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by the sweetest pictures of devotion ; who loved the most humble retirements of nature, and listened, as to heavenly consolation, to her softest voices. Like bim, Mr. Crabbe abounds in touching representations of every-day incidents and feelings, although he unfortunately substitutes a cumbrous pomp for his graceful ease, and wants the pervading enthusiasm which gives vitality to his finest conceptions. He has entered the lowly walks of life, not for the purpose of grouping, among their seclusions, elegances which belong to a different region, or even of filling them with perfect and undashed pictures of refined and gentle affections; but he has done more than any living writer, except Miss Edgeworth, to render them what others have been contented to feign. It is true that in his minute representations of hard-hearted villainy, he has often bordered on the shocking and disgustful; but there will generally be found, as in the works of Hogarth, some kind and gentle touch which sobers the whole scene--somne amiable object, which from his consummate skill, operates not in the way of contrast, but mellows and throws a softness over the most revolting figures, and leaves the heart, after all its lacerations, to a sweet and consoling repose.
Although it is true that Mr. Crabbe is often wearisome in his minute pictures of conimon circumstances and mean occupations, there is perhaps something in this minuteness that more than overpays our attention. It gives to the whole a strong appearance of truth, a vivid distinctness, which heightens, in an inconceivable degree, the more touching and lofty part of his narrations. Every one knows the peculiar interest he has always felt for the heroes of the Iliad - how completely he has identified himself with their sensations, and been rapt into the very costume and manner of the period to which the action is referred. Perhaps there are few human emotions so glowing—few of the loves and desires of our youth so free from decay—as the breathless anxiety, the engrossing interest, with which we first perused the works of Homer, and fought among battles decided by the interference of deities whose existence we can scarcely imagine. As we are contented to enjoy the charm, without analysing the materials from which it is produced, we are, in general, little aware how much of this effect is to be ascribed to the seeming accuracy with which the every-day employments and common habits of the shepherd-heroes are delineated, while those pictures form an adınirable relief to the bustling and terrible scenes on which they border. In this respect, Richardson, of all writers, most nearly resembles Homer. We see all-his characters in their undress, and engaged in the usual pleasures and occupations of life, in which it requires no effort to believe them actually to exist. Thus we slip into their privacy, and become their friends and confidents, before we are aware till the interest we feel for them is raised to an inconceivable height and when we come to the deeper and more surprising parts of the story, we feel for them, not only as real persons, but as old acquaintances, and are overwhelmed and melted by our own emotions before we can relieve ourselves by forcing on our remembrance, that the woes we are deploring are fictitious. This is one of those master keys by which this wonderful writer subdues our hearts to his pleasure. The reader who should peruse only his terrible and pathetic scenes, with a previous knowledge of the history, would have a very slight conception of their wonder-working magic. We must go through with patience and attention, the whole of his dull routs, and journies, and dialogues, in order to feel the force of his dreadful pictures—as we must gaze on the champions of Troy, devouring their short repasts, and buckling on their armor, if we would go with them into the thickest terrors of the combat. It is the same, though of course in an inferior degree, with the tediousness of Mr. Crabbe ; he paints the scene in which his humble heroes act and suffer with such seeming fidelity and truth, that it is almost impossible to believe the transactions and woes to be ideal. They seem remembered rather than invented,—and in all their parts have a reality so painful, that we are glad to escape from them into lighter fancies-without paying due homage to the genius of an author, who in his power over the heart belongs to the good old school of our English poets.
MI. We come now to the consideration of an author, whom some may conceive, from the great popularity of his writings, that it is a mere nullity to subject to the ordeal of criticism. MR. Scott, it is said, must unquestionably be endowed with great poetical genius, since the end of all poetry is to please, and that must be the best, which most effectually attains that design, and acquires the largest number of admirers. This position would come somewhat nearer the truth, if it asserted that to be the best poetry, which, on the whole, produced the larger portion of delight. For there is a class of readers, who, from the superior cultivation of their tastes, and the vividness of their own imagination, receive from poetry by no means popular, a thousand times the gratification which the world at large derive from the works of their favorite. Many of Mr. Scott's admirers, for instance, are persons who can relish no other bard, and who read him neither “ to please their ear,” nor “ mend their minds," but to be entertained with his fascinating stories, just as they would devour any prose tale of vehement love and farcical horror. The finest poetry is not that which presents every thing in full glare to the mind - but that which by the magic power of its thoughts, awakens within the rea
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der a train of delightful images and half forgotten associations, and rather gives the key to a range of noble sublimities, than fully explores them. In this case, therefore, the success of the poet de pends greatly on the susceptibility of the reader to receive lofty impressions, and the richness of bis fancy, who is to fill up the outline presented to his mind. The best works are therefore by no means the most likely to be popular, or at least to be most read, until criticism has pointed out to common observance the deep and sequestered springs of inspiration, with which their retired haunts are refreshed, and until time has hallowed what the suffrage of the enlightened has sanctioned. Even then they are rather praised and quoted than attentively perused, and their most unearthly charms are wholly overlooked by the mass of those who applaud them. Instead therefore of popular admiration forming even ;-resumptive evidence of the elevation of an author's conceptions, it might be alınost suspected that he whose beauties the multitude could discern, was rather showy than deep, stately than great, and had courted the sunny and open regions, instead of penetrating into the most holy abode of poetical spirits.
