Page images

front soothes Mattheo, Vittoria triumphs over her Judges, and old Chapman repeats one of the hymns of Homer, in his own fine translation." Pp. 136, 137.

The spirit of this passage is very deep and cordial; and the expression, for the most part, exquisite. But we wonder that Mr. Hazlitt should commit so great an incongruity, as to represent the other poets around him in person, while Milton, introduced among the rest, is used only as the title of a book. Why are other authors to be "seated round," to cheer the critic's retirement as if living,-while Milton, like a petition in the House of Commons, is only ordered "to lie upon the table !"

and decorum, to make both the passions and the voice of humanity give way (as in the example of Calantha) to a mere form of outward behaviour. Such a suppression of the strongest and most uncontrollable feelings, can only be justified from necessity, for some great purpose,-which is not the case in Ford's play; or it must be done for the effect and eclat of the thing, which is not fortitude but affectation." The fallacy of this criticism appears to us to lie in the assumption, that the violent suppression of her feelings by the heroine was a mere piece of court etiquette-a compliment to the ceremonies of a festival. Surely the object was noble, and the effort sublime. While the deadly force of sorrow oppressed her heart, she felt that she had solemn duties to discharge, and that, if she did not arm herself against affliction till they were finished, she could never perform them. She could seek temporary strength only by refusing to pause

by hurrying on the final scene; and dared not to give the least vent to the tide of grief, which would at once have relieved her overcharged heart, and left her, exhausted, to die. Nothing less than the appearance of gayety could hide or suppress the deep anguish of her soul. We agree with Mr. Lamb, whose opinion is referred to by our author, that there is scarcely in any other play "a catastrophe so grand, so solemn, and so surprising as this!"

In the Fourth Lecture, ample justice is done to Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger and Ben Jonson; but we think the same measure is not meted to Ford. We cannot regard the author of ""Tis a Pity she's a Whore," and "The Broken Heart," as "finical and fastidious." We are directly at issue, indeed, with our author on his opinions respecting the catastrophe of the latter tragedy. Calantha, Princess of Sparta, is celebrating the nuptials of a noble pair, with solemn dancing, when a messenger enters, and informs her that the king, her father, is dead :-she dances on. Another report is brought to her, that the sister of her betrothed husband is starved;-she calls for the other change. A third informs her that Ithocles, her lover, is cruelly murdered;-she complains that the music sounds dull, and orders sprightlier measures. The dance ended, she announces herself queen, pronounces sentence on the murderer of Ithocles, and directs the ceremonials of her coronation to be immediately prepared. Her commands are obeyed. She enters the Temple in white, crowned, while the dead body of her husband is borne on a hearse, and placed beside the altar; at which she kneels in silent prayer. After her devotions, she addresses Nearchus, Prince of Argos, as though she would choose him for her husband, and lays down all orders for the regulation of her kingdom, under the guise of proposals of marriage. This done, she turns to the body of Ithocles," the shadow of her contracted lord," puts her mother's wedding ring on his finger, "to new-inarry him whose wife she is," and from whom death shall not part her. She then kisses his cold lips, and dies smiling. This Mr. Hazlitt calls "tragedy in masquerade,” “the true false gallop of sentiment;" and declares, that "any thing more artificial and mechanical he cannot conceive." He regards the whole scene as a forced transposition of one in Marston's Malcontent, where Aurelia dances on in defiance The Seventh Lecture, on the works of Lord to the world, when she hears of the death of a Bacon, compared as to style with those of Sir detested husband. He observes, "that a Thomas Browne and of Jeremy Taylor, is very woman should call for music, and dance on unequal. The character of Lord Bacon is in spite of the death of a husband whom she eloquent, and the praise sufficiently lavish; hates, without regard to common decency, is but it does not show any proper knowledge of but too possible: that she should dance on his works. That of Jeremy Taylor is somewith the same heroic perseverance, in spite of what more appropriate, but too full of gaudy the death of her father, and of every one else images and mere pomp of words. The style whom she loves, from regard to common cour of that delicious writer is ingeniously described tesy or appearance, is not surely natural. The as "prismatic;" though there is too much of passions may silence the voice of humanity; shadowy chillness in the phrase, adequately but it is, I think, equally against probability to represent the warm and tender bloom which

