صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

which is very likely to make them assured and masculine: but men, who are to go out into the world, and particularly those who are intended for any of the public professions, require more or less of a public education. The present fault seems to consist in their being sent too early to the public seminary, before their minds are sufficiently imbued with those moral and religious principles and habits, on the presence or absence of which depends their destiny. Solomon says, “ Train up a child in the way he should go :" but how many children are sent from home to be, in a great measure, their own inasters before they are trained ? What mere boys go to our public universities ! What sums do they squander there, and how do they squander them? Is this education ?--All, however, who go to college have not the means of being profuse spendthrifts: but a few examples of profusion in our universities have a bad influence, which reaches much farther than it is commonly supposed to extend. Mr. C. and Mr. M. are at variance on the subject of academical education. We refer the reader to p. 64. et seq.

We must not, we cannot, follow Mr. M. over the ground which we have already traversed with Mr. C. in his account of himself in his own Memoirs; nor can we even glance at every digression or episode by which the present critical narrative is diversified. Enough, we think, will be effected by us in this article, if by a few selections we enable the reader to form some idea of the nature of Mr. M.'s undertaking, and of his merit in the execution of it.

It is well known that Mr. Cumberland's success as a dramatist, especially the fame which he acquired by “The West Indian," introduced him to the society of Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, Rey. nolds, &c. and other wits of the last age. When Mr. M. arrives at this period of his hero's life, he enters into a eulogy on Dr. Johnson's style, which is very natural for one who certainly strives to copy it. He

it. He says,

" It has been the fashion, I know, to decry, in particular, the style of his Ramblers; but repeated perusals of that work have convinced me that though a uniformity in the construction of its sentences may sometimes prevail, yet it exhibits a continued and unbroken splendour of composition which no other work in the English language can produce in the saine degree. That concentrated energy which belongs to it, that vigorous application of terms not then familiarized to the public ear, but most expressive and most desirable, and that sedulous rejection of expletives, from which none of the writings of his predecessors were free, together with the melodious collocation of the sentences, present a dazzling accumulation of excellencies which have outlived, and will continue to outlive, every attempt to obscure them, descending to posterity with increased and increasing lustre. I am not insensible to the few blemishes which may be justly said to pollute this perfection; but they are so trivial, and are so nobly redeemed by the greatness of surrounding beauties, that I could never pause to dwell upon them, por will I now stop to specify them. I am aware that the latter productious of Johnson advance a step, and but a small step, beyond this excellence; and that advance arises solely from his having, towards the close of his career, disencunibered his style from the few spots that disfigured it, and presented what may be prouoguced a pure and perfect model of writing.”

On the living as well as on the dead, this critic lavishes his strictures. Poor Miss Seward is bandled rather roughly in a long note; and Mr. Walter Scott will, perhaps, think that Mr. M.'s appreciation of his merit will be of no service to his fame.

Many other persons and subjects will be found in this miscellaneous work, which the reader little expects. Inter alia, here are anecdotes of Lord Rodney, and a full account of that important improvement in naval tactics by wbich we have obtained very signal victories, viz. breaking the enemy's line; an idea which, it is well known, was first suggested by Mr. Clerk in his Essay on Naval Tactics, in 1782, and first practised by the admiral just mentioned.

When Mr. Cumberland returned from his Spanish mission, and found the surmise of Count Florida Blanca verified, by our ministry refusing to refund his expenses, which amounted to 4,5001. he was thrown into great difficulties, and obliged to sell his estate and retire from the capital. In this emergency, he chose Tunbridge Wells for the place of his residence, and sought reiuge from the world in his library. In the poem called Retrospection, which he published not long before his death, he alludes to these circumstances:

* Hail to thee, Tunbridge! Hail Hygeian fount;
Still as thy waters flow, may they dispense
Health to the sick, and comfort to the sad!
Sad I came to thee, comfortless aud sick
Of many sorrows: still th' envenon'd shaft
of base injustice rankled in my breast;
Still on my haggard cheek the fever bung-

