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amply compensating the slight labour which we have taken in vain.
But, perhaps, it is the good of the aspirants themselves, rather than of their readers, which the critic professes to design. Here, also, we think he is mistaken. The men of our generation are not too prone to leave their quest after the substantial blessings of the world, in order to pursue those which are aërial and shadowy. The very error of the mind, which takes the love for the power of poetry, is more goodly than common wisdom. But there are certain seasons, we believe, in life-some few golden moments at least-in which all men have really perceived, and felt, and enjoyed, as poets. Who remembers not an hour of serious ecstasy, when, perhaps, as he lay beneath some old tree and gazed on the setting sun, earth seemed a visionary thing, the glories of immortality were half revealed, and the first notes a universal harmony whispered to his soul?-some moment, when he seemed almost to realize the eternal, and could have been well contented to yield up his mortal being?-some little space, populous of high thoughts and disinterested resolves-some touch upon that "line of limitless desires," along which he shall live in a purer sphere? -And if that taste of joy is not to be renewed on earth, the soul will not suffer by an attempt to prolong its memory. It is a mistake, to suppose that young beginners in poetry are always prompted by a mere love of worldly fame. The sense of beauty and the love of the ideal, if they do not draw all the faculties into their likeness, still impart to the soul something of their rich and unearthly colouring. Young fantasy spreads its golden films, slender though they be, through the varied tenour of existence. Imagination, nurtured in the opening of life, though it be not developed in poetic excellence, will strengthen the manly virtue, give a noble cast to the thoughts, and a generous course to the sympathies. It will assist to crush self-love in its first risings, to mellow and soften the heart, and prepare it for its glorious destiny. Even if these consequences did not follow, surely the most exquisite feelings of young hope are not worthy of scorn. They may truly be worth years of toil, of riches, and of honour. Who would crush them at a venture-short and uncertain as life is-and cold and dreary as are often its most brilliant successes? What, indeed, can this world offer to compare with the earliest poetic dreams, which our modern critics think it sport or virtue to destroy?
Such views the youthful bard allure,
And let him nurse his fond deceit,
And what if he must die in sorrow;Who would not cherish dreams so sweet,
Though care and grief should come to-morrow?" But, supposing for a moment that it were really desirable to put down all authors who do not rise into excellence, at any expense of personal feeling, we must not forget the risk which such a process involves, of crushing undeveloped genius. There are many causes
which may prevent minds, gifted with the richest faculties, from exerting them at the first with success. The very number of images, crowding on the mirror of the soul, may for a while darken its surface, and give the idea of inextricable confusion. The young poet's holiest thoughts must often appear to him too sacred to be fully developed to the world. His soul will half shrink at first from the disclosure of its solemn immunities and strange joys. He will thus become timid and irresolute tell but a slight part of that which he feelsand this broken and disjointed communication will appear senseless or feeble. The more deep and original his thoughts-the more dazzling his glimpses into the inmost sanctuaries of nature,-the more difficult will be the task of imbodying these in words, so as to make them palpable to ordinary conceptions. He will be constantly in danger, too, in the fervour of his spirit, of mistaking things which in his mind are connected with strains of delicious musing, for objects, in themselves, stately or sacred. The seeming commonplace, which we despise, may be to him the index to pure thoughts and far-reaching desires. In that which to the careless eye may seem but a little humble spring-pure, perhaps, and sparkling, but scarce worthy of a glancethe more attentive observer may perceive a depth which he cannot fathom, and discover that the seeming fount is really the breaking forth of a noble river, winding its consecrated way beneath the soil, which, as it runs, will soon bare its bosom to the heavens, and glide in a cool and fertilizing majesty. And is there not some danger that souls, whose powers of expression are inadequate to make manifest their inward wealth, should be sealed for ever by the hasty sentences of criticism? The name of Lord Byron is rather unfortunately introduced by the celebrated journal which we have quoted, into its general denunciation against youthful poets. Surely the critics must for the moment have forgotten, that at the outset of the career of that bard, to whose example they now refer, as most illustriously opposed to the mediocrity which they condemn, they themselves poured contempt on his endeavours! Do they now wish that he had taken their counsel? Are they willing to run the hazard, for the sake of putting down a thousand pretenders a few months before their time, of crushing another power such as they esteem his own? Their very excuse-that, at the time, his verses were all which they had adjudged them—is the very proof of the impolicy of such censures. If the object of their scorn has, in this instance, risen above it, how do we know that more delicate minds have not sunk beneath it? Besides, although Lord Byron was not repelled, but rather excited by their judgment, he seems to have sustained from it scarcely less injury. If it stung him into energy, it left its poison in his soul. It first instigated his spleen;-taught him that spirit of scorn which debases the noblest faculties-and impelled him, in his rage, to attack those who had done him no wrong, to scoff at the sanctities of humanity, and to pretend to hate or deride his species!
