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gain appear as though it came, a bark aunched on the calm, wide, azure sea of heaven to meet his soul expiring; and to bear it, hence departed, to its realm of rest! Its errand, be it what it might, these facts we know, that at his birth it ninistered-it came again and testified his Fame once more it came to beam upon his bier!-As it suits thyself, improve this lesson, reader, shall I say, whilst wishing for thy welfare and my country's weal, my leave I, for this time take, and say, in heart, Farewell!"
We ought, perhaps, to apologise for
noticing so gravely a work so contemptible; but it was not on account of its merits but its nefarious tendency. There is, however, another publication, not certainly of the same class, but in some degree of the same kind, that to be conducted with conappears
siderable ability and taste, entitled, "TIME'S TELESCOPE for 1822;" and we reproach ourselves for not having left room to notice it more particularly.
THE RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW.
We have long looked with a kindly eye on this interesting and excellent publication, and gladly seize an opportunity of saying a few words on its character and merits. Those of our readers who before were unacquainted with the work, which, we believe, is snot so well known in this part of the kingdom as it should be, may thank us for pointing out to them a new source of gratification.
Mere bibliography is perhaps of all things, except to bibliographers, the most jejune and unattracting. The labour which is employed in transcribing title-pages and investigating Colophons, in examining books whose sole recommendation is their rarity, without looking farther for gratification than a date or an imprimatur, is surely, of all modes which literature presents of employment, the most idle, insane, and preposterous. The rearer of tulips, or the fancier of china, stands on an equal footing, with respect to the dignity and utility of his occupation, with the mere bibliographer. The pursuit of the latter is indeed innocent, and as such free from serious objection; but, in order to give it hearty toleration, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy the scruples of taste. There is something utterly revolting in dwelling only on the minutest parts of the externals of learning, when all its inner stores are expanded before us, in quitting the noble, spacious, and open path of science, for its dark, dusky, and circuitous lanes, and, as if insensible to the vastness of its grandeur and magnificence, to hang only with pleasure on the mean, low, and little. It is, besides, a sort of profanation which all good feeling and good sense seem loudly to exclaim
against. Literature, in short, is so mighty an instrument, and so noble a weapon, that we cannot endure patiently to see it converted into a toy.
The present work has higher and more exalted pretensions than merely to the character of a bibliographical journal. Its design is best explained by the title-page-"The Retrospective Review, consisting of Criticisms upon, Analyses of, and Extracts from, curious, useful, and valuable Books, in all Languages, which have been published since the revival of Literature to the commencement of the present Century." And the design is certainly excellent. To throw into the examination of the treasures of modern literature something of that life, spirit, and acuteness, which have been hitherto almost exclusively appropriated to criticisms on the productions of the day— to familiarize the readers of the present time with the old and venerable models of writing in our language—to introduce to us the various gems, hitherto little known amongst us, in the literature of other countries-and to enlarge the theatre of discursive criticism, by discarding the limits which the avidity for ephemeral trash has imposed upon it, are surely objects which must meet with universal approval; and these are the objects of the reviewers. The present may perhaps be denominated an idle age. Learning is so widely extended, that, as it is increased in surface, it is lamentably diminished in depth. At present, all are readers, and all are superficial readers. It is sufficient with the generality to be acquainted with the glittering novelties of the day; for the blandishments of which, the hardier and more enduring productions of other periods are neglected. As books
have multiplied, reading has diminished, till at last, we seem, in despair, inclined to do nothing, because we cannot run through all. It is time, then, to apply a corrective to the listless, yet arrogant superficiality, which at present characterizes us, by extracting the essence of learning, and culling the various flowers which are spread in rank, but unheeded profusion, over its wide parterre, by opening to the view of our contemporaries more worthy objects of imitation than the "lights which now are hanging in the heavens," and strengthening them by converse with the mighty spirits of yore, by making that literary diet which alone can restore their stomach to its proper tone of more frequent use and benefit, and by tempering the rawness and insubstantiality of the writings of our day, by a full, vigorous, and efficacious admixture of the powerful draughts of our ancestors. Much of this a work on the principle of the Retrospective Review seems calculated to do; and, therefore, we will enter more closely into a survey of the field which lies open for its criticisms.
