Imágenes de página






[blocks in formation]

WHO, capable of reflection, and susceptible of the endearing charities of life, has ever been conscious of the departure of this important and measured period of human existence without a solemn thrill, produced alike by painful recollection and fearful anticipation? We except the very young, who are led on by a sanguine expectation of something better in prospect, to a speedy oblivion of the past. This is wisely ordered, for if they looked back on the past, and anticipated the future of human life with the calm and pensive view which is induced by experience, the prospect would cloud the gaiety, and chill the ardour, necessary to supply the vigour of enterprise the eagerness of activity and Armness of purpose requisite to enable the actors on the great stage of the world to sustain their parts. Once entered on the selected path, though the freshness and beauty of the morning should be overcast, though the rain should drench, and the sun scorch the weary traveller, he will still proceed with moderated expectations, but increased experience and ripened judgment. Though their early hopes should, in many instances, fail, they will be apt, if aware of the importance of their highest duties, to say like Madame de Valiere in her convent, "I am not happy, but I am content." Even in this case, their experience of disappoint

ments may lead them to look on the departure of another year with resignation, if not with complacency, as bringing them so much nearer to a state where periods of time are no longer measured out, and hope is no longer deceitful. In general, whether the past years have been prosperous or adverse, a new one brings much to awaken solemn reflection in every thinking mind and feeling heart;

To each their sufferings, all are men
Condemned alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for their own.

Even the most favoured do not find every succeeding year add to the stock of domestic bliss-to fortune or to fame. But what year passes without taking away, even from these, something that they loved and cherished at home, or something that they admired and valued abroad? Though a year should pass without blasting those blossoms of hope which we fondly contemplate in our children, or with out depriving us of those we have long regarded with filial love and veneration,-though the narrow circle of private friendship should at the end of the year be found entire, still there are, during that period, costly tributes paid to mortality, that should call up from the depth of the heart thoughts fitted to make us "sadder and wiser" than the last anniversary found us. During the year now elapsed, a British prince, distinguished for noble and estimable qualities in public life, and endeared to those who had access to know him aright, by that sterling worth which

only intimacy can appreciate, received a hasty summons to eternity:-Cut off in the strength of life, just when he had begun to taste the sweets of a virtuous union, and the joys of paternity, and surmounted those clouds with which malignity had endeavoured to darken his fair fame. In a very short space his Royal Father was called from his long and dark affliction to his bright and sure reward. Virtuous and beloved as he was, he has not only left a hallowed example in his life, but a most important and satisfactory lesson in the impression produced by his death upon the public mind. Though for many eventful years a thick veil was spread betwixt him and all earthly concerns,-though he had been so long hidden from public view as those that go down to the grave and are forgotten, the ever living remembrance of his fervent and manly piety, his unshaken truth, and his dignified sense of what was due to his station and to his conscience, his firmness in adversity, his unspotted life, and the warmth of his domestic affections-the whole, in short, of his remembered character seemed to rise from his tomb like a bright exhalation, diffusing its effulgence far and wide over the land he ruled so long, and carrying into every heart a just appreciation of genuine worth, such as seeks not its praise from men, but finds its reward in the approbation of the all-seeing Judge. What a contrast betwixt such a departure and that of Louis the Fourteenth, who, after being in a manner deified on earth, and enjoying all that splendour, luxury, power, flattery, and success could give, lived to be an epitome of human misery, and died childless and friendless, without any one to perform the last offices of humanity about his forlorn deathbed! While the country he had governed so long and oppressed so heavily, as well as all those which his ambition had made desolate, openly rejoiced at his removal! The triumph of truth over error is sometimes slow, but always sure, and once achieved, remains unshaken. The reverent affection which followed our aged monarch to the grave is honourable to the survivors as well as the departed. It is a feeling highly salutary in its moral tendency, as teaching us to prize that sober certainty of waking bliss, which

is only felt by the truly virtuous, which fame or prosperity cannot give, and which adversity or the reproach of fools cannot take away.

