صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

have ever received into our “ heart of hearts.” The crispness of the descriptive passages, the fine spirit of gallantry in the chivalrous delineations, the exquisite gradations of the fatal affection and the mild heart-breaking remorse of the heroine, form, altogether, a body of sweetly-bitter recollections, for which none but the most heartless of critics would be unthankful. The fidelity and spirit of his little translations are surprising. Nor must we forget his prose works ;—the wonderful power, with which he has for many years sent forth weekly essays, of great originality, both of substance and expression ; and which seem now as fresh and unexhausted as ever. We have nothing here to do with his religion or his politics :-but, it is impossible to help admiring the healthful impulses, which he has so long been breathing “ into the torpid breast of daily life;" or the plain and manly energy, with which he has shaken the selfism of the age, and sent the claims of the wretched in full and resistless force to the bosoms of the proud, or the thoughtless. In some of his productions especially in several numbers of the Indicator-he bas revived some of those lost parts of our old experience, which we had else wholly forgotten ; and has given a fresh sacredness to our daily walks and ordinary habits. We do not see any occasion in this for terms of reproach or ridicule. The scenery around London is not the finest in the world; but it is all which an immense multitude can see of nature, and surely it is no less worthy an aim to hallow a spot which thousands may visit, than to expatiate on the charms of some dainty solitude, which can be enjoyed only by an occasional traveller.

There are other living poets, some of them of great excellence, op whose merits we should be happy to dwell, but that time and space would fail us. We might expatiate on the heaven-breathing pensiveness of Montgomery—on the elegant reminiscences of Rogers-on the gentle eccentricity of Wilson--on the luxurious melancholy of Bowles-or on the soft beauties of the Ettrick Shepherd. The works of Lloyd are rich in materials of reflectionmost intense, yet most gentle-most melancholy, yet most full of kindness—most original in philosophic thought, yet most calm and benignant towards the errors of the world. Reynolds has given delightful indications of a free, and happy, and bounteous spirit, fit to sing of merry outlaws and greenwood revelries, which we trust he will suffer to refresh us with its blithe carollings. Keats, whose Endymion was so cruelly treated by the critics, has just put forth a volume of poems which must effectually silence his deriders. The rich romance of his Lamia—the holy beauty of his St. Agnes' Eve -the pure and simple diction and intense feeling of his Isabella and the rough sublimity of his Hyperian-cannot be laughed down, though all the periodical critics in England and Scotland were to

assail them with their sneers. Shelley, too, notwithstanding the odious subject of his last tragedy, evinced in that strange work a real human power, of which there is little trace among the cold allegories and metaphysical splendours of his earlier productions. No one can fail to perceive, that there are mighty elements in his genius, although there is a melancholy want of a presiding power -a central harmony—in his soul. Indeed, rich as the present age is in poetry, it is even richer in promise. There are many mindsamong which we may, particularly, mention that of Maturin which are yet disturbed even by the number of their own incomplete perceptions. These, however, will doubtless fulfil their glorious destiny, as their imaginations settle into that calm lucidness, which in the instance of Keats has so rapidly succeeded to turbid and impetuous confusion.

The dramatic literature of the present age does not hold a rank proportioned to its poetical genius. But our tragedy, at least, is superior to any which has been produced since the rich period of Elizabeth and of James. Though the dramatic works of Shiel, Maturin, Coleridge, and Milman, are not so grand, and harmonious, and impressive, as the talent of their authors would lead us to desire, they are far superior to the tragedies of Hill, Southern, Murphy, Johnson, Philipps, Thomson, Young, Addison, or Rowe. Otway's Venice Preserved, alone-and that only in the structure of its plot-is superior to the Remorse, to Bertram, Fazio, or Evadne. And then-moré pure, more dramatic, more gentle, than all these, is the tragedy of Virginius--a piece of simple yet beautiful humanity-in which the most exquisite succession of classic groups is animated with young life and connected by the finest links of interest and the sweetest of Roman stories lives before us at once, new and familiar to our bosoms.

