Imágenes de página

is made with great particularity by the learned Bishop, in order, no doubt, that all possibility of a mistake between the two brothers should have been avoided; but the Reviewer wished to raise a laugh at the expense of a great and good man; and before this potent though pitiful desire, all considerations of truth were to be brushed away.




T may generally be remarked, in surveying the tide of National affairs, or the state of National Literature, that where a certain Profession is held in peculiar esteem among the great mass of those who are in any degree capacitated by nature or education to form a judgment on its merits, the numbers who devote themselves to its pursuit increase in a proportionate ratio. This principle holds good, whether it be applied to the Fine Arts, to Classical Literature, or to the more recondite and profound sciences. Independently of all ideas of gain, it flatters that principle of ambition universally inherent in man, to participate in those honours which are liberally bestowed on the successful exercise of this profession, of what nature soever it may chance to be.

An evil of no inferior degree is, however, often consequent upon the promiscuous attempts which will thus ever strive together to engross the largest share of public favour and public notoriety, although the emulation thus generated will sometimes, on the other hand, be productive of good. The eager anticipation of fame among a contemporary age predominates over every better feeling, and too frequently shuts the eyes of the ardent individual to the abstract staudard and real capacity of his own powers. Inspired by the sole wish of appearing conspicuous amongst his contemporaries, he remains perhaps satisfied with flattering a predominating taste which rules and pervades a reading public, without sufficiently examining whether his sentiments are those of genuine nature, or his performances conformed, on the other hand, to the immutable principles of sound criticism.

Neither are such dispositions confined to the Poet alone,-they extend

also to his readers. Many who really possess these principles, but who, in the eyes of the world, are desirous of preserving the reputation of taste, reflect back to the author those praises with which the fashionable suffrage has already sufficiently furnished them, and whilst they are thus administering to the increase of selfgratulation, they oftentimes, it is to be presumed, concur in praising or in censuring those performances, or that system, upon which the general tone of criticism, among the mass, has stamped a sort of irrevocable impress.

With the facility, likewise, with which those in a humble station imbibe the manners and the opinions of their superiors, it is no less certain that there are classes in society who feel a like facility in admiring what persons moving in their own, or a superior sphere of life, have pronounced to be excellent. These influences are often supremely powerful, and often supersede the dictates of a better judgment in minds who, on other occasions, consult their own, and are wont to discriminate with clearness, and even with undeviating accuracy.

Hence may often, in a considerable extent, be traced that unanimity of opinion which is observable to characterize readers throughout so many departments, with regard to a wellknown and extensively-read author of contemporary fame. Emulating the taste, or fearing the ridicule of constituted critics, few feel sufficiently assured of their own discernment, to oppose their individual opinion to generally-received notions of excellence. Consequently, whenever the marks of public favour are heaped in accumulated profusion on performances of a certain class or character, or when, on the other hand, genius moving in a particular line or sphere becomes obsolete, those individuals whose works respectively exhibit specimens of the one and the other, are either applauded with enthusiasm, or suffer the slights of unmerited neglect.

Public testimonies, whether they be of praise or of censure, may be further said to receive a bias from those to whose guidance, in matters of taste or of criticism, they are often wont to submit themselves; and as the tone of literary and moral feeling is easily susceptible of those im


pressions which are delineated with ability and force, the influence thus imbibed is, perhaps, by no means slight.

The various Periodical Reviews which adorn the present state of literature in our Island, and unquestionably do credit to the exertions of British genius, may be thought sometimes one grand mean of producing the effect here spoken of. A wish to uphold the cause of some favourite writer, or to supersede the disagreeable necessity of offending parties where a latent interest is supposed to exist in conciliating them, has occasionally united with other motives in rouzing their respective authors to energy and acute exertion of thought, in order, through the force of intellect, to establish the cause of an author which, unsupported by their eloquence, would appear under auspices less flattering.

These reflections may naturally be supposed to flow, whilst contemplating the general and prevailing features of genius as they have of late appeared in our Poetical Hemisphere, whilst contemplating the unprece dented degrees of enthusiasm which have elicited themselves, within a short period of our literary history, from all ranks of readers, on the general perusal of certain works of contemporary notoriety.

