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think it must be in the same way that productions such as we have now been reviewing, can alone be accounted for. They are the undirected efforts of imitative industry, employing itself on the simple accumulations of memory, and working by some arbitrary laws of association, some supposed rules which stand in stead of accurate ideas of the nature and objects of poetry. As to any process of inventive thought, set in motion by the deeper feelings of the mind, and having for its object to develope and convey those feelings to others, -as to any idea of the use or power of language in exciting emotions superior to those which either harmony or the sister art of painting could supply, or rather seeming to include the power of both,-it is evident that there exists in such minds no conception of the kind. There is a whole range of ideas on which their thoughts have never been employed. Whether this proceed from any natural defect of imagination, or only (as we suspect to be the more frequent case) from an imperfect or limited cultivation of the faculty of attention, they are even insensible of any deficiency of knowledge or of sense on this point, and would doubtless resent, as an impeachment of their understanding, such an insinuation. Yet are such cases frequent among men of no ordinary abilities. Taught to despise, perhaps, from the prejudices of education, the useless labours of the poet, or so engrossed with studies of an opposite character as to have no leisure for attention to lighter subjects, they are perfectly unaware of any inability to appretiate, much less of any obstacle to their comprehending, the works of genius. Nay, they perhaps, in some wayward mood, attempt to imitate them, and please themselves in the idea of complete success, when they have by dint of labour hewn out some shapeless, lifeless resemblance of the object of their blind imitation. “ Talk to a blind man”-observes Mr. Southey in his Omniana--" he knows he wants the sense of sight, and willingly makes the proper allowances. But there are certain internal senses, which a man may want, and yet be wholly ignorant that he wants them. Of course there is no reasoning with them ; for they do not possess the facts, on which the reasoning must be grounded."
The greater part, however, of the mass of bad poetry is produced by persons, who have not the excuse to which we. have alluded, of abstract habits, or inattention to the objects of taste. Nay: they are often found to pique themselves on an unusual share of poetical feeling and knowledge. A sort of fatuity on this subject possesses their minds. Without one qualification of nature or attainment, in perfect misapprehension of the purpose of poetry and in utter ignorance of its rules, they decree that they will write—and they do write. We have the specimens before us. But wherein, it will be asked, cor
sists the harm, what mischief or moral evil is there in bad poetry? The productions of dullness will please and satisfy the dull : so that these works will find their appropriate class of readers. Those who read Milton and think Paradise Lost pretty, who think Southey pretty, and Walter Scott very pretty, will have their minds equally excited, their feelings as much raised, by. “ Don Emanuel.?
Let it be distinctly understood that we consider the possession, or the deficiency, of genius or taste to be entirely unconnected with moral character. A man may be not a whit the less estimable for being a bad rhymer. He may be the happier for not being a genius. Genius is a power, not a moral quality; and as power, it can be no further excellent, it cannot otherwise claim esteem, than as it is employed for the benefit of mankind.-Still we cannot but consider that there is a view of the subject in which genius and taste acquire importance, and in which the want of both, and an ignorance of that want, is to be seriously deprecated.
All ignorance is, in proportion to the importance of the truths which it respects, pernicious. Ignorance of ourselves is likely to be attended with peculiar disadvantages. The knowledge of our powers is intimately connected with of our duties. There is no species of deception, which through error or conceit we practise upon ourselves, that can be considered liarmless. It may seem a trifling thing that a person should be guilty of bad verses, and surely it is no crime. But many things are evils which are not crimes. We would not make a man an offender for a word.” But if it should appear that, from entertaining the notion of being endued with genius, and having acquired the habit of rhyming, a person falls into indolent and desultory habits which dwarf his faculties—that his mind is called off from the sober employments and homely consolations of work-day life, without being capable of receiving indemnification, in moral feeling or delight, from that ideal vision which is only disclosed to fancy's gifted few ;if, as will be generally found, the want of real taste is supplied by a false taste which extends to moral subjects, vitiates the sensibility, and induces a sickly heartless affectation ;-if, again, the consequence of writing bad verses be, the being content with bad verses, and thus at once precluding the hope and motive and means of intellectual advancement in that particular respect, which will have its influence in other respects ;-then, our readers will acknowledge that it is not altogether a harmless thing to be the author of a bad poem. Good sense, it can never be too often repeated, is infinitely more precious, more useful, and more scarce than a sort of genius : but the want of genius is no proof of good sense-the want of good taste is
Poems by Various Authors.
