupid_. III, xii.

_Colin Clout's Vision_. VI, x, 10-27.

P. 26. _Poussin_, Nicolas (1594-1665), French painter. See Hazlitt's
delightful essay in "Table Talk" "On a Landscape by Nicholas Poussin."

_And eke_. III, ix, 20.

_the cold icicles_. III, viii, 35.

_That was Arion_. IV, xi, 23-24.

_Procession of the Passions_. I, iv, 16 ff.

P. 28. _Yet not more sweet_. Southey's "Carmen Nuptiale: Lay of the
Laureate." In the "Character of Milton's Eve" in the "Round Table,"
Hazlitt remarks that Spenser "has an eye to the consequences, and steeps
everything in pleasure, often not of the purest kind."

P. 30. _Rubens_, Peter Paul (1577-1640), Flemish painter. See the paper on
"The Pictures at Oxford and Blenheim" (Works, IX, 71): "Rubens was the
only artist that could have embodied some of our countryman Spenser's
splendid and voluptuous allegories. If a painter among ourselves were to
attempt a Spenser Gallery, (perhaps the finest subject for the pencil in
the world after Heathen mythology and Scripture history), he ought to go
and study the principles of his design at Blenheim."

_the account of Satyrane_. I, vi, 24.

_by the help_. III, x, 47.

_the change of Malbecco_. III, x, 56-60.

P. 31, n. _That all with one consent_. "Troilus and Cressida," iii, 3,
176.

P. 32. _High over hills_. III, x, 55.

_Pope who used to ask_. Pope is also quoted in Spence's "Anecdotes"
(Section viii, 1743-4) as saying that "there is something in Spenser that
pleases one as strongly in one's old age, as it did in one's youth. I
read the 'Faërie Queene,' when I was about twelve, with infinite delight,
and I think it gave me as much, when I read it over about a year or two
ago." Waller-Glover.

_the account of Talus_. V, i, 12.

_episode of Pastorella_. VI, ix, 12.

P. 33. _in many a winding bout_. "L'Allegro."


SHAKSPEARE

This selection is from the "Lectures on the English Poets." At the
beginning of his lecture on Shakespeare and Milton, Hazlitt maintains that
the arts reach their perfection in the early periods and are not
continually progressive like the sciences--an idea which he frequently
comes back to in his writings, notably in the "Round Table" paper, "Why
the Arts are not Progressive."

P. 34. _the fault_, etc. Cf. "Julius Cæsar," i, 2, 140.

_Shakspeare as they would be_. Hazlitt may have had in mind Dr. Johnson's
comment in his preface to Shakespeare's works: "the event which he
represents will not happen, but if it were possible, its effect would
probably be such as he had assigned; he has not only shewn human nature as
it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials to which it
cannot be exposed." (Nichol Smith: "Eighteenth Century Essays on
Shakespeare," p. 117.)

P. 35. _its generic quality_. Coleridge applied the epithet
"myriad-minded" to Shakespeare. See also Schlegel's "Lectures on the
Drama." ed. Bohn, p. 363: "Never perhaps was there so comprehensive a
talent for characterization as Shakespeare. It not only grasps the
diversity of rank, age, and sex, down to the lispings of infancy; not only
do the king and the beggar, the hero and the pickpocket, the sage and the
idiot, speak and act with equal truthfulness ... his human characters have
not only such depth and individuality that they do not admit of being
classed under common names, and are inexhaustible even in conception; no,
this Prometheus not merely forms men, he opens the gates of the magical
world of spirits, calls up the midnight ghost, exhibits before us the
witches with their unhallowed rites, peoples the air with sportive fairies
and sylphs; and these beings, though existing only in the imagination,
nevertheless possess such truth and consistency, that even with such
misshapen abortions as Caliban, he extorts the assenting conviction, that
were there such beings they would so conduct themselves. In a word, as he
carries a bold and pregnant fancy into the kingdom of nature, on the
other hand, he carries nature into the region of fancy, which lies beyond
the confines of reality. We are lost in astonishment at the close intimacy
he brings us into with the extraordinary, the wonderful, and the
unheard-of."

_a mind reflecting ages past_. "These words occur in the first lines of a
laudatory poem on Shakespeare printed in the second folio (1632). The poem
is signed 'J. M. S.' and was attributed by Coleridge to 'John Milton,
Student.' See his 'Lectures on Shakespeare' (ed. T. Ashe), pp. 129-130."
Waller-Glover, IV, 411.

P. 36. _All corners_, etc. "Cymbeline." iii. 4, 39.

_nodded to him_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," iii, I, 177.

_his so potent art_. "Tempest," v, i, 50.

_When he conceived of a character_, etc. Cf. Maurice Morgann, "On the
Character of Falstaff": "But it was not enough for Shakespeare to have
formed his characters with the most perfect truth and coherence; it was
further necessary that he should possess a wonderful facility of
compressing, as it were, his own spirit into these images, and of giving
alternate animation to the forms. This was not to be done _from without_;
he must have _felt_ every varied situation, and have spoken thro' the
organ he had formed. Such an intuitive comprehension of things and such a
facility must unite to produce a Shakespeare." (Nichol Smith: "Eighteenth
Century Essays on Shakespeare," p. 247, n.)

_subject to the same skyey influences_. Cf. "Measure for Measure," iii, I,
9: "servile to all the skyey influences."

_his frequent haunts_. Cf. "Comus," 314: "my daily walks and ancient
neighborhood."

P. 37. _coheres semblably together_. Cf. 2 "Henry IV," v, i, 72: "to see
the semblable coherence."

_It has been ingeniously remarked_, by Coleridge, "Seven Lectures on
Shakespeare and Milton," p. 116: "The power of poetry is, by a single word
perhaps, to instil that energy into the mind, which compels the
imagination to produce the picture.... Here, by introducing a single happy
epithet, 'crying,' a complete picture is presented to the mind, and in the
production of such pictures the power of genius consists."

_me and thy crying self_. "Tempest," i, 2, 132.

_What! man_. "Macbeth," iv, 3, 208.

_Rosencrans_. The early editions consistently misspell this name
Rosencraus.

_Man delights not me_. "Hamlet," ii, 2, 321.

_a combination and a form_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 60.

P. 39. _There is a willow_, etc. See "Hamlet," iv, 7, 167:

  "There is a willow grows aslant a brook
  That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream."

_Now this is an instance_, etc. Hazlitt elsewhere ascribes this
observation to Lamb. See p. 83, n.

_He's speaking now_. "Antony and Cleopatra," i, 5, 24.

_It is my birthday_. Ibid., iii, 13, 185.

P. 41. _nigh sphered in heaven_. Collins's "Ode on the Poetical
Character."

_to make society_. "Macbeth," iii, 1, 42.

P. 42. _with a little act_. "Othello," iii, 3, 328.

P. 43. _while rage_. "Troilus and Cressida," i, 3, 52.

_in their untroubled elements_, etc. Cf. Wordsworth's "Excursion," VI,
763-766:

                      "That glorious star
  In its untroubled element will shine
  As now it shines, when we are laid in earth
  And safe from all our sorrows."

_Satan's address to the sun_. "Paradise Lost," IV, 31.

_Oh that I were_. "Richard II," iv, 1, 260.

P. 44. _His form_. "Paradise Lost," I, 591-594.

P. 45. _With what measure_. Mark, iv, 24; Luke, vi, 38.

_It glances_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," v, 1, 13.

_puts a girdle_. Ibid., ii, 1, 175.

_I ask_. "Troilus and Cressida," i, 3, 227.

_No man_. Ibid., iii, 3, 15.

P. 46. _Rouse yourself_. Ibid., iii, 3, 222.

_In Shakspeare, any other word_, etc. In the essay "On Application to
Study," in the "Plain Speaker," Hazlitt gives further illustrations of
this point.

P. 47. _Light thickens_. "Macbeth," iii, 2, 50.

_the business of the state_. "Othello," iv, 2, 166.

_Of ditties highly penned_. 1 "Henry IV," iii, 1, 209.

_And so_. "Two Gentlemen of Verona," ii, 7, 31.

_The universality of his genius_, etc. Cf. "On Gusto," "Round Table": "The
infinite quality of dramatic invention in Shakspeare takes from his gusto.
The power he delights to show is not intense, but discursive. He never
insists on anything as much as he might, except a quibble."

P. 48. _He wrote for the great vulgar_, etc. The same remark had been
made by both Pope and Johnson. See Nichol Smith's "Eighteenth Century
Essays on Shakespeare," pp, 49 and 141.

_the great vulgar and the small_. Cowley's "Translation of Horace's Ode
III, i."

_his delights_. "Antony and Cleopatra," v, 2, 88.

P. 49. _His tragedies are better than his comedies._ Hazlitt is here
deliberately opposing the view of Dr. Johnson expressed in the latter's
preface to Shakespeare: "In tragedy he often writes with great appearance
of toil and study, what is written at last with little felicity; but in
his comick scenes, he seems to produce without labour, what no labour can
improve. In tragedy he is always struggling after some occasion to be
comick, but in comedy he seems to repose, or to luxuriate, as in a mode of
thinking congenial to his nature. In his tragick scenes there is always
something wanting, but his comedy often surpasses expectation or desire."
(Nichol Smith's "Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare," p. 121.) In
the second lecture of the "English Comic Writers," Hazlitt recurs to this
opinion of Johnson's with the following comment: "For my own part, I so
far consider this preference given to the comic genius of the poet as
erroneous and unfounded, that I should say that he is the only tragic poet
in the world in the highest sense, as being on a par with, and the same as
Nature, in her greatest heights and depths of action and suffering. There
is but one who durst walk within that mighty circle, treading the utmost
bound of nature and passion, showing us the dread abyss of woe in all its
ghastly shapes and colours, and laying open all the faculties of the human
soul to act, to think, and suffer, in direst extremities; whereas I think,
on the other hand, that in comedy, though his talents there too were as
wonderful as they were delightful, yet that there were some before him,
others on a level with him, and many close behind him.... There is not
only nothing so good (in my judgment) as Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, or
Macbeth, but there is nothing like Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, or
Macbeth. There is nothing, I believe, in the majestic Corneille, equal to
the stern pride of Coriolanus, or which gives such an idea of the
crumbling in pieces of the Roman grandeur, 'like an unsubstantial pageant
faded,' as the Antony and Cleopatra. But to match the best serious
comedies, such as Molière's Misanthrope and his Tartuffe, we must go to
Shakspeare's tragic characters, the Timon of Athens or honest Iago, where
we shall more than succeed. He put his strength into his tragedies and
played with comedy. He was greatest in what was greatest; and his _forte_
was not trifling, according to the opinion here combated, even though he
might do that as well as any one else, unless he could do it better than
anybody else." See also p. 99.


CHARACTERS OF SHAKSPEARE'S PLAYS

CYMBELINE

P. 51. _Dr. Johnson is of opinion_. "It may be observed that in many of
his plays the latter part is evidently neglected. When he found himself
near the end of his work, and in view of his reward, he shortened the
labour to snatch the profit. He therefore remits his efforts where he
should most vigorously exert them, and his catastrophe is improbably
produced or imperfectly represented." (Nichol Smith: "Eighteenth Century
Essays on Shakespeare," p. 123.)

_It is the peculiar excellence_, etc. Cf. Coleridge's Works, IV, 75-76:
"In Shakespeare all the elements of womanhood are holy, and there is the
sweet, yet dignified feeling of all that _continuates_ society, a sense of
ancestry and of sex, with a purity unassailable by sophistry, because it
rests not in the analytic process, but in that sane equipoise of the
faculties, during which the feelings are representative of all past
experience,--not of the individual only, but of all those by whom she has
been educated, and their predecessors even up to the first mother that
lived. Shakespeare saw that the want of prominence which Pope notices for
sarcasm, was the blessed beauty of the woman's character, and knew that it
arose not from any deficiency, but from the exquisite harmony of all the
parts of the moral being constituting one living total of head and heart.
He has drawn it indeed in all its distinctive energies of faith, patience,
constancy, fortitude,--shown in all of them as following the heart, which
gives its results by a nice tact and happy intuition, without the
intervention of the discursive faculty, sees all things in and by the
light of the affections, and errs, if it ever err, in the exaggerations of
love alone."

P. 52. _Cibber, in speaking_. See "Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley
Cibber" (1740), I, iv.

_My lord_. i, 6, 112.

P. 53. _What cheer_. iii, 4, 41. The six quotations following are in the
same scene.

P. 54. _My dear lord_. iii, 6, 14.

_And when with wild wood-leaves_. iv, 2, 389.

P. 55. _With fairest flowers_. iv, 2, 218.

_Cytherea, how bravely_. ii, 2, 14.

_Me of my lawful pleasure_. ii, 5, 9.

P. 56. _whose love-suit_. iii, 4, 136.

_the ancient critic_. Aristophanes of Byzantium, who lived in the third
century before the Christian era.

_the principle of analogy_. This point is enforced by Hazlitt in
connection with "Lear," "The Tempest," "Midsummer Night's Dream," and "As
You Like It." Coleridge had previously remarked, "A unity of feeling and
character pervades every drama of Shakespeare" (Works IV, 61), and
Schlegel had written in the same manner concerning "Romeo and Juliet":
"The sweetest and the bitterest love and hatred, festive rejoicings and
dark forebodings, tender embraces and sepulchral horrors, the fulness of
life and self-annihilation, are here all brought close to each other; and
yet these contrasts are so blended into a unity of impression, that the
echo which the whole leaves behind in the mind resembles a single but
endless sigh." (ed. Bohn, p. 401).

P. 57. _Out of your proof_. iii, 3, 27.

P. 58. _The game's afoot_. "The game is up," iii, 3, 107.

_Under the shade_. "As You Like It," ii, 7, 111.

P. 59. _See, boys_. "Stoop, boys," iii, 3, 2.

_Nay, Cadwell_. iv, 2, 255.

_Stick to your journal course_. iv, 2, 10.

_Your highness_. i, 5, 23.


MACBETH

P. 60. _The poet's eye_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," v, 1, 12.

_your only tragedy-maker_. An adaptation of "your only jig-maker,"
"Hamlet," iii, 2, 132.

_the air smells wooingly, the temple-haunting martlet_. i, 6, 4-6.

_blasted heath_. i, 3, 77.

_air-drawn dagger_. iii, 4, 62.

_the gracious Duncan_. iii, 1, 66.

P. 61. _blood-boultered Banquo_. iv, 1, 123.

_What are these_. i, 3, 39.

_bends up_. i, 7, 80.

P. 62. _The deed_. Cf. ii, 2, 11: "The attempt and not the deed confounds
us."

_preter_[super]_natural solicitings_. i, 3, 130.

_Bring forth_. i, 7, 73.

P. 63. _Screw his courage_. i, 7, 60.

_lost so poorly_. Cf. ii, 2, 71: "Be not lost so poorly in your thoughts."

_a little water_. ii, 2, 68.

_the sides of his intent_. i, 7, 26.

_for their future days and nights_. Cf. i, 5, 70: "To all our days and
nights to come." The next five quotations are from the same scene.

P. 64. _Mrs. Siddons_. Sarah Siddons (1775-1831), "The Tragic Muse," the
most celebrated actress in the history of the English stage. Hazlitt wrote
this passage for the Examiner (June 16, 1816) immediately after seeing a
performance of the part by Mrs. Siddons. See Works, VIII, 312-373.

P. 65. _There is no art_. i, 4, 11.

_How goes the night_. ii, 1, 1.

P. 66. _Light thickens_. iii, 2, 50.

_Now spurs_. iii, 3, 6.

P. 67. _So fair and foul a day_. i, 3, 38.

_such welcome and unwelcome news together_. Cf. iv, 3, 138: "such welcome
and unwelcome things at once."

_Men's lives are_. Cf. iv, 3, 171:

              "and good men's lives
  Expire before the flowers in their caps,
  Dying or ere they sicken."

_Look like the innocent flower_. i, 5, 66.

_to him and all_, "to all and him." iii, 4, 91.

_Avaunt and quit my sight_. iii, 4, 93.

_himself again_. Cf. iii, 4, 107: "being gone, I am a man again."

_he may sleep_. iv, 1, 86.

_Then be thou jocund_. iii, 2, 40.

_Had he not resembled_. ii, 2, 13.

_should be women_. i, 3. 45.

_in deeper consequence_. i, 3, 126.

_Why stands_. iv, 1, 125.

P. 68. _He is as distinct a being_, etc. Cf. Pope (Nichol Smith's
"Eighteenth Century Essays," p. 48): "Every single character in
Shakespeare is as much an individual as those in life itself; it is
impossible to find any two alike; and such as from their relation or
affinity appear most to be twins, will upon comparison be found remarkably
distinct." Beattie also had commented on "that wonderfully penetrating and
plastic faculty, which is capable of representing every species of
character, not as our ordinary poets do, by a high shoulder, a wry mouth,
or gigantic stature, but by hitting off, with a delicate hand, the
distinguishing feature, and that in such a manner as makes it easily known
from all others whatsoever, however similar to a superficial eye." (Quoted
in Drake's "Memorials of Shakespeare," 1828, p. 255.) Richard Cumberland
had developed a parallel between Macbeth and Richard III in the Observer,
Nos. 55-58, but it is to the suggestion of Thomas Whateley that Hazlitt is
chiefly indebted. Both Richard III and Macbeth, says Whateley, "are
soldiers, both usurpers; both attain the throne by the same means, by
treason and murder; and both lose it too in the same manner, in battle
against the person claiming it as lawful heir. Perfidy, violence, and
tyranny are common to both; and these only, their obvious qualities, would
have been attributed indiscriminately to both by an ordinary dramatic
writer. But Shakespeare, in conformity to the truth of history as far as
it led him, and by improving upon the fables which have been blended with
it, has ascribed opposite principles and motives to the same designs and
actions, and various effects to the operation of the same events upon
different tempers. Richard and Macbeth, as represented by him, agree in
nothing but their fortunes." (See the Variorum edition of "Richard III,"
p. 549.) Hazlitt makes similar discriminations between the characters of
Iago and Richard III, between Henry VI and Richard II, and between Ariel
and Puck.

_the milk of human kindness_. i, 5, 18.

_himself alone_. Cf. 3 "Henry VI," v, 6, 83: "I am myself alone."

P. 69. _For Banquo's issue_. iii, 1, 65.

_Duncan is in his grave_. iii, 2, 22.

_direness is rendered familiar_. v, 5, 14.

_troubled with thick coming fancies_. v, 3, 38.

P. 70. _subject to all_. "Measure for Measure," iii, 1, 9.

_My way of life_. v, 3, 22.

P. 71. _Lillo_, George (1693-1739), author of several "bourgeois"
tragedies of which the best known is "George Barnwell" (1731).

_Specimens of Early English Dramatic Poets_ by Charles Lamb, 1808. (Works,
ed. Lucas, IV, 144.)


IAGO

P. 73. _What a full fortune_ and _Here is her father's house_. i, 1, 66-74

P. 74. _I cannot believe_. i, 1, 254.

_And yet how nature_. iii, 3, 227.

_milk of human kindness_. "Macbeth," i, 5, 18.

_relish of salvation_. "Hamlet," iii, 3, 92.

_Oh, you are well tuned_. ii, 1, 202.

P. 75. _My noble lord_. iii, 3, 92.

_O grace_. iii, 3, 373.

P. 76. _How is it_. iv, 1, 60.

_Zanga_, in the "Revenge" (1721), a tragedy by Edward Young (1683-1765).


HAMLET

P. 76. _This goodly frame and Man delighted not_. ii, 2, 310-321.

P. 77. _too much i' th' sun_. i, 2, 67.

_the pangs_. iii, 1, 72.

P. 78. _There is no attempt to force an interest._ Professor Saintsbury
("History of Criticism," III, 258) calls this utterance an apex of
Shakespearian criticism. Hazlitt makes a similar comment in the character
of "Troilus and Cressida": "He has no prejudice for or against his
characters: he saw both sides of a question; at once an actor and a
spectator in the scene." Dr. Johnson had observed this attitude in
Shakespeare, but he had seen in it a violation of the demands of poetic
justice: "he carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong,
and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their
examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of his age cannot
extenuate; for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better, and
justice is a virtue independent on time or place." (Nichol Smith's
"Eighteenth Century Essays on Shakespeare," p. 123.)

_outward pageant_. Cf. i, 2, 86: "the trappings and the suits of woe."

_we have that within_. i, 2, 85.

P. 79. _He kneels._ Cf. iii, 3, 73: "Now might I do it pat, now he is
praying."

P. 80. _How all occasions_. iv, 4, 32.

P. 81. _that noble and liberal casuist_. Doubtless suggested by Lamb's
description of the old English dramatists as "those noble and liberal
casuists." (Works, ed. Lucas, I, 46.)

_The Whole Duty of Man_, a popular treatise of morals (1659).

_Academy of Compliments_, or the Whole Duty of Courtship, being the
nearest or most exact way of wooing a Maid or Widow, by the way of
Dialogue or Complimental Expressions (1655, 1669).

_The neglect of punctilious exactness_, etc. The entire passage follows
pretty closely the interpretation of Lamb: "Among the distinguishing
features of that wonderful character, one of the most interesting (yet
painful) is that soreness of mind which makes him treat the intrusions of
Polonius with harshness, and that asperity which he puts on in his
interviews with Ophelia. These tokens of an unhinged mind (if they be not
mixed in the latter case with a profound artifice of love, to alienate
Ophelia by affected discourtesies, so to prepare her mind for the breaking
off of that loving intercourse, which can no longer find a place amidst
business so serious as that which he has to do) are parts of his
character, which to reconcile with our admiration of Hamlet, the most
patient consideration of his situation is no more than necessary; they are
what we _forgive afterwards_, and explain by the whole of his character,
but _at the time_ they are harsh and unpleasant.... [His behavior toward
Ophelia] is not alienation, it is a distraction purely, and so it always
makes itself to be felt by that object: it is not anger, but grief
assuming the appearance of anger,--love awkwardly counterfeiting hate, as
sweet countenances when they try to frown." "On the Tragedies of
Shakespeare." (Works, ed. Lucas, I, 103-104)

_He may be said to be amenable_, etc. Cf. Coleridge (Works, IV, 145): "His
thoughts, and the images of his fancy, are far more vivid than his actual
perceptions, and his very perceptions, instantly passing through the
_medium_ of his contemplations, acquire, as they pass, a form and a colour
not naturally their own. Hence we see a great, an almost enormous,
intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action,
consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities."

P. 82. _his father's spirit_. i, 2, 255.

_I loved Ophelia_. v, 1, 292.

_Sweets to the sweet_. v, 1, 266.

P. 83. _There is a willow_. See p. 39.

_our author's plays acted_. See pp. 70, 87.

P. 84. _Kemble_, John Philip (1757-1823), younger brother to Mrs. Siddons
and noted as the leader of the stately school in tragedy. Hazlitt often
contrasted his manner with that of Kean: "We wish we had never seen Mr.
Kean. He has destroyed the Kemble religion; and it is the religion in
which we were brought up." Works, VIII, 345.

_a wave o' th' sea_. "Winter's Tale," iv, 4, 141.

_Kean_, Edmund (1787-1833), the great English tragic actor whom Hazlitt
was instrumental in discovering for the London public. Shylock and Othello
were his most successful roles. For accounts of his various performances,
see "A View of the English Stage" (Works, VIII). Most of the points in
this essay are reproduced from the notice of Kean's Hamlet (VIII,
185-189).


ROMEO AND JULIET

This extract is the opening paragraph of the sketch.

P. 84. _a great critic_, A. W. Schlegel. The passage alluded to by Hazlitt
appears in Coleridge's Works (IV, 60-61) in what is little more than a
free translation: "Read 'Romeo and Juliet';--all is youth and
spring;--youth with its follies, its virtues, its precipitancies;--spring
with its odors, its flowers, and its transiency; it is one and the same
feeling that commences, goes through, and ends the play. The old men, the
Capulets and the Montagues, are not common old men; they have an
eagerness, a heartiness, a vehemence, the effect of spring; with Romeo,
his change of passion, his sudden marriage, and his rash death, are all
the effects of youth;--whilst in Juliet love has all that is tender and
melancholy in the nightingale, all that is voluptuous in the rose, with
whatever is sweet in the freshness of the spring; but it ends with a long
deep sigh like the last breeze of the Italian evening."