Whilst surveying the present state of Poetry amongst us, it will on all hands be admitted, that genius and poetical invention is signally discernible in many of the various forms which she has chosen as the vehicles of her creative fancy, or her descriptions of nature and of life. A favourite characteristic of the age, although the Muse has been unusually fruitful in variety, she has likewise given proofs of her successful attainments in excellence. The genuine aspirations of Poetry are by no means foreign to our school of the present day, the existence of many exquisite and classical perform ances proclaim our native soil to be still genial to growth and maturity of genius, although it is, on the other hand, certain that the peculiar favour which the profession of this elegant and accomplished art has recently obtained from a reading public have contributed to fill our libra

ries with a variety of ill-wrought and ill-imagined fictions which, it may not be deemed illiberal to say, will scarcely survive their generation.

Concerning the merits of some of the most admired productions (if indeed it be allowed to form a judgment from the flattering testimonies of public favour), it is not unreasonable to suppose that the criticisms of a mind in the habit of thinking for itself, divested of the partialities or prejudices which are apt to arise from personal or party consideration, should feel that, were his opinions about to be uttered before a public tribunal of taste, they might, without doing injustice to truth, be characterized in terms somewhat like the following:-The indubitable marks of genius, might he say, which, under whatever form disguised, are recognized in every period of civilization and literary knowledge, although they do not always meet their adequate reward, shine forth pre-eminently in the compositions of a ByRON. Inheriting from nature some of the highest requisites of Poetry, the powerful appeal to the heart and to the human sympathies with which the Poems of his Lordship seldom fail in being accompanied, as they may be termed unique in his own day, are perhaps sufficient to place him on a rank with those of other times, who, in other respects, are certainly his superiors. With a mind ranging with unbounded freedom through splendid scenes of thought and of possible existence in all its variety of shapes, he strikes into combinations of imagery and of sentiment which fasten spontaneously on the reader, and constrain him to admire the facility with which he sheds through his page such accumulated stores of what may not improperly be termed the intellectual and the ideal. We are sometimes in the habit of hearing from critics that certain poets possess too great a stock of learning to please, that they bear too much to the side of authority and precedent, and scatter the lore of ancient times too thickly throughout their pages to merit the name of originals. This noble writer, however, as his original cast of thought precluded him, on the one hand, from too frequently sporting with the thoughts or the opinions of others,


however excellent or happy, so his classical attainments, on the other, enabled him to enrich his fictions or his narratives with such propriety of allusion and reference to ancient story, as should in the eyes of scholars give him a certain appearance of dignity. His diction and selection of language are happily adapted to give force and grace of utterance to the variety and beauty of his thoughts, while the flow and general dignity of his numbers impart to his verse a life and energetic warmth of feeling rarely to be found, with equal effect, in any other writer.

With these excellences and endowments, the author of Harold presents in his writings much to provoke censure, not only on the general score of his moral sentiments, but also in his matter and composition.

Gloomy and despondent in his views of life, and of the mutual relations of happiness, as they reciprocally exist between all human beings, he exhibits, in his intellectual speculations, a glaring licentiousness of principle, associated with the querulousness of a dark and brooding misanthrope,-with the portrait of a man soured by early disappointments and thwarted hopes. He consequently offers outrage to the correct principles of sober reason, while the imagination of the reader hangs with the liveliest interest and emotion on fine scenes of sentiment and of pathos which occasionally escape from his pen. If the hurried accents which sometimes infuse peculiar animation into his pages, and the flashes of impetuous passion which not unfrequently breaks upon the reader, cannot conceal the pernicious sentiments of which he makes his Poetry the vehicle, the elegancies of diction and of well-chosen language cannot on the other hand atone for a negligence of speech, a quaintness and prettiness unworthy alike of his general style, and of an author who writes for a literary immortality. With the complexion or general tendency of his sentiments, however, the mere reviewer of his rank and pretensions as a Poet has, perbaps, little to do; whatever be their faults, taken in a moral sense, they are referable, upon other grounds of merit, to other tribunals.