This was a national feeling universal as beneficial. Even in the narrower limits of our own city, the last year has taken from us what we can scarcely hope future years will speedily replace. During that period two of the chief stars of science, whose light, not confined to us, was spread over all Europe, whom we justly boasted of as the ornaments of our country, are to us for ever extinguished. It is not merely our pride in our native Scotland, and the splendid names that do it lasting honour ;-it is not only the calm and benevolent sage, whose candour and simplicity made the path of science easy-it is not only the eloquent philosopher who strewed flowers in the way that led through the most intricate recesses of metaphysical lore, that we regret. In general society these losses are in a different view irreparable. The mild temperate wisdom, the bland suavity of manners which made Playfair the delight even of the young and gay with whom he condescended to mingle-the sparkling wit, the fertility, variety, and playfulness that brightened every circle where Brown diffused the rays of his intellect, these social graces we can never hope to meet again combined with the high talent and deep research which not only gave celebrity to their own names, but reflected lustre on the city honoured by their residence.

These breaches in society create a general feeling, which comes home to the bosom of every one capable of calculating the width and depth of those chasms created by the departure of the usefully great. But there are silent and secret wounds near the heart, peculiar to the individual,-wounds which, though time may cicatrize, but

There is here a slight anachronism, with respect to Mr Playfair. The memory of that much lamented individual is still, however, so fresh in the minds of all those sily sympathise in the mistake of the exwho enjoyed his society, that they will eacellent and eloquent writer of this paperin supposing that it was during the course of the last and not the former year, that we were deprived of his genius and virtues.-ED.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

which, on certain stated times or anniversaries, are apt to bleed afresh. These reminiscences are not the less painful for being concealed, or even hid, under the mask of assumed cheerfulness. Let not those who see the master or mistress of the house on such a day receiving their guests with smiles of welcome, or encouraging the cheerfulness of their assembled family,-suppose them forgetful or heedless of the breaches death has made among those once dearest to them. If a little assumption of what is not inwardly felt is at any time pardonable, it is in such circumstances, when prompted by the desire of leaving the enjoyments of others undiminished, of avoiding to pour the bitterness of our secret recollections into the cup of cheerfulness, or cloud the brow of youth with ill-timed sadness. Let not those, I say, who witness the success of such an effort conclude that all is calm within, or that those sensations which are not communicated are extinct. What bereaved parent can see the board arranged for the annual festivity without recalling the forms of the beloved of his heart who were wont on such occasions to grace his able, some fair vision caught away in the bloom of infant innocence, or some shadow like an angel with bright hair" mercifully called from the abode of sin and sorrow when nearly advancing to maturity, raised up by the occasion to hover in dim perspective over the festivity of the living? Their absence, in such moments, renews those feelings which Tune had apparently subdued, and then, more particularly in the midst of laughter, the heart is sad. This annual tribute claimed by the depart ed, and duly, though silently, paid by the survivors, is one of the many salatary forms in which sorrow approaches us, coming to repeat and enforce the lesson we are daily taught by the death of others, who, arriving later at this scene of trial, were yet earlier summoned from it.

This ought to be a season doubly hallowed to every serious mind-hallowed by a profound sense of gratitude for the mercies of the last year, (and who has not such to recollect?) as well as by the many failures on our part, and actual offences against the Divine law, which it is our duty with deep remorse to call up in order before us on the so