P. 85. _fancies wan_. Cf. "Lycidas," "cowslips wan."


MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

These extracts are the second and last paragraphs of the essay.

P. 85. _Lord, what fools_. iii, 2, 115.

P. 86. _human mortals_. ii, 1, 101.

_gorgons and hydras_. "Paradise Lost," II, 628.

_a celebrated person_, Sir Humphry Davy; see p. 342. Cf. Coleridge
(Works, IV, 66): "Shakespeare was not only a great poet, but a great
philosopher."

P. 87. _Poetry and the stage_. Cf. Lamb, "On the Tragedies of Shakespeare"
(ed. Lucas, I, 110): "Spirits and fairies cannot be represented, they
cannot even be painted,--they can only be believed. But the elaborate and
anxious provision of scenery, which the luxury of the age demands, in
these cases works a quite contrary effect to what is intended. That which
in comedy, or plays of familiar life, adds so much to the life of the
imitation, in plays which appeal to the higher faculties, positively
destroys the illusion which it is introduced to aid."


HENRY IV

Hazlitt's interpretation of Falstaff is worth comparing with that of
Maurice Morgann in "An Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John
Falstaff," although Hazlitt does not allude to Morgann's essay and is
supposed to have had no knowledge of it. "To me then it appears that the
leading quality in Falstaff's character, and that from which all the rest
take their colour, is a high degree of wit and humour, accompanied with
great natural vigour and alacrity of mind.... He seems, by nature, to have
had a mind free of malice or any evil principle; but he never took the
trouble of acquiring any _good_ one. He found himself esteemed and beloved
with all his faults; nay _for_ his faults, which were all connected with
humour, and for the most part grew out of it. As he had, possibly, no
vices but such as he thought might be openly confessed, so he appeared
more dissolute thro' ostentation. To the character of wit and humour, to
which all his other qualities seem to have conformed themselves, he
appears to have added a very necessary support, _that_ of the profession
of a _Soldier_.... Laughter and approbation attend his greatest excesses;
and being governed visibly by no settled bad principle or ill design, fun
and humour account for and cover all. By degrees, however, and thro'
indulgence, he acquires bad habits, becomes an humourist, grows enormously
corpulent, and falls into the infirmities of age; yet never quits, all the
time, one single levity or vice of youth, or loses any of that
cheerfulness of mind which had enabled him to pass thro' this course with
ease to himself and delight to others; and thus, at last, mixing youth and
age, enterprize and corpulency, wit and folly, poverty and expence, title
and buffoonery, innocence as to purpose, and wickedness as to practice;
neither incurring hatred by bad principle, or contempt by cowardice, yet
involved in circumstances productive of imputation in both; a butt and a
wit, a humourist and a man of humour, a touchstone and a laughing stock, a
jester and a jest, has Sir _John Falstaff_, taken at that period of life
in which we see him, become the most perfect comic character that perhaps
ever was exhibited." (Nichol Smith's "Eighteenth Century Essays on
Shakespeare," 226-7.)

P. 88. _we behold_. Cf. Colossians, ii, 9; "in him dwelleth all the
fulness of the Godhead bodily."

_lards the lean earth_. 1 "Henry IV," ii, 2, 116.

_into thin air_. "Tempest," iv, 1, 150.

_three fingers deep_. Cf. 1 "Henry IV," iv, 2, 80: "three fingers on the
ribs."

P. 89. _it snows_. Chaucer's Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales," 345.

_ascends me_. 2 "Henry IV," iv, 3, 105.

_a tun of man_. 1 "Henry IV," ii, 4, 493.

P. 91. _open, palpable_. Cf. 1 "Henry IV," ii, 4, 248: "These lies are
like their father that begets them; gross as a mountain, open, palpable."

_By the lord_. Ibid., i, 2, 44.

_But Hal_. Ibid., i, 2, 91.

P. 92. _who grew_. Cf. ii, 4, 243: "eleven buckram men grown out of two."

_Harry, I do not_. ii, 4, 439.

P. 94. _What is the gross sum_. 2 "Henry IV," ii, 1, 91.

P. 95. _Would I were with him_. "Henry V," ii, 3, 6.

_turning his vices_. Cf. 2 "Henry IV," i, 2, 277: "I will turn diseases to
commodity."

_their legs_. Ibid., ii, 4, 265.

_a man made after supper_. Ibid., iii, 2, 332.

_Would, Cousin Silence_. Ibid., iii, 2, 225.

_I did not think_. Ibid., v, 3, 40.

_in some authority_. Ibid., v, 3, 117.

_You have here_. Ibid., v, 3, 6.


TWELFTH NIGHT

P. 96. _It aims at the ludicrous._ Cf. Hazlitt's remark in the Characters
on "Much Ado About Nothing": "Perhaps that middle point of comedy was
never more nicely hit in which the ludicrous blends with the tender, and
our follies, turning round against themselves in support of our
affections, retain nothing but their humanity."

P. 97. _William Congreve_ (1670-1729), _William Wycherley_ (1640-1716),
_Sir John Vanbrugh_ (1664-1726), the chief masters of Restoration Comedy.

P. 98. _high fantastical_. i, 1, 15.

_Wherefore are these things hid_. i, 3, 133.

_rouse the night-owl_. ii, 3, 60.

_Dost thou think_. ii, 3, 123.

P. 99. _We cannot agree with Dr. Johnson._ See p. 49 and n.

_What's her history_. ii, 4, 12.

_Oh it came o'er_. i, 1, 5.

P. 100. _They give a very echo_. ii, 4, 21.

_Blame not this haste_. iv, 3, 22.

The essay concludes with the quotation of one of the songs and Malvolio's
reading of the letter.


MILTON

P. 101. _Blind Thamyris_. "Paradise Lost," III, 35.

P. 102. _with darkness_. VII, 27.

_piling up every stone_. XI, 324.

_For after I had from my first years_. "The Reason of Church Government,"
Book II, Introduction.

P. 103. _The noble heart_. "Faërie Queene," I, v, 1.

P. 104. _makes Ossa like a wart_. "Hamlet," v, 1, 306.

_Him followed Rimmon_. "Paradise Lost," I, 467.

_As when a vulture_. III, 431.

P. 105. _the pilot_. I, 204.

_It has been indeed objected to Milton_. Cf. Coleridge (Works, ed. Shedd,
IV, 304): "Milton is not a picturesque, but a musical, poet"; also
Coleridge's "Table Talk," August 7, 1832: "It is very remarkable that in
no part of his writings does Milton take any notice of the great painters
of Italy, nor, indeed, of painting as an art; while every other page
breathes his love and taste for music.... Adam bending over the sleeping
Eve, in Paradise Lost, and Dalilah approaching Samson, in the Agonistes,
are the only two proper pictures I remember in Milton."

_Like a steam_. "Comus," 556.

P. 106. _He soon saw_. "Paradise Lost," III, 621.

P. 107. _With Atlantean shoulders_. II, 306.

_Lay floating_. I, 296.

_Dr. Johnson condemns the Paradise Lost._ See the conclusion of his "Life
of Milton."

P. 108. _His hand was known_. "Paradise Lost," I, 732.

_But chief the spacious hall_. I, 762.

P. 109. _Round he surveys_. III, 555.

_Such as the meeting soul_. "L'Allegro."

_the hidden soul_. Ibid.

P. 110. _as Pope justly observes_. "First Epistle of the Second Book of
Horace," 102.

P. 111. _As when Heaven's fire_. "Paradise Lost," I, 612.

_All is not lost_. I, 206.

_that intellectual being_. II, 147.

_being swallowed up_. II, 149.

P. 112. _Fallen cherub_. I, 157.

_rising aloft_. I, 225.

_the mystic German critics_. Cf. p. 344.

P. 113. _Is this the region_. "Paradise Lost," I, 242.

P. 114. _Salmasius_. At the request of Charles II, Claude de Saumaise
(Claudius Salmasius), professor at Leyden, had written a vindication of
Charles I, "Defensio pro Carolo I" (1649), to which Milton replied with
the "Defensio pro Populo Anglicano" (1651). The controversy between the
two is noted for the virulency of the personal invective.

_with hideous ruin_. "Paradise Lost," I, 46.

_retreated in a silent valley_. II, 547.

_a noted political writer_. Dr. Stoddart, editor of the Times and
brother-in-law of Hazlitt, whom the critic bitterly hated, and Napoleon
are here referred to. Cf. "Political Essays," III, 158-159.

P. 115. _Longinus preferred the Iliad._ "Whereas in the _Iliad_, which was
written when his genius was in its prime, the whole structure of the poem
is founded on action and struggle, in the _Odyssey_ he generally prefers
the narrative style, which is proper to old age. Hence Homer in his
_Odyssey_ may be compared to the setting sun; he is still as great as
ever, but he has lost his fervent heat. The strain is now pitched in a
lower key than in the 'Tale of Troy Divine': we begin to miss that high
and equable sublimity which never flags or sinks, that continuous current
of moving incidents, those rapid transitions, that force of eloquence,
that opulence of imagery which is ever true to Nature. Like the sea when
it retires upon itself and leaves its shores waste and bare, henceforth
the tide of sublimity begins to ebb, and draws us away into the dim region
of myth and legend. In saying this I am not forgetting the fine
storm-pieces in the _Odyssey_, the story of the Cyclops, and other
striking passages. It is Homer grown old I am discussing, but still it is
Homer." On the Sublime, IX, trans. Havell.

_no kind of traffic_. Cf. "Tempest," ii, 1, 148.

_The generations were prepared_. Wordsworth's "Excursion," VI, 554.

_the unapparent deep_. "Paradise Lost," VII, 103.

P. 116. _know to know no more_. Cowper's "Truth," 327.

_They toiled not_. Matthew, vi, 28.

_In them the burthen_. Wordsworth's "Lines Composed above Tintern Abbey."

_such as angels weep_. "Paradise Lost," I, 620.

P. 117. _In either hand_. XII, 637.


POPE

This selection begins with the second paragraph of the fourth lecture on
the "English Poets."

P. 118. _The question whether Pope was a poet_. Hazlitt had written a
paper in answer to this question in the Edinburgh Magazine for February,
1818 (Works, XII, 430-432), from which the following paragraphs down to
"Such at least is the best account" are copied. The question had been
previously answered by Dr. Johnson with the same common sense as by
Hazlitt: "It is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once
been asked, Whether Pope was a poet? otherwise than by asking in return,
If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry
by a definition will only shew the narrowness of the definer, though a
definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made." ("Life of
Pope," ed. B. Hill, III, 251). In their edition of Pope (II, 140), Elwin
and Courthope express the opinion that the doubt which both Johnson and
Hazlitt felt called upon to refute "was never maintained by a single
person of reputation." Yet there is something very close to such a doubt
implied in the utterances of Coleridge: "If we consider great
exquisiteness of language and sweetness of metre alone, it is impossible
to deny to Pope the character of a delightful writer; but whether he was a
poet, must depend upon our definition of the word.... This, I must say,
that poetry, as distinguished from other modes of composition, does not
rest in metre, and that it is not poetry, if it make no appeal to our
passions or our imagination." (Works, ed. Shedd, IV, 56.) Pope's verse was
made the occasion of a long-winded controversy as to the relative value of
the natural and artificial in poetry, lasting from 1819 to 1825, with
William Bowles and Lord Byron as the principal combatants. Hazlitt
contributed an article to the London Magazine for June, 1821, "Pope, Lord
Byron and Mr. Bowles" (Works, XII, 486-508), in which he pointed out the
fallacies in Byron's position and censured the clerical priggishness of
Bowles in treating of Pope's life. The chief points in the discussion are
best summed up in Prothero's edition of Byron's "Letters and Journals,"
Vol. V, Appendix III.

_If indeed by a great poet we mean_. Cf. Introduction, p. 1.

P. 120. _the pale reflex_. "Romeo and Juliet," iii, 5, 20.

P. 121. _Martha Blount_ (1690-1762), the object of Pope's sentimental
attachment throughout his life.

_In Fortune's ray_. "Troilus and Cressida," i, 3, 47.

_the gnarled oak ... the soft myrtle_. "Faërie Qu.," II, ii, 116-117.

_calm contemplation_. Thomson's "Autumn," 1275.

P. 122. _More subtle web_. "Faërie Queene," II, xii, 77.

P. 123. _from her fair head_. "Rape of the Lock," III, 154.

_Now meet thy fate_. Ibid., V, 87-96.

P. 124. _Lutrin_. The "Lutrin" was a mock-heroic poem (1674-1683) of the
French poet and critic, Nicolas Boileau Despreaux (1636-1711), the
literary dictator of the age of Louis XIV.

_'Tis with our judgments_. "Essay on Criticism," I, 9.

_Still green with bays_. Ibid., I, 181.

P. 125. _the writer's despair_. Cf. Ibid., II, 278:

  "No longer now that Golden Age appears,
  When Patriarch-wits survived a thousand years:
  Now length of fame (our second life) is lost,
  And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast:
  Our sons their fathers' failing language see,
  And such as Chaucer is shall Dryden be."

_with theirs should sail_, "attendant sail." "Essay on Man," IV, 383-6.

P. 126. _There died_. "Eloisa to Abelard," 40.

P. 127. _If ever chance_. Ibid., 347.

_Bolingbroke_. Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751). "The
Essay plainly appears the fabric of a poet: what Bolingbroke supplied
could be only the first principles; the order, illustration, and
embellishments must be all Pope's." Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope,
II, 264.

P. 128. _he spins_, "draweth out." "Love's Labour's Lost," v, 1, 18.

_the very words_. Cf. "Macbeth," i, 3, 88: "the selfsame tune and words."

_Now night descending_. "Dunciad," I, 89.

_Virtue may choose_. "Epilogue to the Satires," Dialogue I, 137.

P. 129. _character of Chartres_. "Moral Essays, Epistle III."

_his compliments_. See p. 322.

_Where Murray_. "Imitations of Horace, Epistle VI," 52. William Murray
(1705-1793), Chief Justice of England, created Lord Mansfield in 1776.

_Why rail_. "Epilogue to Satires," Dialogue II, 138.

_Despise low joys_. "Epistle to Mr. Murray," 60.

P. 130. _character of Addison_. "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," 193-214.

_Buckingham_. George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham (1628-1687),
statesman, wit, and poet.

_Alas! how changed_. "Moral Essays," III, 305.

_Arbuthnot_, John (1667-1735), physician and man of letters, whom
Thackeray introduced in attendance at the death-bed of Francis Esmond. "He
had a very notable share in the immortal History of John Bull, and the
inimitable and praiseworthy Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.... Arbuthnot's
style is distinguished from that of his contemporaries, even by a greater
degree of terseness and conciseness. He leaves out every superfluous word;
is sparing of connecting particles, and introductory phrases; uses always
the simplest forms of construction; and is more a master of the idiomatic
peculiarities and internal resources of the language than almost any other
writer." "English Poets," Lecture VI.

_Charles Jervas_ (1675-1739) gave Pope lessons in painting. He is also
known as a translator of "Don Quixote."

_Why did I write_. "Epistle to Arbuthnot," 125.

P. 131. _Oh, lasting as those colours_. "Epistle to Mr. Jervas," 63.

_who have eyes_. Psalms, cxv, 5; cxxxv, 16, etc.

_It will never do._ Hazlitt was fond of mimicking this phrase with which
Jeffrey so unfortunately opened his well-known review of Wordsworth's
"Excursion."

_I lisp'd in numbers._ "Epistle to Arbuthnot," 128.

_Et quum conabar scribere_. Cf. Ovid's "Tristia," IV, x, 26: "Et, quod
tentabam dicere, versus erat."


PERIODICAL ESSAYISTS

The fifth lecture on the "Comic Writers."

P. 133. _the proper study_. Pope's "Essay on Man," II, 2.

_comes home_. Bacon's dedication of the Essays.

_Quicquid agunt homines_. "Whatever things men do form the mixed substance
of our book." Juvenal's "Satires," I, 85. With occasional exceptions, this
appears as the motto of the first 78 number of the Tatler.

_holds the mirror_. "Hamlet," iii, 2, 24.

_the act and practic_. Cf. "Henry V," i, 1, 51: "So that the art and
practic part of life Must be the mistress to this theoric."

P. 134. _the web of our life_. "All's Well That Ends Well," iv, 3, 83.

_Quid sit pulchrum_. "It tells us what is fair, what foul, what is useful,
what not, more amply and better than Chrysippus and Crantor." Horace's
"Epistles," I, ii, 3-4.

_Montaigne_, Michel (1533-1592). "Essays," Books I and II, 1580; Book III,
1588.

P. 135. _not one of the angles_. Sterne's "Tristram Shandy," Bk. III, Ch.
12.

P. 136. _pour out_. "Imitation of Horace, Satire I," 51.

P. 136, n. _more wise Charron_. See Pope's "Moral Essays," I, 87. Pierre
Charron (1541-1603), a friend of Montaigne, author of "De la Sagesse"
(1601).

P. 137. _Pereant isti_. Ælius Donatus: St. Jerome's _Commentary on the
Eucharist_, ch. 1. Mr. Carr's translation of the sentence is "Confound the
fellows who have said our good things before us." (Camelot Hazlitt.)

P. 138. _Charles Cotton's_ (1630-1687) translation of Montaigne was
published in 1685. It was dedicated to George Savile, Marquis of Halifax
(1633-1695), who spoke of the essays as "the book in the world I am best
entertained with."

_Cowley_, Abraham (1618-1667). "Several Discourses by way of Essays in
Prose and Verse" appeared in the edition of his works in 1668.

_Sir William Temple_ (1628-1699). His essays, entitled "Miscellanea," were
published in 1680 and 1692.

_Lord Shaftesbury_ (1671-1713), author of "Characteristics" (1711).

P. 139. _the perfect spy_. "Macbeth," iii, 1, 130.

_The Tatler_ ran from April 12, 1709, to June 2, 1711. This paragraph and
the larger portion of the next are substantially reproduced from the paper
"On the Tatler" in the "Round Table."

_Isaac Bickerstaff_. Under the disguise of this name Swift had perpetrated
an amusing hoax on an almanac-maker of the name of Partridge, and in
launching his new periodical Steele availed himself of the notoriety of
Bickerstaff's name and feigned his identity with that personage.

P. 140. _the disastrous stroke_. Cf. "Othello," i, 3, 157: "some
distressful stroke that my youth suffered."

_the recollection of one of his mistresses_. Tatler, No. 107.

_the club at the Trumpet_. 132.

_the cavalcade_. 86.

_the upholsterer_. 155, 160, 178.

_If he walks out_, etc. 238.

P. 141. _Charles Lillie_, perfumer, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings in
the Strand, was agent for the sale of the Tatler and Spectator and is
several times mentioned in those periodicals.

_Betterton_, Thomas (1635?-1710), _Anne Oldfield_ (1683-1730), _Will_
[Richard] _Estcourt_ (1668-1712), were popular actors of the day.

_Tom Durfey_ (1653-1723) was a dramatist and song writer.

_Duke of Marlborough_ (1650-1722), and _Marshal Turenne_ (1611-1675).

_The Spectator_ ran from March 1, 1711, to December 6, 1712, with an
additional series from June 18 to December 20, 1714.

_the first sprightly runnings_. Dryden's "Aurengzebe," iv, 1.

P. 142. _Addison_, Joseph (1672-1719).

_the whiteness of her hand_. Cf. Spectator. No. 113. "She certainly has
the finest hand of any woman in the world."

_the havoc he makes_. Spectator, 116, by Budgell.

_his speech from the bench and his unwillingness_. 122.

_his gentle reproof_. 130.

_his doubts_. 117.

P. 143. _his account of the family pictures_. 109, by Steele.

_his choice of a chaplain_. 106.

_his falling asleep at church and his reproof of John Williams_, i.e.,
John Matthews. 112.

_I once thought I knew_. Cf. "On the Conversation of Authors," where A----
(William Ayrton) is introduced as "the Will Honeycomb of our set."

_The Court of Honour_. Addison created the court in Tatler, 250. Its
proceedings are recorded by himself and Steele in Nos. 253, 256, 259, 262,
265.

_Personification of Musical Instruments_. Tatler, 153, 157.

_the picture of the family_. Tatler, 95, of unknown authorship.

P. 144. _the account of the two sisters_. 151.

_the married lady_. 104.

_the lover and his mistress_. 94.

_the bridegroom_. 82.

_Mr. Eustace and his wife_. 172.

_the fine dream_. 117.

_Mandeville_, Bernard (d. 1733), author of the satirical "Fable of the
Bees."

_reflections on cheerfulness_. Spectator, 381, 387, 393.

_those in Westminster Abbey_. 26.

_Royal Exchange_. 69.

P. 145. _the best criticism_. 226.

_Mr. Fuseli_, Henry (1741-1825), painter and art critic.

_an original copy_. Probably the octavo edition of 1711.

_The Guardian_ ran from March 12, 1713, to October 1, 1713.

_The Rambler_ ran from March 20, 1749-50, to March 14, 1752.

_Dr. Johnson_, Samuel (1709-1784).

P. 146. _give us pause_. "Hamlet," iii, 1, 68.

P. 147. _All his periods_, etc. See the "Character of Burke" and the
preface to "The Characters of Shakespeare's Plays."

P. 148. _the elephant_. "Paradise Lost," IV, 345.

_If he were to write_. Boswell's "Johnson," ed. Birkbeck Hill, II, 231.

P. 149. _Rasselas_, an Oriental tale, published in 1759.

_abused Milton and patronised Lauder_. See Boswell's "Johnson," I,
228-231.

P. 150. _Boswell_, James (1740-1795), made his literary reputation by his
"Life of Johnson."

_the king of good fellows_. Burns's "Auld Rab Morris."

_inventory of all he said_. Cf. Ben Jonson's "Alchemist," iii, 2: "And
ta'en an inventory of what they are."

_Goldsmith asked_. Boswell's "Johnson," II, 260.

_If that fellow Burke_. II, 450.

_What, is it you_. I, 250.

P. 151. _with some unidead girls_. I, 251.

_Now, I think_. II, 362.

_his quitting the society_. I, 201.

_his dining with Wilkes_. III, 64.

_his sitting with the young ladies_. II, 120.

_his carrying the unfortunate victim_. IV, 321.

_an act which realises the parable_. Talfourd, who heard this lecture,
reports that on Hazlitt's allusion to this incident "a titter arose from
some who were struck by the picture as ludicrous, and a murmur from others
who deemed the allusion unfit for ears polite: he paused for an instant,
and then added, in his sturdiest and most impressive manner--'an act which
realizes the parable of the Good Samaritan'--at which his moral, and his
delicate hearers shrank, rebuked, into deep silence."

_where they_. Gray's "Elegy."

P. 152. _The Adventurer_ ran from November 7, 1752, to March 9, 1754. John
Hawkesworth (1715-1773) was its chief contributor.

_The World_ ran from January 4, 1753, to December 30, 1756.

_The Connoisseur_ ran from January 31, 1754, to September 30, 1756.

_one good idea_. The paper referred to is No. 176 of The World, by Edward
Moore, the dramatist.

_Citizen of the World_, in two volumes, 1762.

_go about to cozen_. Cf. "Merchant of Venice," ii, 9, 37: "To cozen
fortune and be honorable Without the stamp of merit."

_Persian Letters_. "Letters from a Persian in England to his Friend at
Ispahan" (1735), by Lord Lyttleton.

P. 153. _The bonzes_. "Citizen of the World," Letter X.

_Edinburgh. We are positive_. Ibid., Letter V.

_Beau Tibbs_. Letters XXIX, LIV, LV, LXXXI.

_Lounger_ ran from February 5, 1785, to January 6, 1786, _The Mirror_ from
January 23, 1779, to May 27, 1780. The chief contributor to both was Henry
Mackenzie (1745-1831), author of the celebrated sentimental novels: "The
Man of Feeling" (1771), "The Man of the World" (1773), "Julia de Roubigné"
(1777).