[ocr errors]

The Fifth Lecture, on Single Plays and Poems, brings into view many curious specimens of old humour, hitherto little known, and which sparkle brightly in their new setting. The Sixth, on Miscellaneous Poems and Works, is chiefly remarkable for the admirable criticism on the Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, with which it closes. Here the critic separates with great skill the wheat from the chaff, showing at once the power of his author, and its perversion, and how images of touching beauty and everlasting truth are marred by the spirit of Gothic quaintness, criticism, and conceit." The passage, which is far too long for quotation, makes us desire more earnestly than ever that an author, capable of so lucid and convincing a development of his critical doctrines, would less frequently content himself with giving the mere results of his thought, and even conveying these in the most abrupt and startling language. A remark uttered in the parenthesis of a sarcasm, or an image thrown in to heighten a piece of irony, might often furnish extended matter for the delight of those whom it now only disgusts or bewilders.

he casts on all that he touches. And when we | in him survived to old age, and had superare afterwards told that it " unfolds the colours annuated his other faculties. He moralizes of the rainbow; floats like a bubble through and grows pathetic on a mere idle fancy of his the air; or is like innumerable dewdrops, own, as if thought and being were the same, that glitter on the face of morning, and twinkle or as if all this world were one glorious lie.' as they glitter;"- -we can only understand that He had the most intense consciousness of conthe critic means to represent it as variegated, tradictions and nonentities; and he decks them light, and sparkling: but it appears to us that out in the pride and pedantry of words, as if the style of Jeremy Taylor is like nothing un- they were the attire of his proper person. The substantial or airy. The blossoms put forth categories hang about his neck like the gold in his works spring from a deep and eternal chain of knighthood: and he walks gowned' stock, and have no similitude to any thing wa- in the intricate folds and swelling drapery of vering or unstable. His account of Sir Tho- dark sayings and impenetrable riddles." Pp. mas Browne, however, seems to us very cha- 292-295. racteristic, both of himself and of that most extraordinary of English writers. We can make room only for a part of it.

"As Bacon seemed to bend all his thoughts to the practice of life, and to bring home the light of science to the bosoms and business of men,' Sir Thomas Browne seemed to be of opinion, that the only business of life was to think; and that the proper object of speculation was, by darkening knowledge, to breed more speculation, and find no end in wandering mazes lost.' He chose the incomprehensible and the impracticable, as almost the only subjects fit for a lofty and lasting contemplation, or for the exercise of a solid faith. He cried out for an 'oh altitudo' beyond the heights of revelation; and posed himself with apocryphal mysteries as the pastime of his leisure hours. He pushes a question to the utmost verge of conjecture, that he may repose on the certainty of doubt: and he removes an object to the greatest distance from him, that he may take a high and abstracted interest in it, consider it in relation to the sum of things, not to himself, and bewilder his understanding in the universality of its nature, and the inscrutableness of its origin. His is the sublime of indifference; a passion for the abstruse and imaginary. He turns the world round for his amusement, as if it were a globe of pasteboard. He looks down on sublunary affairs as if he had taken his station in one of the planets. The antipodes are next-door neighbours to him: and doomsday is not far off. With a thought he embraces both the poles; the march of his pen is over the great divisions of geography and chronology. Nothing touches him nearer than humanity. He feels that he is mortal only in the decay of nature, and the dust of long-forgotten tombs. The finite is lost in the infinite. The orbits of the heavenly bodies, or the history of empires, are to him but a point in time, or a speck in the universe. The great Platonic year revolves in one of his periods. Nature is too little for the grasp of his style. He scoops an antithesis out of fabulous antiquity, and rakes up an epithet from the sweepings of chaos. It is as if his books had dropped from the clouds, or as if Friar Bacon's head could speak. He stands on the edge of the world of sense and reason, and gets a vertigo by looking down at impossibilities and chimeras. Or he busies himself with the mysteries of the Cabbala, or the enclosed secrets of the heavenly quincunxes, as children are amused with tales of the nursery. The passion of curiosity (the only passion of childhood) had