lemn occasion of beginning another year. This exercise of the memory, if gone about in a proper spirit, cannot fail to make us more humbly conscious of our weakness, and the uncertainty of our best purposes. After a thorough self-examination in regard to what we have done, and what, notwithstanding of what we thought our best intentions, we have left undone, the necessary result of such a scrutiny will be self-accusation and self-distrust, leading us to more humble and fervent earnestness in imploring the Divine aid to strengthen and support us in our future endeavours to prepare for the change which may take place before the return of this anniversary, and must take place before many more such returns. The revolution of years makes new demands upon our vigilance, and either increases or diminishes that faith in the Divine mercy and hope of a blessed futurity, which are the only cordials of declin ing life, and our only sure reliance for comfort in sorrow and solitude, when the world, as it generally does, leaves us before we leave it, and new actors crowding the stage regard us as an incumbrance. When I say that our best hopes and best endeavours regarding futurity must be found increased or diminished with revolving years, the painful certainty must and ought to alarm every candidate for a blessed immortality who feels en tangled by the cares or seduced by the pleasures of this fleeting period of existence,-this noviciate of the everliving spirit. Who, without being overawed, and forced to look inward, can contemplate the course of Nature, or of her feeble imitator, art, that process continually obvious to his senses, which is going on around us all? Nothing remains stationary. All things are either improving, or tending towards destruction. Can we then suppose ourselves the only visible work of God remaining stationary? Can we think that we are neither advancing towards, or receding from that perfection to which we are invited to aspire, of which the Great Author of our religion, during his pilgrimage upon earth, left us the example? Can any rational being, blest with the light of Christianity, look back on the past year, and find on the review, that that period has been worse employed than the former, without self-condemning


horror? Yet if we are convinced that we have not in that time been advancing, we may assure ourselves we have been growing worse; for, as before observed, there is nothing upon earth stationary; and though our propensity to self-flattery may lead us to rest in supposing the tenor of our lives in both these years to be very much the same, what appears so to us is mere selfdeccption. If such a thing were possible, and that we could the last year, without adding or diminishing, repeat every thought and action of the former, still the last would be worst, because every added year is in itself a benefit calling for additional gratitude, bringing new mercies to excite our thankfulness, new warnings to deter from vice or folly, and new incitements to amendment of life. Besides the awful consideration, that of the "few and evil" years allowed us here to prepare for a higher state of existence, the departure of another has brought us so much nearer the solemn account we have to render for the application of our time and talents.

Let us then make this revolution of the season actually "hallowed and gracious." Let us then, with the poet of Night, ask of the Source of all true Wisdom, to

Teach our best reason, reason, our best will Teach rectitude, and fix our firm resolve, Wisdom to wed and pay her long arrear.

Those who treasure up in their hearts the memory of departed friends, and can say from experience, "Sweet are the uses of adversity," will find a tender solemnity, not unpleasant to the subdued mind, in these eras, that

While they time elapsed recall From pensive sorrow strain the gall, and soothe the mind by a kind of visionary intercourse with the inhabitants of a higher sphere. Those whom adversity of a different kind has sunk from their original station in society, to whom all have become estranged, but those who sought them not from worldly motives, and who see only a barren waste between them and the grave here, if such, I say, have cherished that better hope which faileth not, the return of this anniversary cheers them with a nearer approach to that land where they have long since laid up their treasure.

It is to the wealthy, the prosperous, and the gay, that this period

should carry most apprehension. Others have tasted of the bitter cup which is in perpetual circulation, and many, it is to be hoped, with devout acquiescence in the divine inflictions. But those who are strangers to sorrow have, of all others, most reason to dread it, and should, of all others, be most carnest in their petitions, to be enabled to bear it as they ought, for in one shape or other it must and will come, and this, for ought they know, may be the appointed year. The vain and hopeless petition that should solicit an exemption from this common lot, would only prove that prosperity had done its worst, by hardening the heart, and leading an im mortal soul to centre its hopes and wishes amongst things transient and perishing, In vain do they flatter themselves that to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. Such persons ought to cherish a salutary apprehension of the vicissitudes of life, that they may not be inebriated by its enjoyment. Thus, even in cases the most unlikely, is the balance held between those who innocently suffer, and those who, to our short-sighted view, seem born to enjoy. The darkest gloom of the former is cheered by hope. They have already bent under the chastening hand which chastens not in vain, and to them change may bring something better, while, to the latter, change for the better is beyondex, pectation, and the most likely change, that for the worse, must be terrible indeed, and, without heart-searching reflection, and a due preparation of mind, intolerable.




