Imágenes de página

of the Scriptures; and that the most cautious and reasoning mind may embrace the humblest and most self-denying faith of a Christian. This lesson, however, after all, may be learnt in other schools: hut that, which is pre-eminently the lesson of these volumes, is the proof that this consecration of talent to piety is not necessarily confined to one studious and retiring class, to those whose duty and .whose privilege it is to find their ordinary employment in the most exalted pursuits that can occupy human attention. The attainments in religious knowledge and principle which we have admired in these Remains of Mr. Bowdler were the lessons learned -in the intervals of the most exhausting professional labours: they were acquired in hurried walks through crowded streets, by a patient attention to the moral improvement of his own character, an attention encouraged by sickness, and not discontinued in health. They were acquired by habitual reflection on the scenes and circumstances around him', by an analysis equally philosophical and Christian of the mind, the dispositions and the moral capacities of man. His classical and mathematical attainments were not acquired at Oxford, or Cambridge. His school-boy learning of Winchester was matured by his midnight labours while an attorney's clerk, and often maintained by half hours in the intervals of journies. His knowledge of the exact sciences was wholly gained as a relaxation. His philosophy was not learnt under any public advantages; though in one man of eminent talents and virtue, Mr. Henry Thornton, he appears to have found ' a guide, philosopher, and friend.' His theological attainments were the harvest of a single day in the week, though, indeed, he seems to have acted on the principle recommended in the words in which Sir William Jones so beautifully paraphrased the celebrated distich of Sir Edward Coke. 'Seven hours to law, to soothing slumber seven, Ten. to the world allow, and—all to heav'n.'

In considering the style of his genius and character, it is impossible not to revert to the memory of the greatest luminary of the English law. We may indeed observe, that the essays of Mr. Bowdler, though they no where betray, as far as we know, the slightest marks of an imitation of the Contemplations, moral and divine, yet not only agree with those remarkable productions in their general aspect of seriousness, and in the uniformly practical tendency of the principles which they deliver, but even treat, in a great measure, the same subjects. They contain, however, both eloquence and more philosophy; and in poetry, though we have already said that we do not regard that department of these volumes as the best, the superiority of the author over his illustrious predecessor is beyond all competition. On the whole, if it had pleased Providence to spare the life of this interesting young man,

it it seems no unreasonable hope, that his ripened virtues and matured professional acquirements might one day have placed him at no considerable distance from the fame of Sir Mathew Hale.

It is the idle, and far worse than idle, prejudice of fourth, and fifth-rate minds, that profligacy is the privilege and proper evidence of talent. Because some men of real capacity have debased their genius by their want of morals, the wretched conclusion is drawn, that the ordinary decencies of life were not made for superior intellects: that the temperance, the frugality, the patient industry, the habitual self-denial, enjoined by Christianity, are altogether vulgar virtues, mere every-day qualifications, which it may be respectable enough to possess, but which it is the part of high endowments to overlook or despise, as badges of natural servitude and conscious inferiority. The consequences of this notion are not merely that really gifted minds learn to foster and encourage themselves in what they conceive to be a ' brave disorder,' and in that practical irreligion which too often ends in speculative infidelity; but that the same licence is assumed by a far greater number without the same pretensions; men who, having heard that poets are apt to be profligate, give us the profligacy without the poetry; and who, because genius is said to pursue the vast, the wonderful and wild, unfortunately infer, that when they have become thoroughly 'wild,' they are of course all that is ' vast and wonderful.'

The idolaters of Dermody, Chatterton, Burns and other poets of a similar cast of character, would almost persuade us that vice and genius are convertible terms. To this opinion the history of literature and of Christianity furnishes the best answer. The an- , nals of every age attest the perfect compatibility of the highest intellectual faculties with the profoundest, the most genuine, most efficacious sense of religion. In how many instances have the most commanding and comprehensive powers of thought, invention or reasoning, submitted themselves to the lessons of Revelation? In how many instances have the brightest, the most rapid, the most electric powers of imagination, served to shed lustre over the purest, most regular, most unimpeachable life! If Christianity were, what assuredly it is not, a matter of precedent and authority, we could oppose to the names of Voltaire, Rousseau, and the rest of the Anakim of French philosophy, other and more exalted names drawn from the literary chronicles of their own country. Or, if we should look homewards, should we not find that the foremost among our own great writers have been not merely the hereditary professors of Christianity, but the active and zealous defenders of its truth and its authority? Let us not be understood to imply that the claims of revealed religion are sufficiently consulted, when it is merely enforced or propounded as a system of belief. It is one thing to be


the dignified advocate of Christianity, and another to be its devoted disciple; one thing to vindicate it with our pens, and another to illustrate it byour practice. But to be the strenuous defender and expounder of truth is at least to pay it homage. Of the great men, to whom we have alluded, some perhaps may have admitted inconsistencies into their conduct, possibly even into their creed; but at least they have repelled the impious pretensions of scepticism, profaneness, and avowed immorality. They have redeemed, as far as the literature of their country was concerned, the pledge of their baptism, and have fought the battles of the Cross without being ashamed of their colours.

That the most splendid powers and acquirements should be found in alliance with religion and good morals will not, on consideration, seem surprising, even without reference to the real reasonableness of religious and moral truth. If we reflect how much of solid ground the sceptic (whether his scepticism be in religion or in morality) throws away, we shall not expect to find him very successful even in that province of reasoning and speculation which he affects to regard as the peculiar theatre of his glory. In rejecting so many established positions, he, in effect, sacrifices a great part of the admitted premises of all reasoning and speculation: his vigour is wasted in destruction; and it would be too much to ask that a superstructure should be successfully raised by him who cannot even settle his foundation.