The peculiar dress and costume 'of Mr. Scott's Muse, “trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet,” possessed singular charms for the general mass of readers. Almost every mind of any cultivation is capable of admiring the heroes of chivalrous romance, and of feeling a deep interest in the story of the middle ages. The gorgeous pomp of trapping and ceremony, the marvellous adventures of independent chieftains, roaming in search of fame and danger, the nice perception of honor, the brilliant contempt of death, and the delicate attention to the female sex, are too glaring and magnificent pot to be abundantly popular. There is also a charm in the supernatural agency which Mr. Scott has wielded, which seems to be for ever potent in its influence. With the Deities of Greece and Rome we never became familiar until we had arrived at an age when we could not, for a moment, believe their existence. But the reverse is the case with the terrors of enchantment the conjurations and the magic, and the fearful appearances of more modern periods. We have listened to them in our earliest days with breathless wonder, and the feelings with which they have thrilled our bosoms, are indelibly traced among the fondest associations of childhood. Besides they have sprung from no foreign soilthey have been engrafted on the truths in which we regard our eternal welfare to be involved, and iningled with all which we love and reverence. We are, therefore, prepared to receive with avidity the marvels of Mr. Scott's poetry, and to welcome to our hearts the mysterious chilness which it breathes into their deepest recesses. He is familiar too with all the arts by which horror is: heightened, and suspense increased even to agony. He can break off where the reader is most desirous he should proceed-he can turn the most trilling incidents, like Mrs. Radcliffe, into instrunients of terror, or place is in a situation of fearful uncertainty, and leave us from his obscure and terrible hints to imagine visions too dreadful for language, till even the motion of our blood is suspended. His tales are therefore replete with an interest, with which the most unimaginative can sympathise.
But although these are the merits on which in a great degree his popularity rested, they are by no means the loftiest properties of his genius. He displays a light and graceful airiness of fancy, a lively play of imagination, and a taste for lovely and luxuriant de. scription, scarcely equalled by any living writer. He is, beyond a doubt, the first of superficial poets, although we fear that at present he belongs to that showy and popular class of writers. In painting the manners of chivalry, he is, or appears to be, wonderfully accurate; but we may look in vain for the deathless spirit of those gorgeous times, the stirring and lofty soul of those grand fragments of civilization, which have become the majestic pillars of modern society. He has all the costume and rust, but little of the strong divinity of the old romances. In sketching portraits, he is almost inimitable. His pencil produces the most exact resemblance of forms the most lovely, heroic or terrible. But he is destitute of the superior skill which lays open the soul, and shews her inmost and most complicated workings. We rather admire his art in delineation, than sympathise with the feelings of his characters. He can pourtray the workings of the countenance, but seldom attempts to describe those of the heart. His heroines are all that is beauteous and gentle, they might form models of elegance and grace, but we see nothing of the delightful varieties, the engaging affections, and the myriad of softer charms which should animate those enchanting statues. The same distinction may be observed in his landscapes. They are singularly rich and fanciful: every wavy line of moon. light, every motion of the foliage, every tint of summer radiance in the clouds, are seen with delightful distinctness. But there is no perception of spiritual associations among this fine combination · of natural images, nothing to raise us above this world: no fairies dance on the blossoming verge of his rivulets, no angels repose among his sweetest recesses, no awful visions of antiquity gather round his gloomiest relics of old superstition, no spirit awakens sublime thoughts in his wildest scenery, his deep caverns or his everlasting bills. All is alike fair and cold : there is no key to the higher sublimities, nothing which transports us very far beyond the scenes on which we are gazing, and, therefore, nothing which is requires very fine or delicate perceptions to enjoy.
The'le, purer qualite tended to fasy metre,
: A great facility of versification, with the use of an easy metre, and a popularity almost unprecedented, have tended to hinder Mr. Scott from a cultivation of the purer qualities of his genius. His first original publication, the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel,” was perhaps of a higher order than any thing which he has since produced ; the enchantment was deeper and more marvellous; the fancies more airy, and thicker strewn, and wore an air of solemnity and grandeur that inspired us with a bolier reverence. Marmion, although masterly in the delineation of the hero, awful in the scene where Constance is condemned, and magnificent in the description of the closing battle, is much more careless, and filled up in the pauses of the action with such common-place jingling as would scarcely be endured in an inferior writer. The i Lady of the Lake” descended still farther from those fearful eminences to which the author once seemed destined to climb, into mere description; and “Rokeby” and the “ Lord of the Isles," although abounding with elegant landscape and neatly-finished portrait, are yet further removed from the potent enchantment of his earliest production. The poem which is impressed with the stamp of his airiest fancy is one by no means popular—the “ Vision of Don Roderick," in which he celebrated the infancy of Spanish freedom. Notwithstanding the manifest danger of versifying gazettes, he succeeded in embodying in his poem the great feelings which were then in the niorning of their existence, and just bursting forth in the freshness of their youth. He saw that the contest in which this country had engaged was assuming a new and more dignified aspect; he beheld two pations, the one long celebrated for its love of freedom, and the other bringing with it the venerableness of remote antiquity, throw down their arms, and embrace in the field of battle-binding themselves in a friendship to be proved, not in the arts of peace, but in the midst of slaughter and misery. Although the government which had been overthrown was at once tyrannical and weak, he discerned, and beautifully imaged, the happiness which had dwelt in the tranquil cottage—the kindliness that flowed even through prejudices— and the domestic affections, which had flourished in its peaceful vallies before the aggression of the invader. He felt the inspiration of his theme. The solemn paleness of the moonlight scene was admirably contrasted with the subsequent description of terror and carnage, and the majestic exhortations of the people to a holy resistance. The country of romance and chivalry afforded, even in its desolation, vestiges of that potent inspiration which had once made its halls and bowers vocal; and the cheerful content of its credulous peasantry forms the subject of many charming groups, in whose faces it is exquisitely depicted. Let Mr. S. pursue the vein of mental resources he has here developed, and his tasteful luxury