We shall not be suspected of any undue partiality towards modern criticism. But its talent shows, perhaps, more decidedly than any thing else, the great start which the human mind has taken of late years. Throughout all the periodical works extant, from the Edinburgh Review down to the lowest of the Magazines, striking indications may be perceived of " that something far more deeply interfused,” which is now working in the literature of England, We not rarely see criticisms on theatrical performances of the preceding evening in the daily newspapers, which would put to shame the elaborate observations of Dr. Johnson on Shakspeare. Mr. Hazlitt-incomparably the most original of the regular critics has almost raised criticism into an independent art, and, while analyzing the merits of others, has disclosed stores of sentiment, thought, and fancy, which are his own peculiar property. His relish for the excellencies of those whom he eulogizes, is so keen, that, in his delineations, the pleasures of intellect become almost as vivid and substantial as those of sense. He introduces us into the very presence of the great of old time, and evables us almost to imagine that we hear them utter the living words of beauty and wisdom. He mäkes us companions of their happiest hours, and shares not only in the pleasures which they diffused, but in those which they tasted. He discloses to us the hidden soul of beauty, not like an anatomist but like a lover. His criticism, instead of breaking the sweetest enchantments of life, prolongs them, and teaches us to love poetic excellence more intensely, as well as more wisely.

The present age is, also, honourably distinguished by the variety and the excellence of productions from the pen of women. In poetry-there is the deep passion, richly tinged with fancy, of Baillie-the delicate romance of Mitford-the gentle beauty and feminine chivalry of Beetham—and the classic elegance of Hemans. There is a greater abundance of female talent among the novelists. The exquisite sarcasm of humour of Madame D'Arblay- the soft and romantic charm of the novels of the Portersthe briliant ease and admirable good sense of Edgeworth the intense humanity of Inchbald—the profound insight into the fearful depths of the soul with which the author of Glenarvon is gifted the heart-rending pathos of Opie-and the gentle wisdom, the holy sympathy with holiest childhood, and the sweet imaginings, of the author of Mrs. Leicester's School-soften and brighten the literary aspect of the age. These indications of female talent are not only delightful in themselves, but inestimable as proofs of the rich intellectual treasures which are diffused throughout the sex, to whom the next generation will owe their first and their most sacred impressions.

But, after all, the best intellectual sign of the present times is the general education of the poor. This ensures duration to the principles of good, by whatever political changes the frame of society may be shaken. The sense of human rights and of human duties is not now confined to a few, and, therefore, liable to be lost, but is stamped in living characters on millions of hearts. And the foundations of human improvement thus secured, it has a tendency to advance in a true geometrical progression. Meanwhile, the effects of the spirit of improvement which have long been silently preparing in different portions of the globe, are becoming brillianily manifest. The vast continent of South-America, whether it continue nominally dependant on European states, or retain its own newly-asserted freedom, will teem with new intellect, enterprise, and energy. Old Spain, long sunk into the most abject degradation, has suddenly awakened, as if refreshed from slumber, and her old genius must revive with her old dignities. A bloodless revolution has just given liberty to Naples, and ihus has VOL. II.

22

opened the way for the restoration of Italy. That beautiful region again will soon inspire her bards with richer strains than of yore, and diffuse throughout the world a purer luxury. Amidst these quickenings of humanity, individual poets, indeed, must lose that personal importance which in darker periods would be their portion. All selfism-all predominant desire for the building up of individual fame-must give way to the earnest and single wish to share in and promote the general progress of the species. He is unworthy of the name of a great poet, who is not contented that the loveliest of his imaginations should be lost in the general light, or viewed only as the soft and delicate streaks which shall usher in that glorious dawn, which is, we believe, about to rise on the world, and to set no more!

ART. VIII. 1. The Sketch Book. By GEOFFREY CRAYON, Gent.