609 some proof of the want of sense, at any rate of the want of cultivation. Genius is a good. Can the gift of. God be otherwise than a good? Whatever little-n.inded scorn the word may sometimes excite in those who are incapable of its pleasures, it is a high prerogative to possess a spark of the sacred flame. Genius is the sublimest attribute of mind : and it is “mind, mind alone,” which exalts man above the clod, and above his fellow; which
-the living fountains in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime ; and which, when its powers are harmonized, and directed to their true and sufficient objects, in accordance with the design of our being, renders us capable of entering into communion with God. We speak not of genius as consisting in any particular form, much less as confined to any particular mode of operation. CA genius,' as it is called, need not be a poet, but a poet must possess genius. In regard however to poetry and the pleasures of taste in general, we may with pardonable accommodation, at once advocate and illustrate their moral efficacy by the eloquence of the great Hooker on a more contested subject. They are' he remarks, in truth most admirable, and do much edify, if ''not the understanding, because they teach not, yet surely the
affections, because therein they work much. They must have
hearts very dry and tough, from whom melody (and poetry is * but the melody of thought) doth not sometime draw that ' wherein a mind well affected delighteth.'— There are grosser i and heavier minds, whom base words do not easily move, • into which the sweetness of melody might make some en' trance for good things. For, saith St. Basil, whereas the
Holy Spirit saw that mankind is unto virtue hardly drawn,
and that righteousness is the least accounted of, by reason of ' the proneness of our affections to that which delighiteth; it
pleased the wisdom of the same Spirit to borrow from melody
that pleasure which causeth the smoothness and softness of 6 that which toucheth the ear, to convey, as it were by
stealth, the treasure of good things into man's mind.-0 : the wise conceit of that Heavenly Teacher who hath by his skill • found out a way, that doing those things wherein we delight, we may also learn that whereby we profit.'*
But there is one point more on which we beg the indulgence of our readers while we say a few words. It has been said that there must be bad poetry for those who cannot appretiate what is good ; or that at any rate to them bad poetry will be the same, and answer the same end as-good. But this is a mistake. That which requires no effort of thought to comprehend, which has
* Eccl. Polity, B. v. Sec. 31. VOL. X.
no tendency to affect the feelings or exercise the faculties, must be pernicious. It cannot but be injurious to the human * mind, observes * the Friend,” never to be called into
effort : the habit of receiving pleasure without any exertion ! of thought, by the mere excitement of curiosity and sensi
bility, may be justly ranked among the worst effects of habitual (novel reading. (p. 167) Were we to allow that the pleasure derived by a great portion of the reading class from inferior productions, is equal in degree to what they would be capable of receiving from the works of genius, this pleasure must be yastly different in kind. The subject continues to extend itself before us, but we must content ourselves with observing here, that we consider it one of the worst effects of the multiplication of books, and the facilities of writing and publishing them, that those works, which can alone form the taste and raise the mental tone, are excluded from general attention, or counteracted in their influence, or lost amid the crowd of tasteless, weak, and unaffecting novelties.
Let us not be understood as bearing hard upon the unripe promise of timid genius, or the honest efforts of unassuming merit. It is rather that these may have room to expand, and light to quicken them, that we would sweep away the weeds of dullness. " It is in justice to them that we would obviate the indiscriminating contempt and reproach which such productions entail on the name and works of genius. But does not every would-be writer think himself a genius? If it be so, what help is there? We can only entreat such, as our parting advice, to remember that, all excellence is the fruit of labour and study; genius can but supply the tools: that any thing short of excellence is worthless : and that thạt alone is truly excellent, as respects the productions of the poet and works of taste, which at once delights and profits the mind—which has a moral purpose, and is fitted to its purpose—which “edifies,
if not the understanding hecause it teaches not, yet surely the
affections, which are the best part of man—and tends to leave the heart better for its pleasures: in a word, such as we shall not repent to have employed our time upon, as altogether vaiz and useless, at that day when each, according to the talents committed to him, shall account to the Lord and Proprietor of all.
Art. XI. Memoirs of George Frederick Cooke, Esq. By William
Dunlap, Esq. Composed principally from the personal Knowledge of the author, and from the MSS. Journals left by Mr. Cookė.
In two volumes. 8vo. Price Il. Is. Colburn. 1813. WE notice this book on account of the excellent moral
it contains. That our detestation of vicé, to be permanent and useful, should be founded on principle we readily allow; but that the feelings may be properly called in to fortify principle, he must be a very rigid moralist who should deny. . But the difficulty is, how to exhibit some vices (and drunkenness is of the number,) without corrupting the mind of the beholder ; how to place our pupil within a circle of magic so potent, as the spirit which we raise shall not be able to overpass The Lacedæmonians used to make the Helots drunk, and then turn them out, as a beneficial lesson, before their children : but among the degradations to which the negroes have been exposed, we do not remember to have met with this. Neither can we recommendy as a substitute for such a spectacle, the close, clouded, hot, narcotic room' of a village ale-house, or the disgusting haunts of more fashionable debauchery: nil dictu fædum, visuque, should be perpetually in the ears of him who has the management of the young. What then? Shall we have recourse to books for warning examples of this beastly vice? It will be rather inconsistent to-be-sure, after having taught our children from Anacreon and' Horace, that drinking is the end of life, and wine the inspirer' of every thing that is amiable. But if we are so inclined, where are these examples to be found ?' În comedy, the mirror of nature? None on earth more pleasant fellows than the Oakleys or Surfaces when half seas over; and nothing more calculated to produce a tolerance of tlieir vices than the amusement they are made to furnish. We are very glad, therefore, to lay hold of a book like the present,--and we are very glad that the biography of Cooke has fallen into the hands of a man like Mr. Dunlap. With an enthusiastic admiration of his hero's talents, and through some of the last months of his career personally attached to Kim, Mr. D. never attempts to palliate his vices, not even to apologize for them. They appear to have struck the mind of the author very forcibly, and very forcibly he gives them to the reader.
No matter, for our presenti purpose, what the profession of Cooke way; he had talents that placed him at the very head of it. Nor were his talents confined to his profession. Though his reading had been desuitory, he had read a good deal, and had thought more. A most pleasant companion--