And, even if genius is too deep to be suppressed, or too celestial to be perverted, is it nothing that the soul of its possessor should be wrung with agony? For a while, criticism may throw back poets whom it cannot annihilate, and make them pause in their course of glory and of joy, "confounded though immortal." Who can estimate those pangs, which on the "purest spirits" are thus made to prey
"as on entrails, joint, and limb, With answerable pains but more intense?" The heart of a young poet is one of the most sacred things on earth. How nicely strung are its fibres-how keen its sensibilities-how shrinking the timidity with which it puts forth its gentle conceptions! And shall such a heart receive rude usage from a world which it only desires to improve and to gladden? Shall its nerves be stretched on the rack, or its apprehensions turned into the instruments of its torture? All this, and more, has been done towards men of whom "this world was not worthy." Cowper, who, first of modern poets, restored to the general heart the feeling of healthful nature-whose soul was without one particle of malice or of guile-whose susceptible and timorous spirit shrunk tremblingly from the touch of this rough world-was chilled, tortured, and almost maddened, by some nameless critic's scorn. Kirke Whitethe delicate beauties of whose mind were destined scarcely to unfold themselves on earthin the beginning of his short career, was cut to the heart by the cold mockery of a stranger. A few sentences, penned, perhaps, in mere carelessness, almost nipped the young blossoms of his genius "like an untimely frost;" palsied for awhile all his faculties-imbittered his little span of life-haunted him almost to the verge of his grave, and heightened his dying agonies! Would the annihilation of all the dulness in the world compensate for one moment's anguish inflicted on hearts like these?
We have been all this time considering not the possible abuses, but the necessary tendencies, of contemporary criticism. All the evils we have pointed out may arise, though no sinister design pervert the Reviewer's judgment-though no prejudice, even unconscious ly, warp him—and, even, though he may decide fairly "from the evidence before him." But it is impossible that this favourable supposition should be often realized in an age like ours. Temper, politics, religion, the interests of rival poets, or rival publishers-a thousand influences, sometimes recognised, and sometimes only felt-decide the sentence on imaginations
the most divine. The very trade of the critic himself-the necessity of his being witty, or brilliant, or sarcastic, for his own sake-is sufficient to disqualify him as a judge. Sad thought!-that the most sensitive, and gentle, and profound of human beings, should be dependent on casual caprice, on the passions of a bookseller, or on the necessities of a period! 4. It may be perceived, from what we have already written, that we do not esteem criticism as a guide more than as a censor. The general effect on the public mind is, we fear, to dissi pate and weaken. It spoils the freshest charms even of the poetry which it praises. It destroys all reverence for great poets, by making the world think of them as a species of culprits, who are to plead their genius as an excuse for their intrusion. Time has been when the poet himself-instead of submitting his works to the public as his master-called around him those whom he thought worthy to receive his precepts, and pointed out to them the divine lineaments, which he felt could never perish. They regarded him, with reverence, as most favoured of mortals. They delighted to sit in the seat of the disciple, not in that of the scorner. How much enjoyment have the people lost by being exalted into judges! The ascent of literature has been rendered smooth and easy, but its rewards are proportionably lessened in value. With how holy a zeal did the aspirant once gird himself to tread the unworn path; how delectably was he refreshed by each plant of green; how intensely did he enjoy every prospect, from the lone and embowered resting-places of his journey! Now, distinctions are levelled-the zest of intellectual pleasures is taken away; and no one hour, like that of Archimedes, ever repays a life of toil. The appetite, satiated with luxuries cheaply acquired, requires new stimulants-even criticism palls-and private slander must be mingled with it to give the necessary relish. Happily, these evils will, at last, work out their own remedy. Scorn, of all human emotions, leaves the frailest monuments behind it. That light which now seems to play around the weapons of periodical criticism, is only like the electrical flame which, to the amazement of the superstitious, wreathes the sword of the Italian soldier on the approach of a storm, vapourish and fleeting. Those mighty poets of our time-who are now overcoming the derision of the critics-will be immortal witnesses of their shame. These will lift their heads, "like mountains when the mists are rolled away," imperishable memorials of the true genius of our time, to the most distant ages.