WE Congratulate our readers that it is in our power to offer them, as our first gift for the new year, a rapid view of the splendid romance which has just added fresh laurels to the wreath of the greatest genius, undoubtedly, of the age. It is, too, our proudest boast that this unrivalled inventor is our own; and it has been with a deep sentiment of patriotic gratitude that we have long followed him through those beautiful and pathetic narratives, in which he has recalled to us all the noblest feelings of our country, shed a glory over its most homely scenes and most rustic characters, and made “all Eu

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

rope ring from side to side" with the name of our poor but ever honoured Scotland. He has already paid to the full all the debt to his country which her most devoted children could require, and we do not now repine that he is spreading his sails in a wider and a more adventurous sea; we permit him, at last, to say, in the words, though not in the temper, of Childe Harold, "My native land, good night;" and we speed him on his way, in the cheering strain of the Roman poet,―

I decus, I nostrum.

On the appearance of Ivanhoe, we were, indeed, sensible that the field which our great romancer had hitherto so delightfully trode was too confined for the extent of his genius; we then saw him break into the circle of Shakespeare, and rise up at once the only worthy successor of that most observant Poet of Nature and of Man. We hailed him on his entrance into it, nor did we wish to recal him to our rocks and glens, however sweet and refreshing the wild flowers had been which he had so profusely scattered over them. He was no longer to be the poet of Scotland merely, but of England and of the World. The grand picture of English manners and English history was now unrolled before him, and his magical eye had at one glance caught the living tints, to transfuse them upon his own canvas. We felt that he was henceforth to be carried away from the rude embraces of his first love; he had tasted blood, like the tiger, and he could now only ream for prey in the unbounded forest. Like many a good Scotchman, he became Anglified in England; yet we will adopt the old pun of Pope Gregory, since transferred by Manso to Milton, rather Angelus than Anglus. His back, however, was now turned upon us, and we were not again very anxious for his restoration;-he has since visited us, indeed, but it has been somewhat coldly and constrainedly. He first treated us like children with a fairy tale, and ended by almost making, in some instances, a farcical caricature of the most beautiful and romantic female personage in our history, at whose name a thousand claymores are yet ready to leap from their scabbards. No, let him remain with her English rival-he has

played his part infinitely better in the splendid court of Elizabeth.

A congenial Spirit with the author of these romances seemed, in the same way, though by no means with a like reversion of glory, to lose amid English scenery and manners his Scottish mantle. The poet of Floddenfield and of Loch Katrine never recovered his visit to Rokeby. When he afterwards joined the battle of Bannockburn, he evidently forgot on which side he was fighting. But it is with perfect confidence we conclude the line which we before left unfinished, and say to our present illustrious son, who has already quite distanced Sir Walter Scott

as we bid him farewell in this his new and glorious career-" melioribus utere fatis." He has succeeded fairly to the English crown, and, like our Sixth James, may now quit Holyrood for Windsor.

We think Kenilworth, on the whole, an improvement upon Ivanhoe. There is less variety, perhaps, less opposition and contrast of manners and character,-but there is a more chastened tone-an infinitely more interesting and better conducted story,-and there is the court of Elizabeth, the most gorgeous picture upon which the imagination can fix, either in history or romance. This wonderful author is quite at home in that court. He moves through it like a man who had conversed all his life with its Burleighs, its Raleighs, its Shakespeares, and its Spencers. He seems to have watched every attitude and glance of the maiden Queen, with the same accurate eye, as if all his hopes and prospects had hung upon her favour, and as if the form which starts into life again at one wave of his wand, had not been mouldering for centuries in the dust, and all the living manners which surrounded her had not alike vanished from the book of existence. But this is the singular talent of this author, which he possesses in greater perfection certainly than any writer of the present day, and perhaps beyond any of former periods. Except in his Roman characters, Shakespeare does not any where exhibit an equal faculty of resurrection, if we may so term it. In English history, through all its periods, he commonly gives us the manners merely of his own times; and his Roman plebeians, (whatever may be said of

« AnteriorContinuar »