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and at one of these actually dwelt another woman of the name of Mary Carr, who, having possessed herself of the papers, attended at the Navy Pay Office, and received the money.
Still we have not traced the illusion to its source: if we have explained the causes which have fortified, or appeared to prove the truth of this belief, it is more difficult to explain how the mind first acquired it,-how it first came by the idea of a ghost; and unless we were prepared to argue that this is innate, we know but one solution of the difficulty, which is the supposing it to spring out of the universal belief in the immortality of the soul; whether this be a traditional fragment of revelation, or an induction formed froin dreams. To these the savage always ascribes divinity. The Indian, therefore, whose imagination tirst represented to him, in sleep, the image of a deceased friend, though, in his dream, he might imagine him still alive, would, on waking, conceive his apparition to have been indicatory of another state of existence. Respecting the ready adoption of the creed, we shall find no difficulty, when we consider how universally our hopes and fears rest upon a world beyond our own; and, perhaps, there is no more striking proof of the predisposition of the human mind to that weakness, which forms the subject of the present essay, than the instinctive dread of darkness, remarkable in children, who have escaped the taiut of nursery superstition. The gloom of itself seems to dispose the mind to melancholy, and a vague feeling of insecurity leads the imagization to people it with such terrors as it can furnish and dress up, out of its preconceived ideas. A father and mother, who had taken every possible precaution to preserve an infant daughter from all the horrors of the church-yard, observed in her an evident apprehension of being alone in the dark. They naturally concluded that their care had been fruitless, but, on examining into the object of her fear, she confessed that this was no other than Ell-wide. She had heard the word used by ber mother, and, not knowing that the said Ell-wide was ' base and mechanical,' being struck with the majesty of the name, and receiving 'ignotum pro magnifico,' had adopted him as an object of respect, precisely upou the same principle on which the late worthy member for Sussex cheered, at the bare mention of the bospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia.
But we feel that we have caught the contagion of story-telling; we have been 100 long occupied in this Exlopaxia,' we willingly chlop our weapons, and retire from the contest.
Art. III. Correspondence of the late Gilbert Wakefield, B. A.
with the late Right Hon. Charles James Fox, in the Years 1796 -1801, chiefly on Subjects of Classical Literature. 8vo. pp. 232. London; Cadell & Davies ; Edinburgh, Blackwood;
Dublin, Keene. 1813. TH HE diffusion of wealth, literature, and curiosity; the increased
disposition to read, and the increased ability to buy books, have not only added to the number and fertility of living writers, but have also occasioned the press to groan under a vast additional load of posthumous publications. No sooner does an eminent person die, than his scrutoire is ransacked, and his friends are solicited for materials to make a volume. His works are sought for with almost as much regularity as his last will and testament; and by the time the latter has been proved at Doctor's Commons, the former are almost ready to appear in Paternoster-row. Nor is this process applicable to professed writers alone. A few sketches, or hints, or a fragment found in his port-folio, or verses ascribed to him; or, if none of these things exist, the never-failing resource of his correspondence, by the kindness of friends, and the diligence of publishers, is quite sufficient to raise a man after his death to the dignity of an author who, in his whole life, never entertained any settled thoughts of becoming one. This practice is not unattended by advantages. It adds to the public stock of harmless amusement. It often preserves important facts, and sonetimes even rescues valuable compositions from oblivion. Besides, it gives us a deeper insight into human nature, by exhibiting to us nearer at hand, and at moments of carelesness and confidence, those persons, whom we had been accustomed to admire at a distance, when veiled by prudence, and protected by forins. On the other hand, it must be owned, that it not only ministers to a laudable desire for knowledge, but tends, quite as much, to gratify that low illiberal curiosity which is nourished by idle anecdotes of private life, and that malignant enviousness which comforts itself for the general superiority of great men, by contemplating their weaknesses and defects. Perhaps, after all, it is more for our advantage to maintain inviolate the respect due to the best specimens of our nature, than risk it by unnecessary disclosures to embalm the illustrious dead, than deliver them over to the dissector for the sake of throwing new lights upon the intellectual anatomy of man. All indeed would be well, if the task of selecting from posthumous papers were performed with honesty, and with tolerable discretion; but in nine instances out of ten we have to lament a failure on one side or the other, and the reputation of the dead is sacrificed to the imprudence, vanity, or rapaciousness of the living.
The fate of Mr. Fox, in this respect, has always appeared to us VOL. IX. NO, XVII).
peculiarly hard. He left behiod him a reputation to which none but the very highest excellence in literature could have added. It was a reputation which not even his bitterest enemies ventured to call into question. The feelings of political animosity seemed overcome by a generous sentiment of exultation in that genius and eloquence which added perceptibly to the stock-great as it is, of English glory. His whole conduct, and some points of bis character, were the subject of endless dispute, but his talents were left to be estimated by the zeal of his followers, and if the ‘Historical Fragment had never seen the light, they might without much contradiction have indulged themselves in triumphantly conjecturing how well he would have written had not politics and pleasure denied him leisure for literary pursuits. But the work appeared, and at once precluded all such speculation, by as great a disappointment as ever occurred in the literary history of the world. It failed instantly and totally. The partiality of friends, and the magic of a great name were unable to sustain it for a single day. Yet no book was ever more fairly dealt by. The public was certainly desirous to admire it if that had been possible; Mr. Fox's political adversaries were not active in decrying it; his followers shewed a decent regard to his memory by praising it at the risk of their own character for taste. The sages of the north too did their duty without shrinking, and boldly proclaimed a new era in our litera
But all efforts were fruitless. The defects were too striking to be concealed or extenuated; and in the work of an author who (as we were told) had formed so high a notion of the dignity and simplicity of history—a work upon which he had bestowed so much time and so much anxious care--for which journies had been undertaken, and libraries searched, the public were astonished to find a style inaccurate, though laboured, cold at once and declamatory; and the narrative of events more than a century old deeply tinctured with the prejudices of his own age and his own party.