MODERN PERIODICAL LITERATURE.
[NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]
LITTLE did the authors of the Spectator, all sympathize; without a command of images, the Tattler, and the Guardian, think, while he has a glittering radiance of words which gratifying the simple appetites of our fathers the most superficial may admire; neither too for our periodical literature, how great would hard-hearted always to refuse his admiration, be the number, and how extensive the influ- nor too kindly to suppress a sneer, he has been ence, of their successors in the nineteenth cen- enabled to appear most witty, most wise, and tury. Little did they know that they were most eloquent, to those who have chosen him preparing the way for this strange era in the for their oracle. As Reviewers, who have world of letters, when Reviews and Magazines exercised a fearful power over the hearts and supersede the necessity of research or thought the destinies of young aspirants to fame, this -when each month they become more spirited, gentleman, and his varied coadjutors, have more poignant, and more exciting-and on done many great and irreparable wrongs. every appearance awaken a pleasing crowd of Their very motto, "Judex damnatur cum noturbulent sensations in authors, contributors, cens absolvitur," applied to works offending and the few who belong to neither of these only by their want of genius, asserted a ficticlasses, unknown to our laborious ancestors. tious crime to be punished by a voluntary Without entering, at present, into the inquiry tribunal. It implied that the author of a dull whether this system be, on the whole, as bene- book was a criminal, whose sensibilities justice ficial as it is lively, we will just lightly glance required to be stretched on the rack, and whose at the chief of its productions, which have inmost soul it was a sacred duty to lacerate! such varied and extensive influences for good They even carried this atrocious absurdity or for evil. farther-represented youthful poets as prima The Edinburgh Review-though its power is facie guilty; "swarming with a vicious fecunnow on the wane-has perhaps, on the whole, dity, which invited and required destruction:" produced a deeper and more extensive impres- and spoke of the publication of verses as evision on the public mind than any other work dence, in itself, of want of sense, to be rebutted of its species. It has two distinct characters— only by proofs of surpassing genius.* Thus that of a series of original essays, and a criti- the sweetest hopes were to be rudely brokencal examination of the new works of particular the loveliest visions of existence were to be authors. The first of these constitutes its dissipated-the most ardent and most innocent fairest claim to honourable distinction. In this souls were to be wrung with unutterable anpoint of view, it has one extraordinary merit, guish-and a fearful risk incurred of crushing that instead of partially illustrating only one genius too mighty for sudden development, or set of doctrines, it contains disquisitions equally of changing its energies into poison-in order convincing on almost all sides of almost all that the public might be secured from the pos questions of literature or state policy. The sibility of worthlessness becoming attractive, "bane and antidote" are frequently to be found or individuals shielded from the misery of in the ample compass of its volumes, and not looking into a work which would not tempt unfrequently from the same pen. Its Essays their farther perusal! But the Edinburgh Reon Political Economy display talents of a very view has not been contented with deriding the uncommon order. Their writers have con- pretensions of honest, but ungifted, aspirants; trived to make the dryest subjects enchanting, it has pursued with misrepresentation and and the lowest and most debasing theories ridicule the loftiest and the gentlest spirits of beautiful. Touched by them, the wretched the age, and has prevented the world, for a dogmas of expediency have worn the air of little season, from recognising and enjoying venerable truths, and the degrading specula- their genius. One of their earliest numbers tions of Malthus have appeared full of benevo- contained an elaborate tissue of gross derision lence and of wisdom. They have exerted the on that delicate production of feeling and of uncommon art, while working up a sophism fancy-that fresh