« AnteriorContinuar »
misrepresent the scope of an author's meaning, or serve to conceal the chief beauties of the original composition ; viz. the symmetry and consistency of its parts, the advantages of connection, and the intended effect of the whole : for what idea, it may be asked, could be given of so grand an edifice as St. Paul's Cathedral, by exhibiting a number of detached fragments from its pediments, or from its columns ?
There may be some foundation for the foregoing objections : but, on the other hand, it has been observed that the collections in question may be useful to many readers, who might never have an opportunity of studying the whole works of voluminous authors, and with whose sentiments they may, by the help of such extracts, and by their means only, become acquainted. It is also alleged that there is another use which may be made of “ collections of beauties,” especially when arranged and digested, as are the contents of the volumes before us *; viz. that they serve, with good effect, as an Index to the entire works of our Shakspeares, our Addisons, our Johnsons, and our Burkes, to whose sentiments many readers would be glad occasionally to refer, did they know where to turn to the subject. By the help of such abstracts, there is, doubtless, a chance of finding what might otherwise be sought in vain, or be attained at the expence of much labour and time:
· With tegard to the specific merits of the compilement before us, as a selection, we may observe that the extracts from the multifarious writings of Mr. Burke appear, from such a cursory glance cver them as our time can be supposed to afford, to be judiciously selected; and the general mass seems to be very properly reduced to order :--- yet we have remarked a few passages, with the beauty of which we have not been very forcibly struck; for instance:
NAMES.-" Great names have great prevalence." vol. ii. p. 229.
PARLIAMENT and People." All the people have a deep interest in the dignity of parliament.” ib. 241.
Party DEFINED.-“ Party is a body of men united for promoti ing, by their joint endeavours, the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.” ib. 255.
PRECEDENTS.-" I shall never quit precedents where I find them applicable.” ib. 289. - PRUDENCE.--" Prudence is the queen of virtues." ib, 26.
These passages, with several others, containing sentiments equally just but equally common and obvious, take rank in these volumes as beauties : we conjecture that their justly celebrated author would not, himself, have pointed them out as instances
* Alphabetically arranged; with the addition of a copious Index.
of either « the Beautiful” or “the Sublime." -Let not, howe cver, our readers conclude that such are a majority of the flowers which have been transplanted into this literary parterre. This is by no means the case. Every one knows that the compositions of Burke abound not in the tame, the insipid, and the common place. There is in them, and in the present collection, enough of the eloquent, the bold, the brilliant, and the ~ Poetic,” as Johnson happily said ;-in a word, -enough to make a rich compensation for what lies more level to the million.”
The biographical account of Mr. Burke, prefixed to these gleanings from his works, occupies a full half of the first volume, and perhaps constitutes a principal portion of the merit of the publication. Agreeably to the promise in the title, it contains many Original Anecdotes,' which escaped the notice of Mr. MCormick and Dr. Bisset, whose works we lately reviewed; and which, relating to Mr. B.'s private life, are peculiarly interesting : but we must bear in mind that the particulars are given on anonymous authority.-The account of the means by which Mr. B. first procured an introduction into the political world, in which he afterward so conspicuously shone, exhibits him in the humble light of a soliciting attendant at a great man's levee, hawking his independence in one hand, and presenting his letter of recommendation with the other. The passage is this :
• His studies became more diversified, and the success of some pens induced him to turn his attention to some work that might raise his. fame as a writer. His success in this line was equal, nay superior to his expectation, but he soon found that « fondness of fame was avarice of air,” in consequence of which he procured a letter of in. troduction to the late Earl of Bath, the Mecænas of the day. His Lordship received him with the utmost politeness, lamented that it was not in his power to render him any service, as he was no longer in power. The impression which this unexpected intelligence made on Mr. Burke did not escape his Lordship's eye; he felt for the situation of the young man, and after a pause, “ I will give you a letter, said he, to the Earl of Bute, though I don't know that I am entitled to take that liberty." The proposition revived Mr. Burke's drooping spirits, and he waited, without loss of time, on Lord Bute, who professed his sorrow that it was likewise out of his , power to render him any service, as he had resigned all his employments that very morning, adding, that his influence with his Majesty was greatly over-rated ; anxious, however, that a man of genius and talent should not pine in the shade, he would take one step, he said, which he did not know he ought to take, but he would venture, and if crowned with success, it would yield him great pleasure. As Lord Halifax had been appointed to assume the vice-regal government of Ireland, perhaps in that situation he would be able
to render Mr. Burke some service in his native country. The Earl. accordingly wrote to Lord Halifax, and recommended the bearer of it as a man of promising genius, who would reflect honour on his patronage and protection. The new appointed Viceroy expressed the deepest regret that every department in his appointment, except that of private secretary to his own secretary, was filled up. Mr. Burke was accordingly appointed private secretary to the Right Hon. Gerard Hamilton, commonly called Single Speech Hamilton, in consequence of his having made only one speech in the House of Commons during all the time that he sat in Parliament, but which has cver been considered as an effort of unprecedented talent, and is thought to have been composed by the subject of these memoirs.'
Leaving our readers to their own reflections on the circumstances of the foregoing anecdote, we shall proceed to observe that the writer of this sketch insinuates that AMBITION Was the ruling passion of Mr. Burke. It is highly probable. What but the irresistible desire of rising above that safe and happy station, which science and philosophy might have adorned with a mild though not a dazzling lustre, could have tempted a mind possessing such powers to stoop to the meanness of courting patronage ? His breaking with his first political friend Mr. Hamilton, because (to use the words of this writer) he began to think his patron did not exert all the influence he possessed, to usher him into life,' is a circumstance which seems to confirm the opinion that • Burke was ambitious. Several others of the same tendency are given in this sketch; with one of which we shall, close this article.