If the genius of Byron, in spite of his highly-exceptionable sentiments,

and the existence of many flippances which ought not to characterize a great poet, has enthroned him on a pinnacle of high and established fame, the exhaustless fecundity of his contemporary ScorT has blazed forth with unprecedented effect. Fascinated with his easy and glowing talent for imagery, in certain of her departments, and, at the epoch of his appearance, with the novelty of his subjects, all ranks of readers, whatever may have been the portion of their discernment or taste, paid their joint tributes of eulogium on the Minstrel of the North. It may be thought, however, that besides the peculiarly attractive nature of the fable, happily adapted to the views and exigencies of the public feeling, one great means of producing this effect is, that he never, in any of his speculations, soars beyond the standard of understanding which characterizes the bulk of readers in every nation, and his page usually glitters with lively pictures of description. Whilst likewise the genius of this distinguished author is admitted, it will hardly fail in being acknowledged, at the same time, that this genius has received a marvellous bias in favour of one particular train of thoughts and of images; the creation of his mind and the similitudes of his fancy have been circumscribed to the narrow range and limits of a path, which viewed apart from the applauses of ephemeral judgments, is not, perhaps, by any means that which points to the most durable fame, in the exhaustless materials which present themselves to the eye of genius, and are stored up in the imagination of man. What, it may be asked, will unprejudiced posterity say at the sight of five long poems, of epic pretensions and character, unvary

gly treating upon Scottish chivalry, and the personal combats and individual details of semi-barbarous clans? They must doubtless think that the genius of their author extended not beyond the local subjects of his own native clans, and that the principle of ambition, which in him, as in all others, points towards fame, forgot the criticisms of a future generation in the encomiums of the present. Melksham.

(To be continued.)

E. P.



Oct. 4. YOUR Correspondent "Roger,"

Y in your last Magazine, p. 230,

appears to have taken great pains to prove that the poet Rowe was not born before the year 1674; and having found much difficulty to trace his baptism in the mutilated Register of Little Barford, I am rather surprized that he did not advert to the accounts of his age at the time of his decease; which support the opinion of "Roger," that Rowe was born in 1674. Crull's "Antiquities of St. Peter's,

Westminster," it is stated that he died Dec. 6, 1718, in the 45th year of his age; now, if he had at that period attained his 45th year, that would barely carry the date of his birth back to the year 1673; but some accounts state his age at 44 (see Drake's Essays, vol. III. p. 352). The suggestion of" Roger," that the copyist mistook Rowe for Poore, is quite feasible; I have examined several registers of the same age, and often, on a first and slight examination, taken names to be quite different from what, on a little consideration, they proved to be. Poore having the addition of Esq. is another corroborative circumstance; for it is not likely, at that period, that Little Barford could boast of more Esquires than Mr. Edwards and his son-in-law.

The state of the Parish Register is much to be regretted, and particularly so, as it is probable the copy, which ought to be either in the Registry of the Archdeacon at Bedford, or in that of the Bishop of Lincoln, is not in existence.

It appears by the "First Report, by the Speaker of the House of Commons, on the State of the Public Records," p. 315, that 120 of the (125) parishes in the county of Bedford are subject to the jurisdiction of the Archdeacon, and that copies of the Registers of all baptisms, burials, and marriages, of each respective parish, are, or ought to be, delivered in at the Easter Visitation. The Return is dated" Bedford Registry, March 28, 1800." The Registrar does not state whether the copies of the Registers so delivered in are still remaining in the Registry; and as of this there is much reason to doubt, the question ought to be set at rest by the present Registrar, or the Archdeacon him

self; and measures ought to be adopted for replacing, if practicable, all that are missing, and a better plan formed to secure them in future, as the preservation of the copies of early date is of great consequence; for, as is well known, in many parishes, whole books are totally lost, or greatly mutilated. The subject is a serious one, and I hope it will be attended to. Yours, &c. A. C. R.


Sept. 24.

