« السابقةمتابعة »
perhaps he might have been more merciful to Amy-or, if she was to die, awarded her a less shocking death. In allowing himself time, he would have corrected the faults, while he retouched the beauties, of his work, and rendered it more worthy the name of the author of Waverley. In short, (as Goldsmith advises critics to pronounce their judgment,) if he had taken more pains, he would have made a better picture.
It is observed in an English Magazine, of 'some note, that the general diffusion of intelligence through all ranks in England is astonishing; and the editor proceeds to assert, in the triumph of his heart, that a newspaper theatrical critique would put to shame the most elaborate efforts of Johnson on Shakspeare. We have long mourned over the oblivion to which this author seems to be consigned: we have perceived with regret that Addison is no longer a model, and that the Rambler lies neglected on the shelf; and, more in sorrow than in anger, we must take up the cudgels in defence of those old friends, whom we have heard old-fashioned critics rank among the benefactors of literature.
We are very willing to admit, and rejoice in, the fact of that out-spreading of knowledge which is to be perceived, not only in England, but throughout the world. The great number of Reviews, Magazines, and periodical publications—many of them excellent-all above mediocrity-attest the existence of a vast fund of talent in England. But it is second rate talent. When we have named one celebrated groupe, we come to the Colmans the Keats, and the many worthies who swell their list. We do not mean to decry the talents of these writers--we think that they embellish society, and give grace and spirit to light reading
- but it is not the productions of such minds that will vie with the works of Johnson and Addison. It were as proper to compare the beautiful, but shallow and sounding cascade which adorns a summer landscape, to one of our majestic, silent, and deep lakes, whose bosom reflects the image of heaven, and whose waves convey from man to man the necessaries and luxuries of life.
Is it a theatrical critique like this, (and this is a fair specimen,) that would put Addison to shame ?
" Macready's personation of the noble-hearted outlaw, (Rob Roy,)
though it does not exhibit the more poetical qualities of his acting, has a spell to make the heart gush with
strange joy, and to moisten parched eyes with unwonted tears. The power of bills' is visi, bly upon him. His step, his air, his lofty bearing, are not less than those of a prince—but of a prince who has long had the rocky caves for his pavilion, the heather-clad mountain for his throne, and the brave o'erhanging firmament, fretted with golden fire,' for his canopy.” -Or are the graceful, but superficial productions of the Hermit in London, to take precedence of the religion, the morality, the exquisite polish, and the delicate ridicule, of the Spectator? Dr. Johnson, while his cumbrous diction fatigues the ear, rises a giant above our modern authors, in nervousness of expression and strength of thought. The weak points of his character have been the subject of much derision; and men, while they allowed his superior excellence, have taken a secret pleasure in lowering him to their own level. Thanks to the cruel friendship of Boswell—this feeling has been amply gratified. No man was ever a hero to his valet—and never was valet more au fait in his master's domestic concerns, than is the whole world in those of Johnson. The minute details of a long life are laid open-the casual irritations of a moment, accurately numbered—thoughts spoken in confidence, produced in public : not even his devotions were sacred-much less so his imperfections. Few men, we fear, would stand this severe ordeal as well as he did : we may smile at his superstition—pity the occasional feebleness of judgment which have been so fondly recorded—but we must reverence the piety and benevolence which breathed through all his actions.
It may not be amiss, at this moment, to take a cursory glance at the merits of some of the principal Reviews and Magazines produced by this prolific age—which find their way alike to the study of the learned and the toilette of the fashionable. At the head of these works stands confessedly the Edinburgh Review. This Review has done much for the cause of literature-not in discovering any important truth, or unfolding new ideas—but in giving circulation to the discoveries of others, and in tempting those indolent readers who might be startled by a bulky volume,
the benefit of the reviewer's labours in a more condensed form. It cannot be denied, however, that it has been too often led from its high intents, by party spirit or private prejudice. Mr. Jeffrey possesses a keen and penetrating mind : the acuteness he displays in dividing the right from the wrong, and the decision with which he adopts the one and rejects the other, inspire his readers with a confidence in his judgment, which is, we think, seldom unfounded and is, probably, the great source of his popularity.
