Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Mr. Accum concludes his treatise with several judicious observations, intended to point out the dangers attendant on the use of copper and leaden vessels in the preparation and preservation of food. We think we have said enough to suggest the idea of these dangers in a very striking manner; for the inference is decisive-if the introduction of a minute portion of these metals into articles of nourishment or luxury be so greatly to be dreaded, and so much to be guarded against, what madness and folly must it be to employ them so extensively, and in such a manner, that the bulk of our food shall of necessity be in intimate contact with them long enough to be impregnated with their poison !

We quote the words of Mr. Thiery, referred to by Mr. Ac

cum.

« Our food receives its quantity of poison in the kitchen, by the use of copper pans and dishes. The brewer mingles poison in our beer, by boiling it in copper vessels. The sugar-baker employs copper pans; the pastry-cook bakes our tarts in copper moulds; the confectioner uses copper vessels; the oilman boils his pickles in copper or brass vessels, and verdigrise is plentifully formed by the action of the vinegar upon the metal.” A single dose of this poison may not prove fatal in any

individual case; but the continual introduction of it into the system is almost certain to entail highly injurious consequences. Lead, not so frequently employed in the construction of domestic vessels, is occasionally so. Thus, in some countries, milk-pans are often made of that metal. It is sometimes to be seen on the rims or sides of brewing vessels ; leaden pans for salting meat are not uncommon; the presses used in squeezing apples for cyder often consist of it; and, which is particularly deserving of notice, the cream-coloured earthen ware adopted for pickles and other preserves, is glazed by means of an oxide of the metal, and is readily acted on by acid substances !

The consideration of the hazards to which we are thus so perpetually exposed, may well induce us to adopt the suggestion which Mr. Accum has quoted in his preliminary observations66 in the midst of life we are in death." This, indeed, very fitly expresses the condition of our being while we inhabit our present temporary abode. Mankind are liable to the operation of a thousand agents, known and unknown, any one of which may speedily terminate their existence, or render it miserable. We are far from thinking, that the highest information to which it is possible to attain respecting natural causes will secure them against every possible source of evil; and, for our own part, we utterly despair of our species ever arriving at a state of sublunary society, contemplated in vision by a singular genius, in which the necessity of death will be superseded. But we are clear, that knowledge, though it may destroy the enjoyment of the fool who never suspects danger, is one of the foundations of happiness; and that human life, amid all the turmoils, and difficulties, and unpleasantnesses which daily beset it, is a gift worth preserving, at the expense of a little inquiry, a little caution, and a little selfdenial. We may have wearied or frightened our readers by the length and contents of these pages; but we hope we have put them in possession of some of the means by which they may protect themselves and others from fraudulent artifices and the causes of incalculable mischief. If so, their gratitude, as well as ours, is assuredly due to Mr. Accum, from whose well-exercised skill and copious acquisitions we have deduced the benefit.

Art. IV. Political Essays on Public Characters. By Wil

LIAM HAZLITT. Hone, London, 1819. Pp. 475. Svo.

We owe this volume to a singular cause. For several years past, Mr. Hazlitt has amused, and, we presume, profited himself by his lucubrations in the various newspaper and literary journals of the day. As there was little remarkable in these, save perhaps, their extraordinary tone of self-conceit, coupled with an unusual quantity of errors in rhetoric, they seem to have reached the goal of oblivion, somewhat sooner than his later productions. The eccentric matter, and, above all, the strange, incoherent, Bess-o-bedlam diction of his lectures, have excited a considerable noise, which Mr. Hazlitt has mistaken for fame. It has therefore occurred to him, and two or three others of the notable corps to which he belongs, that he must needs be a man of genius; and as all that emanates from genius is interesting to the public, it has been resolved to collect into a volume every scrap or jotting, from the musty pages of Examiners, Chronia cles, Couriers, &c. that can be fairly traced to Mr. Hazlitt, hinc illae lacrymae.

Of such a disinterested man, it would scarcely be fair to hazard the conjecture, that the book is a mere job. Doubtless, the uppermost wish in the author's mind was to earn a portion of that sweet sounding applause which has been so graciously bestowed on his blameless publisher, and others of the school.

But we beg with much diffidence and lowliness of spirit to submit, that the hope of gulling a few pounds from the title-tickled public, was not the least urgent of his motives. Essays on Public Characters, by the redoubtable Mr. Hazlitt, himself a public character of no mean notoriety, could not fail to be fully more acceptable than a scandalous chronicle, or any of those infamous publications which minister to the basest passions of our nature.

Mr. Hazlitt has been somewhat quackish in his title page. He that expects to find a series of essays on public characters, because he has been promised something that purports to be such, will find himself as woefully mistaken as the common run of Solomon's

patients, when they have consumed ten or twelve bottles of the sovereign balm.

For our parts, we must plead guilty to the simplicity that could believe even Mr. Hazlitt's word—but we deem it due to our readers to caution them against any such mistake. Judge of our surprise, on discovering that more than a half of the “ Essays on Public Characters," was a very dull attack on the moral character of Mr. Southey and his friends. The rest is a mass of abuse about the Duke of Wellington, Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Canning, the Regent, and Mr. Scott.

It was to be expected that the characters of Pitt and Burke, those rooted enemies to the liberties of mankind, would not be very tenderly dealt with in the hands of our burning philanthropist. With that novelty for which Mr. Hazlitt is remarkable, we are gravely assured that Mr. Pitt was a tyrant, cold and formal, and that Mr. Burke was a turn-coat, for the sake of a pension.