_the story of La Roche_. Mirror, 42, 43, 44.

_the story of Le Fevre_. "Tristram Shandy," Bk. VI, ch. 6.

P. 154. _author of Rosamond Gray_. Charles Lamb.


THE ENGLISH NOVELISTS

From the sixth lecture on the "Comic Writers." Most of the matter had
appeared in the Edinburgh Review for February, 1815, as a review of Madame
D'Arblay's "Wanderer." (See Works, X, 25-44.) In "A Farewell to
Essay-Writing" (Works, XII, 327) Hazlitt harks back to his days with
Charles and Mary Lamb: "I will not compare our hashed mutton with
Amelia's; but it put us in mind of it, and led to a discussion, sharply
seasoned and well sustained, till midnight, the result of which appeared
some years after in the Edinburgh Review."

P. 155. _Be mine to read_. To Richard West, April, 1742.

_Marivaux_, Pierre (1688-1763), and _Crebillon_, Claude Prosper
(1707-1777), French novelists.

_something more divine_. Cf. p. 254.

P. 156. _Fielding ... says_. "Joseph Andrews," Bk. III, ch. 1.

_description somewhere given_. "Reflections on the French Revolution," ed.
Bohn, II, 351-352.

P. 157. _Echard_. John Eachard (1636-1697), author of "The Grounds and
Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy and Religion Enquired into."
(1670.)

_worthy of all acceptation_. 1 Timothy, i, 15.

_the lecture_. "Joseph Andrews," Bk. IV, ch. 3.

_Blackstone_, Sir William (1723-1780), author of "Commentaries on the Laws
of England" (1765-69).

_De Lolme_, John. Louis (1740?-1807), author of "The Constitution of
England" (1771).

_Cervantes_, Miguel (1547-1616), Spanish novelist whose most famous work
is "Don Quixote."

_Le Sage_, Alain René (1668-1747), French novelist, author of "Gil Blas."

_Fielding_, Henry (1707-1754). His most important novels are "Joseph
Andrews" (1742), "Tom Jones" (1749), "Amelia" (1751), "Jonathan Wild"
(1743).

_Smollett_, Tobias (1721-1771), wrote "Roderick Random" (1748), "Peregrine
Pickle" (1751), "Ferdinand Count Fathom" (1753), "Launcelot Greaves"
(1762), "Humphrey Clinker" (1771).

_Richardson_, Samuel (1689-1761), wrote "Pamela" (1740), "Clarissa
Harlowe" (1747-48), "Sir Richard Grandison" (1753).

_Sterne_, Laurence (1713-1768), wrote "Tristram Shandy" (1759-67), "A
Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy" (1768).

P. 158. _in these several writers_. A few paragraphs are here omitted
treating of "Don Quixote," "Lazarillo de Tormes" (1553), "Guzman
d'Alfarache" by Mateo Aleman (1599), and "Gil Blas."

_They are thoroughly English._ In the review of Walpole's Letters (Works,
X, 168), Hazlitt says: "There is nothing of a tea inspiration in any of
his [Fielding's] novels. They are assuredly the finest thing of the kind
in the language; and we are Englishmen enough to consider them the best in
any language. They are indubitably the most English of all the works of
Englishmen."

_Hogarth_, William (1697-1764), painter and engraver of moral and
satirical subjects. His two most famous series of paintings are "The
Rake's Progress" and "Marriage à la Mode." Lamb in his "Essay on the
Genius and Character of Hogarth" observes: "Other pictures we look
at,--his prints we read." Hazlitt, sharing this view, includes an account
of Hogarth in the seventh lecture of the "Comic Writers," which opens as
follows: "If the quantity of amusement, or of matter for more serious
reflection which their works have afforded, is that by which we are to
judge of precedence among the intellectual benefactors of mankind, there
are, perhaps, few persons who can put in a stronger claim to our gratitude
than Hogarth. It is not hazarding too much to assert, that he was one of
the greatest comic geniuses that ever lived."

P. 159. _the gratitude of the elder Blifil_. Bk. I, ch. 13.

_the Latin dialogues_, etc. Bk. II, chs. 3-4.

P. 160. _honesty of Black George_. Bk. VI, ch. 13.

_I was never so handsome_. Bk. XVII, ch. 4.

_the adventure with the highwayman_. Bk. VII, ch. 9.

_Sophia and her muff_. Bk. V, ch. 4.

_coquetry of her cousin_. Bk. XVI, ch. 9.

_the modest overtures_. Bk. XV, ch. 11.

_the story of Tom Jones_. Cf. Coleridge's "Table Talk," July 5, 1834: "I
think the OEdipus Tyrannus, the Alchemist, and Tom Jones, the three most
perfect plots ever planned."

_account of Miss Matthews and Ensign Hibbert_ [Hebbers]. Bk. I, chs. 7-9.

P. 161. _the story of the miniature picture_. Bk. XI, ch. 6.

_the hashed mutton_. Bk. X, ch. 6.

_the masquerade_. Bk. X, ch. 2.

_the interview_. Bk. X, chs. 2, 8.

P. 162. _His declaring_. Bk. III, ch. 3.

_his consoling himself_. Bk. III, ch. 2.

_the night-adventures_. Bk. IV, ch. 14.

_that with the huntsman_. Bk. III, ch. 6.

_Wilson's account_. Bk. III, ch. 3.

P. 163. _Roderick Random's carroty locks_. ch. 13.

_Strap's ignorance_. ch. 14.

_intus et in cute_. Persius' "Satires," III, 30.

P. 164. _scene on ship-board_. ch. 24.

_profligate French friar_. chs. 42-43.

P. 165. _the Count's address_. ch. 27.

_the robber-scene_. chs. 20-21.

_the Parisian swindler_. ch. 24.

_the seduction_. ch. 34.

P. 166. _the long description_. The allusions to Miss Byron's dress in
Vol. VII, Letter III, can scarcely be called a long description.

P. 167. _Dr. Johnson seems to have preferred_. Cf. Boswell's "Johnson,"
ed. Hill, II, 174: "Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one
letter of Richardson's, than in all Tom Jones."

P. 168. _reproaches to her "lumpish heart"_. "Pamela," ed. Dobson and
Phelps, I, 268.

_its lightness_. I, 276.

_the joy_. II, 7-25.

_the artifice of the stuff-gown_. I, 51.

_the meeting with Lady Davers_. II, 145 ff.

_the trial-scene with her husband_. IV, 122 ff.

P. 169. _her long dying-scene_. "Clarissa Harlowe," ed. Dobson and Phelps,
Vol. VIII, Letter 29.

_the closing of the coffin-lid_. VIII, Letter 50.

_the heart-breaking reflections_. VI, Letter 29.

_Books are a real world._ Wordsworth's "Personal Talk."

_Lovelace's reception and description of Hickman_. VI, Letter 80.

_the scene at the glove-shop_. VII, Letter 70.

_Belton, so pert_. I, Letter 31.

_his systematically preferring_. Cf. "Why the Heroes of Romances are
Insipid" (Works, XII, 62): "There is not a single thing that Sir Charles
Grandison does or says all through the book from liking to any person or
object but himself, and with a view to answer to a certain standard of
perfection for which he pragmatically sets up. He is always thinking of
himself, and trying to show that he is the wisest, happiest, and most
virtuous person in the whole world. He is (or would be thought) a code of
Christian ethics; a compilation and abstract of all gentlemanly
accomplishments. There is nothing, I conceive, that excites so little
sympathy as this inordinate egotism; or so much disgust as this
everlasting self-complacency. Yet this self-admiration, brought forward on
every occasion as the incentive to every action and reflected from all
around him, is the burden and pivot of the story."

P. 170. _a dull fellow_. Boswell's "Johnson," ed. Birkbeck Hill, II, 222.

_the tale of Maria_. Bk. IX, ch. 24.

_the apostrophe to the recording angel_. Bk. VI, ch. 8.

_the story of Le Fevre_. Bk. VI, ch. 6.

The rest of the lecture treats of Fanny Burney, Anne Radcliffe, Elizabeth
Inchbald, William Godwin, and Sir Walter Scott.


CHARACTER OF MR. BURKE

First published in the "Eloquence of the British Senate" and republished
in "Political Essays."

P. 172. _The following speech_. Hazlitt refers to the speech On the
Economic Reform (February 11, 1780). See Burke's Works, ed. Bohn, II,
55-126.

P. 174. _the elephant to make them sport_. "Paradise Lost" IV, 345.

_native and endued_. "Hamlet," iv, 7, 180.

_Lord Chatham_. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), the great
English statesman.

P. 176. _a new creation_. Goldsmith's "Traveler," 296.

P. 178. _All the great changes_. Cf. Morley's "Life of Burke," ch. 8: "All
really profound speculation about society comes in time to touch the heart
of every other object of speculation, not by directly contributing new
truths or directly corroborating old ones, but by setting men to consider
the consequences to life of different opinions on these abstract subjects,
and their relations to the great paramount interests of society, however
those interests may happen at the time to be conceived. Burke's book marks
a turning-point in literary history, because it was the signal for that
reaction over the whole field of thought, into which the Revolution drove
many of the finest minds of the next generation, by showing the supposed
consequences of pure individualistic rationalism."

P. 179. _Alas! Leviathan_. Cowper's "Task," II, 322.

_the corner stone_. Psalms, cxvii, 22.

_to the Jews_. 1 Corinthians, i, 23.

P. 183. _the consequences of his writings_. In this view Hazlitt has the
full support of Lord Morley.

P. 184. _How charming_. Milton's "Comus," 476.

_He was one of the severest writers we have._ The description of Burke's
style which follows should be compared with that given on pp. 344-5 and
with the splendid passage in the "Plain Speaker" essay "On the Prose Style
of Poets," beginning: "It has always appeared to me that the most perfect
prose-style, the most powerful, the most dazzling, the most daring, that
which went the nearest to the verge of poetry, and yet never fell over,
was Burke's. It has the solidity, and sparkling effect of the diamond; all
other _fine writing_ is like French paste or Bristol-stones in the
comparison. Burke's style is airy, flighty, adventurous, but it never
loses sight of the subject; nay, is always in contact with, and derives
its increased or varying impulse from it. It may be said to pass yawning
gulfs 'on the unsteadfast footing of a spear:' still it has an actual
resting-place and tangible support under it--it is not suspended on
nothing. It differs from poetry, as I conceive, like the chamois from the
eagle: it climbs to an almost equal height, touches upon a cloud,
overlooks a precipice, is picturesque, sublime--but all the while, instead
of soaring through the air, it stands upon a rocky cliff, clambers up by
abrupt and intricate ways, and browzes on the roughest bark, or crops the
tender flower."

P. 186. _the set or formal style_. See pp. 147-8.

P. 187. _Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents_ (1770), a
criticism of the ministerial policy of the English government under George
III.

_Reflections on the Revolution in France_ (1790), a severe arraignment of
the principles which inspired the revolution and a prophetic warning of
its consequences.

_Letter to the Duke of Bedford_. A Letter from the Right Hon. Edmund
Burke, to a Noble Lord, on the attacks made upon him and his pension, in
the House of Lords, by the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale,
early in the present session of Parliament. (1706.)

_Regicide Peace_. Three Letters addressed to a Member of the Present
Parliament, on the proposals for peace with the regicide Directory of
France. (1796.)

P. 188. _Fox_, Charles James (1749-1806), the famous Whig statesman who
was frequently the opponent of Burke and of the younger Pitt.

P. 189. _Dr. Johnson observed_, in his "Life of Pope" (ed. Birkbeck Hill,
III, 230): "In their similes the greatest writers have sometimes failed;
the ship-race, compared with the chariot-race, is neither illustrated nor
aggrandised; land and water make all the difference: when Apollo running
after Daphne is likened to a greyhound chasing a hare, there is nothing
gained; the ideas of pursuit and flight are too plain to be made plainer,
and a god and the daughter of a god are not represented much to their
advantage by a hare and a dog."

_a person_. Conjecturally Joseph Fawcett. In the essay "On Criticism"
("Table Talk") Hazlitt says: "The person of the most refined and least
contracted taste I ever knew was the late Joseph Fawcett, the friend of my
youth. He was almost the first literary acquaintance I ever made, and I
think the most candid and unsophisticated. He had a masterly perception of
all styles and of every kind and degree of excellence, sublime or
beautiful, from Milton's Paradise Lost to Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad,
from Butler's Analogy down to Humphrey Clinker."

P. 189, n. _the comparison of the British Constitution_. "Letter to a
Noble Lord," Works, ed. Bohn, V, 137.


MR. WORDSWORTH

From "The Spirit of the Age." Characterizations of Wordsworth also occur
in the lecture "On the Living Poets" and in the Essay "On Genius and
Common Sense" in "Table Talk."

P. 191. _lowliness is young ambition's ladder_. "Julius Cæsar," ii, 1, 22.

_no figures_. Cf. "Julius Cæsar," ii, 1, 231: " Thou hast no figures nor
no fantasies Which busy care draws in the brains of men."

_skyey influences_. "Measure for Measure," iii, 1, 9.

P. 192. _nihil humani_. Terence: "Heautontimoroumenos." i, 1, 25.

_the cloud-capt towers_. "Tempest," iv, 1, 151.

P. 193. _the judge's robe_. Cf. "Measure for Measure," ii, 2, 59;

  "No ceremony that to great ones 'longs,
  Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword,
  The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe."

_Pindar and Alcæus_. Greek lyric poets.

_a sense of joy_. Wordsworth's "To My Sister."

P. 194. _Beneath the hills_. Cf. Wordsworth's "Excursion," VI, 531:

  "Amid the groves, under the shadowy hills
  The generations are prepared...."

P. 195. _To him the meanest flower_. "Ode on the Intimations of
Immortality."

P. 196. _Grasmere_ was the residence of Wordsworth between 1799 and 1813.

_Cole-Orton_ was the residence of Wordsworth's friend, Sir George
Beaumont, to whom he dedicated the 1815 edition of his poems: "Some of the
best pieces were composed under the shade of your own groves, upon the
classic ground of Cole-Orton."

P. 197. _Calm contemplation_. Cf. "Laodamia": "Calm pleasures there abide,
majestic pains."

_Fall blunted_ "from each indurated heart." Goldsmith's "Traveler," 232.

_and fit audience_. Wordsworth quotes this line from "Paradise Lost," VII,
31, in "The Recluse," 776:

  "'Fit audience let me find though few!'
  So prayed, more gaining than he asked, the Bard--
  In holiest mood."

P. 198. _The Excursion_. Hazlitt wrote a review of this poem for the
Examiner which not only aroused Wordsworth's resentment but led to one of
his disagreements with Lamb. The review appears in the "Round Table."

_toujours perdrix_, "always partridges," alluding to a story of a French
king, who, on being reproved by his confessor for faithlessness to his
wife, punished the offender by causing him to be fed on nothing but his
favorite dish, which was partridge. See Notes and Queries, Series IV, Vol.
III, p. 336.

_In his person_. In 1803, while on a visit to the Lake Country, Hazlitt
had painted a portrait of Wordsworth. "He has painted Wordsworth," writes
Southey, "but so dismally, though Wordsworth's face is his idea of
physiognomical perfection, that one of his friends, on seeing it,
exclaimed, 'At the gallows--deeply affected by his deserved fate--yet
determined to die like a man;' and if you saw the picture, you would
admire the criticism." "Life and Correspondence," II, 238.

_His manner of reading_. See p. 295.

_a man of no mark_. 1 "Henry IV," iii, 2, 45.

P. 199. _He finds fault with Dryden's description._ Hazlitt adopted this
criticism in his lecture "On Pope and Dryden."

P. 200. _Titian_ (c. 1477-1576), the great Venetian painter.

_Chaucer_. Wordsworth's modernizations of Chaucer are "The Prioress's
Tale," "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," and a part of "Troilus and
Cressida."

_a tragedy_. "The Borderers" was written in 1795-96 but not published till
1842. The quotation which follows is from Act iii, 1, 405, and should
read:

  "Action is transitory--a step, a blow,
  The motion of a muscle--this way or that--
  'Tis done, and in the after-vacancy
  We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed;
  Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,
  And shares the nature of infinity."

Wordsworth quoted these lines after the dedication to "The White Doe of
Rylstone" and later added a note: "This and the five lines that follow
were either read or recited by me more than thirty years since, to the
late Mr. Hazlitt, who quoted some expressions in them (imperfectly
remembered) in a work of his published several years ago."

P. 201. _Let observation_. Cf. De Quincey's "Rhetoric" (Works, ed. Masson,
X, 128): "We recollect a little biographic sketch of Dr. Johnson,
published immediately after his death, in which, among other instances of
desperate tautology, the author quotes the well-known lines from the
Doctor's imitation of Juvenal--'Let observation,' etc., and contends with
some reason that this is saying in effect,--_'Let observation with
extensive observation observe mankind extensively.'_" Coleridge somewhere
makes the same remark.

_Drawcansir_. A character in "The Rehearsal" by the Duke of Buckingham.

  "Let petty kings the names of Parties know:
  Where'er I am, I slay both friend and foe."   v, 1.

_Walton's Angler_. In the fifth lecture of the "English Poets" Hazlitt
writes: "Perhaps the best pastoral in the language is that prose-poem,
Walton's Complete Angler. That well-known work has a beauty and romantic
interest equal to its simplicity, and arising out of it. In the
description of a fishing-tackle, you perceive the piety and humanity of
the author's mind. It is to be doubted whether Sannazarius's Piscatory
Eclogues are equal to the scenes described by Walton on the banks of the
river Lea. He gives the feeling of the open air: we walk with him along
the dusty roadside, or repose on the banks of a river under a shady tree;
and in watching for the finny prey, imbibe what he beautifully calls 'the
patience and simplicity of poor honest fishermen.' We accompany them to
their inn at night, and partake of their simple, but delicious fare; while
Maud, the pretty milkmaid, at her mother's desire, sings the classical
ditties of the poet Marlow; 'Come live with me, and be my love.'"

_Paley_, William (1743-1805), a noted theologian. Cf. "On the Clerical
Character" in "Political Essays" (Works, III, 276): "This same shuffling
divine is the same Dr. Paley, who afterwards employed the whole of his
life, and his moderate second-hand abilities, in tampering with religion,
morality, and politics,--in trimming between his convenience and his
conscience,--in crawling between heaven and earth, and trying to cajole
both. His celebrated and popular work on Moral Philosophy, is celebrated
and popular for no other reason, than that it is a somewhat ingenious and
amusing apology for existing abuses of any description, by which any thing
is to be got. It is a very elaborate and consolatory elucidation of the
text, _that men should not quarrel with their bread and butter_. It is not
an attempt to show what is right, but to palliate and find out plausible
excuses for what is wrong. It is a work without the least value, except as
a convenient commonplace book or _vade mecum_, for tyro politicians and
young divines, to smooth their progress in the Church or the State. This
work is a text-book in the University: its morality is the acknowledged
morality of the House of Commons." See also Coleridge's opinion of Paley
on p. 288.

_Bewick_, Thomas (1753-1828), a well-known wood-engraver.

_Waterloo_, Antoine (1609?-1676?), a French engraver, painter, and etcher.

_Rembrandt_, Harmans van Rijn (1606-1669.), Dutch painter, whose mastery
of light and shade was the object of Hazlitt's special admiration.

P. 202. _He hates conchology_, etc. See the lecture "On the Living
Poets": "He hates all science and all art; he hates chemistry, he hates
conchology; he hates Voltaire; he hates Sir Isaac Newton; he hates wisdom;
he hates wit; he hates metaphysics, which he says are unintelligible, and
yet he would be thought to understand them; he hates prose; he hates all
poetry but his own; he hates the dialogues in Shakespeare; he hates music,
dancing, and painting; he hates Rubens, he hates Rembrandt; he hates
Raphael, he hates Titian; he hates Vandyke; he hates the antique; he hates
the Apollo Belvidere; he hates the Venus of Medicis."

_Where one for sense_. Butler's "Hudibras," II, 29.

P. 203. _take the good_. Plautus's "Rudens," iv, 7.


MR. COLERIDGE

From the "Spirit of the Age."

P. 205. _and thank_. Cf. "Comus," 176: "In wanton dance they praise the
bounteous Pan."

_a mind reflecting_. See p. 35 and n.

_dark rearward_. Cf. "Tempest," i, 2, 50: "In the dark backward and abysm
of time."

P. 206. _That which was_. "Antony and Cleopatra," iv, 14, 9.

_quick, forgetive_. 2 "Henry IV," iv, 3, 107.

_what in him is weak_. Cf. "Paradise Lost," I, 22: "What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support."

P. 207. _and by the force_. Cf. "Macbeth," iii, 5, 28: "As by the strength
of their illusion Shalt draw him on to his confusion."

_rich strond_. "Faërie Queene," III, iv, 18, 29, 34.

_goes sounding_. "Hazlitt seems to have had a hazy recollection of two
passages in Chaucer's _Prologue_. In his essay on 'My First Acquaintance
with Poets,' he says, 'the scholar in Chaucer is described as going
"sounding on his way,"' and in his _Lectures on the English Poets_ he
says, 'the merchant, as described in Chaucer, went on his way "sounding
always the increase of his winning."' The scholar is not described as
'sounding on his way,' but Chaucer says of him, 'Souninge in moral vertu
was his speche,' while the merchant, though 'souninge alway th' encrees of
his winning,' is not described as going on his way. Wordsworth has a line
('Excursion,' Book III), 'Went sounding on a dim and perilous way,' but it
seems clear that Hazlitt thought he was quoting Chaucer." Waller-Glover,
IV, 412.

P. 208. _his own nothings_. "Coriolanus," ii, 2, 81.

_letting contemplation_. Cf. Dyer's "Grongar Hill," 26: "till
contemplation have its fill."

_Sailing with supreme dominion_. Gray's "Progress of Poesy."

_He lisped_. Pope's "Prologue to the Satires," 128.

_Ode on Chatterton_. "Monody on the Death of Chatterton," written by
Coleridge in 1790, at the age of eighteen.

P. 209. _gained several prizes_. "At Cambridge Coleridge won the Browne
Gold Medal for a Greek Ode in 1792." Waller-Glover.

_At Christ's Hospital_, a London school which Leigh Hunt and Lamb attended
about the same time as Coleridge. The former has left a record of its life
in his "Autobiography," and Lamb has written of it, with special reference
to Coleridge, in his "Recollections of Christ's Hospital" and "Christ's
Hospital Five-and-Thirty Years Ago."

_Struggling in vain_. "Excursion," VI, 557.

P. 210. _Hartley_, David (1705-1757), author of "Observations on Man"
(1749), and identified chiefly with the theory of association. Cf.
Coleridge's "Religious Musings," 368: "and he of mortal kind Wisest, he
first who marked the ideal tribes Up the fine fibres through the sentient
brain."

_Dr. Priestley_, Joseph (1733-1804), scientist and philosopher of the
materialistic school, author of "The Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity
Illustrated" (1777). "See! Priestley there, patriot, and saint, and sage."
"Religious Musings," 371.

_Bishop Berkeley's fairy-world_. George Berkeley (1685-1753), idealistic
philosopher. Cf. p. 287.

_Malebranche_, Nicholas (1638-1715), author of "De la Recherche de la
Vérité" (1674).

_Cudworth_, Ralph (1617-1688), author of "The True Intellectual System of
the Universe" (1678).

_Lord Brook's hieroglyphical theories_. Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke
(1554-1628), friend and biographer of Sir Philip Sidney.

_Bishop Butler's Sermons_. Joseph Butler (1692-1752), author of "Fifteen
Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel" (1726), and "The Analogy of
Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature"
(1736).

_Duchess of Newcastle_. Margaret Cavendish (1624?-1674), published about a
dozen folio volumes of philosophical fancies, poems, and plays. In
"Mackery End in Hertfordshire" Lamb refers to her as "the thrice noble,
chaste, and virtuous, but again somewhat fantastical and original-brained,
generous Margaret Newcastle."

_Clarke_, Samuel (1675-1729), English theologian of latitudinarian
principles.

_South_, Robert (1634-1716), controversial writer and preacher.

