Imágenes de página

of Pope; and nothing is wanting to render him perhaps the first poet in the English language, but to have written a little more.' To enable us to estimate the justness and delicacy of this criticism, Ad. Smith should have explained, what are the peculiar qualities which formed the sublimity of Milton's style, and distinguished it from that of other poets, which made him select it for a comparison with that of Gray; and why he compares Gray's lyrical style with the finished and antithetical manner of Pope's versification, to which we see no resemblance. Again, the poetry of Milton was elegant and harmonious as it is sublime: Pope himself never could equal the Doric delicacy of Comus and Lycidas, and the Arcades; and he never could approach the magnificent swell of the organ-peal in which the Paradise Lost rolls on to our delighted and astonished ears. Gray never thought of joining the sublimity of Milton to the elegance of Pope, though he is both sublime and elegant; and even if he had" written a little more," he certainly would not "have been the first poet in the English language," however high he might have stood amidst the noble brotherhood of the poets. The next observation with which we are favoured is, that "the Elegy generally monopolizes the whole praise due to Gray's genius, and yet we are certainly of Dr. Beattie's opinion, that it is by no means the best of his works." We dare to say that Dr. Beattie, when he wrote those words, was ready to explain the grounds of his opinion, and to support them by such an analysis of Gray's poetical productions, as would do him honour as a poet and a critic; but as we do not possess any full and particular criticism from him on the subject, we are at liberty to say, that it is by no means an easy, and perhaps not a very useful task to compare the merits of poems of such different classes as the Bard and Elegy, and pronounce on their comparative merits. In a number of this Magazine, a year or two back, we had occasion to enter minutely into the composition of the Elegy, and to shew what we considered to be its defects in language and structure. But we consider it as a whole to be conceived with the finest poetical feeling, and that some of the stanzas are of the very highest quality; the faults, such as they are, are chiefly derived from Gray's manner of composition. With regard to its popularity, we can only say that he who cannot feel the beauties and understand the grand style of composition in which the Bard and the lyric poems are written, will have but a superficial acquaintance with the merits of the Elegy.


Our critic then speculates on the cause of Gray's having written so little; and after having declared that it did not arise from the fear of paltry criticism (who ever supposed it did?) he says "probably Gibbon was right in referring the cause of Gray's writing so few poems to the misfortune of his suffering himself to be led away from the romantic paths of Parnassus into the rugged and cheerless road of criticism and matters of fact." Now, not aword of this is Gibbon's;—who was not likely to talk about "the cheerless road of matters of fact;" but he asks a question that does honour to his taste, and shews his admiration of Gray's genius. He observes, "Why did not Gray, instead of compiling tables of chronology and natural history, apply the powers of his genius to finish the philosophical poem of which he has left such an exquisite specimen?" Now, to this question, we should, in the first place, express our opinion that "compiling tables of chronology and natural history" did not prevent the completion of the "Alliance of Education and Government." Every man must do something else, than write poetry, who writes.

* See review of Boswell's Johnson, in our Magazine for April 1836, p. 344. This criticism has since been incorporated in the Aldine Edition of Gray's Works, vol. i,

[ocr errors]