revival of the old English into every possible form, to seem as though drama in all its antique graces-that piece of they had boundless store of reasons to spare-natural sweetness and of wood-land beautya very exuberance of proof-which the clear- the tragedy of John Woodvil. They directed ness of their argument rendered it unnecessary the same species of barbarous ridicule against to use. The celebrated Editor of this work, with little imagination—little genuine wit-and no clear view of any great and central principles of criticism, has contrived to dazzle, to astonish, and occasionally to delight, multitudes of readers, and, at one period, to hold the temporary fate of authors at his will. His qualities are all singularly adapted to his office. Without deep feeling, which few can understand, he has a quick sensibility with which
the tale of Cristabel, trying to excite laughter by the cheap process of changing the names of its heroines into Lady C. and Lady G., and employing the easy art of transmuting its romantic incidents into the language of frivolous life, to destroy the fame of its most profound and imaginative author. The mode of criticism adopted on this occasion might, it is
See Ld. Rev., No. 43, p. 68.
obvious, be used with equal success, to give | tions on the state of the poor have been often to the purest and loftiest of works a ludicrous replete with thoughts "informed by nobleness," air. But the mightiest offence of the Edin- and rich in examples of lowly virtue, which burgh Review is the wilful injustice which it have had power to make the heart glow with has done to Wordsworth, or rather to the mul- a genial warmth which Reviews can rarely titude whom it has debarred from the noblest inspire. stock of intellectual delights to be found in Its attack on Lady Morgan, whatever were modern poetry, by the misrepresentation and the merits of her work, was one of the coarsest the scorn which it has poured on his effusions. insults ever offered in print by man to woman. It would require a far longer essay than this to But perhaps its worst piece of injustice was expose all the arts (for arts they have been) its laborious attempt to torture and ruin Mr. which the Review has employed to depreciate Keats, a poet, then of extreme youth, whose this holiest of living bards. To effect this work was wholly unobjectionable in its tenmalignant design, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and dencies, and whose sole offence was a friendSouthey, have been constantly represented as ship for one of the objects of the Reviewer's forming one perverse school or band of inno- hatred, and his courage to avow it. We can vators-though there are perhaps no poets form but a faint idea of what the heart of a whose whole style and train of thought more young poet is, when he first begins to exercise. essentially differ. To the same end, a few his celestial faculties-how eager and tremupeculiar expressions-a few attempts at sim-lous are his hopes-how strange and tumultuplicity of expression on simple theines-a few ous are his joys-how arduous is his difficulty extreme instances of naked language, which of imbodying his rich imaginings in mortal the fashionable gaudiness of poetry had incited -were dwelt on as exhibiting the poet's intellectual character, while passages of the purest and most majestic beauty, of the deepest pathos, and of the noblest music, were regarded as unworthy even to mitigate the critic's scorn. To this end, Southey-who, with all his rich and varied accomplishments, has comparatively but a small portion of Wordsworth's genius -and whose "wild and wondrous lays" are the very antithesis to Wordsworth's intense musings on humanity, and new consecrations of familiar things-was represented as redeeming the school which his mightier friend degraded. To this end, even Wilson-one who had delighted to sit humbly at the feet of Wordsworth, and who derived his choicest inspirations from him-was praised as shedding unwonted lustre over the barrenness of his master. But why multiply examples? Why attempt minutely to expose critics, who in "thoughts which do often lie too deep for tears" can find matter only for jesting-who speak of the high, imaginative conclusion of the White Doe of Rylston as a fine compliment of which they do not know the meaning-and who begin a long and laborious article on the noblest philosophical poem in the world with—“ This will never do?"