In some instances too, the tendency of the work is such as we should have been better prepared to meet with in the writer of a German drama than of an English history. Without entering into any discussion of Mr. Fox's political opinions, we may be allowed to complain when they evidently interfere with the just appreciation of character, and the very sense of right and wrong. It is impossible to read the sentimental story of Monmouth, (upon which Mr. Fox has put forth all his strength,) without being persuaded that in the estimation of the writer, disloyalty, like charity, is a merit of so transcendant a kind, that it may serve to cover almost every sin. Monmouth was, even to his last moments, singularly disregardful of the obligations and even the decencies of
domestic life; his understanding was feeble, and he wanted even courage, the only virtue that can throw lustre upon the character of å weak man engaged in great transactions. Mr. Fox endeavours to make of him a sort of hero of romance; and the fate of this unfortunate but guilty person, excites in his breast, at the distance of four generations, a more tender sympathy than he ever deigned to express for the whole clergy and nobility of the most ancient civilized monarchy in the world, plundered, exiled, and butchered, in his own time, and almost before his own eyes. Not that we are inclined to consider coldly such an event as Monmouth's execution, or to censure the emotions of a generous pity. But Mr. Fox evidently feels for him a greater interest than belongs to his character, or even to his misfortunes. He extenuates his failings not only with that indulgence which flows from a just and humane consideration of the infirmities of our common nature, but with the affectionate eagerness of a partizan.
We have always regretted that the publication of this unfortunate work was not prevented by the exercise of a sounder discretion in his surviving friends. It diminished the reputation of a great man, without (so far at least as we are aware) any one advantage beyond the mere gratification of public curiosity to compensate for the loss. If, indeed, Mr. Fox had already appeared before the world with distinction as an author; if, like the great man whose disciple he once boasted himself to bé, his literary had corresponded to his political fame, the mischief of publishing even the Historical Work,' would have been comparatively small. The failure of a single posthumous performance would have signified little when the public judgment had already been fixed by happier efforts. From that nothing could be inferred, but that Mr. Fox, in common with many other eminent persons, was not able to command his own talents equally at all times, and on all subjects. Unfortunately, however, his whole character as a writer has been staked upon one performance, which can attract notice only by its astonishing disproportion to the talents of him who produced it; and one of the greatest English orators and statesmen is introduced into the world of literature only to take his place in the inferior classes of English authors. We think it hard upon the memory of so great a man as Mr. Fox to place him in a point of view in which he must appear decidedly inferior to those that are the natural objects of comparison with him. Equal, in the judgment of his contemporaries, to Bolingbroke or to Burke, he ought not to have appeared as an author at all, except in some work which would have placed him by their side, in the first ranks of literary fame. It may be said that great indulgence is due to an unfinished posthumous performance,
published without the consent of the author. To this we answer, in the first place, that such an appeal to the candour of the world is always a little hazardous. People are apt to judge of a thing as they find it, and without sufficient consideration of the circumstances under which it appears. Such indulgence too was less likely to be shewn to a work which was announced with something of confidence and parade, which so far from deprecating criticism seemed to challenge no slight or vulgar praise. An unusually long approach prepared us for the beginnings, at least, of a magnificent building. We were unavoidably led to expect something of power and effect. It was ushered into public notice, as if it were destined labenti succurrere sæclo, to begin a reformation in politics and literature to recal our style and our principles to the ancient standard of purity. Expectations such as these once imprudently excited, it is not easy to satisfy, and not safe to disappoint; and when lofty pretensions have been once advanced and rejected, it is too late to take the benefit of that tone of apology and extenuation which, if earlier employed, might have obtained for the work a more favourable reception.
We think too, that Mr. Fox's friends would have done well to recollect, that the lapse of years naturally tends to regulate the public judgment of his talents more by his writings, and less by every other criterion. As a statesman he was never long enough in power to accomplish any measures that could carry his name with glory down to posterity. His talents as an orator form his great and undisputed title to fame. But of his speeches no full authentic record remains. The generation that witnessed his astonishing genius for debate, will soon have passed away, and the warmth of their enthusiasm will be but feebly reflected upon the minds of their posterity. • How much more then would you have been affected if you had heard him?' said Æschines. But Demosthenes had lost nothing except the advantage of his own delivery; Mr. Fox will have lost every thing, and his reputation for eloquence will stand upon the mutilated fragments in the newspaper reports, and the suffrage of his contemporaries. It is no doubt true, that in a free and powerful country, at an enlightened period, to have remained for five-and-thirty years in a great popular assembly without a superior, and with only one eqnal, is a proof of talent, such as no reasonable man in any age will feel inclined to contest. But after all, “distinction,'' superiority,'excellence,' are only relative terms, and are applied at different times with equal confidence and enthusiasm to express very different degrees of real positive merit. The value of contemporary admiration must depend on the character of the age; and, even on the most favourable supposition,