The Eighth and Last Lecture begins with a few words on the merits of Sheil, Tobin, Lamb, and Cornwall, who, in our own time, have written in the spirit of the elder dramatists. The observations in this lecture, on the spirit of the romantic and classic literature, are followed by a striking development of the materials, and an examination of the success of the German drama. Mr. Hazlitt attributes the triumph of its monstrous paradoxes to those abuses and hypocrisies of society, those incoherences between its professions and its motives, which excite enthusiastic minds to seek for the opposite, at once, of its defects and blessings. His account of his own sensations on the first perusal of the Robbers, is one of the most striking passages in the work.

"I have half trifled with this subject; and I believe I have done so because I despaired of finding language for some old-rooted feelings I have about it, which a theory could neither give, nor can it take away. The Robbers was the first play I ever read; and the effect it produced upon me was the greatest. It stunned me like a blow; and I have not recovered enough from it to tell how it was. There are impressions which neither time nor circumstances can efface. Were I to live much longer than I have any chance of doing, the books I have read when I was young, I can never forget. Five-and-twenty years have elapsed since I first read the translation of the Robbers, but they have not blotted the impression from my mind; it is here still-an old dweller in the chambers of the brain. The scene, in particular, in which Moor looks through his tears at the evening sun from the mountain's brow, and says in his despair, ‘It was my wish like him to live, like him to die: it was an idle thought, a boy's conceit,' took first hold of my imagination, and that sun has to me never set!"

While we sympathize in all Mr. Hazlitt's sentiments of reverence for the mighty works of the older times, we must guard against that exclusive admiration of antiquity, rendered fashionable by some great critics, which would induce the belief that the age of genius is past, and the world grown too old to be romantic. We can observe in these Lectures, and in other works of their author, a jealousy of the advances of civilization as lessening the dominion of fancy. But this is, we think, a dangerous error; tending to chill the carliest aspirations after excellence, and to roll its rising energies back on the kindiing soul. There remains yet abundant space for genius

to possess; and science is rather the pioneer | unexplored fastnesses. The face of nature than the impeder of its progress. The level changes not with the variations of fashion. roads, indeed, which it cuts through unexplored One state of society may be somewhat more regions, are, in themselves, less fitted for its favourable to the development of genius than wanderings than the tangled ways through another; but wherever its divine seed is cast, which it delights to stray; but they afford it there will it strike its roots far beneath the surnew glimpses into the wild scenes and noble face of artificial life, and rear its branches into vistas which open near them, and enable it to the heavens, far above the busy haunts of comdeviate into fresh scenes of beauty, and hitherto mon mortals.



MR. WALLACE, the author of the work before us, was of the number of those speculators who have delighted to form schemes of ideal felicity for their species. Men of this class, often despised as dreaming theorists, have been found among the best and wisest of all ages. Those, indeed, who have seen the farthest into their nature, have found the surest grounds of hope even for its earthly progress. Their enthusiasm has been, at the least, innoxious. The belief, that humanity is on the decline-that the energy of man is decaying-that the heart is becoming harder-and that imagination and intellect are dwindling away-lays an icy finger on the soul, confirms the most debasing selfishness, and tends to retard the good which it denies. We propose, therefore, in this article very cursorily to inquire how far the hopes of those who believe that man is, on the whole, advancing, are sanctioned by experience and by reason.