My only recompense --Thirty long years
Have blanch'd my temples since I first was taught
The painful truth, that I but mock'd my hopes,
And fool'd my senses, whilst I went astray
To palaces and courts to search for that
Which dwells not in them. No: to you, my books!
To you, the dear companions of my youth,
Still my best comforters, I turn'd for

peace;
To you at morning break I came, with you
Agaiu I conmuu'd o'er the midnight lamp,

[merged small][ocr errors]

And haply rescu'd from the abyss of time
Some precious relics of the Grecian muse,
Which else had perish'd : these were pleasing toils,
For these some learned men, who knew how deep
I delv'd to fetch them up, have giv'n me praise,
And I am largely paid; of this do court,
No craft can rob me, and I boldly trust

The treasure will not perish at my death.”
An opportunity, so fairly presented, of commenting on the ad-
vantages of literary pursuits, is not lost on Mr. M., who continues
the subject in prose, offering remarks which are at once pertinent
and well expressed:

“ One part of the preceding extract (that where he commemorates the many hours of unalloyed happiness which he derived from his books) will be read by every literary man with a pleasing consciousness of its truth. How few reflections upon the employment of time, indeed, can equal those which a scholar feels when he retraces jo his imagination the hours he has devoted to voluntary and secluded study! The remembrance of past actions, on which virtue has fixed her approving stamp, may equal, but certainly cannot surpass then. lu a mind tinctured with the love of knowledge, erery pleasing idea is associated, as it contemplates those moments of placid eojoyment when instruction was silently insinuating itself, and when every day opened new stores of intellectual wealth, which the eager pupil of wisdom panted to possess. Inanimate objects become connected with our progress, and we remember, with delight, the shady walk, the silent grove, or the beauteous landscape, where we first opened some favourite volume, or first dwelt upon some matchless effusion of the muse still cherished by the memory. These are emotions familiar to the boson of every student, and they are such as ever come with welcome, for they revive the recollection of a period which is eudeared to bim by the most pleasing images of past felicity. Our advancement iu koorledge, or our completion of what we wish to know, is attended by few of those gay and inspiriting sensations which accompany our initiation, when all before us is new and untried, and hope promises, with flattering delusion, all that we wish, and more than we fiod.

“ Books are companions which accommodate themselves, with unreproaching williugness, to all our humours. If we are jocund, or if we are sad, if we are studious to learn, or desirous only to be amused, he that has a relish for reading, will find the ready means of supplying all his intellectual wants in the silence of bis library. They are friends whom no estimation can overvalue; they are always at our call, and ready to offer their aid and consolation; nor need we overstrain our desires by courtesy, for the moment they cease to be welcome we may dismiss them from our society without fear of reproach or offence. Of what other friends can we say as much?”

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Having been led, in the course of this critical narrative, to notice the appearance of Cumberland's comedy of the Walloons, in 1782, in which the character of Father Sullivan was written for Henderson, Mr. Mudford takes occasion to reprobate the practice current among dramatic writers, of drawing characters for particular actors. In the succeeding chapter, he speaks, and properly, with greater displeasure, of a bint ihrown out in one of the papers of Mr. C.'s Observer, viz. that “the right of publishing parliamentary debates is replete with mischief.” Mr. M. cogibats this idea with the boldness of a true constitutionalist :

“ In my opinion, whenever the day comes that the British legislature deliberates with closed doors, that day will be the sigoal for the estiuction of British liberty. The great moral engine of public opinion, that tribunal to which every public man should be amenable, will be destroyed, and on its ruins will be erected a mysterious tyranny which will bow down the necks of my countrymen to the dust, without, perhaps, perpetrating any overt act of despotism flagrant enough to rouse them to resistance. The most dangerous, indeed, of all attacks op freedom, are those which imperceptibly sap its foundatious; where nothing is seen to fall till the last support is silently undermined, and the whole fabric rushes to instantaneous destruction."