poetry worth reading. Milton compiled Latin dictionaries and arts of logic, and wrote political pamphlets and state letters, and theological creeds. Pope formed a laborious summary in Latin of the Antiquities of Rome and there was assuredly, amid the silent and sequestered hours of Gray's life, ample time for great variety of pursuits, and perhaps an advantage in the change they brought. But why need we search for an answer to a question which has already received its solution from the poet himself? Mr. Mathias, in his Essay on Gray, informs us, that when he was questioned why he had not proceeded with that poem, which seemed, by a wellselected subject, to offer rich and various materials to a poetical mind; he answered, that he had been so used to write with that minute and delicate finishing which smaller poems require, that he grew tired of the labour it required on a more extended scale ;* and probably his tragedy of Agrippa was left unfinished from the same cause. The perpetual polish, the elaborate finishing, the beautiful selection of expressions, the heightened splendour, which are inseparable from lyrical poetry of the highest class, it is evident, must be misplaced, or rather cannot be transferred into poems of greater length, exhibiting a greater variety of feelings, and demanding a change of style corresponding to them. The finest philosophical poem in our language is, probably, Pope's Essay on Man; it is the only one that is popular, notwithstanding the abstruseness of its subject and the obscurity of its reasonings; and it has secured the lasting approbation of the reader, by the felicity of its illustrations, the liveliness of its allusions, and the charming adaptation of its style to the successive subjects that arise. That Gray would have been equally happy cannot be assumed from the fragment which remains, and which appears to us, notwithstanding some delightful passages, to be too uniformly stately and elaborate for its subject. We have been induced to extend these observations on a favourite poet somewhat further than we could have wished, in order to rescue him from the mistakes and misapprehensions of the author of this very flimsy and offensive critique; who has borrowed his quotations and parts of his criticism from sources he has not acknowledged; who has spoiled them in the using; and who shows himself as totally unacquainted with the laws of a refined and sound criticism, as he is with that modest and candid manner of advancing his own sentiments, which can alone entitle them to attention and respect.

The next paper, No. III. is of a much more valuable kind, though of far humbler pretensions. It gives an account of the private collections preserved in the Colleges which have been formed by the study and diligence of various members of the University in different times, and many of which contain copious transcripts from important historical records. Such are the Hare MSS. in Caius Coll. (MS. 579)† They consist of four volumes,

* We do not quote the words of Gray, but their import. The exact words may be seen in Mr. Mathias's observations, p. 52: they are too long to quote in this note. Did H. Walpole allude to this poem, which was to be dedicated to Montesquieu, when he says, "He who in the dawn of science made a version of Christina of Pisa, in its vigorous maturity would translate Montesquieu, and I trust not in metre." V. Noble Authors-Earl Rivers.

+ R. Hare was son of Sir Nicholas Hare, "an esquire of good worship and wealth, (says Fuller) and a great lover and preserver of antiquities." V. Fuller's Hist. Univ. p. 15. He died Nov. 2, 1611. His epitaph is preserved in Stowe's Survey, p. 371. Baker says that he was so desirous of a burial place in St. Paul's that he took a lease of it of the Dean and Chapter in Bp. Aylmer's time, A.D. 1592, about twenty years before he died. There is a letter from Barrow in No. I. thanking Hare for the present of his valuable collections.

and relate to the privileges, powers, and constitution of the University. There is also another work preserved in the library of the same College, (No. 391, 392), by him called "Miscellaneous Collections."

Of the Baker MSS. better known, there is a full account in Masters's Life of him. His MS. labours spread over twenty-three folio volumes, which fetched but 27. from the great collector of the day, Lord Harley. These twenty-three volumes are now part of the Harleian Collection in the British Museum. The rest are in the University library, comprising nineteen folio volumes, almost wholly in his own handwriting. Another such laborious antiquary, of a later fame, was the well-known William Cole, of King's College, and Vicar of Milton; the children of his ponderous labours also repose on the shelves of the British Museum, and consist of forty-six volumes, only a part of which possesses an index: Cole's words assuredly are not eжеα πтéроеvтα-they have no wings-but go rumbling along the earth; and he who would give an index to this "materiæ moles," would deserve well of every lover of antiquarian lore. In Downing College the Boutell MSS. are extensive, and at present unexplored, and the MSS. of Drake's Memoirs are preserved in two elephant folios in the National Museum, containing the lives of the bishops that have been educated at Cambridge from the foundation of it to the year 1715, collected out of Godwin, Bale, Pits, Fuller, Wood, Walker, &c. The second volume contains the lives of the illustrious writers that the University has produced, after the example of Anthony à Wood, but the number of characters noticed is only four hundred and five: an intended supplement, bearing this author's name, is in the Bodleian library. There are also some smaller collections which we have no room to notice, and some which have a particular relation to the offices and statutes of the University; among these latter one exists in the library of Jesus College which is of more prominent interest, and demands a particular mention. It is a volume of University History arranged in the form of chronological tables, wherein each institution has a separate column. The volume is a paper folio. On the third leaf is written this marginal note:

"Author hujus libri, opinor, erat Dr. Fuller, qui edidit Historiam Cantabr. quod exinde conjicio, quod An. 1620. Rob. Townson vocat Avunculum: at etiam Jo. Davenant Avunculum: is autem erat utriusque nepos, et posterior constituit Fullerum Prebendarium."

serenity of Fuller appear frequently in the abundant remarks and devices: Of this evidence, the following examples may be offered. At 1622 is this entry :'Hoc ultimum triennium Downæi senio deficientis, Rob. Creicton (ut olim Hercules defessi Atlantis), vices supplevit inter menses Maius,-et inter aromata nardus.' 1625. Pestis sævit, at aeris corruptio generatio numerosæ sobolis Doctorum.""

"Besides this authority (says our author, p. 163), there is the evidence of style and language. The humour and There are entries in several hands, and it is illustrated with engraved portraits. We close this important and interesting communication, with observing that the original of Richard Parker's History, under the title of ZKENETOS Cantabrigiensis, is preserved among the MSS. in his own College of Caius; the MS. of Blomfield's Collectanea Cantabrigiensia was left to the Bodleian Library, by Mr. Gough.

The next paper that succeeds commences with the History of the Lady Elizabeth de Clare, the foundress of the Hall that bears the name, whom Gray calls "the princely Clare ;" and as her armorial ensigns are Three chevronels Gules, the author enters into a dissertation on the meaning and origin of the word "Chevron." The root of it he considers to be aronele, meaning the principal timbers that support the roof of a

house. This word he derives from "Hirundo," since the timbers, when joined, resemble the forked tail of that bird. Hence les Chefs aroneles, and, by an easy corruption, les Chevaroneles, and thence Chevron. That the object itself should be worthy of a place in Heraldry, offers another difficulty, and this is attempted to be solved, by likening the plate of iron which defends the head of the war-horse to the carpenter's Chevron. This piece of defensive armour was called the shaffron, which, as the etymologist waves his transmuting wand, becomes again Chevron; but we are too old and wary to be caught in the traps which etymologists are setting for unfledged critics. We think shaffron is Chamfrenum, or Chamfrein in modern French, xàpos, frenum, and in very early authorities, Chamfrenum. From this account of the illustrious family of Clare, we make the following interesting extract (p. 170.)

"It is, perhaps, a singular thing that so great a family as this, and one so well known in the early history of the kingdom, both on account of the political importance and the illustrious connexions of the Earl of Gloucester, should, in the two only occasions in which the line of Clare is noticed by our poets, have been in both cases misrepresented. Sir Walter Scott, in his splendid poem of Marmion, extends the line of Clare and that of Marmion also to the time of King Henry the Eighth, the Earl of Gloucester having become extinct in the name of Clare, as we have seen, in the reign of Edward the Second, and on the field of Bannockburn. The baronial house of Marmion, was, in its eldest line, extinct at an earlier period. We have seen also that the union of the two houses of Clare and Marmion, as represented in the poem, is in point of fact at variance in the history. The prolongation of the titles of Clare, and the marriage of that house and the Marmion race, however, though not true, do not impute any stain to the lineage so noticed; but an earlier poet, S. Peele, the dramatist,

who was dead A.D. 1596, in his play, entitled "Edward the First," gives us some scenes reflecting the gravest scandals on the character of Queen Elinor, and affixing the stain of illegitimacy on Joan d'Acres, wife to Gilbert de Clare, father to the illustrious foundress of this College. It is obvious that the whole representation is imaginary, and utterly opposed to fact; and the only wonder is, that it should ever have been invented or tolerated. The warm and devoted affection which Queen Elinor bore towards her husband, is a matter of history. The story, fabulous or true, which represents her as sucking the poison from her husband's wound in the Holy Land, is a sufficient proof that she was held to be most warmly attached to him; and the unusual honours with which the King marked her funeral obsequies, show that on his part also the attachment was as warmly returned, and his bereavement deeply deplored, while they render the idea of any such confession in her husband's ears, as we read in that drama, absolutely impossible."*