But we must not forget, that, in the very work before us, an obstacle to the happiness of the species is brought forward, which has subsequently been explained as of a dreadful nature, and has been represented as casting an impenetrable gloom over the brightest anticipations of human progress. We shall first set it forth in the words of Wallace-then trace its expansion and various applications by Malthus-and inquire how far it compels us to despair for man.

Under a perfect government, the inconveniencies of having a family would be so entirely removed, children would be so well taken care of, and every thing become so favourable to populousness, that though some sickly seasons or dreadful plagues in particular climates might cut off multitudes, yet, in general, mankind would increase so prodigiously, that the earth would at last be overstocked, and become unable to support its numerous inhabitants.

"How long the earth, with the best culture of which it is capable from human genius and industry, might be able to nourish its perpetually increasing inhabitants, is as impossible as it is unnecessary to be determined. It is not probable that it could have supported them during so long a period as since the creation

of Adam. But whatever may be supposed of the length of this period, of necessity it must be granted, that the earth could not nourish them for ever, unless either its fertility could be continually augmented, or, by some secret in nature, like what certain enthusiasts have expected from the philosopher's stone, some wise adept in the occult sciences should invent a method of supporting mankind quite different from any thing known at present. Nay, though some extraordinary method of supporting them might possibly be found out, yet if there was no bound to the increase of mankind, which would be the case under a perfect government, there would not even be sufficient room for containing their bodies upon the surface of the earth, or upon any limited surface whatsoever. It would be necessary, therefore, in order to find room for such multitudes of men, that the earth should be continually enlarging in bulk, as an animal or vegetable body. Now, since philosophers may as soon attempt to make mankind immortal, as to support the animal frame without food, it is equally certain, that limits are set to the fertility of the earth; and that its bulk, so far as is hitherto known, hath continued always the same, and probably could not be much altered without making considerable changes in the solar system. It would be impossible, therefore, to support the great numbers of men who would be raised up under a perfect government; the earth would be overstocked at last, and the greatest admirers of such fanciful schemes must foresee the fatal period when they would come to an end, as they are altogether inconsistent with the limits of that earth in which they must exist.

[ocr errors]

"What a miserable catastrophe of the most generous of all human systems of government! How dreadfully would the magistrates of such commonwealths find themselves disconcerted at that fatal period, when there was no longer any room for new colonies, and when the earth could produce no farther supplies! During all the preceding ages, while there was room for increase, mankind must have been happy; the earth must have been a paradise in the literal sense, as the greatest part of it must have been turned into delightful and fruitful

gardens. But when the dreadful time should at last come, when our globe, by the most diligent culture, could not produce what was sufficient to nourish its numerous inhabitants, what happy expedient could then be found out to remedy so great an evil?

"In such a cruel necessity, must there be a law to restrain marriage? Must multitudes of women be shut up in cloisters, like the ancient vestals or modern nuns? To keep a balance between the two sexes, must a proportionable number of men be debarred from marriage? Shall the Utopians, following the wicked policy of superstition, forbid their priests to marry; or shall they rather sacrifice men of some other profession for the good of the state? Or, shall they appoint the sons of certain families to be maimed at their birth, and give a sanction to the unnatural institution of eunuchs? If none of these expedients can be thought proper, shall they appoint a certain number of infants to be exposed to death as soon as they are born, determining the proportion according to the exigencies of the state; and pointing out the particular victims by lot, or according to some established rule? Or, must they shorten the period of human life by a law, and condemn all to die after they had completed a certain age, which might be shorter or longer, as provisions were either more scanty or plentiful? Or what other method should they devise (for an expedient would be absolutely necessary) to restrain the number of citizens within reasonable bounds?