The Quarterly Review, inferior to the Edinburgh in its mode of treating matters of mere reason and destitute of that glittering eloquence of which Mr. Jeffrey has been so lavish -is far superior to it in its tone of sentiment, taste, and morals. It has often given intimations of a sense that there are "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the philosophy" of the Northern Reviewers. It has not regarded the wealth of nations as every thing, and the happiness of nations as nothing-it has not rested all the foundations of good on the shifting expediences of time it has not treated human nature as a mere problem for critics to analyze and explain. Its articles on travels have been richly tinged with a spirit of the romantic. Its views of religious sectarianism-unlike the flippant impieties of its rival-have been full of real kindliness and honest sympathy. Its disquisi
language-how sensibly alive are all his feelings to the touches of this rough world! Yet we can guess enough of these to estimate, in some degree, the enormity of a cool attack on a soul so delicately strung-with such aspirations and such fears-in the beginning of its high career. Mr. Keats-who now happily has attained the vantage-ground whence he may defy criticism-was cruelly or wantonly held up to ridicule in the Quarterly Review— to his transitory pain, we fear, but to the lasting disgrace of his traducer. Shelley has less ground of complaining-for he who attacks established institutions with a martyr's spirit, must not be surprised if he is visited with a martyr's doom. All ridicule of Keats was unprovoked insult and injury-an attack on Shelley was open and honest warfare, in which there is nothing to censure but the mode in which it was conducted. To deprecate his principles-to confute his reasonings-to expose his inconsistencies-to picture forth vividly all that his critics believed respecting the tendencies of his works-was just and lawful; but to give currency to slanderous stories respecting his character, and above all, darkly to insinuate guilt which they forebore to develope, was unmanly, and could only serve to injure an honourable cause. Scarcely less disgraceful to the Review is the late elaborate piece of abuse against that great national work, the new edition of Stephens's Greek Thesaurus. It must, however, be confessed, that several articles in recent numbers of the Review have displayed very profound knowledge of the subjects treated, and a deep and gentle spirit of criticism.
The British Review is, both in evil and good, far below the two great Quarterly Journals. It is, however, very far from wanting ability, and as it lacks the gall of its contemporaries, and speaks in the tone of real conviction, though we do not subscribe to all its opinions, we offer it our best wishes.
The Pamphleteer is a work of very meritorious design. Its execution, depending less on the voluntary power of its editor than that of any other periodical work, is necessarily unequal. On the whole, it has imbodied a great number
of valuable essays-which give a view of different sides of important questions, like the articles of the Edinburgh, but without the alloy which the inconsistency of the writers of the last mingle with their discussions. It has, we believe, on one or two occasions, suggested valuable hints to the legislature-especially in its view of the effects arising from the punishment of the pillory-which, although somewhat vicious and extravagant in its style, set the evils of that exhibition in so clear a light, that it was shortly after abolished, except in the instance of perjury. As the subject had not been investigated before, and the abolition followed so speedily, it may reasonably be presumed that this essay had no small share in terminating an infliction in which the people were, at once, judges and executioners-all the remains of virtue were too often extinguished -and justice perpetually insulted in the execution of its own sentences.
of rural scenery-whose timid and delicate soul shrunk from the slighest encounter with the world-whose very satire breathed gentleness and good-will to all his fellows-was agonized by its unfeeling scorn. Kirke White, another spirit almost too gentle for earthpainfully struggling by his poetical efforts to secure the scanty means of laborious study, was crushed almost to earth by its pitiable sentence, and his brief span of life filled with bitter anguish. This Review seems about twenty years behind the spirit of the times; and this, for a periodical work, is fully equal to a century in former ages.