_Tillotson_, John (1630-1694), a popular theological writer of
rationalistic tendency.

_Leibnitz's Pre-established Harmony_. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz
(1646-1716), a German philosopher, represented the world as consisting of
an infinite number of independent substances or monads related to each
other in such a way (by the pre-established harmony) as to form one
universe. Cf. Coleridge's "Destiny of Nations," 38 ff.:

                      "Others boldlier think
  That as one body seems the aggregate
  Of atoms numberless, each organized;
  So by a strange and dim similitude
  Infinite myriads of self-conscious minds
  Are an all-conscious spirit, which informs
  With absolute ubiquity of thought
  (His own eternal self-affirming act!)
  All his involved Monads, that yet seem
  With various province and apt agency
  Each to pursue its own self-centering end."

P. 210, n. _And so by many_. "Two Gentlemen of Verona," ii, 7, 30.

P. 211. _hortus siccus_ [dry garden] _of Dissent_. Burke's "Reflections on
the French Revolution," Works, ed. Bohn, II, 287.

_John Huss_ (1373?-1415), Bohemian reformer and martyr.

_Jerome of Prague_, a follower of Huss who was burnt for heresy in 1416.

_Socinus_. Fausto Paulo Sozzini (1539-1604), an Italian theologian who
sought to simplify the doctrine of the Trinity.

_John Zisca_ (1370?-1424), a leader of the extreme Hussite party.

_Neal's History_. Daniel Neal (1648-1743) published his "History of the
Puritans" 1732-38.

_Calamy_, Edmund (1671-1732) published an "Account of the Ministers,
Lecturers, Masters and Fellows of Colleges, and Schoolmasters who were
Ejected or Silenced after the Restoration of 1660" (1702 and 1713).

_Spinoza_, Baruch (1632-1677), a Dutch philosopher of Jewish parentage,
the chief representative of Pantheism, "the doctrine of one infinite
substance, of which all finite existences are modes or limitations."

_When he saw_. Cf. Coleridge's "Remorse," iv, 2, 100:

  "When we saw nought but beauty; when we heard
  The voice of that Almighty One who loved us
  In every gale that breathed, and wave that murmur'd!"

_Proclus_ (410-485) and _Plotinus_ (204-270), philosophers of the
Neo-Platonic school. In "Biographia Literaria" (chap. 9) Coleridge refers
to his "early study of Plato and of Plotinus, with the commentaries and
the 'Theologia Platonica' of the illustrious Florentine; of Proclus, and
Gemistius Pletho."

_Duns Scotus_ (1265 or 1275-1308) and _Thomas Aquinas_ (1227-1274), two
great theologians of the Catholic Church.

_Jacob Behmen_ or Böhme (1575-1624), a German religious mystic who exerted
considerable influence on English religious thought in the eighteenth
century. In the "Biographia Literaria" (chap. 9) Coleridge writes: "A meek
and shy quietist, his intellectual powers were never stimulated into
feverous energy by crowds of proselytes, or by the ambition of
proselyting. Jacob Behmen was an enthusiast in the strictest sense, as not
merely distinguished, but as contradistinguished from a fanatic.... The
writings of these Mystics acted in no slight degree to prevent my mind
from being imprisoned within the outline of any single dogmatic system."

_Swedenborg_, Emanuel (1688-1772), the Swedish scientist and mystic from
whom have sprung some of the modern theosophical cults.

_Religious Musings_, published in his "Poems on Various Subjects" (1796).

_the glad prose of Jeremy Taylor_. Cf. "Literature of the Age of
Elizabeth," Lecture VII: "In his writings, the frail stalk of human life
reclines on the bosom of eternity. His Holy Living and Dying is a divine
pastoral. He writes to the faithful followers of Christ, as the shepherd
pipes to his flock. He introduces touching and heartfelt appeals to
familiar life; condescends to men of low estate; and his pious page
blushes with modesty and beauty. His style is prismatic. It unfolds the
colours of the rainbow; it floats like the bubble through the air; it is
like innumerable dew-drops that glitter on the face of morning, and
tremble as they glitter. He does not dig his way underground, but slides
upon ice, borne on the winged car of fancy. The dancing light he throws
upon objects is like an Aurora Borealis, playing betwixt heaven and
earth.... In a word, his writings are more like fine poetry than any other
prose whatever; they are a choral song in praise of virtue, and a hymn to
the Spirit of the Universe."

_Bowles_, William Lisle (1762-1850), published "Fourteen Sonnets" in 1789,
and a second edition containing twenty-one in the same year. In the first
chapter of the "Biographia Literaria," Coleridge credits the sonnets of
Bowles with saving him from a premature absorption in metaphysics and
theology and with introducing him to the excellences of the new school of
poetry. In his enthusiasm he went about making proselytes for Bowles and
"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 offer to those, who had in any way won my regard.
And with almost equal delight did I receive the three or four following
publications of the same author." Coleridge also addressed a "Sonnet to
Bowles," opening

  "My heart hath thanked thee, Bowles! for those soft strains,
  That on the still air floating tremblingly,
  Wak'd in me Fancy, Love, and Sympathy!"

P. 212. _John Bull_. Croker's John Bull was a scurrilous newspaper edited
by Theodore Hook, the first number of which appeared December 17, 1820.

_Mr. Croker_, John Wilson (1780-1857), politician and man of letters, one
of Hazlitt's pet aversions, and the same who comes in for such a severe
chastisement in Macaulay's review of his edition of Boswell's "Johnson."

_Junius_, the mysterious author of a famous series of political letters
which appeared in the London Public Advertiser from January 21, 1769, to
January 21, 1772, collected as the "Letters of Junius" in 1772. The name
of Sir Philip Francis is the one most persistently associated with the
composition of these letters.

_Godwin_, William (1756-1836), leader of the philosophical radicals in
England and a believer in the perfectibility of man, wrote "An Enquiry
concerning Political Justice" (1793), "Caleb Williams" (1794), and other
novels and miscellaneous works. Godwin was the husband of Mary
Wolstonecraft, and the father-in-law of Shelley. Hazlitt wrote a sketch of
him in the "Spirit of the Age" and reviewed his last novel, "Cloudesley,"
in the Edinburgh Review. Coleridge has a Sonnet to William Godwin:

  "Nor will I not thy holy guidance bless,
  And hymn thee, Godwin! with an ardent lay;
  For that thy voice, in Passion's stormy day
  When wild I roam'd the bleak Heath of Distress,
  Bade the bright form of Justice meet my way--
  And told me that her name was Happiness."

_Sorrows of Werter_, a sentimental novel of Goethe's, the work by which he
was most generally known to English readers in Hazlitt's day.

_laugh'd with Rabelais_. Cf. Pope's "Dunciad," I, 22: "Or laugh and shake
in Rab'lais easy chair."

_spoke with rapture of Raphael_. Coleridge had visited Italy in 1806 on
his return from a stay in Malta, and had devoted his time there to a study
of Italian art. See p. 298 n.

_Giotto_ (d. 1337), _Ghirlandaio_, whose real name was Domenico Bigardi
(1449-1494), and _Massaccio_ (1402-1429) were early Florentine painters.

_wandered into Germany_. Coleridge's visit to Germany and his introduction
to the leading German philosophers dates back to 1798-99.

_Kantean philosophy_. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was the leader of modern
philosophy. "The writings of the illustrious sage of Königsberg, the
founder of the Critical Philosophy, more than any other work, at once
invigorated and disciplined my understanding. The originality, the depth,
and the compression of the thoughts; the novelty and subtlety, yet
solidity and importance of the distinctions; the adamantine chain of the
logic; and I will venture to add--(paradox as it will appear to those who
have taken their notion of Immanuel Kant from Reviewers and
Frenchmen)--the clearness and evidence, of the Critique of Pure Reason;
and Critique of the Judgment; of the Metaphysical Elements of Natural
Philosophy; and of his Religion within the bounds of Pure Reason, took
possession of me as with a giant's hand. After fifteen years' familiarity
with them, I still read these and all his other productions with
undiminished delight and increasing admiration." "Biographia Literaria,"
chap. IX.

_Fichte_, J. Gottlieb (1762-1814). "Fichte's _Wissenschaftslehre_, or Lore
of Ultimate Science, was to add the key-stone of the arch" of Kant's
system. Ibid.

_Schelling_, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph (1775-1829). "In Schelling's
_Natur-Philosophie_, and the _System des Transcendentalen Idealismus_, I
first found a genial coincidence with much that I had toiled out for
myself, and a powerful assistance in what I had yet to do.... Many of the
most striking resemblances, indeed all the main and fundamental ideas,
were born and matured in my mind before I had ever seen a single page of
the German Philosopher; and I might indeed affirm with truth, before the
most important works of Schelling had been written, or at least made
public. Nor is this coincidence at all to be wondered at. We had studied
in the same school; been disciplined by the same preparatory philosophy,
namely, the writings of Kant; we had both equal obligations to the polar
logic and dynamic philosophy of Giordano Bruno; and Schelling has lately,
and, as of recent acquisition, avowed that same affectionate reverence for
the labors of Behmen, and other mystics, which I had formed at a much
earlier period." Ibid.

_Lessing_, Gotthold Ephraim (1729-1781), German dramatist and critic.

_sang for joy_. Coleridge had in 1789 composed some stanzas "On the
Destruction of the Bastille," but these were not published till 1834.

_would have floated his bark_. Coleridge and Southey with some other
friends had in 1794 formed a plan for an ideal colony, the Pantisocracy,
on the banks of the Susquehanna.

_In Philharmonia's_. Cf. Coleridge's "Monody on the Death of Chatterton,"
140: "O'er peaceful Freedom's undivided dale."

P. 213. _Frailty_. Cf. "Hamlet," i, 2, 146: "thy name is woman."

_writing paragraphs_. Coleridge was connected with the staff of the
Courier as a sort of assistant-editor for five months in 1811. His
contributions during this period appeared as the "Essays on His Own Times"
in 1850.

_poet-laureate_ and _stamp-distributor_ are references respectively to
Southey and Wordsworth.

_bourne from whence_. "Hamlet," iii, 1, 79.

_tantalized by useless resources_. Compare this with Coleridge's own lines
of bitter self-reproach addressed "To a Gentleman":

  "Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
  And genius given, and knowledge won in vain."

P. 214. _one splendid passage_. The lines beginning "Alas! they had been
friends in youth" (408-426). The same passage had been singled out for
praise by Hazlitt in his lecture "On the Living Poets" and in the review
of "Christabel" which had appeared in the Examiner of June 2, 1816. The
authorship of this review has been disputed but should on internal
evidence, despite its failure in appreciation, be ascribed to Hazlitt. See
Works, XI, 580-582.

_Translation of Schiller's Wallenstein_, made by Coleridge in 1799-1800.

_Remorse_. This tragedy was played at the Drury Lane Theatre with
considerable popular success in 1813. It was a recast of an early play
entitled "Osorio," composed in 1797.

P. 215. _The Friend_; a literary, moral, and political weekly paper,
excluding personal and party politics and the events of the day
(1809-1810), was reissued in one volume in 1812, and with additions and
alterations (rather a rifacimento than a new edition) in 1818.

The sketch in the Spirit of the Age concludes with a contrast between
Coleridge and William Godwin.


MR. SOUTHEY

This selection forms the conclusion of a sketch of Southey in the "Spirit
of the Age." It illustrates, even more strikingly than the "Character of
Burke," Hazlitt's power of dissociating his judgments from his prejudices,
inasmuch as there had been exchanges of rancorous personalities between
the two men.

P. 216. _Like the high leaves_. Southey's "The Holly Tree."

_of any poet_. In an essay in the "Plain Speaker" "On the Prose Style of
Poets," Hazlitt elaborates his theory that poets turned out inferior
prose. "I have but an indifferent opinion of the prose-style of poets: not
that it is not sometimes good, nay, excellent; but it is never the better,
and generally the worse from the habit of writing verse."

_full of wise saws_. "As You Like It," ii, 7, 156.

P. 217. _historian and prose-translator_. Southey wrote the "History of
Brazil," the "History of the Peninsular War," the "Book of the Church,"
and lives of Wesley, Cowper, and Nelson. He translated from the Spanish
the romances of "Amadis of Gaul," "Palmerin of England," and "The Cid."

P. 219. _Pindaric or Shandean_, i.e., whimsical. Pindaric should of course
be understood as a reference to Peter Pindar, the name under which John
Wolcot (1738-1819) wrote his coarse and whimsical satires. Hazlitt
mentions him at the end of his lectures "On the Comic Writers": "The bard
in whom the nation and the king delighted, is old and blind, but still
merry and wise:--remembering how he has made the world laugh in his time,
and not repenting of the mirth he has given; with an involuntary smile
lighted up at the mad pranks of his Muse, and the lucky hits of his pen."
Shandean is derived from Sterne's novel, "Tristram Shandy."

_And follows so_. "Henry V," iv, 1, 293.

_his political inconsistency_. This is the subject of Hazlitt's attacks on
Southey. See "Political Essays" (Works, III, 109-120, 192-232).


ELIA

The last essay in the "Spirit of the Age" is entitled "Elia and Geoffrey
Crayon." An edition published at Paris by Galignani in 1825 omits the
account of Washington Irving, and this text, as it is in all respects
unexceptionable, has been here adopted for the sake of coherence. In a
letter to Bernard Barton, February 10, 1825, Lamb refers to Hazlitt's
sketch: "He has laid too many colours on my likeness, but I have had so
much injustice done me in my own name, that I make a rule of accepting as
much over-measure to 'Elia' as Gentlemen think proper to bestow."

P. 221. _shuffle off_. "Hamlet," iii, 1, 67.

_The self-applauding bird_. Cowper's "Truth," 58.

P. 222. _New-born gauds_ and _give to dust_. "Troilus and Cressida," iii,
3, 176-79.

_do not in broad rumor lie_, and the two following quotations are free
renderings of "Lycidas," 78-82.

_Mr. Lamb rather affects_. Hazlitt had Lamb in his eye when he described
the Occult School in the essay "On Criticism" ("Table Talk"): "There is
another race of critics who might be designated as the _Occult
School--verè adepti_. They discern no beauties but what are concealed from
superficial eyes, and overlook all that are obvious to the vulgar part of
mankind. Their art is the transmutation of styles. By happy alchemy of
mind they convert dross into gold--and gold into tinsel. They see farther
into a millstone than most others. If an author is utterly unreadable,
they can read him for ever: his intricacies are their delight, his
mysteries are their study. They prefer Sir Thomas Brown to the Rambler by
Dr. Johnson, and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy to all the writers of the
Georgian Age. They judge of works of genius as misers do of hid
treasure--it is of no value unless they have it all to themselves. They
will no more share a book than a mistress with a friend. If they
suspected their favourite volumes of delighting any eyes but their own,
they would immediately discard them from the list. Theirs are
superannuated beauties that every one else has left off intriguing with,
bed-ridden hags, a 'stud of night-mares.' This is not envy or affectation,
but a natural proneness to singularity, a love of what is odd and out of
the way. They must come at their pleasures with difficulty, and support
admiration by an uneasy sense of ridicule and opposition. They despise
those qualities in a work which are cheap and obvious. They like a
monopoly of taste, and are shocked at the prostitution of intellect
implied in popular productions. In like manner, they would chuse a friend
or recommend a mistress for gross defects; and tolerate the sweetness of
an actress's voice only for the ugliness of her face. Pure pleasures are
in their judgment cloying and insipid--

  'An ounce of sour is worth a pound of sweet!'

Nothing goes down with them but what is _caviare_ to the multitude. They
are eaters of olives and readers of black-letter. Yet they smack of
genius, and would be worth any money, were it only for the rarity of the
thing!"

P. 223. _fine fretwork_. "Essays of Elia," "The South-Sea House."

_the chimes at midnight_. 2 "Henry IV," iii, 2, 228.

P. 224. _cheese and pippins_. Ibid., v, 3.

_inns and courts of law_. "The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple," in
"Essays of Elia."

_a certain writer_. Hazlitt himself. It is known to everybody that the
friendship of Lamb for Hazlitt suffered certain strains, and various
attempts have been made to guess at the provocations. Mutual
recriminations in regard to literary borrowings have been thought to be
responsible for more than one breach. So Mr. Bertram Dobell, in his
"Sidelights on Lamb," 212-14, imagines that the mystery is solved in a
letter of Hazlitt's to the editor of the London Magazine (April 12, 1820)
charging Lamb with appropriating his ideas: "Do you keep the Past and
Future? You see Lamb argues the same view of the subject. That 'young
master' will anticipate all my discoveries if I don't mind." The
similarity of idea between Hazlitt's "Past and Future" and Lamb's "New
Year's Eve," and the appearance in Lamb's essay of the phrase "young
masters" makes it clear enough what Hazlitt is referring to, but that
either man should have taken the matter very seriously is hard to believe.
It is easier to look upon Hazlitt's expression as banter of the same kind
that Lamb allowed himself in connection with the essay on "Guy Faux"
alluded to in the present sketch. This subject had been proposed by Lamb,
as we are informed in "Of Persons One Would Wish to Have Seen," and had
been written up by Hazlitt in the Examiner in 1821 (Works, XI, 317-334).
Two years later Lamb contributed a paper on the same subject to the London
Magazine, founded partly on an essay in the Reflector (1811), entitled "On
the Probable Effects of the Gunpowder Treason." The essay in the London
Magazine (Lamb's Works, ed. Lucas, I, 236 ff.) opens with a facetious
thrust at Hazlitt: "A very ingenious and subtle writer, whom there is good
reason for suspecting to be an ex-Jesuit, not unknown at Douay some
five-and-twenty years since (he will not obtrude himself at M--th again in
a hurry), about a twelvemonth back, set himself to prove the character of
the Powder Plot conspirators to have been that of heroic self-devotedness
and true Christian martyrdom. Under the mask of Protestant candour, he
actually gained admission for his treatise into a London weekly paper, not
particularly distinguished for its zeal towards either religion. But,
admitting Catholic principles, his arguments are shrewd and
incontrovertible. [Then follows a quotation from Hazlitt setting forth the
Catholic standpoint.] It is impossible, upon Catholic principles, not to
admit the force of this reasoning; we can only not help smiling (with the
writer) at the simplicity of the gulled editor, swallowing the dregs of
Loyola for the very quintessence of sublimated reason in England at the
commencement of the nineteenth century. We will just, as a contrast, show
what we Protestants (who are a party concerned) thought upon the same
subject, at a period rather nearer to the heroic project in question."
This is the kind of resentment we would expect Lamb to show at the
appropriation of his ideas. That there were not wanting grounds for real
grievance against Hazlitt may be gathered from a letter to Wordsworth,
September 23, 1816 (Lamb's Works, ed. Lucas, VI, 491): "There was a cut at
me a few months back by the same hand.... It was a pretty compendium of
observation, which the author has collected in my disparagement, from some
hundred of social evenings which we had spent together,--however in spite
of all, there is something tough in my attachment to H---- which these
violent strainings cannot quite dislocate or sever asunder. I get no
conversation in London that is absolutely worth attending to but his." To
one of his quarrels with Lamb Hazlitt owes the finest compliment he ever
received, and happily it marks the termination of all differences between
them. It occurs in the well-known "Letter of Elia to Robert Southey" which
Lamb published in the London Magazine when Southey reproached him with his
friendship for Hazlitt (Works, I, 233): "I stood well with him for fifteen
years (the proudest of my life), and have ever spoke my full mind of him
to some, to whom his panegyric must naturally be least tasteful. I never
in thought swerved from him, I never betrayed him, I never slackened in my
admiration for him, I was the same to him (neither better nor worse)
though he could not see it, as in the days when he thought fit to trust
me. At this instant, he may be preparing for me some compliment, above my
deserts, as he has sprinkled many such among his admirable books, for
which I rest his debtor; or, for any thing I know, or can guess to the
contrary, he may be about to read a lecture on my weaknesses. He is
welcome to them (as he was to my humble hearth), if they can divert a
spleen, or ventilate a fit of sullenness. I wish he would not quarrel with
the world at the rate he does; but the reconciliation must be effected by
himself, and I despair of living to see that day. But, protesting against
much that he has written, and some things he chooses to do; judging him by
his conversation which I enjoyed so long, and relished so deeply; or by
his books, in those places where no clouding passion intervenes--I should
belie my own conscience, if I said less, than that I think W. H. to be, in
his natural and healthy state, one of the wisest and finest spirits
breathing. So far from being ashamed of that intimacy, which was betwixt
us, it is my boast that I was able for so many years to have preserved it
entire; and I think I shall go to my grave without finding, or expecting
to find, such another companion."

_Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy_ was published in 1621. Its quaint prose
was often imitated by Lamb and had a direct effect on his style.

_Sir Thomas Browne_ (1605-1682), physician and essayist, author of
"Religio Medici" (1642), "Pseudodoxia Epidemica" (1646), and "Hydriotaphia
or Urn Burial" (1658).

_Fuller's Worthies_. The "History of the Worthies of England" (1662) is
the best known work of Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), an English divine and
writer on church history.

_does not make him despise Pope_. See p. 322.

_Parnell_, Thomas (1679-1717). In the sixth lecture on the "English Poets"
Hazlitt says: "Parnell, though a good-natured, easy man, and a friend to
poets and the Muses, was himself little more than an occasional
versifier."

_Gay_, John (1685-1732), is best known by his "Beggar's Opera" (1728) and
"Fables" (1727 and 1738). Hazlitt writes of Gay in the sixth lecture on
the "English Poets" and has a paper on "The Beggar's Opera" in the "Round
Table."

_His taste in French and German_. Cf. "On Old English Writers and
Speakers" in the "Plain Speaker": "Mr. Lamb has lately taken it into his
head to read St. Evremont, and works of that stamp. I neither praise nor
blame him for it. He observed, that St. Evremont was a writer half-way
between Montaigne and Voltaire, with a spice of the wit of the one and the
sense of the other. I said I was always of the opinion that there had been
a great many clever people in the world, both in France and England, but I
had been sometimes rebuked for it. Lamb took this as a slight reproach;
for he had been a little exclusive and national in his tastes."

P. 225. _His admiration of Hogarth_. See note to p. 158.

_Leonardo da Vinci_ (1452-1519). Italian painter, sculptor, architect.

_fine Titian head_. Hazlitt painted a portrait of Lamb in the costume of a
Venetian senator. This portrait now hangs in the National Gallery.

P. 226. _to have coined_. Cf. "Julius Cæsar," iv, 3, 72: "I had rather
coin my heart, And drop my blood for drachmas."

_Mr. Waithman_, Robert (1764-1833), was Lord Mayor in 1823.

_Rosamond Gray_, a tale, was published in 1798 and "John Woodvill," a
tragedy, in 1802. The lines in the footnote are from the second act of
"John Woodvill."


SIR WALTER SCOTT

This selection forms the latter half of the sketch of Scott in the "Spirit
of the Age." The following dialogue between Northcote and Hazlitt,
"Conversations of Northcote," XVI, represents Hazlitt's feelings for
Scott: "N. 'You don't know him, do you? He'd be a pattern to you. Oh! he
has a very fine manner. You would learn to rub off some of your
asperities. But you admire him, I believe.' H. 'Yes; on this side of
idolatry and Toryism.' N. 'That is your prejudice.' H. 'Nay, it rather
shows my liberality, if I am a devoted enthusiast notwithstanding. There
are two things I admire in Sir Walter, his capacity and his simplicity;
which indeed I am apt to think are much the same.'"

P. 227. _more lively_. Cf. "Coriolanus," iv, 5, 237; "it's spritely,
waking, audible, and full of vent."

_their habits_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 135.

P. 228. _Baron of Bradwardine_ and the others mentioned in this sentence
appear in "Waverley."

_Paul Veronese_ (1528-1588), a painter of the Venetian school.

_Balfour of Burley_ and the others in this sentence appear in "Old
Mortality." The quotation is from chapter 38.

_Meg Merilees_ to _Dominie Sampson_, in "Guy Mannering."

P. 229. _her head to the east_. Cf. "Guy Mannering," chap. 15; "Na, na!
not that way, the feet to the east."

_Rob Roy_ to _Die Vernon_, in "Rob Roy."