"Alas! how unnatural and inhuman must every such expedient be accounted? The natural passions and appetites of mankind are planted in our frame, to answer the best ends for the happiness both of the individuals and of the species. Shall we be obliged to contradict such a wise order? Shall we be laid under the necessity of acting barbarously and inhumanly? Sad and fatal necessity! And which, after all, could never answer the end, but would give rise to violence and war. For mankind would never agree about such regulations. Force and arms must at last decide their quarrels, and the deaths of such as fall in battle leave sufficient provisions for the survivors, and make room for others to be born. "Thus the tranquillity and numerous blessings of the Utopian governments would come to an end; war, or cruel and unnatural customs, be introduced, and a stop put to the increase of mankind, to the advancement of knowledge, and to the culture of the earth, in spite of the most excellent laws and wisest precautions. The more excellent the laws had been, and the more strictly they had been observed, mankind must have sooner become miserable. The remembrance of former times, the greatness of their wisdom and virtue, would conspire to heighten their distress; and the world, instead of remaining the mansion of wisdom and happiness, become the scene of vice and confusion. Force and fraud must prevail, and mankind be reduced to the same calamitous condition as at present.

Such a melancholy situation, in consequence merely of the want of provisions, is in

truth more unnatural than all their present calamities. Supposing men to have abused their liberty, by which abuse vice has once been introduced into the world; and tha wrong notions, a bad taste, and vicious habits, have been strengthened by the defects of education and government, our present distresses may be easily explained. They may even be called natural, being the natural consequences of our depravity. They may be supposed to be the means by which Providence punishes vice; and by setting bounds to the increase of mankind, prevents the earth's being overstocked, and men being laid under the cruel necessity of killing one another. But to suppose, that in the course of a favourable Providence a perfect government had been established, under which the disorders of human passions had been powerfully corrected and restrained; poverty, idleness and war banished; the earth made a paradise; universal friendship and concord established, and human society rendered flourishing in all respects; and that such a lovely constitution should be overturned, not by the vices of men, or their abuse of liberty, but by the order of nature itself, seems wholly unnatural, and altogether disagreeable to the methods of Providence."

To this passage, the gloomy theories of Mr. Malthus owe their origin. He took the evil which Wallace regarded as awaiting the species in its highest state of earthly perfection, as instant and pressing in almost every state of society, and as causing mankind perpetually to oscillate. He represented nature herself as imposing an adamantine barrier to improvement. He depicted the tendency of the species to increase in numbers, as arising from passion, mad and ungovernable as well as universal, and as resisted, in its fatal consequences, only by war, famine, or disease. He maintained, that man was placed by nature between two tremendous evils, and could never recede from the strait within which his movements were contracted.

The system thus promulgated in the first edition of the work on Population, could not be well applied to any practical uses. It tended to destroy the fair visions of human improvement, and to place a gigantic demon in their room. But it could not form a part of any rational scheme of legislation, because it represented the evils which it depicted as hopeless. Its only moral was despair. But its author-a man whose personal benevolence withstood his doctrines-became anxious to discover some moral purposes to which he might apply his scheme. Accordingly, in his second edition, which was altered and rewritten as to be almost a new work, he introduced a new preventive check on the tendency of population to increase, which he designated "moral restraint," and proposed to inculcate, by the negative course of leaving all those who did not practise it to the consequences of their error. This new feature appears to us subversive of the whole system, in so far, at least, as it is designed to exhibit insuperable obstacles to the progressive hap

[ocr errors]

piness of man. Instead of the evil being re- so refined and philosophic principles. On the garded as inevitable, a means was expressly contrary, the strength of a state was always enforced by which it might be completely regarded, in old time, as consisting in the avoided. Celibacy was shown to be a state number of its citizens. And, indeed, it is imof attainable and exalted virtue. In calcu- possible that any of the gigantic evils of manlating on the tendency of the species to in-kind should have arisen from the pressure of crease, we were no longer required to spec- population against the means of subsistence; ulate on a mere instinct, but on a thousand moral and intellectual causes-on the movements of reason, sensibility, imagination, and hope. The rainbow could be as easily grasped or a sun-beam measured by a line, as the operations of the blended passion and sentiment of love estimated by geometrical series! We will, however, examine a little more closely the popular objection to theories of human improvement, which the principle of population is supposed to offer.

because it is impossible to point out any one state in which the means of subsistence have been fully developed and exhausted. If the want of subsistence, then, has ever afflicted a people, it has not arisen, except in case of temporary famine, from a deficiency in the means of subsistence, but in the mode and spirit of using them. The fault has been not in nature, but in man. Population may, in a few instances, have increased beyond the energy of the people to provide for it, but not beyond the resources which God has placed within their power.