The literature of our own country has, of course, the first claims its attention. The great performances of that race of giants which made it illustrious in the age of Elizabeth, however they may be talked of, are less read and studied, in fact, than Mrs Glass's Cookery. This may appear a broad assertion, but it is, nevertheless, a true one. We will venture to assert, that Bacon, whose writings would almost counterpoise the literature of any other country, is in reality less known than Thomas Hickathrift; and that, of the five quarto volumes which compose his works, not the half of one volume is read by full-grown students. And of the weight, the vigour, the richness, the full-mouthed eloquence of his compositions, not one in fifty of those who are regularly dedicated to literature have any idea. With respect to Hooker, the judicious Hooker, incomparably the next to Bacon in grandeur of comprehension and profound solidity of judgment, he is almost as much talked of, and even less known. When we see his Ecclesiastical Polity, that noble monument of intellectual strength and well-di
gested learning, he dusty and neglected on the shelf, it is difficult to suppress that feeling of indignation which rises uppermost in the mind. It is well, if, among the number of those who thus slightingly regard it, we have not to class the members of that church which it has protected so manfully, and so immoveably secured. The various labours of the prose writers who flourished in the same age with these two great men, are all equally in the shade, yet all, more or less, participate in the same excellence. The enterprizing spirit and far extended research of Raleigh, the gentleminded eloquence of Sidney, the nervous sense of Ascham, the glittering and imaginative style of Jeremy Taylor, the poetical and often glorious prose of Milton, and the elevated and majestic simplicity of Charles the First, (for we do, and always shall, consider the Einov Bapiλinn as his,) ought at least to command attention. It should be the object of a miscellany like the Retrospective Review to make them, as they have been much talked of, much studied, and intimately felt and delighted in.
The old English Drama and Poetry have met of late with more attention; and yet, the admiration which has hitherto been shewn, has savoured more of undistinguishing enthusiasm, than good taste or careful selection. Volumes of the latter have been reprinted, in which the worthless has so exceedingly overbalanced the good, as to render the task of extracting it altogether repulsive and disgusting. As if it were impossible to give us any of the valuable metal of our forefathers with out a treble proportion of alloy, the republishers of the present day have placed before us such indigested masses of absurdity and conceit, illumined oc casionally by a few poetical sparkles, as to induce us almost to consider the latter as a very poor recompense for the trouble of wading through the former. And we regret this the more, as it serves with the judicious reader not only to increase his contempt for bibliographers, which is nothing, but also to damp and decrease his fond ness for the productions of our early poetry. Mr Campbell's specimens, excellent as they are, take in but a
* We are sorry to observe, that too many of the poetical reprints at the Chiswick
Press fall under this class.
very small portion of this department of our literature, and cannot, in any neasure, be considered as a full, fair, and accurate collection of our ancient Poetical Flowers. It is, therefore, to Such a publication as the Retrospective Review, that we must look for assistance in this quarter; and when we Consider its success already, in culling nd selecting the essences of many of our neglected poets, as well as in bringEng before us some hitherto almost wholly unknown, we do not think it oo much to expect, that, in time, the Common reader will be in possession of all the materials necessary for forming correct and enlarged judgment of every portion of this delightful field. Of our old drama, it is well known nothing which can be styled a correct history, or, in fact, a history at all, has yet appeared. New editions, indeed, of some of these dramatic writers, of more or less value, have been given to the public, and others have been announced, which will render this the less necessary. Still, however, of these Iramatists, all cannot be republished. The various character and merit of the plays of Heywood, Chapman, Marston, Middleton, Rowley, Decker, Webster, and others, would perhaps render such an attempt highly injudicious; and yet, so bespangled are some of the worst and grossest of their dramas with exquisite and beautiful touches developing the peculiar genius of each, that a selection of a few plays merely of each author, can convey but a very faint idea of the characteristic qualities of any. It is here, then, that we feel the value of such a work as the Retrospective Review, which, by sedulously extracting from those performances which are bad or execrable as wholes, their beautiful or pleasing parts, at once diminishes the labour, and enhances the enjoyment of the lover of our ancient drama.