. Though Mr. Burke affected to despise popularity, yet no man, perhaps, was ever more susceptible of flattery, which he always paid in kind; but a stroke of wit, or a single paragraph in a newspaper, were sufficient to discompose his temper, particularly when he was sinking into the vale of life. A few years since, he happened to call on an old friend, who was very fond of collecting prints of British patriots. Mr. Burke was not a little pleased to see one of himself in that list, with the following rude, but pointed lines written under it with a pencil, which he did not immediately perceive;
• Pelliculam veterem retinet, ac fronte polile
Astutam vapido servat sub pectore vulpem. • The old gentleman saw, by Mr. Burke's countenance, that it displeased him, but protested he was wholly ignorant of the writer, and that, as he did not understand Latin, he thought the lines were filled with his praise, and immediately effaced them, but they had sunk too deep in Mr. Burke's memory to be effaced; he took a hasty leave, and never after entered the house.'
We have chosen to extract from the original matter of these volumes, rather than from the selections themselves, which are. their principal contents,–because the former will, and the latter would not be new to our readers : but we hope that they will be able to form a sufficient judgment of the merits of the work.
Art. V. A Tour through the Isle of Mann, in 1797 and 1798;
comprising Sketches of its Antient and Modern History, Constitution, Laws, Commerce, Agriculture, Fishery, &c. including whatever is remarkable in each Parish, its Population, Inscriptions, Registers, &c. By John Feltham. Embellished with a map of the Island and other Plates. 8vo. 75. Boards. Bath, Crutt
well. London, Dilly. 1798. " A spirit for topographical inquiries,' says Mr. Feltham in
1 one part of this work, has lately been prevalent, and every year produces new accessions to this department of literature; these researches have been sanctioned with a considerable share of public approbation, which evinces in some degree their utility. This observation is well founded, and we beg leave to accompany it with another; viz. that, however useful or entertaining topographical inquiries may be when they are guided by taste and ornamented by genius, there is yet no species of composition more dull, flat, and puerile, when genius and taste do not afford their embellishments. We do not advance this remark in order, as Mr. F. expresses it, to (silence totally the jejune and obtruding muse,' but with a view of obtaining from his muse, hereafter, productions less jejune than that which she here presents : or at least of dissuading him from that funereal work with which he threatens us, a collection of all the epitaphs which are to be found in all the churchyards of the Isle of Mann!
In the present work, consisting of 290 octavo pages, the · seader will certainly find something to inform and something to amuse him : but we are sorry to say that the entertaining and instructive matter bears but a small proportion to the bulk of the volume. In the common mistake of young authors, Mr. F. scems to have been more attentive to the expansion of his work than to the sclection of his materials : whatever he could learn, therefore, respecting any of the topics enumerated in his title page, great or little, public or private, trivial or important, he has heaped together; and the consequence is, that the reader frequently passes over not only pages but whole sheets, before he meets any thing to interest his attention. We mention this in kindness to Mr. F.; hoping that, if he shall again write for the public, he may avoid an error so unfavorable to his literary reputation.
The following extracts are taken from those passages which seem to give the best general view of the former and present state of the island, so far as it is likely to interest the majority of readers.
- This “ Navel of the sea” possesses many privileges. The unfor. tunate may find it an asylum ; the economist a place exempted of all taxes; the epicure may enjoy fish, port wine, hams, and poultry *, cheap; and the philosopher a place of rest from bustle and faction. The native goodness of the Manks has been too ofteni imposed on by strangers, and justly engendered a prudent reserve ; and some slight introduction is rather expected before a comfortable connection with them can take place.'
• In emigrating from England, many advantages must be given up. Money, here, loses much of its omnipotency; the plaisares of a luxurious table cannot be had without difficulty : markets are thin, and bud ill provided, and there are not any butchers' shops. The pigs are larger in proportion than their other cattle, and extremely good and plenty. Fat meat is scarce, and the vcal in general indifferent; the mutton is sweet and delicate. But a very peculiar, breed of sleep is found here, the wool of which is of a red sandy colour, or the fauncoloured Turkey wool used by hatters in this country.'
« Poultry of all kinds are numerous and cheap ; fish and eggs are plenty and reasonable. The better kind of fruits are not to be had; Major Taubman's was the only walled garden I observed, and that would grace any place. Apples are not grown in any quantity.'-.
• The want of trees and hedges gives a barren aspect to the island; but it is not unpleasing from the undulation of its surface, and the sublimity of its mountains, of varied shape, distances, and termi. nation ; whose sides afford a frequent specimen of that adventitious beauty occasioned by floating clouds intercepting the sun-beams, and giving to the fields glowing and varied tints. But it could not have always been without trees, for by a statute of 1570, a forester is allowed to range the forest for unshorn sheep, &c. t
Thus, though its rocks are not, like those in Devonshire, “ fringed with ornamental plants and shrubs.;" nor«its gardens surrounded with myrtle hedges covered with most delicious bloom';" yet its rugged rocks, and bold mountains, whose outlines are abruptly varied, adorned with the health, gorse, and fern, that spread over its surface, form somewhat of a picturesque scene"; but a general want of trees, &c. for a fore-ground, and a requisite variety of well-disposed objects, render it not adapted for the composition of a landscape painter.'
• The mountains abound in springs, but the water, though good, is not of a superior kind! Of spirits, rum is generally drank, and
* Does there not seem to be a little contradiction to this account in the next extract ? Rev.
• The Druids found this island well planted with firs; quanti. ties have been dug up some depth under the surface of the earth; and some oaks, which, it is supposed, being their favourite tret; was introduced by them.' Rev. Dec. 1798.