_thick coming_. Cf. "Macbeth," v, 3, 38: "thick-coming fancies."

_Earl of Glenallan_, in "The Antiquary."

_Black Dwarf_ to _Grace Armstrong_, in the "Black Dwarf."

_Children of the Mist_, in "Legend of Montrose."

_Amy_ (Robsart) and _Varney_, in "Kenilworth."

_George of Douglas_, in "The Abbot."

P. 229, n. _the finest scene_. "Guy Mannering," chap. 51.

P. 231. _a consummation_. "Hamlet," iii, 1, 63.

_by referring to the authentic history_. At this point Hazlitt reproduces
in a footnote one of Scott's historical quotations in "Ivanhoe."

_flints and dungs_. See "Ivanhoe," chap. 43.

P. 232. _calls backing_. 1 "Henry IV," ii, 4, 165.

_Mr. MacAdam_, John Loudon (1756-1836).

_Sixty years since_. The sub-title of "Waverley" was "'Tis Sixty Years
Since."

_Wickliff_, John (c. 1320-1384), an important English forerunner of the
Protestant Reformation, the first translator of the Bible into English.

_Luther_, Martin (1483-1546), led the first successful revolt against the
authority of the Catholic Church.

_Hampden_, John (c. 1595-1643), an English patriot who by his refusal to
pay ship-money precipitated the rebellion against Charles I which ended in
the beheading of that monarch.

_Sidney_, Algernon (1622-1683), an English patriot who fought on the side
of Parliament against Charles I, and who, in the reign of Charles II, was
tried for treason by Jeffreys, the hanging judge, and condemned to
execution without proof. Sidney is the author of "Discourses Concerning
Government" in which he vindicates the right of resistance to the misrule
of kings.

_Somers_, John (1651-1716), took an important part in bringing about the
bloodless Revolution which drove James II from England in 1688.

P. 233. _Red Reiver_, in "The Black Dwarf."

_Claverhouse_, in "Old Mortality."

_Tristan the Hermit_ and _Petit André_, in "Quentin Durward."

_but himself_. Though Scott composed many of his own mottoes, he never
quoted his own previous verse but pretended to be using an Old Play or an
Old Poem.

P. 234. _born for the universe_. Goldsmith's "Retaliation," 31.

_winked and shut_. Marston's "Antonio's Revenge," Prologue.

P. 235. _Who would not grieve_. Cf. Pope's "Prologue to the Satires," 213:

  "Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
  Who would not weep if Atticus were he?"


LORD BYRON

From the "Spirit of the Age." Discussions of Byron's poetry are also to be
found in the review of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" (Works, XI, 420-426)
and in "Pope, Lord Byron and Mr. Bowles" (XI, 486-508).

P. 236. _As if a man_. "Coriolanus," v, 3, 36.

_cloud-capt_. "Tempest," iv, I, 152.

P. 237. _prouder than_. Cf. Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida," i, 3,
380: "His crest that prouder than blue Iris bends."

_silly sooth_. "Twelfth Night," ii, 4, 47.

P. 239. _denotes a foregone conclusion_. "Othello." iii, 3, 428.

P. 240. _in cell monastic_. Cf. "As You Like It," iii, 2, 441: "To live in
a nook merely monastic."

P. 241. _thoughts that breathe_. Gray's "Progress of Poesy," 110.

P. 242. _Lord Byron does not exhibit a new view of nature._ In the paper
on "Pope, Lord Byron and Mr. Bowles," Hazlitt's tone is more generous:
"His Lordship likes the poetry, the imaginative part of art, and so do
we.... He likes the _sombre_ part of it, the thoughtful, the decayed, the
ideal, the spectral shadow of human greatness, the departed spirit of
human power. He sympathizes not with art as a display of ingenuity, as
the triumph of vanity or luxury, as it is connected with the idiot,
superficial, petty self-complacency of the individual and the moment
(these are to him not 'luscious as locusts, but bitter as coloquintida');
but he sympathizes with the triumphs of Time and Fate over the proudest
works of man--with the crumbling monuments of human glory--with the dim
vestiges and countless generations of men--with that which claims alliance
with the grave, or kindred with the elements of nature." Works, XI, 496.

_poor men's cottages_. "Merchant of Venice," i, 2, 14.

_reasons high_. "Paradise Lost," II, 558.

P. 243. _Till Contemplation_. Dyer's "Grongar Hill," 26.

_this bank_. "Macbeth," i, 7, 6.

P. 244. _The Liberal_: Verse and Prose from the South, a quarterly
published in Italy by Leigh Hunt and Byron, 1822-23, to which Hazlitt also
contributed. In the second of its four numbers appeared Byron's "Heaven
and Earth: A Mystery."

_the deluge_, in "Heaven and Earth."

_his aversion_. See "Don Juan," III, stanza 94:

  "A drowsy frowzy poem, called the Excursion,
  Writ in a manner which is my aversion."

_born in a garret_. In the "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," Byron,
speaking of Jeffrey, refers to "the sixteenth story, where himself was
born."

_Letter to the Editor_. The Letter to William Roberts, editor of the
British Review, appeared in the first number of the Liberal.

_Long's_, a restaurant in Bond Street.

P. 245. _the controversy about Pope_. See note to p. 118.

_Scrub_, in Farquhar's "Beaux' Stratagem."

_very tolerable_. "Much Ado About Nothing," iii, 3, 37.

P. 246. _a chartered libertine_. "Henry V," i, 1, 48.

P. 247. _Like proud seas_. "Two Noble Kinsmen," ii, 2, 23.

_Did the latter ever acknowledge the obligation?_ Scott wrote to Byron's
publisher, John Murray, December 17, 1821: "I accept with feelings of
great obligation, the flattering proposal of Lord Byron to prefix my name
to the very grand and tremendous drama of 'Cain.' I may be partial to it,
and you will allow I have cause; but I do not think that his Muse has ever
taken so lofty a flight amid her former soarings."

_Farthest from them_. "Paradise Lost," I, 247.

P. 248. _the first Vision of Judgment_, the one composed by Southey on
the occasion of the death of George III, celebrating that monarch's entry
into heaven and provoking a spirited travesty from Byron.

_None but itself_. This line is quoted by Burke in the "Letters on a
Regicide Peace," from a play written or adapted by Lewis Theobald, "The
Double Falsehood" (1727). Waller-Glover.

_the tenth transmitter_. Richard Savage's "The Bastard."

P. 250. _Nothing can cover_. Beaumont and Fletcher's "The False One," ii,
1.


ON POETRY IN GENERAL

This is the first of the "Lectures on the English Poets."

P. 251. _spreads its sweet leaves_. "Romeo and Juliet," i, 1, 158.

P. 252. _the stuff_. "Tempest," iv, 1, 156.

_mere oblivion_. "As You Like It," ii, 7, 166.

_man's life_. "King Lear," ii, 4, 270.

P. 253. _There is warrant_. "Richard III," i, 4, 112.

_such seething brains_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," v, 1, 4.

_Angelica and Medoro_. Characters in "Orlando Furioso."

P. 254. _which ecstacy is very cunning in_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 138.

_Poetry, according to Lord Bacon_. Cf. Bacon's "Advancement of Learning,"
Book II: "Because _true Historie_ representeth Actions and Euents more
ordinarie and lesse interchanged, therefore _Poesie_ endueth them with
more Rarenesse and more vnexpected and alternatiue Variations: So as it
appeareth that _Poesie_ serueth and conferreth to Magnanimitie, Moralitie,
and to delectation. And therefore it was euer thought to haue some
participation of diuinesse, because it doth raise and erect the Minde, by
submitting the shewes of things to the desires of the Mind, whereas reason
doth buckle and bowe the Mind unto the Nature of things."

P. 255. _Our eyes are made the fools_. "Macbeth," ii, 1, 44.

_That if it would_. "Midsummer Night's Dream," v, 1, 19.

_The flame o' th' taper_. "Cymbeline," ii, 2, 19.

P. 256. _for they are old_. Cf. "Lear," ii, 4, 194.

_Nothing but his unkind daughters_. Cf. "King Lear," iii, 4, 72:

  "Nothing could have subdued nature
  To such a lowness but his unkind daughters."

P. 257. _The little dogs_. Ibid., iii, 6, 65.

_So I am_. Ibid., iv, 7, 70.

_O now, for ever_. "Othello," iii, 3, 347.

_Never, Iago_. Ibid., iii, 3, 453.

P. 258. _But there_. Ibid., iv, 2, 57.

_To be discarded thence!_ The first edition at this point adds: "This is
like that fine stroke of pathos in 'Paradise Lost,' where Milton makes
Adam say to Eve,

  'Should God create another Eve, and I
  Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
  Would never from my heart!'"

_Impassioned poetry is an emanation of the moral and intellectual part of
our nature._ Cf. "On People of Sense" in "Plain Speaker": "Poetry acts by
sympathy with nature, that is, with the natural impulses, customs, and
imaginations of men, and is, on that account, always popular, delightful,
and at the same time instructive. It is nature moralizing and _idealizing_
for us; inasmuch as, by shewing us things as they are, it implicitly
teaches us what they ought to be; and the grosser feelings, by passing
through the strainers of this imaginary, wide-extended experience, acquire
an involuntary tendency to higher objects. Shakspeare was, in this sense,
not only one of the greatest poets, but one of the greatest moralists that
we have. Those who read him are the happier, better, and wiser for it."

_Moore_, Edward (1712-1757), author of "The Gamester" (1753).

P. 259. _As Mr. Burke observes_, in "A Philosophical Enquiry into the
Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful," Part I, Section 15:
"Choose a day on which to represent the most sublime and affecting tragedy
we have; appoint the most favourite actors; spare no cost upon the scenes
and decorations; unite the greatest efforts of poetry, painting, and
music; and when you have collected your audience, just at the moment when
their minds are erect with expectation, let it be reported that a state
criminal of high rank is on the point of being executed in the adjoining
square; in a moment the emptiness of the theatre would demonstrate the
comparative weakness of the imitative arts, and proclaim the triumph of
the real sympathy."

_Masterless passion_. Cf. "Merchant of Venice," iv, 1, 51: "For affection,
Mistress of passion, sways it to the mood," etc.

P. 260. _satisfaction to the thought_. "Othello," iii, 3, 97.

_Now night descending_. See p. 128.

_Throw him_. Collins's "Ode to Fear."

_Ingratitude_. Cf. "King Lear," i, 4, 281: "More hideous, when thou
show'st thee in a child."

P. 261. _both at the first_. "Hamlet," iii, 2, 23.

P. 262. _And visions_. Hazlitt uses this quotation in his paper on
"Wordsworth's Excursion" in the "Round Table" with the change of _poetic_
to _prophetic_. "This couplet occurs in a letter from Gray to Walpole
('Letters,' ed. Tovey I, 7-8). The lines are apparently a translation by
Gray of Virgil, 'Æneid,' VI, 282-84." Waller-Glover, XII, 504.

P. 263. _Doctor Chalmers's Discourses_. Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a
celebrated divine and preacher of Scotland, published in 1817 "A Series of
Discourses on the Christian Revelation, Viewed in Connection with Modern
Astronomy."

_bandit fierce_. Milton's "Comus," 426.

_our fell of hair_. "Macbeth," v, 5, 11.

_Macbeth ... for the sake of the music_. Some copies of the first edition
misprint _Macheath_, the name of the leading character in Gay's "Beggar's
Opera." In writing "On Commonplace Critics," in the "Round Table," Hazlitt
represents the commonplace critic as questioning whether any one of
Shakespeare's plays, "if brought out now for the first time, would
succeed. He thinks that 'Macbeth' would be the most likely, from the music
which has been introduced into it." The reference is to the music written
for D'Avenant's version of the play, produced in 1672. According to
Waller-Glover (I, 436), "this music, traditionally assigned to Matthew
Locke, is now attributed to Purcell"; but Furness, in the Variorum edition
of "Macbeth," accepts the conclusion of Chappell in Grove's "Dictionary of
Music," "that Purcell could not have been the composer of a work which
appeared when he was in his fourteenth year," especially as "the only
reason that can be assigned why modern musicians should have doubted
Locke's authorship is that a manuscript of it exists in the handwriting of
Henry Purcell."

P. 264. _Between the acting_. "Julius Cæsar," ii, 1, 63.

P. 265. _Thoughts that voluntary move_. "Paradise Lost," III, 37.

_the words of Mercury_. Cf. "Love's Labour's Lost," v, 2, 940: "The words
of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo."

_So from the ground_. "Faërie Queene," I, vi, 13.

P. 266. _the secret_ [hidden] _soul_. Milton's "L'Allegro."

P. 267. _the golden cadences_. "Love's Labour's Lost," iv, 2, 126.

_Sailing with supreme dominion_. Gray's "Progress of Poesy."

_sounding always_. See p. 207 and n.

_except poets_. Cf. "On the Prose Style of Poets" in the "Plain Speaker":
"What is a little extraordinary, there is a want of _rhythmus_ and cadence
in what they write without the help of metrical rules. Like persons who
have been accustomed to sing to music, they are at a loss in the absence
of the habitual accompaniment and guide to their judgment. Their style
halts, totters, is loose, disjointed, and without expressive pauses or
rapid movements. The measured cadence and regular _sing-song_ of rhyme or
blank verse have destroyed, as it were, their natural ear for the mere
characteristic harmony which ought to subsist between the sound and the
sense. I should almost guess the Author of Waverley to be a writer of
ambling verses from the desultory vacillation and want of firmness in the
march of his style. There is neither _momentum_ nor elasticity in it; I
mean as to the _score_, or effect upon the ear. He has improved since in
his other works: to be sure, he has had practice enough. Poets either get
into this incoherent, undetermined, shuffling style, made up of
'unpleasing flats and sharps,' of unaccountable starts and pauses, of
doubtful odds and ends, flirted about like straws in a gust of wind; or,
to avoid it and steady themselves, mount into a sustained and measured
prose (like the translation of Ossian's Poems, or some parts of
Shaftesbury's Characteristics) which is more odious still, and as bad as
being at sea in a calm." Hazlitt's views on this question are peculiar,
though his examples are well chosen. The more common opinion is that
voiced by Coleridge in his remarks "On Style": "It is, indeed, worthy of
remark that all our great poets have been good prose writers, as Chaucer,
Spenser, Milton; and this probably arose from their just sense of metre.
For a true poet will never confound verse and prose; whereas it is almost
characteristic of indifferent prose writers that they should be constantly
slipping into scraps of metre." Works, IV, 342.

P. 268. _Addison's Campaign_ (1705), written in honor of Marlborough's
victory at Blenheim, was described as "that gazette in rhyme" by Joseph
Warton (1722-1800) in his "Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope," I,
29.

_Chaucer_. Cf. A. W. Pollard's "Chaucer," p. 35: "To Boccaccio's 'Teseide'
and 'Filostrato,' he was indebted for something more than the groundwork
of two of his most important poems; and he was also acquainted with three
of his works in Latin prose. If, as is somewhat hardily maintained, he
also knew the _Decamerone_, and took from it, in however improved a
fashion, the idea of his Canterbury Pilgrimage and the plots of any or all
of the four tales (besides that of Grisilde) to which resemblances have
been traced in his own work, his obligations to Boccaccio become immense.
Yet he never mentions his name, and it has been contended that he was
himself unaware of the authorship of the poems and treatises to which he
was so greatly indebted."

_Dryden_. His translations from Boccaccio are "Sigismonda and Guiscardo,"
"Theodore and Honoria," "Cymon and Iphigenia."

P. 269. _married to immortal verse_. "L'Allegro."

_John Bunyan_ (1628-1688), author of "Pilgrim's Progress" (1678).

_Daniel Defoe_ (c. 1659-1731), journalist and novelist. His masterpiece,
"Robinson Crusoe," appeared in 1719.

_dipped in dews_. Cf. T. Heywood's "Ben Jonson, though his learned pen Was
dipt in Castaly, is still but Ben."

_Philoctetes_. The story of the Greek hero who, on the voyage to the siege
of Troy, was abandoned on an uninhabited island, is the subject of a play
by Sophocles.

_As I walked about_. "Robinson Crusoe," Part I, p. 125 (ed. G. A. Aitken).

P. 270. _give an echo_. "Twelfth Night," ii, 4, 21.

P. 271. _Our poesy_. "Timon of Athens," i, 1, 21.

P. 272. _all plumed_. Cf. 1 "Henry IV," iv, 1, 98:

  "All plumed like estridges that with the wind
  Baited like eagles having lately bathed;
  Glittering in golden coats, like images;
  As full of spirits as the month of May,
  And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer;
  Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls."

_If we fly_. Psalms, cxxxix, 9.

P. 275. _Pope Anastatius_. "Inferno," xi, 8.

_Count Ugolino_. Ibid., xxxiii.

_Ossian_. James Macpherson (1736-1796) published between 1760 and 1765
what he alleged to be a translation of the ancient Gaelic hero-bard, Oisin
or Ossian. The poems fed the romantic appetite of the generation and were
translated into practically every European language. In Germany especially
the influence of "Ossian" wrought powerfully through the enthusiasm it
aroused in the young Goethe and in Schiller. In England, the poems,
immediately upon their appearance, gave rise to a long controversy as to
their authenticity, Dr. Johnson being among the first to attack the
belief in their antiquity. The truth seems to be that, though there
really is a legendary hero answering to Ossian, no such poems as
Macpherson attributed to him were ever transmitted. The whole work is to
all intents the original creation of Macpherson himself. The supposed
Gaelic originals, which were published by the Highland Society of London
in 1807, have been proved by philologists to be spurious, to be nothing in
fact but translations into bad Gaelic from Macpherson's good English. This
conclusion is further supported by the mass of borrowings from the Bible
and the classics which have been found in "Ossian." See J. C. Smart:
"James Macpherson, An Episode in Literature" (1905).

P. 276. _lamentation of Selma_. Lament of Colma in "Songs of Selma,"
Ossian, ed. William Sharp, p. 410.

_Roll on_. Cf. ibid., p. 417: "ye bring no joy on your course!"


MY FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH POETS

[The identification of quotations has been omitted for this essay in order
to allow students an opportunity to try it for themselves.]

The third and fourth paragraphs of this essay had appeared in a letter of
Hazlitt's to the Examiner (Works, III, 152). The entire essay was first
published in the third number of the Liberal (see note to p. 244).

P. 277. _W--m_. Wem.

P. 281. _Murillo_ (1617-1682) and _Velasquez_ (1599-1660) are the two
greatest Spanish painters.

_nothing--like what he has done_. In the essay "On Depth and
Superficiality" ("Plain Speaker"), Hazlitt characterizes Coleridge as "a
great but useless thinker."

P. 282. _Adam Smith_ (1723-1790), founder of the science of political
economy, author of "The Wealth of Nations" (1776).

_huge folios_. In the essay "On Pedantry" ("Round Table") Hazlitt writes:
"In the library of the family where we were brought up, stood the _Fratres
Poloni_; and we can never forget or describe the feeling with which not
only their appearance, but the names of the authors on the outside
inspired us. Pripscovius, we remember, was one of the easiest to
pronounce. The gravity of the contents seemed in proportion to the weight
of the volumes; the importance of the subjects increased with our
ignorance of them."

P. 283, n. Hazlitt's father was the author of "Discourses for the Use of
Families on the Advantages of a Free Enquiry and on the Study of the
Scriptures" (1790) and of "Sermons for the Use of Families" in two volumes
(1808).

P. 284. _Mary Wolstonecraft_ (1759-1797), author of the "Vindication of
the Rights of Woman" (1792).

_Mackintosh_, Sir James (1765-1832), wrote "Vindiciæ Gallicæ, a Defence of
the French Revolution and its English Admirers against the Accusations of
the Right Hon. Edmund Burke." Hazlitt writes of Mackintosh in the "Spirit
of the Age" as "one of the ablest and most accomplished men of the age,
both as a writer, a speaker, and a converser," and comparing him with
Coleridge, he remarks, "They have nearly an equal range of reading and of
topics of conversation; but in the mind of the one we see nothing but
_fixtures_, in the other every thing is fluid."

_Tom Wedgwood_ (1771-1805) was an associate of some of the literary men of
his day.

P. 285. _Holcroft_, Thomas (1745-1809), actor, dramatist, novelist, a
member of Godwin's group of radicals. His chief writings are "The Road to
Ruin" (1792), "Anna St. Ives" (1792), and "Hugh Trevor" (1794-97).
Holcroft's "Memoirs," written by himself, were edited and completed by
Hazlitt and published in 1816 (Works, II).

P. 286. _Hume_, David (1711-1776), historian and sceptic philosopher,
described by Hazlitt as "one of the subtlest and most metaphysical of all
metaphysicians." His chief writings are "A Treatise on Human Nature, being
an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral
Subjects" (1739-40), "Philosophical Essays" (1748), "Four Dissertations"
(1757).

P. 287. _Essay on Vision_. Hazlitt calls this "the greatest by far of all
his works and the most complete example of elaborate analytical reasoning
and particular induction joined together that perhaps ever existed."
(Works, XI, 108).

_Tom Paine_ (1737-1809), an influential revolutionary writer, author of
"Common Sense" (1776), a pamphlet advocating American independence,
"Rights of Man" (1791), a reply to Burke's "Reflections on the French
Revolution," and "The Age of Reason" (1795). He also took an active part
in both the American and French revolutions.

_prefer the unknown to the known_. Cf. the first essay "On the
Conversation of Authors": "Coleridge withholds his tribute of applause
from every person, in whom any mortal but himself can descry the least
glimpse of understanding. He would be thought to look farther into a
millstone than any body else. He would have others see with his eyes, and
take their opinions from him on trust, in spite of their senses. The more
obscure and defective the indications of merit, the greater his sagacity
and candour in being the first to point them out. He looks upon what he
nicknames _a man of genius_, but as the breath of his nostrils, and the
clay in the potter's hands. If any such inert, unconscious mass, under the
fostering care of the modern Prometheus, is kindled into life,--begins to
see, speak, and move, so as to attract the notice of other people,--our
jealous patroniser of latent worth in that case throws aside, scorns, and
hates his own handy-work; and deserts his intellectual offspring from the
moment they can go alone and shift for themselves."

_a discovery on the same subject_. Hazlitt's first publication, "On the
Principles of Human Action."

P. 288. _I sat down to the task_, etc. Cf. "On Application to Study"
("Plain Speaker"): "If what I write at present is worth nothing, at least
it costs me nothing. But it cost me a great deal twenty years ago. I have
added little to my stock since then, and taken little from it. I 'unfold
the book and volume of the brain,' and transcribe the characters I see
there as mechanically as any one might copy the letters in a sampler. I do
not say they came there mechanically--I transfer them to the paper
mechanically." See also p. 345.

P. 289. _which ... he has somewhere told himself_. "Biographia Literaria,"
ch. 10.

_that other Vision of Judgment_. Byron's.

_Bridge-Street Junto_. "The Constitutional Association or, as it was
called by its opponents, 'The Bridge Street Gang,' founded in 1821 'to
support the laws for suppressing seditious publications, and for defending
the country from the fatal influence of disloyalty and sedition.' The
Association was an ill-conducted party organisation and created so much
opposition by its imprudent prosecutions that it very soon disappeared.
See an article in the Edinburgh Review for June, 1822." Waller-Glover, VI,
487.

P. 290. _at Tewkesbury_. In the essay "On Going a Journey," Hazlitt refers
to this episode as occurring at Bridgewater: "I remember sitting up half
the night to read Paul and Virginia, which I picked up at an inn in
Bridgewater, after being drenched in the rain all day; and at the same
place I got through two volumes of Madame D'Arblay's Camilla."

_Paul and Virginia_ (1788), a sentimental novel by Bernardin St. Pierre
(1737-1814).

P. 291. _Camilla_ (1796), a novel by Fanny Burney (1752-1840).

_a friend of the poet's_. "This is a mistake. Wordsworth paid £23 a year
for Alfoxden. The agreement is given in Mrs. Henry Sandford's 'Thomas
Poole and His Friends,' I, 225." Waller-Glover.