There is yet a very wide and extended territory which these Reviewers may claim as their own. The literature of Spain, and especially its poetry and drama-of Germany, and of the northern countries of Europe, the history and productions of the middle ages, till the revival of learning,—and the compositions of Oriental poets, sages, and philosophers, afford much room for their Retrospective Criticisms and Investigations. The scholastic authors, well deserving notice, as illustrating the
history of the human mind, and the works and biography of the many philologists, critics, poets, and scholars who flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, will also present matter in reserve highly interesting, and hitherto almost unappreciated. How little, for instance, can we be said to be acquainted with the lives and writings of those industrious but unfortunate men, whose opera now load our public libraries-of the Manutii, the Casaubons, the Scaligers, the Douzæ, and the Vossii !-how lit tle, with their secret history, their quarrels, their friendships, their humours, and their studies! And yet what is more curious or instructing than the auto-biographical confessions of such a man as Cardan? or what more entertaining to the inquirer into “ "Literary Quarrels," than the Logomachiæ of Erasmus and Jul. Scaliger, of Gruter and Pareus, of Schioppius and Jos. Scaliger, and of James Gronovius and Isaac Vossius? We will venture to assert, that a more interesting account of the scholars of the above mentioned periods might be written, than of any other class or description of men whatever.
Modern literature, in short, in its vast extent, is the treasury which such a Review has to draw upon; we need not therefore say, its materials are inexhaustible. Like the magnificent prince in the Arabian Tales, it can boast of stores which no expenditure can visibly diminish. In proportion, however, to the facilities thus afforded, is its responsibility increased. If we can par don, in a Review which is limited to the publications of the day, an injudicious selection of subjects, it becomes totally inexcusable in one which may be said to have almost all literature at its command. We have a right to expect, in such a work as the present, especially in its early days, that no articles of questionable or inconsiderable value shall occupy the place which might have been filled by others of real merit or curiosity. We have therefore viewed, with some degree of jealousy, the introduction of matter merely bibliographical, and hope to find, in future, such subjects very sparingly made use of. If bibliography predominate in the work, it will lose not only its general interest, but also its high claim to be considered as a journal appropriated to the literary excellence of
the past. But it is now time to proceed from the design of the work, to give some account of its execution.
In a publication like the Retrospective Review, it is evident there is little room for flashy or witty writing. The common artifices of other periodical publications, which seize hold of some reigning chimera f the day-some Cynthia of the minute, to draw down interest upon themselves, the pungent seasoning of personality, and the vehement outrages of political invective, cannot contribute to the notoriety of a work like this. Its path is too even and straight forward-its progress too steady and sure, ever to excite that breathless impatience, and keen interest, which dwell upon what is associated with the occurrences moving before us. Its pages, to use the words of the Reviewers, can only derive assistance from the innate truth and beauty of literature." And yet it has many attractions which no other periodical work can lay claim to,- -we love occasionally to steal from the "busy hum of men," the restlessness and inquietude of active life, to the calm and sequestered shade; and not unsimilar is the gratification which the Retrospective Review presents, after the glittering novelties which rise up and vanish around us. It will afford, too, many of the "pleasures of memory. In ranging through its pages, we have recognized many an old acquaintance, whose appearance has raised up an host of recollections, of that sort which perhaps most contribute to sweeten the bitterness of human life.
We are inclined, upon the whole, to believe, that the Review has increased in interest since its commencement. We have, however, no intention to enter into a discussion on the merits of the various articles which have appeared in it. There is, besides, a general even respectability in most of them, which would render such an attempt highly unnecessary. Ferhaps, as a class, the biographical, and autobiographical articles, are the best. The reviews of the Lives of Cardan and Lilly we think excellent. Rousseau's Confessions would be ably handled by the Reviewer of Cardan. The articles on Oriental Literature, and on the Poetry of Spain, display some research and acuteness; the former, however, are too much devoted to lengthy discussion, and the latter, if they have
much of the merit of an accurate compilation, have also much of its dulness. We except the part relating more particularly to the Moors, which is treated with some enthusiasm. Indeed, this work is generally happy when history is the subject of review. The articles on Tovey's Anglia Indicata, and Wynne's History of the Gwydir Family, are both highly interesting. That in the last Number on the Knights Templars we read with considerable eagerness, but were by no means convinced by it. The reluctance it displays to admit any thing to the prejudice of that noble Order, seems as far removed from sound judgment, as the extreme hastiness with which other writers have used the language of condemnation. We were grievously disappointed by the review of Bacon's Novum Organum ;-it is little more than a mere abstract of that work, without any of that enlarged criticism, or comprehensive philosophical survey, which such a production seemed calculated to call forth. Much remains to be said on that greatest work of the greatest man of his age, even after Dugald Stuart, or his able successor, the Philosophical Conveyancer;—and surely, in a review of the Novum Organum, we have a right to expect more than such an analysis as every student can produce. We hope this will be the only instance where the Retrospective fails most where most is expected. We must notice, however, a long article on the Writers on Mystical Devotion, which, besides that it is as dull as need be, seems hardly adapted for the work. It had appeared be fore, either in part or whole, and was destitute of any other recommendation than helping to fill the requisite number of pages.