2 Vols. Svo. London, 1819, 1820. [Review, Aug. 1820.]

Though this is a very pleasing book in itself, and displays no ordinary reach of thought and elegance of fancy, it is not exactly on that account that we are now tempted to notice it as a very remarkable publication, and to predict that it will form an era in the literature of the nation to which it belongs. It is the work of an American, entirely bred and trained in that country-originally published within its territory--and, as we understand, very extensively circulated, and very much admired among its natives. Now, the most remarkable thing in a work so circumstanced certainly is, that it should be written throughout with the greatest care and accuracy, and worked up to great purity and beauty of diction, on the model of the most elegant and polished of our native writers. It is the first American work, we rather think, of any description, but certainly the first purely literary production, to which we could give this praise; and we hope and trust that we may hail it as the harbinger of a purer and juster taste—the foundation of a chaster and better school, for the writers of that great and intelligent country. Its genius, as we have frequently observed, has not hitherto been much turned to letters; and, what it has produced in that departinent, has been defective in taste certainly rather than in talent. The appearance of a few such works as the present will go far to wipe off this reproach also; and we cordially hope that this author's merited success, both at home and abroad, will stimulate his countrymen to copy the methods by which he has attained it; and that they will submit to receive, from the example of their ingenious compatriot, that lesson which the precepts of strangers do not seem hitherto to have very effectually inculcated. a

a While we are upon the subject of American literature, we think ourselves

But though it is primarily for its style and composition that we . are induced to notice this book, it would be quite unjust to the author not to add, that he deserves very high commendation for its more substantial qualities; and that we have seldom seen a work that gave us a more pleasing impression of the writer's character, or a more favourable one of his judgment and taste. There is a tone of fairness and indulgence—and of gentleness and philanthropy so unaffectedly diffused through the whole work, and tempering and harmonizing so gracefully, both with its pensive and its gayer humours, as to disarm all ordinarily good-natured critics of their asperity, and to secure to the author, from all worthy readers, the same candour and kindness of which he sets so laudable an example. The want is of force and originality in the reasoning, and speculative parts, and of boldness and incident in the inventive; though the place of these more commanding qualities is not ill supplied by great liberality and sound sense, and by a very considerable vein of humour, and no ordinary grace and tenderness of fan. cy. The manner perhaps throughout is more attended to than the matter; and the care necessary to maintain the rythm and polish of the sentences, has sometimes interfered with the force of the reasoning, or limited and impoverished the illustrations they might otherwise have supplied.

We have forgotien all this time to inform our readers, that the publication consists of a series or collection of detached essays and tales of various descriptions-originally published apart, in the form of a periodical miscellany, for the instruction and delight of America---and now collected into two volumes for the refreshment of the English public. The English writers whom the author has chiefly copied, are Addison and Goldsmith, in the humorous and discursive parts—and our own excellent Mackenzie, in the more soft and pathetic. In their highest and most characteristic merits,

called upon to state, that we have lately received two Numbers, being those for January and April last, of. The Vorth American Review, or Miscellaneous Journal,' published quarterly at Boston, which appears to us to be by far the best and most promising production of the press of that country that has ever come to our hands. It is written with great spirit, learning and ability, on a great variety of subjects; and abounds with profound and original discussions on the Inost interesting topics. Though abundantly patriotic, or rather national, there is nothing offensive or absolutely unreasonable in the tone of its politics; and no very reprehensible marks either of national partialities or antipathies. The style is generally good, though with considerable exceptions and sins oftener from affectation than ignorance. But the work is of a powerful and masculine character, and is decidedly superior to any thing of the kind that existed in EuTope twenty years ago.

It is a proud thing for us to see Quarterly Reviews propagating bold truths and original speculations in all quarters of the world; and, when we grow old and stupid ourselves, we hope still to be honoured in the talents and merits of those heirs of our principles, and children of our example.

« السابقةمتابعة »