It is not merely to the powers of the understanding that these observations apply. They hold also with respect to the more airy and delicate powers of taste and fancy; though it must be confessed that, in this department, signal cases of exception have sometimes occurred. There can be no doubt that violent and vicious passion may stimulate the sensibilities of the mind to an extraordinary degree of exertion: and that the action so excited in the system will discover itself in highly singular combinations of ideas and daring felicities of expression. This is inspiration, but it is the inspiration of a ' strange fire;' and, in general, we believe, that the imagination, which burns with the clearest, the loftiest and the most expansive flame, will be that which is fed by the purest sentiments and the freshest affections.

Strong links and mutual sympathies connect
The moral powers and powers of intellect:
Still these on those depefid by union fine,
Bloom as they.bloom, and, as they fade, decline.
Talents, 'tis true, gay, quick and bright, has God
To virtue oft denied, on vice bestow'd;
Just as fond Nature lovelier colours brings
To paint the insect's than fhe eagle's wings.

But But of our souls the high-born loftier part, J

Th' ethereal energies that touch the heart,

Conceptions ardent, labouring thought intense,

Creative fancy's wild magnificence,

And all the dread sublimities of song,

These, Virtue, these to thee alone belong:

These are celestial all, nor kindred hold

With aught of sordid or debasing mould:

Chill'd by the breath of Vice their radiance dies,

And brightest burns when lighted at the skies;

Like Vestal flames to purest bosoms given,

And kindled only by a ray from heav'n. To the canonized names at which we have glanced, the author of the compositions before us would, probably, if he had Jived, have made a bright addition. Prematurely, indeed, as his career closed, he was spared long enough to display, in active life, an example of great ability, united with the devoutest faith, and the purest morals. In this respect his death may be considered as less untimely than some of the other privations, which this country has, within no long period, sustained, of juvenile talents and virtue. Kirke White, who, perhaps, most nearly resembled him, was snatched away in his earliest spring. Bowdler lived to assume a definite station in the community, and to realize, in a degree, the hopes and promises of his opening youth. Non jiosculos, sicut prior, sed jam certos atque deformatos fructus ostenderat. But even if he had performed no other service than that of leaving a collection of writings bespeaking so much reach of thought, and,elevation of principle, as that which we are now about to close, we can truly say that we should still have thought him entitled to an honourable rank among the ornaments of his country.

Art. VII.—Sketches of America. A Narrative of a Journey of Five Thousand Miles through the Eastern and Western States of America; contained in Eight Reports, addressed to the Thirty-nine Families, by whom the Author was deputed, in June 1817, to ascertain whether any, and tchat part of the United States would be suitable for their Residence: with Re-, marks on Mr. Birkbeck's ' Notes' and 'Letters.' By Henry Bradshaw Fearon. London. 1818. T\7 E had proposed at first, to combine our observations on the present work with those on the ' Statistical View' which stands at the head of our Number, but a little consideration determined us to devote an Article to each; as the minute details furnished by Mr. Fearon do not readily fall in with the great features of American polity sketched by Mr. Bristed.


There is a numerous set of people in this country who, having jrown inordinately rich' under its protecting shield, while the rest >f the civilized world lay exposed to the ravages of war, are aeconie feverish and discontented, because the return of peace has lot instantaneously, and, as it were by magic, shaken from their shoulders the burdens necessarily created by that protracted state af hostility to which their fortune is mainly due. Too selfish to endure any reduction of their extravagant profits, or to await the relief which the re-establishment of tranquillity must gradually effect, they leave their country to support its burdens as it can, and are already on the wing, with their multitudinous acquisitions, for a foreign shore.

Among others of this description, forty families, principally resident, we believe, in the neighbourhood of Southwark, gaily formed themselves into an emigrating party to the United States—

Cedere namque foro jam nee tibi deterius quam

Esquilias a ferventi migrare Suburrd—

—to transfer their allegiance and their affections to another go-• verument sits as lightly upon them as to remove, in the fashionable season, from the Ward of Farringdon Without to Margate or Rotting Dean. The feeling which ennobled the citizens of Sparta and Athens, and stood them in the stead of many virtues, the love of country, once the peculiar pride and boast of Englishmen, has no residence in the bosom of these persons. The endearing charities of life, the ties of blood, of society, of early friendships, of kindred habits, are all sacrificed by them to one sordid passion, while, rudely trampling over the graves of their forefathers, they rush in crouds to deposit their wealth where it may be safe from the claims of their native land.

Had the amiable con-fraternity of whom we are speaking been agriculturists, they would have transported themselves at once, and blindly plunged into the insatiable gulf which has already swallowed up so many thousands of their countrymen: but they were traders—cold-blooded,- calculating men, who, in their own language, deemed it prudent to look before they leaped, and, in the usual mode of business, to send out one of their members as a kind of Rider, to examine the country, and select the most favourable spot for settling, before they trusted themselves, with their accumulations, to the winds.

The person fixed upon for this purpose was Mr. Henry Fearon :—and as there was an evident solicitude in the party to procure a favourable report from the United States, the choice could not have fallen upon a fitter agent. A democrat fieft'6, Mr. Fearon joined to a sovereign contempt for the civil and religious institutions of England, of which he knew little, a blind and sottish


« AnteriorContinuar »