Far other notice does the Eclectic Review require. It is, indeed, devoted to a party; and to a party whose opinions are not very favourable to genial views of humanity, or to deep admiration of human genius. But not all the fiery zeal of sectarianism which has sometimes blazed through its disquisitions-nor all the strait-laced nicety with which it is sometimes disposed to regard earthly enjoyments-nor all the gloom which its spirit of Calvinism sheds on the mightiest efforts of virtue-can prevent us from feeling the awe-striking influences of honest principle-of hopes which are not shaken by the fluctuations of time-of faith which looks to "temples not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The Eclectic Review, indeed, in its earliest numbers, seemed resolved to oppose the spirit of its religion to the spirit of intellect and humanity, and even went to the fearful excess of heaping the vilest abuse on Shakspeare, and of hinting that his soul was mourning in the torments of hell, over the evils which his works had occasioned in the world. But its conductors have since
The Retrospective Review is a bold experiment in these times, which well deserves to succeed, and has already attained far more notice than we should have expected to follow a periodical work which relates only to the past. To unveil with a reverent hand the treasures of other days to disclose ties of sympathy with old time which else were hidden-to make us feel that beauty and truth are not things of yesterday is the aim of no mean ambition, in which success will be without alloy, and failure without disgrace. There is an air of youth and inexperience doubtless about some of the articles; but can any thing be more pleasing than to see young enthusiasm, instead of dwelling on the gauds of the "ignorant present," fondly cherishing the venerableness of old time, and reverently listening to the voices of ancestral wisdom? The future is all visionary and unThis marvellous effusion of bigotry is contained in real-the past is the truly grand, and substan-volume of the Review, p. 75. The Reviewer commences an article on Twiss's Index to Shakspeare in the third tial and abiding. The airy visions of hope with the following tremendous sentence:vanish as we proceed; but nothing can deprive sensible of the value of time, and the relation which the "If the compiler of these volumes had been properly us of our interest in that which has been. It employment of it bears to his eternal state, we should is good, therefore, to have one periodical work not have had to present our readers with the pitiable exclusively devoted to "auld lang syne." It is spectacle of a man advanced in years consuming the embers of vitality in making a complete verbal Index to also pleasant to have one which, amidst an the Plays of Shakspeare." age whose literature is "rank with all unkindness," is unaffected by party or prejudice, which feeds no depraved appetite, which ministers to no unworthy passion, but breathes one tender and harmonions spirit of revering love for the great departed. We shall rejoice, therefore, to see this work "rich with the spoils of time," and gradually leading even the mere readers of periodical works, to feel with the gentle author of that divine sonnet, written in a blank leaf of Dugdale's Monasticon:
"Not harsh nor rugged are the winding ways Of hoar antiquity, but strewn with flowers." These, we believe, are all the larger periodical works of celebrity not devoted to merely scientific purposes. Of the lesser Reviews, the Monthly, as the oldest, claims the first notice; though we cannot say much in its praise. A singular infelicity has attended many of its censures. To most of those who have conduced to the revival of poetry it has opposed its jeers and its mockeries. Cowper, who first restored "free nature's grace" to our pictures
After acknowledging the genius of Shakspeare, the Reviewer observes. He has been called, and justly too, the Poet of Nature. A slight acquaintance with the religion of the Bible will show that it is of human nature in its worst shape, deformed by the basest passions, and became the priest; and the incense offered at the altar agitated by the most vicious propensities, that the poet of his goddess will spread its poisonous fumes over the hearts of his countrymen, till the memory of his works is yet to increase their number, will everlastingly look back extinct. Thousands of unhappy spirits, and thousands with unutterable anguish on the nights and days in which the plays of Shakspeare ministered to their guilty delights." The Reviewer further complains of the inscription on Garrick's tomb (which is absurd enough, though on far different grounds)-as "the absurd and impious epitaph upon the tablet raised to one of the miserable retailers of his impurities!" "We commiserate," continues the critic, the heart of the man who can read the following lines without indignation:—
And till eternity, with power sublime,
Par nobile fratrum! Your fame shall last during the em-
countable not merely for the direct effects, but also for