The series on the Old English Drama has hardly done justice to the subject. There is a want of accuracy, both in the details and the criticisms. It has too much the marks of being hastily huddled up. The writer does not seem in possession of sources sufficiently ample for his researches. Thus in the review of Marlowe's Plays, we have long extracts from, and diffuse observations upon the dramas which are in every body's hands, while “Dido," which he wrote in conjunction with Nash, is hastily passed over-the Reviewer evidently had not seen it. We are, notwithstanding, inclined to think
this the most agreeable series which has yet appeared in the work. The subject, indeed, is so interesting, that the writer must have ill performed his task, had it been otherwise. There are parts, however, of these sketches which we think ably and spiritedly written. The character of Chapman is correct and judicious; and that of Lilly the Euphuist has high merit. The review of Ben Jonson's two plays, besides the "Jew," with which it appears to be entered upon, and the particularity of its criticisms, has little to recommend it. Lee's plays are reviewed in better taste. The article on Dryden's dramatic productions has the merit of bringing together the most valuable parts of those ill digest ed compositions.
The Reviews of English poetry are, where the fondness for the author does not interfere with sound judgment, generally just and correct. The reviewers are too much given, we must observe, to the vice of quoting passages which but possess the quiet charm of mediocrity. In the article on Glover's Atheniad, about 20 pages are occupied with extracts, none of which has any great merit. Some of these reviews are likewise rather heavy, and we need not say that the union of middling poetry with heavy criticisms, is a conjunction which does not bode much good to any book. Nevertheless, there is much in this department highly valuable, and the reader will find much to interest him, who is yet unacquainted with the fanciful beauties of Chamberlayne, the pastoral pictures of Browne, the rich conceit of Heath, the vigorous sentiments of Davenant, the voluptuous richness of Fletcher, the gay sprightliness of Lovelace, the kindly gentleness of Chalkhill, and the devotional warmth of Crashaw, Herbert, and Southwell. The review of Southwell's works in the last Number is one of the best.
Many of the miscellaneous reviews will well reward a perusal. The article on Sir John Mandeville's Travels is extremely curious. Few subjects are more interesting than the History of the early European Travellers, and this is here handled with considerable
ability. We have yet never met with a more faithful critical description than the character of Defoe's manner of writing, in the review of his Memoirs of a Cavalier. It is drawn to a hair, and the nicety does not detract from the spirit of the pourtraiture. The View of the Imitations of Butler is valuable for its information. Some of the shortest articles, and even those of a bibliographical kind, are very amusing, and agreeably diversify those of more elaborate descriptions.
Upon the whole, there seems to be much industrious-some clever, but perhaps hitherto no very masterly or splendid writing in the Retrospective Review. If this, however, be want ing, no work can better afford to spare it than this. And, speaking for ourselves, we should hardly like to see the writers themselves too much in the foreground. They are foragers for the Body-Literary, and the chief requisites of their office are, patience and industrious investigation. It is to the sterling value of the treasures they bring before us, and not to their own skill in polishing or setting them, that their best welcome will be due. Nothing can surely be a more gratifying spectacle than to see the great minds of our own period doing homage to the great ones of yore; and yet we must not forget, in our zeal for the past, that the present has still a higher claim on their exertions.
Before we conclude, we must notice, that the Review does not always keep exactly to the point proposed. In the preface it was stated, that their stric tures should be confined exclusively to bygone literature, without deviating to the topics of the day. This rule has been broken in two instances, and in neither with success. We al lude to the reviews of Dennis's Works, and Wallace's Prospects of Mankind, The first is a flighty and enthusiastical protest against the present system of criticism, apparently well meant and amiably intended, but characterized by a spirit of raw inexperience which is not very likely to do credit to the Work. In the second, the writer rambles, without any reason that we can see, from the theory of Mr Malthus, and the Population of Mankind, to
We must except the Review of Sir Walter Raleigh's Remains, which is written in a strain worthy of its great subject.