P. 292. _In the outset of life_. Alongside of this paragraph should be
read the essay "On the Feeling of Immortality in Youth," Works, XII, 150.

P. 294. _Chantrey_, Sir Francis (1781-1842). His bust of Wordsworth is now
at Cole-Orton.

_Haydon_, Benjamin Robert (1786-1846), a celebrated English painter who
was intimate with many literary men. In the picture referred to Haydon
also introduced a portrait of Hazlitt.

_Monk Lewis_. Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775-1818) wrote among other things a
sensational novel, "The Monk" (1795), which gained him his nickname. "The
Castle Spectre" was originally produced at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1797.

P. 295. _Tom Poole_ (1765-1837), friend and patron of Coleridge.

P. 296. _Sir Walter Scott's_, etc. Probably a reference to the banquet
given to George IV by the Magistrates of Edinburgh and attended by Scott,
August 24, 1822.

_Blackwood_, William (1776-1834), the Edinburgh publisher.

_Gaspar Poussin_ (1613-1675). His real name was Dughet, but he changed it
out of respect to his brother-in-law, Nicholas Poussin.

_Domenichino_ or Domenico Zampieri (1581-1641), a painter of Bologna.

P. 297. _Death of Abel_ (1758), an idyllic-pastoral poem by Solomon
Gessner (1730-1788), a German poet of the Swiss school who enjoyed a wide
popularity in the eighteenth century.

P. 298. _since the days of Henry II_. As Henry II lived in the twelfth
century, and as neither Coleridge nor Wordsworth ever refer to the
language of Henry II as their standard, the statement in the text may
probably be considered as a blunder of Hazlitt's.

_He spoke with contempt of Gray and with intolerance of Pope._ Cf.
"Biographia Literaria," ch. 2: "I felt almost as if I had been newly
couched, when, by Mr. Wordsworth's conversation, I had been induced to
re-examine with impartial strictness Gray's celebrated Elegy. I had long
before detected the defects in The Bard; but the Elegy I had considered as
proof against all fair attacks; and to this day I can not read either
without delight, and a portion of enthusiasm. At all events whatever
pleasure I may have lost by the clearer perception of the faults in
certain passages, has been more than repaid to me by the additional
delight with which I read the remainder." In his "Table Talk," October 23,
1833, Coleridge says again: "I think there is something very majestic in
Gray's Installation Ode; but as to the Bard and the rest of his lyrics, I
must say I think them frigid and artificial." Of Pope and his followers he
writes ("Biographia Literaria," ch. 1): "I was not blind to the merits of
this school, yet, as from inexperience of the world, and consequent want
of sympathy with the general subjects of these poems, they gave me little
pleasure, I doubtless undervalued the kind, and with the presumption of
youth withheld from its masters the legitimate name of poets. I saw that
the excellence of this kind consisted in just and acute observations on
men and manners in an artificial state of society, as its matter and
substance, and in the logic of wit, conveyed in smooth and strong
epigrammatic couplets, as its form; that even when the subject was
addressed to the fancy, or the intellect, as in the Rape of the Lock, or
the Essay on Man; nay, when it was a consecutive narration, as in that
astonishing product of matchless talent and ingenuity, Pope's Translation
of the Iliad; still a point was looked for at the end of each second line,
and the whole was, as it were, a _sorites_, or, if I may exchange a
logical for a grammatical metaphor, a conjunction disjunctive, of
epigrams. Meantime, the matter and diction seemed to me characterized not
so much by poetic thoughts, as by thoughts translated into the language of
poetry."

_he thought little of Junius as a writer_. Cf. Coleridge's "Table Talk,"
July 3, 1833: "The style of Junius is a sort of metre, the law of which is
a balance of thesis and antithesis. When he gets out of his aphorismic
metre into a sentence of five or six lines long, nothing can exceed the
slovenliness of the English."

_dislike for Dr. Johnson_. Cf. "Table Talk," July 4, 1833: "Dr. Johnson's
fame now rests principally upon Boswell. It is impossible not to be amused
with such a book. But his _bow-wow_ manner must have had a good deal to do
with the effect produced.... As to Burke's testimony to Johnson's powers,
you must remember that Burke was a great courtier; and after all, Burke
said and wrote more than once that he thought Johnson greater in talking
than in writing, and greater in Boswell than in real life."

_opinion of Burke_. Cf. "Table Talk," April 8, 1833: "Burke was indeed a
great man. No one ever read history so philosophically as he seems to have
done.... He would have been more influential if he had less surpassed his
contemporaries, as Fox and Pitt, men of much inferior minds, in all
respects."

_He liked Richardson, but not Fielding._ On this subject Coleridge
evidently changed his mind. Cf. "Table Talk," July 5, 1834: "What a master
of composition Fielding was! Upon my word, I think the OEdipus Tyrannus,
the Alchemist, and Tom Jones the three most perfect plots ever planned.
And how charming, how wholesome, Fielding always is! To take him up after
Richardson is like emerging from a sickroom heated by stoves into an open
lawn on a breezy day in May."

_Caleb Williams_, the chief novel of William Godwin.

P. 298, n. _He had no idea of pictures_. See p. 212.

_Buffamalco_. Cristofani Buonamico (1262-1351), also known as Buffalmacco,
a painter of Florence.

P. 300. _Elliston_, Robert William (1774-1813), actor and later manager of
the Drury Lane Theatre.

_still continues_. See p. 224 and n.


ON THE CONVERSATION OF AUTHORS

This is the title of Essays III and IV of the "Plain Speaker." Our
selection begins with the last paragraph of the first, which forms a
fitting introduction to the account of one of Lamb's celebrated Wednesday
evenings. Lamb tells us that his sister was accustomed to read this essay
with unmixed delight.

P. 301. _When Greek meets Greek_. Nathaniel Lee's "Alexander the Great,"
iv, 2.

_C----_. Coleridge.

P. 302. _small-coal man_. Thomas Britton (1654?-1714), a dealer in small
coal, who on the floor of his hut above the coal-shop held weekly concerts
of vocal and instrumental music, at which the greatest performers of the
day, even Handel, were to be heard.

_And, in our flowing cups_. Cf. "Henry V," iv, 3, 51:

                      "then shall our names
  Familiar in his mouth as household words ...
  Be in their flowing cups freely remember'd."

P. 303. _the cartoons_. See Hazlitt's account of Raphael's cartoons in
"The Pictures at Hampton Court" (Works, IX, 43).

_Donne_, John (1573-1631), poet and divine. Hazlitt in the "Lectures on
the English Poets" confesses that he knows nothing of him save "some
beautiful verses to his wife, dissuading her from accompanying him on his
travels abroad (see p. 318), and some quaint riddles in verse, which the
Sphinx could not unravel." V, 83.

P. 304. _Ned P----_. Edward Phillips. Lamb speaks of him as "that poor
card-playing Phillips, that has felt himself for so many years the outcast
of Fortune." (Works, ed. Lucas, VII, 972.)

_Captain ----_. Rear-Admiral James Burney (1750-1821), brother of Fanny
Burney the novelist, author of a "Chronological History of the Voyages and
Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean" in five volumes
(1803-1817). "The captain was himself a character, a fine, noble
creature--gentle, with a rough exterior, as became the associate of
Captain Cook in his voyages round the world, and the literary historian of
all these acts of circumnavigation." Crabb-Robinson's Diary, 1810.

_Jem White_. James White (1775-1820), of whom Lamb has left us a sketch in
the essay "On the Praise of Chimney-Sweepers": "He carried away half the
fun of the world when he died." He wrote, it is supposed with some
cooperation from Lamb, the "Original Letters, etc., of Sir John Falstaff
and his Friends" (1796), which were described by Lamb as "without
exception the best imitations I ever saw." (Works, ed. Lucas, VI, 2.) A
review of this book by Lamb, consisting chiefly of specimens, appeared in
the Examiner in 1819 (Works, ed. Lucas, I, 191 ff).

_turning like the latter end_. This phrase occurs in one of the extracts
in Lamb's review of Falstaff's Letters just mentioned (p. 194).

_A----_. William Aryton (1777-1858), a musical critic and director of the
King's Theatre in the Haymarket. In the letter of Elia to Robert Southey
(Lamb's Works, I, 230) he is spoken of as "the last and steadiest left me
of that little knot of whist-players, that used to assemble weekly, for so
many years, at the Queen's Gate."

_Mrs. R-----_. Mrs. Reynolds, who had been Lamb's schoolmistress.

_M. B._ Martin Charles Burney, son of Admiral Burney. "Martin Burney is as
odd as ever.... He came down here, and insisted on reading Virgil's
'Æneid' all through with me (which he did,) because a Counsel must know
Latin. Another time he read out all the Gospel of St. John, because
Biblical quotations are very emphatic in a Court of Justice. A third time,
he would carve a fowl, which he did very ill-favoredly, because 'we did
not know how indispensable it was for a Barrister to do all those sort of
things well. Those little things were of more consequence than we
supposed.' So he goes on, harassing about the way to prosperity, and
losing it. With a long head, but somewhat wrong one--harum-scarum. Why
does not his guardian angel look to him? He deserves one--: may be, he has
tired him out." Lamb's Works, VII, 855.

_Author of the Road to Ruin_. Thomas Holcroft.

P. 305. _Critique of Pure Reason_, by Kant.

_Biographia Literaria_. Coleridge's account of his literary life,
published in 1817.

_Those days are over!_ The event here referred to may be Waterloo. Mr.
Lucas thinks that Hazlitt's share in Lamb's gatherings "ceased after an
unfortunate discussion of Fanny Burney's Wanderer, which Hazlitt condemned
in terms that her brother, the Admiral, could not forgive." (Lamb's Works,
I, 482.) It is likely that Mr. Lucas has been led astray by the statement
in Crabb-Robinson's Diary to the effect that Hazlitt used to attend
Captain Burney's whist-parties "till he affronted the Captain by severe
criticisms on the works of his sister," presumably by his article in the
Edinburgh Review in 1814. Hazlitt commemorates Lamb's evenings in the
"Pleasure of Hating" ("Plain Speaker"): "What is become of 'that set of
whist players,' celebrated by Elia in his notable _Epistle to Robert
Southey, Esq._ ... 'that for so many years called Admiral Burney friend?'
They are scattered, like last year's snow. Some of them are dead--or gone
to live at a distance--or pass one another in the street like strangers;
or if they stop to speak, do it as coolly and try to _cut_ one another as
soon as possible. Some of us have grown rich--others poor. Some have got
places under Government--others a _niche_ in the Quarterly Review. Some of
us have dearly earned a name in the world; whilst others remain in their
original privacy. We despise the one, and envy and are glad to mortify the
other."

_Like angels' visits_. Cf. Blair's "The Grave," 582: "Like those of
angels, short and far between." Hazlitt was fond of pointing out this
source for Campbell's famous line "Like angels' visits few and far
between," and of insisting that the alteration spoiled the sense. Thereby
he is said to have incurred Campbell's bitter hostility.

P. 306. _Mr. Douce_, Francis (1757-1834), Shakespearian scholar and keeper
of the manuscripts in the British Museum.

_L. H----_. Leigh Hunt. There is a sketch of him in the "Spirit of the
Age."

_aliquando sufflaminandus erat_. "He sometimes had to be checked." This is
a quotation from Seneca which Ben Jonson in "Timber" (ed. Schelling, p.
23) had applied to Shakespeare.

P. 307. _The Indicator_. Leigh Hunt's most successful series of essays,
which began their run in 1819.

_Mr. Northcote_, James (1746-1831), the painter of whose talk Hazlitt has
left an entertaining record in the "Conversations of James Northcote"
(1830), a book which inspired Crabb-Robinson to say, "I do not believe
that Boswell gives so much good talk in an equal quantity of his life of
Johnson."

P. 308. _Sir Joshua's_. Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), the famous
English painter.

P. 309. _Horne Tooke_ (1736-1812), politician and author of a celebrated
philological volume, "The Diversions of Purley" (1786, 1805). His portrait
is included in the "Spirit of the Age": "He was without a rival (almost)
in private conversation, an expert public speaker, a keen politician, a
first-rate grammarian, and the finest gentleman (to say the least) of his
own party. He had no imagination (or he would not have scorned it!)--no
delicacy of taste, no rooted prejudices or strong attachments: his
intellect was like a bow of polished steel, from which he shot
sharp-pointed poisoned arrows at his friends in private, at his enemies in
public."

_hear a sound so fine_. J. S. Knowles's "Virginius," v, 2.

P. 310. _silenced a learned professor_. Cf. "Spirit of the Age": "He used
to plague Fuseli by asking him after the origin of the Teutonic dialects,
and Dr. Parr, by wishing to know the meaning of the common copulative,
_Is_."

_Curran_, John Philpot (1750-1817), member of Parliament from Ireland,
orator and wit.

P. 311. _Mrs. Inchbald_, Elizabeth (1753-1821), a well-known actress,
dramatist, and novelist. In literature she is associated with the group of
William Godwin, and her best-known works are "A Simple Story" and "Nature
and Art."

_from noon to dewy eve_. "Paradise Lost," I, 743.

_Mrs. M----_. Mrs. Montagu, wife of Basil Montagu. In the "Pleasure of
Hating" ("Plain Speaker") there is another allusion to Mrs. Montagu "whose
dark raven locks made a picturesque background to our discourse."

_H--t's_. Leigh Hunt's.

_N--'s_. Northcote's.

_H--yd--n's_. Haydon's.

_Doctor Tronchin_. Theodore Tronchin, a physician of Geneva, figures in
Rousseau's "Confessions."

P. 312. _Sir Fopling Flutter_, a character in George Etherege's comedy,
"The Man of Mode."

_For wit is like a rest_. "Master Francis Beaumont's Letter to Ben
Jonson." For _players_ read _gamesters_.

_came down into the country_. Charles and Mary Lamb with a few of their
friends paid a visit to Hazlitt at Winterslow in 1810.

_Like the most capricious poet_. "As You Like It," iii, 3, 8.

_walked gowned_. Lamb's "Sonnet Written at Cambridge, August 15, 1819."

P. 313. _the person I mean_. George Dyer (1755-1841), an amiable
hack-writer and a friend of Lamb. He figures prominently in two of the
Essays of Elia, "Oxford in the Vacation" and "Amicus Redivivus," and in
many of Lamb's letters. "To G. D. a poem is a poem. His own as good as any
bodie's, and god bless him, any bodie's as good as his own, for I do not
think he has the most distant guess of the possibility of one poem being
better than another. The Gods by denying him the very faculty itself of
discrimination have effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom."
Letter to Wordsworth (Lamb's Works, ed. Lucas, VI, 519).


OF PERSONS ONE WOULD WISH TO HAVE SEEN

This, like the preceding essay, is a record of one of Lamb's Wednesday
evenings. It was originally published in the New Monthly Magazine for
January, 1826, from which the present text is reproduced. It was
republished by Hazlitt's son in "Literary Remains" (1836) and "Winterslow"
(1850).

P. 315. _Come like shadows_. "Macbeth," iv, 1, 111.

_B----_. Lamb. The name is supplied in "Literary Remains."

_defence of Guy Faux_. See p. 224 and n.

_Never so sure_. Pope's "Moral Essays," II, 51.

_A----_. William Ayrton.

P. 316. _in his habit_. "Hamlet," iii, 4, 135.

P. 317. _And call up him_. "Il Penseroso," 109.

_wished that mankind_. Browne's "Religio Medici," Part 11, section 9.

_Prologues spoken_. See Prologue to Fulke Greville's tragedy of "Alaham."

P. 318. _old edition_. Mr. W. C. Hazlitt suggests that it is the edition
of 1609 of which Lamb owned a copy. "Memoirs of Hazlitt," I, 276.

_Here lies_. "An Epithalamion on the Lady Elizabeth and Count Palatine."
Muses' Library, I, 86.

_By our first strange_. "Elegy on his Mistress," I, 139.

P. 320. _lisped in numbers_. Pope's "Prologue to Satires," 128.

_His meeting with Petrarch_. Chaucer was in Italy in 1372-3, but his
meeting with Petrarch is only a matter of conjecture. He probably did not
meet Boccaccio, the author of the "Decameron."

_Ugolino_. See p. 275.

_portrait of Ariosto_. Hazlitt probably refers to the Portrait of a Poet
in the National Gallery, now ascribed to Palma.

P. 321. _the mighty dead_. Thomson's "Winter," 432.

_creature of the element_. Cf. "Comus," 299:

  "Of some gay creatures of the element,
  That in the colors of the rainbow live,
  And play i' the plighted clouds."

_That was Arion_. "Faërie Queene," IV, ix, 23.

_For Captain C., M. C., Miss D----_, "Literary Remains" supplies Admiral
Burney, Martin Burney, Miss Reynolds.

_with lack-luster eye_. "As You Like It," ii, 7, 21.

P. 322. _his compliments_. See p. 129.

P. 323. _But why then publish_. "Prologue to Satires," 135.

_Gay's verses_. "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece" (ed. Muses' Library, I,
207).

P. 324. _E----_. In "Literary Remains" the name supplied is Erasmus
Phillips, probably a mistake for Edward Phillips.

_nigh-sphered in heaven_. Collins's "Ode on the Poetical Character," 66.

_Garrick_, David (1717-1779), the celebrated actor.

_J. F----_. According to "Literary Remains," Barron Field (1786-1846),
Lamb's friend and correspondent.

_Handel_, George Frederick (1685-1759), the musical composer, German by
birth but naturalized in England.

P. 325. _Wildair_, in Farquhar's comedy "Sir Harry Wildair."

_Abel Drugger_, in Ben Jonson's "Alchemist," was one of Garrick's famous
parts.

P. 326. _author of Mustapha_. Fulke Greville.

_Kit Marlowe_ (1564-1593), the most brilliant writer of tragedy before
Shakespeare. He wrote "Tamburlaine the Great," "The Tragical History of
Dr. Faustus," "The Jew of Malta," and "Edward the Second." In the "Age of
Elizabeth" Hazlitt says of him, "There is a lust of power in his writings,
a hunger and thirst after unrighteousness, a glow of the imagination,
unhallowed by any thing but its own energies."

_Webster_, John, wrote during the first quarter of the seventeenth
century. His chief plays are "The White Devil" and the "Duchess of Malfy."
_Dekker_, Thomas (c. 1570-1641). "The Shoemaker's Holiday," "The Honest
Whore," and "Old Fortunatus" are his best plays. In the third lecture of
the "Age of Elizabeth" Hazlitt thus compares Webster and Dekker: "Webster
would, I think, be a greater dramatic genius than Deckar, if he had the
same originality; and perhaps is so, even without it. His White Devil and
Duchess of Malfy, upon the whole perhaps, come the nearest to Shakspeare
of anything we have upon record; the only drawback to them, the only shade
of imputation that can be thrown upon them, 'by which they lose some
colour,' is, that they are too like Shakspeare, and often direct
imitations of him, both in general conception and individual
expression.... Deckar has, I think, more truth of character, more
instinctive depth of sentiment, more of the unconscious simplicity of
nature; but he does not, out of his own stores, clothe his subject with
the same richness of imagination, or the same glowing colours of language.
Deckar excels in giving expression to certain habitual, deeply-rooted
feelings, which remain pretty much the same in all circumstances, the
simple uncompounded elements of nature and passion:--Webster gives more
scope to their various combinations and changeable aspects, brings them
into dramatic play by contrast and comparison, flings them into a state of
fusion by a kindled fancy, makes them describe a wider arc of oscillation
from the impulse of unbridled passion, and carries both terror and pity to
a more painful and sometimes unwarrantable excess. Deckar is content with
the historic picture of suffering; Webster goes on to suggest horrible
imaginings. The pathos of the one tells home and for itself; the other
adorns his sentiments with some image of tender or awful beauty. In a
word, Deckar is more like Chaucer or Boccaccio; as Webster's mind appears
to have been cast more in the mould of Shakespeare's, as well naturally as
from studious emulation."

_Heywood_, Thomas (d. c. 1650), a prolific dramatist who excelled in the
homely vein. His best-known play is "The Woman Killed with Kindness."

_Beaumont_, Francis (1584-1616), and _Fletcher_, John (1579-1625),
composed their dramas in collaboration. In the "Age of Elizabeth" Hazlitt
calls them lyric and descriptive poets of the first order, but as regards
drama "the first writers who in some measure departed from the genuine
tragic style of the age of Shakspeare. They thought less of their subject,
and more of themselves, than some others. They had a great and
unquestioned command over the stores both of fancy and passion; but they
availed themselves too often of commonplace extravagances and theatrical
trick.... The example of preceding or contemporary writers had given them
facility; the frequency of dramatic exhibition had advanced the popular
taste; and this facility of production, and the necessity for appealing to
popular applause, tended to vitiate their own taste, and to make them
willing to pamper that of the public for novelty and extraordinary effect.
There wants something of the sincerity and modesty of the older writers.
They do not wait nature's time, or work out her materials patiently and
faithfully, but try to anticipate her, and so far defeat themselves. They
would have a catastrophe in every scene; so that you have none at last:
they would raise admiration to its height in every line; so that the
impression of the whole is comparatively loose and desultory. They pitch
the characters at first in too high a key, and exhaust themselves by the
eagerness and impatience of their efforts. We find all the prodigality of
youth, the confidence inspired by success, an enthusiasm bordering on
extravagance, richness running riot, beauty dissolving in its own
sweetness. They are like heirs just come to their estates, like lovers in
the honeymoon. In the economy of nature's gifts, they 'misuse the
bounteous Pan, and thank the Gods amiss.' Their productions shoot up in
haste, but bear the marks of precocity and premature decay. Or they are
two goodly trees, the stateliest of the forest, crowned with blossoms, and
with the verdure springing at their feet; but they do not strike their
roots far enough into the ground, and the fruit can hardly ripen for the
flowers!"

_Jonson_, Ben (1573-1637), was the originator of the "comedy of humors."
Hazlitt, in discussing him at length in the second lecture on the "Comic
Writers," confesses a disrelish for his style. "He was a great man in
himself, but one cannot readily sympathise with him. His works, as the
characteristic productions of an individual mind, or as records of the
manners of a particular age, cannot be valued too highly; but they have
little charm for the mere general reader. Schlegel observes, that whereas
Shakspeare gives the springs of human nature, which are always the same,
or sufficiently so to be interesting and intelligible; Jonson chiefly
gives the _humours_ of men, as connected with certain arbitrary and
conventional modes of dress, action, and expression, which are
intelligible only while they last, and not very interesting at any time.
Shakspeare's characters are men; Ben Jonson's are more like machines,
governed by mere routine, or by the convenience of the poet, whose
property they are.... His portraits are caricatures by dint of their very
likeness, being extravagant tautologies of themselves; as his plots are
improbable by an excess of consistency; for he goes thoroughstitch with
whatever he takes in hand, makes one contrivance answer all purposes, and
every obstacle give way to a predetermined theory.... Old Ben was of a
scholastic turn and had dealt a little in the occult sciences and
controversial divinity. He was a man of strong crabbed sense, retentive
memory, acute observation, great fidelity of description and keeping in
character, a power of working out an idea so as to make it painfully true
and oppressive, and with great honesty and manliness of feeling, as well
as directness of understanding: but with all this, he wanted, to my
thinking, that genial spirit of enjoyment and finer fancy, which
constitute the essence of poetry and wit.... There was nothing
spontaneous, no impulse or ease about his genius: it was all forced,
up-hill work, making a toil of pleasure. And hence his overweening
admiration of his own works, from the effort they had cost him, and the
apprehension that they were not proportionably admired by others, who knew
nothing of the pangs and throes of his Muse in child-bearing." Works,
VIII, 39-41. Of Ben Jonson's tragedies Hazlitt held a higher opinion than
of his comedies. "The richer the soil in which he labours, the less dross
and rubbish we have.... His tenaciousness of what is grand and lofty, is
more praiseworthy than his delight in what is low and disagreeable. His
pedantry accords better with didactic pomp than with illiterate and vulgar
gabble; his learning engrafted on romantic tradition or classical history,
looks like genius.... His tragedy of the Fall of Sejanus, in particular,
is an admirable piece of ancient mosaic.... The depth of knowledge and
gravity of expression sustain one another throughout: the poet has worked
out the historian's outline, so that the vices and passions, the ambition
and servility of public men, in the heated and poisonous atmosphere of a
luxurious and despotic court, were never described in fuller or more
glowing colours." Works, V, 262-3.