Of the style, it would be difficult to give a distinct analysis. At one period of his life Mr. Hazlitt seems to have written with accuracy and clearness. More lately his object has uniformly been, not to inform, but to stupify and bewilder his reader. For this purpose, he has thought proper to conceal the barrenness of his thoughts, under a garb, disgusting because of its affectation, and contemptible, because presuming to be original, it is yet a base imitation of the vices of Cobbet

. We cannot help indulging the conceit, that Mr. Hazlitt has farther formed himself somewhat on the model of the modern dandy-stiff and starched wherever nature requires ease-full and inflated where common judgment suggests some tightness of application. We should complain the less of his redundancies, if they did not obscure any glimmer of meaning --we shall not say of sense, in case Mr. Hazlitt himself should smile-which the language is intended to convey. There is such a heaping of epithets, which it is im

[ocr errors]

possible to connect, by any known rule, that the mind must be more than human which can perceive the associating link. We are much inclined to suspect that Mr. Hazlitt is generally as ignorant of his own meaning, as a certain sagacious Baronet, who, when he had written an order to his grocer, was unable to read, or even remember its contents, but consoled himself with the hope, that the shopman, from his habit of deciphering difficult writing, would easily discover his purpose. The public, unluckily for Mr. Hazlitt

, has not yet acquired all the dexterity of the shopmao ; and, we are afraid, that the stolidity of refusing words for ideas is not likely to leave us,

for two or three generations to come. It is part of this system to employ the most obsolete terms for expressing the plainest ideas ; thus, it he has occasion to talk of censure, he must call it Ostracism, or of the junction of one object to another, he uses some of the tenses in the old verb to mortise. It is needless to observe, that he is uniformly unhappy in his attempts at the antique. Once and again, he has been charged with ignorance of the ancient languages, and, we believe, the charge is as easily substantiated as it has been frequently preferred. It follows almost of course that he should mismanage words of Greek and Latin extraction. In the instance before us taken at the opening of the book, it is impossible to say, whether by Ostracism he means censure or jealousy; though it is pretty plain that the original word can by no possible torture of its etymology, afford the latter interpretation.

Though it may be difficult to worm out the meaning of his antiquated expressions, it is always easy to discover for what purpose they have been used. By employing unusual words, for which we have been told he is chiefly indebted to the columns of Johnson, he acquires the air and seeming of a man' much addicted to the black letter. And yet, we are confident, that if he were at this moment to make oath, to all the tomes of old English literature which he has perused, the list would not greatly enlarge his affidavit. In politics, it is very plain that his reading has been confined to the pamphlets of Mr. Burke and the pages of the Examiner. We

We may be mistaken, but he has himself to thank for our error. If his reading has been little, we shall have occasion to shew that his thinking has been less.

We have said that his manner is a vile imitation of the vices of Cobbett. The remark is not applicable to Hazlitt alone; the whole fraternity of which Cobbett is the head, are not only believers in his creed, but humble copyists of his rhodomontade. Take any chapter of Hunt, for instance, and the slightest perusal will be perfectly convincing. The imitation consists less in the choice of the same words, than in the adoption of the same manner and the same kind of figures. We shall say

little of the wisdom which could propose the writings of that personage for a model in literature, but we cannot pass over the folly which, instead of following, strangely caricatures it. In every respect Cobbet has the advantage over his humble admirers; in originality of mind, in clearness of thinking, and in perspicuity of diction, he stands immeasureably before them. Because Cobbett was plain, Hazlitt must be vulgar, nay, so foul-mouthed, that we should tremble to see the eye of a modest female directed to his polluted pages. Because Cobbett, scarcely knowing, frequently violated the rules of rhetoric, Hazlitt chooses to neglect the most obvious dictates of decency. Cobbett generally addressed himself to the illiterate; it was therefore necessary that he should talk in a manner level to their acquirements. Hazlitt, on the contrary, bespeaks the notice of the high-born and the learned, but forgets that homely figures and disgusting allusions are not the most likely means of securing their attention, far less their approbation. We might illustrate this position at great length, for the volume before us absolutely teems with befitting examples ; we shall, however, content ourselves with a single instance or two.

He is describing the character of a Tory:

“ He (the Tory) is not for empty speculations, but for full pockets. He is for having plenty of beef and pudding ; a good coat to his back; a good house for his head; and for cutting a respectable figure in the world. He is Epicuri de grege por. cus, not a man but a beast." He is styed in his prejudices ; he wallows in the mire of his senses ; he cannot get beyond the trough of his sordid appetites, whether it is of gold or of wood. He tramples on the plea of humanity, and lives like a caterpillar on the decay of public good. Beast as he is,” &c.

“ How much easier is it to smell out a job, than to hit upon a scheme for the good of mankind."

“ The plague-spot has not tainted me quite ; I am not leprous all over. The lie of legitimacy does not fix its mortal sting in my inmost soul, nor, like an ugly spider, entangle me in its slimy folds; but is kept off from me, and broods on its own poi

son.

Still, to the same tune,

“ It overlays that vast continent like an ugly incubus, sucking the blood and stopping the breath of man's life. That detestable doctrine, which in England first tottered, and fell headless to the ground with the martyred Charles ; which we kicked out with his son James, and kicked twice back with two Pretenders," &c.

The reader will be pleased to observe, that it was a doctrine *o which the kicking was applied !-Of this same legitimacy it is

urther affirmed,

“ That it was borne into France on English shoulders, and thrust down their uroats with English bayonets."

« AnteriorContinuar »