The real question, in this case, is not whether, when the world is fully cultivated, the tendency of the species to increase will be The assertion, that there is, in the constant greater than the means of subsistence; but tendency of population to press hardly against whether this tendency really presses on us at the means of subsistence, an insuperable check every step of our progress. For, if there is no to any great improvement of the species, is in insuperable barrier to the complete cultivation direct contradiction to history. The species of the earth, the cessation of all the countless has increased in numbers, and has risen in inevils of war, and the union of all the brethren telligence, under far more unfavourable cirof mankind in one great family, we may safely cumstances than the present, in spite of this trust to Heaven for the rest. When this uni- fancied obstacle. There is no stage of civiliversal harmony shall begin, men will surely zation, in which the objection to any farther have attained the virtue and the wisdom to ex-advance might not have been urged with as ercise a self-denial, which Mr. Malthus himself much plausibility as at the present. While represents as fully within their power. In the any region, capable of fruitfulness, remains era of knowledge and of peace, that degree of uninhabited and barren, the argument applies self-sacrifice can scarcely be impossible, which, with no more force against its cultivation, than even now, our philosopher would inculcate at it would have applied against the desire of him the peril of starvation. At least, there can be who founded the first city to extend its bounno danger in promoting the happiness of the daries. While the world was before him, he species, until it shall arise to this fulness; for might as reasonably have been warned to dewe are told, that every effort towards it pro- cline any plan for bringing wastes into tillage, duces a similar peril with that which will em- on the ground that the tendency of man to mulbitter its final reign. And if it should exist at tiply would thus be incited beyond the means last, we may safely believe, that He who pro- of supplying food, as we, in our time, while nounced the blessing, "increase and multiply," the greater part of the earth yet remains to be will not abandon the work of his hands; but possessed. And, indeed, the objection has far that this world then will have answered a the less force now than at any preceding period: purposes of its creation, and that immortal-because not only is space left, but the aids state will begin, "in which we shall neither of human power are far greater than in old marry nor be given in marriage, but be as the angels of God."

Let us inquire, then, whether the evidence of history, or the present aspect of the world, warrant the belief, that the tendency of the species to increase beyond the means of subsistence is a necessary obstacle to the improvement of its condition. If the wretchedness of man really flowed from this source, it is strange that the discovery should not have been made during six thousand years of his misery. He is not usually thus obtuse, respecting the cause of his sorrows. It will be admitted, that his distresses have most frequently arisen from luxury and from war, as their immediate The first will scarcely be attributed to the want of food; nor can the second be traced to so fantastical an origin. Shakspeare, indeed, represents Coriolanus, in his insolent contempt for humanity, as rejoicing in the approach of war, as the means of "venting the musty superfluity" of the people; but kings have not often engaged in the fearful game on


time. Machinery now enables one man to do as much towards the supply of human wants, as could formerly have been done by hundreds. And shall we select this as the period of society in which the species must stand still, because the means of subsistence can be carried but a little farther?

It seems impossible to cast a cursory glance over the earth, and retain the belief, that there is some insuperable obstacle in the constitution of nature, to the development of its vast and untried resources. Surely, immense regions of unbounded fertility-long successions of spicy groves-trackless pastures watered by ocean-rivers formed to let in wealth to the midst of a great continent-and islands which lie calmly on the breast of crystal seas, were not created for eternal solitude and silence. Until these are peopled, and the earth is indeed "replenished and subdued," the command and the blessing, "increase and multiply," must continue unrecalled by its great Author. Shall not Egypt revive its old fruit

« PreviousContinue »