Tape that amongst the many alTappears to me somewhat remarkterations and improvements which have in modern times taken place, nothing has been done (to my knowledge) to do away the right of Primogeniture, by which I would be understood to mean the claim to all landed (or real) property, which the eldest son has by law. That it may be proper and useful that the eldest son should have the principal estate where there are more than one, I shall not call in question; but that where there are several estates and several children, can it be consistent with justice, and I may add with humanity and sound policy, that the eldest son should have all

If ever it was necessary that the eldest son should inherit, according to the laws as they at present exist, the very great change of circumstances which has taken place since the origin of the law of Primogeniture may justly be brought forward as an argument against the continuance of it, or at least of some consi-, derable alteration of it. What may have been expedient many hundred years ago, may now be cruel and oppressive. I should like to have a short account of the history of this matter brought before the publick in your Magazine, with arguments on both sides of the question, if there are two opinions on the subject. My opinion most undoubtedly is, that the laws want very great alteration. A parent, it may be observed, has the power to dispose of his property as he likes, unless under particular circumstances; but in consequence of the law being in favour of the eldest son, there is good reason to imagine that frequently the younger children are very much injured. Has not the law been the cause of annexing to the


[blocks in formation]

T is in reply to a conjecture, that

July, p. 20, I take up my pen to address you. To the remarks of "W. Shanaban, M.D." generally, I have nothing to object. If they have nothing in them very profound or very original, they are at least entertaining and instructive, and evince considerable knowledge of our antient manners and language, or, perhaps more properly, of the modern editions of our old Poets. To the Doctor's commentary, however, on the passage in "Anthony and Cleopatra," I cannot yield my assent. I cannot agree with him in thinking that Warburton's interpretation "makes Anthony express the exact reverse of what he intended." According to the Doctor's own interpretation," most monsterlike be shown, for poor'st diminutives," would form a separate malediction to the preceding sentence. While Cleopatra followed the chariot of the conqueror, she could not be said to be exhibited as any other than as a captive princess; a sight not very monstrous nor uncommon to the Roman populace. This would, indeed, be a gratuitous exhibition. But why Anthony should not mean (as I understand him to have meant) that after this public exhibition, she should be shown "most monsterlike" in private, I cannot see. Dr. Shanaban (with authority, I dare say) reads "to dolts." Warburton and

thor the sense that " Warburton and Tyrwhitt here affix to it," is but a slight argument, when Shakspeare is the author under consideration, for the incorrectness of their interpretation; particularly, when the Doctor offers no authority for the meaning he rather chooses it should

argument much helped by the quotation from "Troilus and Cressida." "Diminutives of Nature" in that place, evidently alludes to insignificance of character, not to bodily deformity, to something contemptible rather than prodigious, as is evident from its connection with the appellation "water-fly," a word always used by Shakspeare to designate a trifling character. "Do you know this water-fly?" Hamlet says of Osrick. Cleopatra could not be shewn as any thing insignificant; we must conclude, therefore, that she was to be shewn for a trifling sum of money.

I cannot, therefore, agree that Warburton's interpretation" cannot be correct;" because I contend that the sentence in which the expression in question occurs, contains a separate malediction to that contained in the preceding; and as Anthony, in the first, referred to a gratuitous, so might he in the last, intend a mercenary exhibition. And, next, I cannot consent to forego Dr. Warburton's for Dr. Shanahan's interpretation of the word "diminutives," because I consider it to possess at least equal authority, and more plausibility. The passage, I agree with him, is full of difficulty. Yours, &c. XXX.

Mr. URBAN, Barnsley, Oct. 4. Na board over the East window

here (a beautiful piece of Norman architecture, about to be pulled down,) is the following inscription, in church text, which I have attempted to deCypher and to translate; but, being little conversant in monastic litera

Jonson (1 have no other editions by the antient Parochial Chapel me), for dolts. This reading, with Dr. Warburton's correction, would go far to support his interpretation of the other word under consideration. If dwarfs are sights, stupid fellows unfortunately are not; and Dr. Warburton corrects "dolts" to "doits," i. e. farthings; and it would certainly be a considerable augmentation of that Princess's misfortune, to be subjected for a low price, that would come within the means of the poorest, to the close inspection of the mechanics of Rome. That "diminutives" never bore in any other au

ture, I probably may have misunderstood it. I have to request that you will do me the favour to insert my communication in your valuable Miscellany, in order that some of your Antiquarian Correspondents, or Readers, may correct or explain what I have written:


« AnteriorContinuar »