Of all Mr. C.'s publications, the Observer has been, and will, perhaps, continue to be, most read and approved. We, therefore, select some parts of Mr. Mudford's criticisms on that work, as interesting exemplifications of his reviewing powers:

“ Johnson produced his Ramblers with very little assistance from contemporary wits; but Cumberland wrote his Observer without any. The different powers of the two writers, however, may be easily ascertained from a very slight inspection of their topics. Jobnson drew solely from the stores of his own mind. His imagination quickened into perpetual growth objects of discussion; he seized upon an ordinary subject, and by the energy of his language, the richness of his fancy, the fertility of his allusions, and, above all, by the deep insight into human nature which he possessed, he so decorated and enforced it, that had novelty lent her aid, she could scarcely have added another attraction. He derived little help from books, and seldom extended bis essays by quotation. They were short, also, and it did not often happen that the topic was pursued through successive numbers, for the quickness of his invention was such that he seldom needed to protract a disquisition by a languid iteration of ideas. His Rambler consists of two hundred and eight papers, and he discharges all the favours he received by the ackuowledgement of six out of this number.

“ Cumberland's Observer contains as great, if not a greater, quantity of matter, and it comprises only one hundred and fifty-two papers. of these more than one third is compiled from other books. They consist of critical researches into ancient writers, accompanied with copious exiracts; of brief accounts of philosophers and poets, derived from sources familiar to the learoed; and of historical relations woich require liule other labour than that of writing down the facts relaioed in the memory. These papers which are original are expanded inte unusual copiousness, and are sometimes pursued through several successive essays. They were written, tov, at distant intervals of time, while Johuson's were produced by the necessity of stated and periodical labour within the space of two years.

“ From this comparison, (honourable, indeed, to Cumberland, for with him alone can it be made, all our other essayists having been associated together in their respective labours.) two conclusions may be inferred; one, that Johnson possessed an extraordiuary rapidity of conception, accompanied with a rapidity of execution as extraordina ry: the other, thai Cumberland, though he had, perhaps, no less rapidity of execution than Johnson, was far beneath him in that intellectual fruitfulness by which topics are not only elicited, but afterwards pursued and embellished with all the brightest ornaments of fancy, or enforced with all the weightiest arguments of reason.

“ The most conspicuous part of these papers, and that which Cumberland seems to have regarded as his happiest effort, is the inquiry instituted into the history of the Greek writers, particularly of the comic poets now lost. I am vaio enough,' says he, to believe no such collection of the scattered extracts, anecdotes, and remains of those dramatists is any where else to be found;' and in another part of his Memoirs he quotes, with manifest exultation, the following panegyric from the pen of Mr. Walpole, of Triuity College, Cambridge:

Aliunde quoque haud exiguum ornamentum huic volumini accessit, siquidem Cumberlandius nostras amicè benevolèque permisil, ut versiones suas quorundam fragmentorum, erquisitas sane illas, mirâque clegantiâ conditas et commendatas huc transferrem.'

“ Io writing these erudite papers, he was greatly assisted by the marginal annotations upon the authors by his grandfa'her Bentley, some of whose beo's he received from his uncle, (Dr. Richard Bentley,) and among them many of the writers whose works he afterwards illustrated in the Observer. That these essays, indeed, deserve every praise which so much diligence, learning, and skilful criticism can obtain, I will not deny ; but they will oftener be commended than read.

" It is deemed unlucky to stumble on the threshold, but Cumberland has done so. I do not believe, incieed, that it would be possible to produce, from any writer of the last century, a paragraph so seebly involved as that with which the first number of the Observer com mences.

The reader wanders through it in a maze; he finds himself at the end, at last, but wonders how he came there; be attempts to look back and disentangle the path he pursued, and beholds oily inextricable coolusion. I know nothiog that resembles this initial

« السابقةمتابعة »