The most important paper in the sixth and last number is the account of Sir Edward Coke, which is copious and interesting; but the writer was evidently not aware that the whole of the entries in Coke's pocket copy of Littleton's Tenures, that relate to his own history, or that of his family, have recently been published in the sixth Volume of the Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica. There is also, at p. 218, a mistake of thirty years in the date of the preface to the Harleian Catalogue being given to Archdeacon Nares, with the year 1839; whereas that learned and estimable person died in 1829. We think, also, that the writer should not have omitted to mention the pillar erected to the memory Coke in the park of Stoke, with the very eloquent and laudatory inscription. The only remaining paper which can now detain us, is that in which the mulberry tree, said to be planted by Milton in the garden of Christ's College, is described. That it was planted by the Poet's hand, it appears cannot be established by any positive evi

* See Dramatic Works of S. Peele, by Rev. Alex. Dyce, vol. i.


dence, but has been handed down in one unvarying tradition among the fellows of the College. Its age is marked out, not so much by its size, which is rather diminutive, as by the strong proportion of its limbs,* by their abruptly tapering towards their extremities, and by their almost invariably striking off from each other at right angles. The necessity of propping it with crutches, arose from the decay of the main trunk, the interior of which has long been stuffed with a rich composition of manure, while the outside has been encrusted with a covering of sheet lead. A tempest, which some time ago threw down many younger and stouter trees, nearly twisted the old Miltonian mulberry round its axis, props and all taking a part in the pirouette. Yet every spring, obedient to the call of Flora, it puts forth its leaves with all the vigour of youth, and Autumn beholds it richly laden with its purple fruit. This cherished and venerable tree was however nearly doomed, like an old martyr, to suffer from the fires of persecution.† For, when a few years since the discovery of the posthumous MS. in the State Paper Office, since published and translated by the joint labours of Dr. Sumner and Mr. S. Walker, confirmed the suspicion of Milton's Arian heresy, the holiest of the orthodox would have had the old mulberry,-"heu ! tanti ignarus mali,"-extirpated root and branch, as a tree that was heretical and damnable; but the fellows of the College united in resisting this dangerous outbreak of religious zeal, and it still survives to make snuff-boxes and tooth-pick cases, we trust, for many a succeeding generation.

Before we quit this subject, and the name of this immortal poet for the last time drops from our pen, we must express our surprise and sorrow that the author of this paper should have shown a doubtful feeling on a subject, which we consider to have been sufficiently refuted, viz. on Milton's having received personal punishment at College; and we sincerely trust that it will never be thought necessary by any biographer to allude to it again. Had a little more industry and attention been given to the perusal of passages in Milton's own works, and a little more candour in the interpre.... tation of his language, such a mistake could not have arisen: but what Johnson was not unwilling to believe, others who followed him in the same path, have been contented to repeat. Our readers, we are sure, will not grudge us the attention of a few minutes' perusal of the following lines, while we remove an unnecessary and ignominious stain on the youthful character of the author of Paradise Lost. Before Milton went to Cambridge, he had been brought up under the affectionate care of a most virtuous and enlightened father, a person himself of considerable accomplishments, and of indulgent regard towards his son, of whose talents he entertained a high estimation. In one of his early poems, Milton thus writes:

"Me procul urbano strepitu, secessibus altis
Abductum, Aoniæ jucunda per otia ripæ,
Phebao lateri comitem sinis ire beatum."

A plate of it is given in this Number, pl. 2, p. 242.

+ In Mr. S. Noble's appeal for the Swedenborgians, 1826, p. 434, he says, "witness again the poet Milton, who introduces active sports among the recreations which he deemed worthy of angels, and (strange indeed, for a puritan !) included even dancing among the number." On which passage Mr. Coleridge justly observes, "How could a man of Noble's sense and sensibility bring himself thus to profane the awful name of Milton, by associating it with the epithet Puritan?" Assuredly Milton belonged to no religious sect or party whatever.

« AnteriorContinuar »