_a vast species alone_. Cowley's "The Praise of Pindar."

_G----_. Godwin, according to "Literary Remains."

_Drummond of Hawthornden_. William Drummond (1585-1649), the poet who
recorded his conversation with Ben Jonson on the occasion of a visit paid
to him by the latter in 1618. "He has not done himself or Jonson any
credit by his account of their conversation," says Hazlitt in the
"Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth." Works, V, 299.

_Eugene Aram_ was hanged in 1759 for a murder he had committed several
years earlier.

_Admirable Crichton_. James Crichton (1560?-1582), a Scotchman of noble
birth who, in a brief life, gained the reputation of universal genius and
concerning whose powers many legends arose.

P. 327. _H----_. Hunt, according to "Literary Remains."

_Hobbes_, Thomas (1588-1679), the English philosopher. His chief work is
"Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth,
Ecclesiastical and Civil" (1651). Hazlitt vindicated the superiority of
Hobbes as a thinker at a time when his fame was overshadowed by other
reputations. He calls him the founder of the modern material philosophy
and maintains that "the true reason of the fate which this author's
writings met with was that his views of things were too original and
comprehensive to be immediately understood, without passing through the
hands of several successive generations of commentators and interpreters.
Ignorance of another's meaning is a sufficient cause of fear, and fear
produces hatred." Works, XI, 25-48.

_Jonathan Edwards_ (1703-1758). In writing "On the Tendency of Sects" in
the "Round Table," Hazlitt had alluded to Edwards as an Englishman and had
spoken of his work on the Will as "written with as much power of logic,
and more in the true spirit of philosophy, than any other metaphysical
work in the language."

P. 327, n. _Lord Bacon_, Francis (1561-1626), statesman, scientist, and
man of letters. His chief works are the "Essays" (1597), the "Advancement
of Learning" (1604), "Novum Organum" (1620), "History of Henry VII"
(1622).

P. 328. _Dugald Stewart_ (1753-1828), Scotch philosopher.

_Duchess of Bolton_. Lavinia Fenton (1708-1760), the original Polly in
Gay's "Beggar's Opera," married the Duke of Bolton in 1751.

P. 329. _Raphael_, Sanzio (1483-1520), the greatest of all the Italian
painters.

_Lucretia Borgia with calm golden locks_. This sounds like a striking
anticipation of Landor's fine line, "Calm hair meandering in pellucid
gold" in his poem "On Lucretia Borgia's Hair." Or had Hazlitt seen the
poem before it was published?

_Michael Angelo_ (1475-1564), poet, painter, architect, and sculptor, the
most famous of the great Italian artists.

_Correggio_ (1494-1534), _Giorgione_ (1477-1510), _Guido_ (1575-1642),
_Cimabue_ (1240-1302), _Vandyke_ (1599-1641). The other painters are
mentioned elsewhere in this volume.

_whose names on earth_. In his review of Sismondi's "Literature of the
South" (Works, X, 62) Hazlitt cites among the proofs of Dante's poetic
power "his description of the poets and great men of antiquity, whom he
represents 'serene and smiling,' though in the shades of death, 'because
on earth their names in fame's eternal records shine for aye.'" As these
lines have not been located in Dante, they have been ascribed to the lying
memory of Lamb, from whose lips Hazlitt learned them.

P. 330. _Mrs. Hutchinson_, Lucy (b. 1620), whose life of her Puritan
husband, Colonel Hutchinson, had appeared in 1806, presumably shortly
before the conversation recorded in this essay.

_one in the room_. Mary Lamb, the sister of the essayist.

_Ninon de Lenclos_ (1615-1705), for a long time the leader of fashion in
Paris and the patroness of poets.

_Voltaire_ (1694-1778), the sceptical philosopher of the Enlightenment;
_Rabelais_ (1490-1553), the greatest French humorist, author of "Gargantua
and Pantagruel"; _Molière_ (1622-1673), the master of French comedy;
_Racine_ (1639-1699), the master of French classic tragedy; _La Fontaine_
(1621-1695), author of the "Fables"; _La Rochefoucauld_ (1613-1680),
celebrated for his book of cynical "Maxims" which Hazlitt imitated in his
"Characteristics"; _St. Evremont_ (1610-1703), a critic.

P. 331. _Your most exquisite reason_. Cf. "Twelfth Night," ii, 3, 155.

_Oh, ever right_. "Coriolanus," ii, 1, 208.

_H----_. This speech is attributed to Lamb in "Literary Remains," but
wrongly so according to Waller and Glover "because, in the first place,
the speech seems more characteristic of Hunt than of Lamb, and, secondly,
because the volume of the New Monthly in which the essay appeared contains
a list of errata in which two corrections (one of them relating to
initials) are made in the essay and yet this 'H----' is left uncorrected."


ON READING OLD BOOKS

This essay was first published in the London Magazine for February, 1821,
and republished in the "Plain Speaker."

P. 333. _I hate to read new books._ It would take too long to recall all
the passages in which Hazlitt voices his sentimental attachment to the
writers with whom he first became acquainted. "The greatest pleasure in
life," he says in one essay, "is that of reading when we are young," and
at the conclusion of his lectures on the "Age of Elizabeth" he remarks:
"Were I to live much longer than I have any chance of doing, the books
which I read when I was young, I can never forget." Patmore's statement
concerning Hazlitt's later reading may be exaggerated, but it is
interesting in this connection: "I do not believe Hazlitt ever read the
half of any work that he reviewed--not even the Scotch novels, of which he
read more than of any other modern productions, and has written better
perhaps, than any other of their critics. I am certain that of many works
that he has reviewed, and of many writers whose general pretensions he has
estimated better than anybody else has done, he never read one tithe." "My
Friends and Acquaintances," III, 122.

_Tales of my Landlord_. Scott's.

_Lady Morgan_ (1783?-1859), a writer of Irish stories, of which the
best-known is "The Wild Irish Girl" (1806). She is also the author of
certain miscellaneous productions, among which is a "Life of Salvator
Rosa" reviewed by Hazlitt for the Edinburgh Review, July, 1824. Works, X,
276-310.

_Anastatius_, an Eastern romance by Thomas Hope (1770-1831).

_Delphine_ (1802), a novel by Madame De Staël (1766-1817), the celebrated
French bluestocking.

_in their newest gloss_. "Macbeth," i, 7, 34.

_Andrew Millar_ (1707-1768), the publisher of Thomson's and Fielding's
works.

_Thurloe's State Papers_. "A Collection of State Papers" (1742) by John
Thurloe (1616-1668), Secretary of State under Cromwell.

_Sir Godfrey Kneller_ (1648-1723), a portrait painter of German birth
whose work and reputation belong to England.

P. 335. _for thoughts_. Cf. "Hamlet," iv, 5, 175: "There's rosemary,
that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's
for thoughts."

_Fortunatus's Wishing Cap_, in Dekker's play of "Old Fortunatus."

_Bruscambille_. "Tristram Shandy," Bk. III, ch. 35.

_the masquerade_. "Tom Jones," Bk. XIII, ch. 7.

_the disputes_. Bk. III, ch. 3.

_the escape of Molly_. Bk. IV, ch. 8.

_Sophia and her muff_. Bk. V, ch. 4.

_her aunt's lecture_. Bk. VII, ch. 3.

_the puppets dallying_. "Hamlet," iii, 2, 257.

P. 336. _ignorance was bliss_. Gray's "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton."

_Ballantyne press_. The printing firm of John and James Ballantyne in
Edinburgh with which Scott was associated, and in whose financial ruin he
was so disastrously involved.

_Minerva Press_. The sponsor of popular romances.

P. 337. _Mrs. Radcliffe_, Anne (1764-1823), a very popular writer of
novels in which romance, sentiment, and terror are combined in cunning
proportions. Her chief novels are "The Romance of the Forest" (1791), "The
Mysteries of Udolpho" (1794) and "The Italian" (1797). Hazlitt writes of
her in the lecture "On the English Novelists."

_sweet in the mouth_. Revelation, x, 9.

_gay creatures_. "Comus," 299.

_Tom Jones discovers Square_. Bk. V, ch. 5.

_where Parson Adams_. "Joseph Andrews," Bk. IV, ch. 14.

P. 338. _Chubb's Tracts_. Thomas Chubb (1679-1747), a tallow-chandler who
devoted his leisure hours to the deistic controversy. His "Tracts and
Posthumous Works" were published in six volumes in 1754.

_fate, free-will_. "Paradise Lost," II, 560.

_Would I had never seen_. Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus," Scene 19.

P. 339. _New Eloise_. "Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloise" (1760), a novel by
the great French sentimentalist, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who
was the most powerful personal force in the revolutionary movement of the
eighteenth century and whose writings have left a deep impression on the
political and educational systems of the nineteenth. His other important
works are "The Social Contract" and "Émile" (1762) and the "Confessions"
(1782). Hazlitt has a "Character of Rousseau" in the "Round Table" (see
p. xliv, n.).

_scattered like stray-gifts_. Wordsworth's "Stray Pleasures."

_Sir Fopling Flutter_, in Sir George Etherege's comedy "The Man of Mode"
(1676).

P. 339, n. _a friend_. Charles Lamb.

P. 340. _leurre de dupe_, a decoy. The expression occurs in the fourth
book of Rousseau's "Confessions."

_a load to sink a navy_. "Henry VIII," iii, 2, 383.

_Marcian Calonna is a dainty book._ Lamb's "Sonnet to the Author of Poems
Published under the Name of Barry Cornwall."

P. 341. _Keats_. Hazlitt shared the popular conception of Keats as an
effeminate poet. He concludes the essay "On Effeminacy of Character" in
"Table Talk" with a reference to Keats: "I cannot help thinking that the
fault of Mr. Keats's poems was a deficiency in masculine energy of style.
He had beauty, tenderness, delicacy, in an uncommon degree, but there was
a want of strength and substance. His Endymion is a very delightful
description of the illusions of a youthful imagination, given up to airy
dreams--we have flowers, clouds, rainbows, moonlight, all sweet sounds and
smells, and Oreads and Dryads flitting by--but there is nothing tangible
in it, nothing marked or palpable--we have none of the hardy spirit or
rigid forms of antiquity. He painted his own thoughts and character; and
did not transport himself into the fabulous and heroic ages. There is a
want of action, of character, and so far, of imagination, but there is
exquisite fancy. All is soft and fleshy, without bone or muscle. We see in
him the youth, without the manhood of poetry. His genius breathed 'vernal
delight and joy.'--'Like Maia's son he stood and shook his plumes,' with
fragrance filled. His mind was redolent of spring. He had not the
fierceness of summer, nor the richness of autumn, and winter he seemed not
to have known, till he felt the icy hand of death!" Again in the
introduction to the "Select British Poets" (Works, V, 378), he says that
Keats "gave the greatest promise of genius of any poet of his day. He
displayed extreme tenderness, beauty, originality, and delicacy of fancy;
all he wanted was manly strength and fortitude to reject the temptations
of singularity in sentiment and expression. Some of his shorter and later
pieces are, however, as free from faults as they are full of beauties."

_Come like shadows_. "Macbeth," iv, 1, 111.

_Tiger-moth's wings_ and _Blushes with blood_. Keats's "Eve of St. Agnes."

_Words, words_. "Hamlet," ii, 2, 194.

_the great preacher_. Edward Irving.

_as the hart_. Psalms, xlii, 1.

_Giving my stock_ [sum]. "As You Like It," ii, 1, 48.

P. 342. _Valentine, Tattle and Prue_, characters in Congreve's "Love for
Love" (1695).

_know my cue_. Cf. "Othello," i, 2, 83.

_Intus et in cute_. See p. 163.

_Sir Humphry Davy_ (1778-1829), the celebrated chemist.

P. 343. _with every trick and line_ [line and trick]. "All's Well That
Ends Well," i, 1, 107.

_the divine Clementina_, in Richardson's "Sir Charles Grandison."

_that ligament_. Sterne's "Tristram Shandy." Bk. VI, ch. 10.

_story of the hawk_. "Decameron," Fifth Day, ninth story.

_at one proud_ [fell] _swoop_. "Macbeth," iv, 3, 219.

P. 344. _with all its giddy_ [dizzy] _raptures_. Wordsworth's "Tintern
Abbey," 85.

_embalmed with odours_. "Paradise Lost," II, 843.

_the German criticism_. See p. 112.

_His form_. "Paradise Lost," I, 591.

_Falls flat_. Ibid., I, 460.

P. 345. _For Dr. Johnson's and Junius's style_. See pp. 147-9, 186, 190.

_he, like an eagle_. "Coriolanus," v, 6, 115.

_An Essay on Marriage_. "No such essay by Wordsworth is at present known
to exist. It would seem either that 'Marriage' is a misprint for some
other word, or that Hazlitt was mistaken in the subject of the essay
referred to by Coleridge. Hazlitt is probably recalling a conversation
with Coleridge in Shropshire at the beginning of 1798 (cf. 'My First
Acquaintance with Poets'), at which time _A Letter to the Bishop of
Llandaff_ (1793) was the only notable prose work which Wordsworth had
published." Waller-Glover.

P. 345, n. _Is this the present earl?_ "James Maitland, eighth Earl of
Lauderdale (1759-1839), succeeded his father in August, 1789."
Waller-Glover.

P. 346. _worthy of all acceptation_. 1 Timothy, i, 15.

_Clarendon_. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674), English statesman
and author of the "History of the Rebellion" (1704-1707).

_Froissart_, Jean (1338-1410), the chronicler of the Hundred Years' War.

_Holinshed_, Ralph (d. 1580?), author of "Chronicles of England,
Scotlande, and Irelande" (1578).

_Stowe_, John (1525?-1605), author of "Englysh Chronicles" (1561).

_Thucydides_ (460? B.C.-399?), the historian of the Peloponnesian War.

_Guicciardini_, Francesco (1483-1540), Italian statesman and author of a
"History of Italy from 1494 to 1532."

P. 347. _The Loves of Persiles and Sigismunda_, the last work of Cervantes
(translated into English in 1619) and _Galatea_, his first work (1585).

_another Yarrow_. Cf. Wordsworth's "Yarrow Revisited."



INDEX



INDEX


  "Academy of Compliments," 81.

  Addison, Joseph, xxxii, liii, lvii, 130, 142, 143, 144, 147, 153, 268,
        303, 328, 377, 378.

  Adventurer, The, 152, 342, 379.

  Æschylus, 48, 71, 209, 278.

  Alcæus, 193.

  "Alexander's Feast," 199.

  Alison, A., xxxvi.

  "A Mad World, My Masters," 18.

  "Amelia," 160-2.

  Amyot, Jacques, 352.

  "Anatomy of Melancholy," 224, 397, 400.

  "Ancient Mariner," 213, 297.

  "Antony and Cleopatra," liv-lvi, 39, 361.

  Aquinas, Thomas, 211, 328, 392.

  Aram, Eugene, 326, 424.

  Arbuthnot, John, lx, 130, 212, 375.

  Aretine, Peter, 12, 320, 353.

  Ariel, 85-6, 210, 365.

  Ariosto, Lodovico, xliii, 11, 21, 243, 253, 320, 352.

  Aristophanes, 48.

  Aristophanes of Byzantium, 363.

  Aristotle, xxxiii, 135.

  Arnold, Matthew, lix.

  "As You Like It," lv, 58, 363.

  Atherstone, Edwin, xxxvii.

  Ayrton, W., 304, 315-9, 328, 331, 378, 416.


  Babbitt, Irving, lxx n.

  Bacon, Francis, xii, xv, liii, 1, 146, 254, 327 n., 425.

  Bagehot, W., xxxiii, lxxii.

  Beattie, James, 365.

  Beaumont and Fletcher, lvi, 1, 2, 226, 326, 346, 422.

  "Beggar's Opera," 71, 263.

  Behmen, Jacob, 211, 392.

  Belleforest, François de, 353.

  Bentham, Jeremy, lviii.

  Berkeley, George, xii, 210, 287 n., 327, 338, 390.

  Betterton, T., 141, 377.

  Bewick, T., 201, 388.

  Bible, 6-11, 264, 271, 272-3, 351.

  Bickerstaff, Isaac, 139, 140, 377.

  Birrell, A., lxxii, lxxiii.

  Blackstone, Sir William, 157, 380.

  Blackwood's Magazine, xxv-xxvii, xxxvii, lxxi.

  Blackwood, W., xxvii, 296, 413.

  Blount, Martha, 121, 321, 324, 374.

  Boccaccio, Giovanni, xliii, 12, 16, 127, 137, 268, 320, 343, 352,
        408-9, 422.

  Boileau, Nicolas, 124, 374.

  Bolingbroke, Viscount, 127, 129, 190, 375.

  Borgia, Lucretia, 329.

  Boswell, J., 150-1, 303, 317, 321, 379, 414.

  Bowles, W. L., xlv, xlvii, 211, 245, 374, 393.

  Britton, T., 302, 415.

  "Broken Heart, The," lvi.

  Brooke, Lord. See Greville, Fulke.

  Browne, Sir Thomas, lxiv, 224, 316-7, 397, 400.

  Buckingham, Duke of, 130, 375.

  Buffamalco, 298 n., 415.

  Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, lxxii.

  Bunyan, John, 224, 269, 324, 409.

  Burke, Edmund, xii, xiv, liii, lxvi, 145 n., 147, 150, 156, 172-90;
    his mental range, 172-3;
    as an orator, 173-5;
    subtlety of understanding, 176-8;
    views on government and society, 179-82;
    onesidedness, 182-3;
    prose style, 184-9, 271 n., 345, 384;
    212, 259, 284, 298, 325, 343-5, 411, 414-5.

  Burleigh, Lord, 21, 356.

  Burney, Fanny, 380, 383, 413, 417.

  Burney, James, 304, 321, 416, 417.

  Burney, Martin, 304, 321, 324, 328, 416-7.

  Burns, Robert, xxxvi, 7.

  Burton, Robert, 224, 397, 400.

  Butler, Joseph, 210, 287, 299, 327, 385, 390.

  Byron, Lord, xi, xxiii, xxvii n., xxxvi, xxxvii, xlv, liii, lviii-lix,
        lxxi, 197, 203, 216, 236-50,
    his self-centered nature contrasted with Scott's, 236-41;
    his intensity, 241-3;
    his romances, 242;
    his tragedies, 243;
    his satire, 244-5;
    his serio-comic style, 245-6;
    his extravagance, 246-8;
    aristocratic pride, 248;
    death in Greece, 249-50, 393.


  "Cain," 247.

  Calamy, Edmund, 211, 391.

  "Caleb Williams," 298.

  "Camilla," 291, 413.

  "Campaign, The," 268, 408.

  Campbell, Thomas, xxxvii, xlv, lviii, 417-8.

  Carlyle, T., xviii n., xxxi, li.

  Cary, H. F., 353.

  Castiglione, B., 12, 353.

  "Catiline," 11.

  Cervantes, Miguel de, xiii, 97, 157-8, 347, 380, 430.

  Chalmers, T., 263, 407.

  Chantrey, Sir Francis, 294, 413.

  Chapman, G., 2, 4, 11, 352.

  Charron, P., 136 n., 376.

  Chatham, Lord, 174-5, 177 n., 188, 383.

  Chatterton, T., 328.

  Chaucer, Geoffrey, liii, lxxiii, 21, 32, 34-5, 40-2, 200, 267-8,
        319-21, 343, 408-9, 422.

  Chester, John, 295-9.

  Chesterton, G. K., xviii.

  "Childe Harold," 242.

  "Christabel," lvii, 214, 395.

  Chubb, T., 338, 427.

  Cibber, Colley, 52.

  Cicero, 12, 188-9.

  Cimabue, 329, 331, 425.

  Cinthio, Giraldi, 353.

  Citizen of the World, 152-3, 379.

  Clarendon, Earl of, 346, 430.

  "Clarissa Harlowe," 168-9, 270.

  Clarke, S., 210, 391.

  Claude of Lorraine, 212, 264, 298 n., 303, 329.

  Cobbett, W., lvii, lxi-lxii, lxvii.

  Coke, Sir Edward, 1, 350.

  Coleridge, S. T., xiii,
    service to English criticism, xxxviii-xl;
    xlvii, lii, liii, liv, lviii-lix, lxi, lxiii-lxiv, lxxi, 205-15;
    his intellect, 205-7;
    extent of reading, 209-12;
    inactivity, 213;
    his poetry, 213-4;
    his prose, 214-5;
    compared with Southey, 216-8; 277-300;
    his preaching, 279-80;
    kindness to Hazlitt, 280, 283, 286;
    appearance, 281;
    literary opinions, 284-8, 298, 413-5;
    conversation, 289, 301;
    manner of reading, 292, 295;
    303, 304-5, 310, 311, 341, 345, 356, 358, 359, 362, 363, 367, 368,
        369, 371, 374, 381, 387, 408, 411.

  Collins, W., 200.

  Comedy, 96-8, 371.

  "Comedy of Errors," l.

  "Comus," 32.

  Congreve, W., 97, 371.

  Connoisseur, The, 152, 342, 379.

  "Coriolanus," 11, 361.

  Corneille, Pierre, 361.

  Cornwall, Barry, xxxvi.

  Correggio, 329, 425.

  "Corsair, The," 242.

  Cotton, C., 138, 376.

  "Count Fathom," 164-5.

  Cowley, A., 138, 377.

  Cowper, W., 109, 211, 297.

  Crabbe, G., xxxvii, lviii-lix.

  Crebillon, Claude, 155, 212, 380.

  Crichton, James, "the Admirable," 326, 424.

  Croker, J. W., 212, 393.

  Croly, George, xxxvii.

  Cromwell, Oliver, 324.

  Cudworth, R., 210, 390.

  Cumberland, R., 365.

  Curran, J. P., 310, 418.

  "Cymbeline," lv, 50-9.


  Dante, xliii, 12, 48, 112, 114, 200, 243, 271, 273-5, 320, 353, 425.

  D'Avenant, W., 407.

  Davidson, John, lxxiii n.

  Davies, Sir John, 21.

  Davy, Sir Humphry, 342, 368, 429.

  "Death of Abel," 297, 413.

  Defoe, Daniel, liii, 157 n., 269, 409.

  Dekker, T., lvi, 1, 4, 10, 18, 326, 421-2.

  De Lolme, J. L., 157, 380.

  "Delphine," 333.

  De Quincey, T., xxxii, lxvii, 387.

  Dobell, Bertram, 398.

  Domenichino, 296, 413.

  "Don Juan," 245, 246 n.

  Donne, J., 303, 318-9, 416.

  "Don Quixote," 164, 330, 337, 346, 381.

  Douce, F., 306, 418.

  Drake, Sir Francis, 1, 350.

  Drake, Nathan, 17, 354.

  Drummond, William, of Hawthornden, 326, 424.

  Dryden, J., xxxiii, xxxiv, 107, 127, 200, 268, 303, 323.

  Du Bartas, G., 12, 353.

  Duns Scotus, 211, 328, 392.

  Durfey, Tom, 141, 377.

  Dyer, G., 313, 419.


  Eachard, John, 157, 380.

  Edgeworth, Maria, xxxvi.

  Edinburgh Review, xi, xv, xxxv, xxxvi, xxxviii, xlvi, lxxi, lxxii.

  Edwards, Jonathan, 327, 424.

  Elliston, R. W., 300, 415.

  "Emilius," xlviii, 339-40.

  "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," 244.

  "Epistle of Eloise to Abelard," 127.

  "Essay on Criticism," 124-5.

  "Essay on Laws," xxiii.

  "Essay on the Principles of Human Action," xiv, 287, 412.

  Estcourt, R., 141, 377.

  Euripides, 209.

  "Eve of St. Agnes," lviii.

  "Excursion, The," 198.


  "Faërie Queene," xlvii, xlviii, 13, 356, 357.