His merits are, however, shaded by a cold, sneering manner and a flippant petulance; which, at twenty-five, might have been considered a youthful foible, but, at fifty, must meet with less excuse. Mr. Jeffrey's bearing towards America, and American writers, has been unfriendly and uncandid. It may be thought unforgiving to renew this charge, and sullen to remember abuse which has been atoned for: Without feeling any useless irritation or prejudice on this subject, we must assert that the idea of Mr J.'s atoning to America, is the most insulting which has yet been thrown out. Does this gentleman, or any other English writer, imagine, that after twenty years continued revilings, unfounded calumnies, and distorted representation—the languid praise of one author, and the trashy (to borrow their own phrase) and specious review of another, can cancel reiterated offences ?-as a child, who, after swallowing an unpleasant dose, has a sugar plum given him to take the bitter taste from his mouth. It is not such affected and sarcastic praise, as that bestowed upon the Sketch Book, which we seek,- not that we object that the praise is too sparing—but, that the manner in which it is bestowed, savours too much of condescension. Mr. Walsh's book has been pronounced a tedious one, the contest he entered into, unprofitable; and it has been regretted that he has spent his time and talents in widening a breach which the impartial of both countries must deplore : Still he has brought forward some stubborn facts. It may be said that the retaliating principle upon which he acts, is neither good nor dignified; yet in the prosecution of his plan, he has unquestionably succeeded. He has judged England from the words of her mouth, and brought her own writers to prove her corruptions,—he has exhibited a well attested catalogue of evils and crimes, which should cause her sons not only to grieve, but to blush for having reviled other countries. All Mr. Jeffrey's specious words, affected candour, and magnanimous concession, cannot put down this “plain-tale.” But the faults of other countries carry with them no consolation or excuse for those of our own. We are aware that America is no Utopia—that her inhabitants have their full share of the evil propensities inherent in mankind—that her constitution, being formed by men, must have its defects—that its administration is often imperfect. We do not contend that our generals are all magnanimous, or that our lawgivers are Solons. We allow that we have not, and we thank God for not possessing, that luxurious refinement—that excess of civilization, which enervates the nobility of England, and lessens the purity of its daughters. To close this confession, we acknowledge that we have inherited from John Bull, his vainglorious disposition-have caught his habit of boasting ; and we think he will allow it is no boast to add, that we possess enough of his own strength of arm
to excuse a little of his own blustering. A fair representation of facts—an unprejudiced view and candid construction of them -is all that America demands, but in vain, from English writers. Mr. Jeffrey has been much blamed by some of his countrymen, for his treatment of Wordsworth. His remarks on this author have been sometimes petulant; but while he has censured the poet's extravagant affectation, he has not failed to give him due credit for genius. There is no reason why a man who writes absurdly should not be laughed at-or, if he perverts great powers, should not be censured. Mr. Wordsworth's friends could scarcely require Mr. Jeffrey to keep his countenance in reading "Betty Joy,” or desire him gravely to criticise the sailing expedition of blind Harry, (we believe that was the urchin's name,) who went to sea in a washing tub. The prophesy contained in the Edinburgh Review concerning Lord Byron, was certainly unfortunate ; but the work from which the inference was drawn, might have discouraged the hopes of less severe critics. It was impossible, during so long a career, to avoid the commission of many errors : But, though often fastidious, sometimes causelessly severe, the Edinburgh Review must be allowed to have been a vigilant guardian of the public taste.
The Edinburgh Review is not without a rival claimant for the throne of criticism. But though the Quarterly Review is a strong one, and Mr. Gifford is mighty in battle, we think the contest is unequal. The faults of the Edinburgh,--prejudice and party spirit,--are committed in a fourfold degree in the Quarterİy Review. Mr. Gifford is a man of high and unquestioned talent-but his pages have not that raciness of style, which gives such zest to those of his rival. To us, impartial Americans, -who act the part of posterity to English authors,—when we observe Mr. G.'s pertinacity in defending ministerial measures where there is no defence, the rancour with which he treats any unhappy dissenter from his creed, the unprovoked and unparalleled malice lae bears towards hapless America; we cannot but suspect that he “has sold himself”-not to the devil--but to the powers that be. The pitiful spirit evinced in this Review, when speaking of America, is doubtless a disgrace to its pages. The most contemptible journalist is held up as an oracle, if he but speak of us—the most absurd fabrications are accredited, and the most trivial facts afford ground for the most palpable misconstructions. We should, however, consider that it is the reviewer's “vocation. It is for Mr. G. to consider, whether such apparent prostitution of talents and veracity does not tarnish a man's moral, as well as his literary character. We can readily understand why an Englishman loves to rail at France, and ridicule Frenchmen: he thinks it sounds like John Bull; and there have been many Vol. II.
quàrrels between the countries to excite and keep alive unpleasant feelings. There is not between them the bond of one language,—the recollection of one origin, of the same ancestors. It cannot emphatically be said to them—why strive ye together
-are ye not brethren ? But we cannot so easily account for their dislike of Americans, unless it be upon the old principle, that family quarrels are the most violent; and even when made up, are seldom forgotten; like the wound of Patrocles, which, though it was healed, left a deep and irritating scar.-Without offering any other explanation of this question, or staying to be angry or pathetic upon it, we pass on to notice a pretender, whose friends aver-and whose own opinion seems to be that it is a successful rival of the Edinburgh Review.
We know not how it is in the good city of Edinburgh-whether her citizens are willing to exchange the science, judgment, and eloquence of the Edinburgh Review, for personal anecdotes, pugilistic jests, and the fatiguing wanderings of a prosing Cameronian-but we do not think that their transatlantic brethren should be contented with the barter. Where shall we seek the acute criticism-the exquisite tact-the depth of thoughtwhich so often fill the pages of the Edinburgh Review? Most assuredly not, in Blackwood's Magazine. This is a spirited and pleasing work, which we are glad to see once a month.
It contains some humour, some tolerable criticism, and some liveliness of description—but seldom rises to excellence. There is nothing in its pages that can authorize the presuming pertness, with which the editor speaks of Mr. Jeffrey. Its greatest fault, however, is its invasion of the, hitherto sacred, privacies of domestic life. Persons of great or little distinction, are most unceremoniously exposed to public view, their faults and merits discussed, with as much freedom as travellers ransack the apartments of Pompeii; and the gentleman who welcomes his guest at his hospitable board, may, perchance, be rewarded by a full-length portrait, in the next number of Blackwood's Magazine. This work has also performed its duty in abusing America--though now, that it is reprinted here, it has become, (to use an expression of their own,) rather more civilish.
The New Monthly Magazine is a work containing much intelligence : in a literary point of view, it is very respectable. As to its politics, we poor lacerated Yankees cry, hold, enough: indeed, we might say with the Scots woman, who is reported to have rebuked Claverhouse, “If ye will swear, swear sense.” It is rather hard upon us too,—we subscribe for many of these publications; we are too much in the habit of pinning our faith upon their opinions; we read with patience their constant slurs upon our country; but should we make a wry face, and re