  Fairfax, Edward, 11.

  Farquhar, George, 343.

  Fawcett, J., xii, 385.

  Fichte, J. G., 212, 394.

  Field, Barron, 324, 420.

  Fielding, H., xiii, xlii, lvii, 156-65, 167, 224, 298, 303, 324,
        380, 415.

  Fletcher, John, 4, 16, 17, 354.

  Ford, John, lvi.

  Foster, John, xxxv n.

  Fox, C. J., 177 n., 188, 298, 385.

  Francis, Sir Philip, 393.

  Friend, The, 215, 396.

  Froissart, Jean, 346, 430.

  Froude, J. A., xxxiii.

  Fuller, T., 224, 346, 400.

  Fuseli, H., 145, 310, 378.


  Garrick, D., 151, 324-5, 420.

  Gay, J., 224, 303, 328, 401.

  Geoffrey of Monmouth, 353.

  "George Barnwell," 365.

  Gessner, S., 413.

  Ghirlandaio, 212, 329, 331, 394.

  Gibbon, Edward, xxxv, 224.

  Gifford, W., xxxviii.

  "Gil Blas," 303, 337, 381.

  Giorgione, 329, 425.

  Giotto, 212, 329, 331, 394.

  Godwin, W., xi, xiii, xv, lxvii, 212, 226, 284-5, 300, 311, 326, 383,
        393, 396.

  Goethe, J. W., xiii, 212, 341, 394, 409.

  Golding, Arthur, 352.

  Goldsmith, Oliver, 148, 150, 151, 152-3, 162, 170, 212, 308, 321, 325,
        342.

  Gosse, E., xliv n.

  Gray, T., 155, 200, 298, 328, 414.

  Greville, Fulke, 210, 316-7, 326, 390.

  Guardian, The, 145, 378.

  Guicciardini, F., 346, 430.

  Guido, 329, 425.

  "Guy Faux," 224, 231, 315, 331, 399.

  "Guzman d'Alfarache," 381.


  Halifax, Marquis of, 138, 376.

  "Hamlet," liv, 14, 37-9, 51, 60, 76-84, 367-8.

  Hampden, John, 232, 402.

  Handel, G. F., 324, 415, 421.

  Harrington, Sir John, 11.

  Hartley, D., 210, 327, 338, 390.

  Hawkesworth, John, 152, 379.

  Haydon, B. F., xxiv, xxvi, xxix, 294, 311, 413.

  Hazlitt, John, xiii.

  Hazlitt, W., the elder, xii, 277-8, 281-4, 411.

  Hazlitt, W. In relation to his age, xi-xii;
    early environment and reading, xii-xiii;
    interest in metaphysics, xiii-xv;
    as a painter, xiii-xiv;
    beginnings of authorship, xiv;
    introduction to journalism, xv;
    as an essayist, xvi ff.;
    his paradox, xvii-xx;
    emotional warmth, xx-xxi;
    outward unhappiness, xxi-xxii;
    sentiment for the past, xxii-xxiii;
    attachment to political principles, xxiii-xxv;
    literary-political quarrels, xxv-xxix;
    embittered feelings, xxix-xxxi;
    Carlyle's judgment, xxxi;
    as an essayist, xxxii-xxxiii;
    as a critic, xxxix ff.;
    debt to Coleridge, xxxix-xl and notes _passim_;
    union of taste and judgment, xl-xli;
    catholicity of taste, xli-xlii;
    narrowness of reading, xlii-xlv;
    generalizing power, xlv-xlvi;
    historical viewpoint, xlvi;
    limitations, xlvii;
    feeling for books, xlviii, 426;
    on literature and life, xlix;
    on "imagination," xlix;
    on substance and form, l;
    on poetry and metre, li;
    scope of his criticism, lii-liii;
    on Shakespeare, liii-lvi;
    on Elizabethan dramatists, lvi;
    on his contemporaries, lvii-lix;
    his prose style, lix-lxix;
    on diction, lxvi n.;
    use of quotations, lxix;
    influence, lxix-lxxiii;
    his view of English character, 19-20;
    on progress in the arts, 262, 358;
    friendship with Lamb, 398-400, 417;
    meeting with Coleridge and its effects, 277-300.

  Hazlitt, W. C, xiv n.

  "Heaven and Earth," 243.

  Heine, Heinrich, liv, lxxi.

  Henley, Ernest, xxxiii.

  Henry VI, 365.

  Herford, C. H., xlii n.

  Hesiod, 11.

  Heywood, T., 2, 4, 326, 422.

  Hobbes, T., xii, xv, 327, 338, 424.

  Hoby, T., 353.

  Hogarth, W., 158, 212, 225, 303, 324, 381.

  Holcroft, T., 285, 300, 304-5, 411, 417.

  Holinshed, Ralph, 15, 346, 353-4, 430.

  Homer, xlviii, 11, 104, 112, 115, 119, 189, 193, 253, 268, 270, 271-2,
        273, 275, 352.

  Hood, Tom, xxxvii.

  Hook, Theodore, 393.

  Hooker, Richard, 1, 350.

  Horne, R. H., lxxii.

  Howells, W. D., lxxi.

  Hume, D., xii, 286-7, 327, 338, 411.

  "Humphrey Clinker," 164, 385.

  Hunt, Leigh, xvii, xxvi, xxxii, liii, lix, lxxi, 306-7, 311, 327, 330-1,
        390, 404, 418, 426.

  Huss, John, 211, 391.

  Hutchinson, Lucy, 330, 425.


  Iago, liv, 42, 72-6, 361, 365.

  Imagination, 34;
    in Shakespeare, 45;
    in Milton, 104-5;
    255-6.

  Inchbald, Elizabeth, 311, 383, 418.

  Irving, Edward, liii, lix, 341.

  Irving, Washington, 397.


  Jeffrey, Francis, xxxvi-xxxviii, xlv, lix, 244, 376, 404.

  Jerome of Prague, 211, 391.

  Jervas, C., 130-1, 375.

  "John Bull," 212, 393.

  "John Buncle," xliv, 302.

  Johnson, S., xxxiv, xxxvi, lii, 34, 99, 107, 109, 145-52;
    his prose style, 146-9, 186;
    his character by Boswell, 150-2;
    167, 189, 201, 212, 287, 298, 303, 308, 317, 321, 325, 345, 358, 361,
        362, 366, 373, 378, 387, 397, 409, 414-5.

  "John Woodvill," 226, 401.

  Jonson, Ben, 1, 2, 4, 11, 226, 326, 423-4.

  "Joseph Andrews," 156-8, 160, 161-2, 337.

  "Julia de Roubigné," 154, 343.

  "Julius Cæsar," 11.

  Junius, 190, 212, 224, 298, 303, 324, 345, 393, 414.


  Kames, Lord, xxxiv, xxxv.

  Kant, I., 212, 394, 395, 417.

  Kean, E., 84, 368.

  Keats, John, xvi, xxv, xxxvi, xlviii, lviii, 341, 428-9.

  Kemble, J. P., 84, 310, 367-8.

  "King Lear," l, liv, 14, 42, 48, 51, 60, 78, 256-7, 260, 361, 363.

  Kneller, Sir Godfrey, 333, 427.

  Kotzebue, A. F. F., xliv.


  La Fontaine, Jean de, 330, 425.

  Lamb, Charles, xvii, xxii, xxvi, xxxii, xliii, xliv, xlviii, liii, lvi,
        lxi, lxvii, lxxi, 18, 71, 83 n., 154, 209, 220-6,
    his conversation, 225, 302-3, 311;
    meeting with Hazlitt, 300;
    friendship with Hazlitt, 305, 398-400, 417;
    his Wednesday evenings, 302-332;
    311, 339 n., 367, 368, 369, 380, 381, 386, 390, 425, 426.

  Lamb, Mary, xxii, 330, 380, 415.

  Landor, W. S., xxxiii, 425.

  Lang, Andrew, xxvi.

  "Laodamia," 197.

  "Lara," 242.

  La Rochefoucauld, François de, xvi, 330, 425.

  "Launcelot Greaves," 164.

  "Lazarillo de Tormes," 381.

  Leibnitz, G., 210, 327, 391.

  Leonardo da Vinci, 225, 329, 331, 401.

  Le Sage, Alain, 157, 380.

  Lessing, G. E., 212, 395.

  "Letter of Elia to Robert Southey," 400, 417.

  Lewis, M. G., 294, 413.

  Liberal, The, 244, 404.

  Lillie, Charles, 141, 377.

  Lillo, G., l, 71, 258, 365.

  Locke, John, 315-6, 328, 338.

  Lockhart, J. G., xxvi, xxvii, xxviii, xxxvii-xxxviii, lix.

  London Magazine, xxvi n., xxxvii-xxxviii, lxxi.

  Longinus, xxxiii, xxxv, lxvii, 115, 372.

  Lounger, The, 153, 379.

  Lowell, J. R., lvi, lxxii-lxxiii.

  Lucas, E. V., 417.

  Luther, Martin, 232, 402.

  "Lutrin," 124, 374.

  "Lyrical Ballads," 192, 198, 291-2, 297, 342.

  Lyttleton, Lord, 379.


  MacAdam, J. L., 232, 402.

  Macaulay, T. B., lxxi, 393.

  "Macbeth," 14, 42, 48, 51, 60-71, 263, 361, 365, 407.

  Machiavelli, N., 12, 353.

  Mackail, J. W., lii n.

  Mackenzie, H., 153-4, 343, 379.

  Mackintosh, Sir James, 284, 411.

  Macpherson, J., 409-10.

  Malebranche, N., 210, 390.

  Malthus, T. R., xiv.

  Mandeville, B., 145, 218, 378.

  "Manfred," 244.

  "Man of Feeling," 154, 343.

  "Man of the World, The," 153.

  Mansfield, Lord, 129, 375.

  Marivaux, Pierre, 155, 212, 380.

  Marlborough, Duke of, 141, 377.

  Marlowe, Christopher, lvi, 2, 4, 16, 326, 338, 421.

  Marston, John, 2, 4, 350.

  Massaccio, 212, 394.

  Michael Angelo, 200, 275, 329, 425.

  Middleton, T., 2, 4, 71, 350.

  "Midsummer Night's Dream," lv, 17, 85-7, 363.

  Millar, A., 333, 427.

  Milman, Henry, xxxvii.

  Milton, John, xlviii, li, lii, liii, lxi, lxxiii, 4, 7, 33, 34-5, 41-2,
        44, 47, 101-17;
    his high seriousness, 101-4;
    his learning, 104;
    his ideas both musical and picturesque, 105-7, 371;
    his blank verse, 107-9;
    resemblance to Dante, 114;
    compared with Homer, 115;
    120, 149, 189, 200, 211, 224, 265, 298, 303, 316, 343-4, 406, 408.

  Mirror, The, 153, 379.

  "Misanthrope," 361.

  Molière, J. B. P., xliii, 97, 252, 330, 361, 425.

  Montagu, Mrs. Basil, 311, 418.

  Montague, Lady Mary Wortley, 324.

  Montaigne, Michel de, xvi, 134-8, 139, 146, 330, 376, 401.

  Montesquieu, C. L. de S., 309.

  Moore, Edward, 1, 258, 379, 406.

  Moore, Thomas, xxxvii, lviii, lxviii, 243.

  More, Hannah, xliv.

  Morgan, Lady, 333, 426.

  Morgann, Maurice, 359, 369.

  Morley, John, xliv n., 383, 384.

  "Much Ado About Nothing," 371.

  Murillo, l, 281, 410.

  Murray, John, xxvii, 289.


  Napoleon, xiii, xxiv, 343 n., 372.

  Neal, Daniel, 211, 391.

  Newcastle, Duchess of, 210, 330, 390.

  "New Eloise, The," 339.

  Newton, Sir Isaac, 145, 315-6, 389.

  Ninon de Lenclos, 330, 425.

  North, Sir Thomas, 11.

  Northcote, James, lvii, 307-8, 311, 401, 418.


  "Ode on the Departing Year," 290.

  Oldfield, Anne, 141, 377.

  Ophelia, 38-9, 82-3, 367.

  Ossian, 271, 275-6, 408, 409-10.

  "Othello," 14, 42, 47, 51, 60, 72-6, 257, 361, 368.

  Otway, T., 4, 328, 351.

  Ovid, 11, 131, 137, 352.


  Paine, Tom, 288, 411.

  Paley, W., 201, 287, 388.

  "Pamela," 166-8.

  "Paradise Lost," xlvii, 303, 310, 385, 406.

  "Paradise Regained," 303.

  Parnell, T., 224, 400.

  Parr, Samuel, 418.

  "Paul and Virginia," 290, 412-3.

  "Peregrine Pickle," 164, 335.

  "Persian Letters," 152, 379.

  "Peter Bell," 294-5.

  Petrarch, F., 12, 320, 353.

  Phaer, Thomas, 352.

  Phillips, E., 304, 324, 416.

  "Philoctetes," 269, 409.

  "Pilgrim's Progress," li, 32, 268-9.

  Pindar, 193.

  Pindar, Peter, 219, 311, 396.

  Pitt, William, 177 n., 298.

  Plato, 211, 253, 392.

  Plotinus, 211, 392.

  Plutarch, 11, 140, 352.

  "Poems on the Naming of Places," 290.

  Poetry, epic and dramatic poetry distinguished, 43;
    verse its obvious distinction, 118, 268-9;
    poetry of art and nature, 119;
    poetry defined, 251 ff., 268-9;
    tragic poetry, 256-61;
    poetic diction, 261-2;
    poetry and civilization, 262-3;
    poetry and painting, 263-5;
    poetry and rhythm, 265-8 n.;
    poetry and eloquence, 271 n.

  Poole, Tom, 291, 295, 413.

  Pope, Alexander, xlii, xlv, lvii, lxiii, lxxii, 32, 107, 109, 110,
        118-32;
    his poetic limitations, 118;
    the poet of artificial life, 119-122;
    his correctness, 126-7;
    his satire, 128-30;
    his compliments, 129-30;
    his letters, 132;
    136, 141, 200, 224, 245, 260, 268, 298, 303, 308, 321-3, 342, 357,
        361, 362, 364, 373-4, 414.

  Poussin, Gaspar, 296, 413.

  Poussin, Nicolas, 26, 201, 357.

  Priestley, Joseph, xii, xv, xxiii, 210, 390.

  Proclus, 211, 392.

  Puck, 45,
    compared with Ariel, 85-6, 365.


  Quarterly Review, xxv, xxvi, xxvii, xxxv, lxvi.


  Rabelais, F., 48, 212, 330, 425.

  Racine, J., 330, 425.

  Radcliffe, Anne, 337, 383, 427.

  Raleigh, Sir Walter, 1, 350.

  Rambler, The, 145-6, 342, 378, 397.

  "Rape of the Lock," l, 122-4.

  Raphael, 212, 264, 298 n., 329, 389, 416, 425.

  "Rasselas," 149, 378.

  "Religious Musings," 211.

  Rembrandt, 202, 263, 329, 388, 389.

  "Remorse," 214, 299, 396.

  "Return from Parnassus," 17.

  Reynolds, Mrs., 304, 321, 323, 416.

  Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 275, 308, 325, 329, 418.

  Richard II, 43, 365.

  Richard III, compared with Macbeth, 68-70, 365.

  Richardson, S., xiii, xlii, lvii, 157, 158, 165-70, 270, 298, 303, 324,
        342, 381, 415.

  "Rivals, The," 164.

  Roberts, William, 244, 404.

  Robertson, J. M., lxxiii n.

  "Robinson Crusoe," li, 201, 268-9.

  "Roderick Random," 162-4.

  Rogers, Samuel, xxxvi, xxxvii.

  "Romeo and Juliet," liv, 51, 84-5, 310, 363, 368.

  Ronsard, Pierre, 12, 353.

  "Rosamond Gray," 154, 226, 401.

  Rousseau, J. J., xii, xiii, xvi, xxiv, xliv n., 212, 311, 330, 339-40,
        428.

  Rowley, William, 2, 350.

  Rubens, Peter Paul, 30, 329, 357.


  Sainte-Beuve, C. A., xl, lxx.

  St. Evremont, Ch., 330, 401, 425.

  St. Pierre, B., 413.

  Saintsbury, G., xl n., lvii, lxx n., lxxiii n., 366.

  Sallust, 12.

  Salmasius, Claudius, 114, 372.

  Sannazarius, 388.

  Saxo Grammaticus, 15, 353.

  Schelling, F. W. J., 212, 394-5.

  Schiller, Friedrich, xliv, 214, 341, 409.

  Schlegel, A. W., liii n., liv, lxxi, 84, 349, 358, 363, 368, 423.

  Schlegel, F., xxvii n.

  Scott, John, xxvi n., xxviii.

  Scott, Sir Walter, xxviii, xxxvi, xxxvii, liii, lviii-lix, 227-35;
    his novels, 227-30;
    his freedom from prejudice, 230-1;
    his Toryism, 231-3;
    character, 234-5;
    compared with Byron, 236-41, 246-7;
    his poetry, 237-8, 241, 249, 296, 347, 383, 408, 427.

  "Sejanus," 11, 424.

  Seneca, 177.

  Settle, Elkanah, 128.

  Shaftesbury, Lord, 138, 377, 408.

  Shakespeare, W., xxvii, xxxiii, xxxiv, xlii, xliii, xlv, l, liii-lvi,
       lxix, lxxi, lxxiii, 1,
    rank among contemporaries, 2-5, 35;
    11, 13, 14, 17, 32, 33, 34-100;
    compared with Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton, 34-5, 40-3;
    compared with modern poets, 44;
    universal sympathy of mind, 35-40, 119, 358;
    his imagination, 45;
    language and versification, 46-7;
    faults, 47-8;
    genius for comedy, 49, 96-9, 361, 371;
    his women, 49, 51-2, 362;
    unity of feeling, 56-7, 363;
    his morality, 59, 81;
    tragic power, 60, 361;
    use of contrast, 66-7;
    skill in individualizing character, 68-70, 85-6, 364-5;
    unsuited to stage, 70-1, 83-4, 87, 369;
    detachment from his characters, 78, 366;
    his poetry, 99-100, 101, 104, 107, 119, 121, 158, 189, 200, 224, 229,
        258, 268, 298, 303, 316, 331, 342, 406, 407, 421-3.

  Shelley, P. B., xi, xxiv, xxv, xxxvi, xxxvii, lviii, 393.

  Shenstone, William, 385.

  Sheridan, R. B., 310.

  Shrewsbury Chronicle, xxiii.

  Siddons, Sarah, 64, 364.

  Sidney, Algernon, 232, 402.

  Sidney, Sir Philip, 1, 16, 288, 303, 316, 354.

  "Sir Charles Grandison," 166, 168, 169, 270, 324, 383.

  Sir Fopling Flutter, xlviii, 312, 339, 419.

  Sir Roger de Coverley, 142.

  Smith, Adam, 282, 410.

  Smollett, T., 157-8, 162-5, 224, 303, 381.

  Socinus, F. P., 211, 391.

  Somers, John, 232, 403.

  Sophocles, 189, 209, 409.

  "Sorrows of Werther," 212, 394.

  South, Robert, 210, 287, 391.

  Southey, Robert, xxviii, xxxvi, lviii, lxxi, 28, 212, 216-9, 289, 300,
        395.

  Spectator, The, 141-5, 342, 377.

  Spenser, Edmund, liii, lvii, lxxiii, 1, 13, 21-33;
    his picturesqueness, 21 ff.;
    his allegory, 25-26;
    language and versification, 32-3;
    34-5, 103, 107, 265, 321, 343, 408.

  Spinoza, Baruch, 211, 391.

  de Staël, Madame, xliv, 426.

  Steele, Richard, xxxii, liii, lvii, 139, 142, 144, 145, 303, 328.

  Sterne, L., xiii, 153, 157, 158, 170-1, 303, 309, 381, 397.

  Stevenson, R. L., xviii n., xxiii, lix.

  Stewart, Dugald, 328, 425.

  Stoddart, Dr., 114, 372.

  Stowe, John, 346, 430.

  Suckling, Sir John, 16.

  Surrey, Earl of, 16, 352, 354.

  Swedenborg, Emanuel, 211, 392.

  Swift, Jonathan, xviii n., lx, 212, 303, 328, 377.

  Sylvester, Joshua, 353.


  Tacitus, 12.

  Talfourd, T. N., lxxii, 379.

  "Tartuffe," 361.

  Tasso, T., xliii, 11, 24 n., 112, 243, 352.

  Tatler, The, 139, 140-5, 342, 377.

  Taylor, Jeremy, liii, 211, 298, 392.

  "Tempest," 13, 85-6, 363.

  Temple, Sir William, 138, 377.

  Thackeray, W. M., lxii.

  Thomson, James, 109, 200, 212, 297, 328.

  Thucydides, 346, 430.

  Thurloe, John, 333, 427.

  Tillotson, John, 210, 391.

  "Timon of Athens," 48, 361.

  Titian, 264, 308, 320, 329, 343, 387, 389.

  "Tom Jones," xlviii, 159-60, 162-3, 290, 335-7.

  Tooke, Horne, 309, 310, 327, 418.

  "Troilus and Cressida," 45.

  Tucker, Abraham, xiv.

  Turberville, George, 352-3.

  Turenne, Marshal, 141, 377.

  "Twelfth Night," 96-100.

  "Two Noble Kinsmen," 17.

  Twyne, Thomas, 352.


  Vanbrugh, Sir John, 97, 141, 371.

  Van Dyck, Sir Anthony, 329, 389, 425.

  Velasquez, 281, 410.

  "Venice Preserved," 351.

  Veronese, Paul, 228, 402.

  Virgil, 11, 137, 140, 297, 352.

  "Vision of Judgment," 248, 289, 404-5.

  Voltaire, F. M. A., xliv, 48, 212, 330, 389, 401, 425.


  Waithman, Robert, 226, 401.

  "Wallenstein," 214, 396.

  Walton, Izaak, 201, 387-8.

  Warton, Joseph, xxxv, 408.

  Waterloo, Antoine, 201, 388.

  Waverley Novels, 224, 228-30, 240, 303, 333.

  Webster, John, lvi, 1, 4, 326, 421-2.

  Wedgwood, Tom, 284-6, 411.

  Whateley, Thomas, 365.

  White, James, 304, 416.

  "Whole Duty of Man," 81.

  Wickliff, John, 232, 402.

  Wilson, John, xxvi, xxviii.

  Wolcot, John. See Peter Pindar.

  Wolstonecraft, Mary, 284-5, 311, 393, 411.

  Wordsworth, W., xi, xxviii-xxix, xxxvi, xxxvii, xxxviii, xliii, xlviii,
        liii, lviii-lix, lxix, 3, 109, 191-204;
    the poet of simple humanity, 191;
    his democracy, 192;
    defiance of convention, 192-4;
    poet of nature, 195-6;
    his philosophic vein, 196-8;
    his appearance, voice, and manner, 198-9, 293-5;
    his opinions of poets and painters, 199-202, 388-9;
    "the child of disappointment," 203-4, 216, 242, 244, 284, 290-5;
    meeting with Hazlitt, 293, 297, 311, 345, 386, 395, 413.

  World, The, 152, 342, 379.

  Wycherley, William, 97, 371.


  Young, Edward, 109, 366.


  Zanga, 76.

  Zisca, John, 211, 391.



Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

Additional spacing after some of the quotes is intentional to indicate
both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as
presented in the original text.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "agan" corrected to "again" (page lxv)
  "controul" corrected to "control" (page 18)
  "Guttony" corrected to "Gluttony" (page 26)
  "developement" corrected to "development" (page 78)
  "Pharoah's" corrected to "Pharaoh's" (page 94)
  "beween" corrected to "between" (page 95)
  "theirs" corrected to "their" (page 133)
  "atchieve" corrected to "achieve" (page 136)
  "idomatic" corrected to "idiomatic" (page 170)
  "distate" corrected to "distaste" (page 222)
  "Woolstonecroft" corrected to "Wolstonecraft" (page 311)
  "recal" corrected to "recall" (page 338)
  "begininng" corrected to "beginning" (page 341)

Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in
spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been retained.





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