The Spirit of the Age
William Hazlitt

Part 2 out of 4

return thanks for his health being drank with a glass of wine in his
hand, and when there was a great clamour and opposition for some time,
after it had subsided, he pointed to the glass to shew that it was still
full. Mr. Holcroft (the author of the _Road to Ruin_) was one of the
most violent and fiery-spirited of all that motley crew of persons, who
attended the Sunday meetings at Wimbledon. One day he was so enraged by
some paradox or raillery of his host, that he indignantly rose from his
chair, and said, "Mr. Tooke, you are a scoundrel!" His opponent without
manifesting the least emotion, replied, "Mr. Holcroft, when is it that
I am to dine with you? shall it be next Thursday?"--"If you please, Mr.
Tooke!" answered the angry philosopher, and sat down again.--It was
delightful to see him sometimes turn from these waspish or ludicrous
altercations with over-weening antagonists to some old friend and
veteran politician seated at his elbow; to hear him recal the time of
Wilkes and Liberty, the conversation mellowing like the wine with the
smack of age; assenting to all the old man said, bringing out his
pleasant _traits_, and pampering him into childish self-importance, and
sending him away thirty years younger than he came!

As a public or at least as a parliamentary speaker, Mr. Tooke did not
answer the expectations that had been conceived of him, or probably
that he had conceived of himself. It is natural for men who have felt
a superiority over all those whom they happen to have encountered, to
fancy that this superiority will continue, and that it will extend from
individuals to public bodies. There is no rule in the case; or rather,
the probability lies the contrary way. That which constitutes the
excellence of conversation is of little use in addressing large
assemblies of people; while other qualities are required that are hardly
to be looked for in one and the same capacity. The way to move great
masses of men is to shew that you yourself are moved. In a private
circle, a ready repartee, a shrewd cross-question, ridicule and
banter, a caustic remark or an amusing anecdote, whatever sets off
the individual to advantage, or gratifies the curiosity or piques the
self-love of the hearers, keeps attention alive, and secures the triumph
of the speaker--it is a personal contest, and depends on personal and
momentary advantages. But in appealing to the public, no one triumphs
but in the triumph of some public cause, or by shewing a sympathy with
the general and predominant feelings of mankind. In a private room, a
satirist, a sophist may provoke admiration by expressing his contempt
for each of his adversaries in turn, and by setting their opinion at
defiance--but when men are congregated together on a great public
question and for a weighty object, they must be treated with more
respect; they are touched with what affects themselves or the general
weal, not with what flatters the vanity of the speaker; they must be
moved altogether, if they are moved at all; they are impressed with
gratitude for a luminous exposition of their claims or for zeal in their
cause; and the lightning of generous indignation at bad men and bad
measures is followed by thunders of applause--even in the House of
Commons. But a man may sneer and cavil and puzzle and fly-blow every
question that comes before him--be despised and feared by others, and
admired by no one but himself. He who thinks first of himself, either in
the world or in a popular assembly, will be sure to turn attention away
from his claims, instead of fixing it there. He must make common cause
with his hearers. To lead, he must follow the general bias. Mr. Tooke
did not therefore succeed as a speaker in parliament. He stood aloof,
he played antics, he exhibited his peculiar talent--while he was on his
legs, the question before the House stood still; the only point at issue
respected Mr. Tooke himself, his personal address and adroitness of

Were there to be no more places and pensions, because Mr. Tooke's style
was terse and epigrammatic? Were the Opposition benches to be inflamed
to an unusual pitch of "sacred vehemence," because he gave them plainly
to understand there was not a pin to choose between Ministers and
Opposition? Would the House let him remain among them, because, if
they turned him out on account of his _black coat_, Lord Camelford had
threatened to send his _black servant_ in his place? This was a good
joke, but not a practical one. Would he gain the affections of the
people out of doors, by scouting the question of reform? Would the King
ever relish the old associate of Wilkes? What interest, then, what party
did he represent? He represented nobody but himself. He was an example
of an ingenious man, a clever talker, but he was out of his place in the
House of Commons; where people did not come (as in his own house) to
admire or break a lance with him, but to get through the business of
the day, and so adjourn! He wanted effect and _momentum_. Each of his
sentences told very well in itself, but they did not all together make
a speech. He left off where he began. His eloquence was a succession
of drops, not a stream. His arguments, though subtle and new, did not
affect the main body of the question. The coldness and pettiness of
his manner did not warm the hearts or expand the understandings of his
hearers. Instead of encouraging, he checked the ardour of his friends;
and teazed, instead of overpowering his antagonists. The only palpable
hit he ever made, while he remained there, was the comparing his own
situation in being rejected by the House, on account of the supposed
purity of his clerical character, to the story of the girl at the
Magdalen, who was told "she must turn out and qualify."[A] This met with
laughter and loud applause. It was a _home_ thrust, and the House (to do
them justice) are obliged to any one who, by a smart blow, relieves
them of the load of grave responsibility, which sits heavy on their
shoulders.--At the hustings, or as an election-candidate, Mr. Tooke did
better. There was no great question to move or carry--it was an affair
of political _sparring_ between himself and the other candidates. He
took it in a very cool and leisurely manner--watched his competitors
with a wary, sarcastic eye; picked up the mistakes or absurdities that
fell from them, and retorted them on their heads; told a story to the
mob; and smiled and took snuff with a gentlemanly and becoming air, as
if he was already seated in the House. But a Court of Law was the place
where Mr. Tooke made the best figure in public. He might assuredly be
said to be "native and endued unto that element." He had here to stand
merely on the defensive--not to advance himself, but to block up the
way--not to impress others, but to be himself impenetrable. All he
wanted was _negative success_; and to this no one was better qualified
to aspire. Cross purposes, _moot-points_, pleas, demurrers, flaws in
the indictment, double meanings, cases, inconsequentialities, these were
the play-things, the darlings of Mr. Tooke's mind; and with these he
baffled the Judge, dumb-founded the Counsel, and outwitted the Jury. The
report of his trial before Lord Kenyon is a master-piece of acuteness,
dexterity, modest assurance, and legal effect. It is much like his
examination before the Commissioners of the Income-Tax--nothing could
be got out of him in either case! Mr. Tooke, as a political leader,
belonged to the class of _trimmers_; or at most, it was his delight to
make mischief and spoil sport. He would rather be _against_ himself than
_for_ any body else. He was neither a bold nor a safe leader. He enticed
others into scrapes, and kept out of them himself. Provided he could
say a clever or a spiteful thing, he did not care whether it served or
injured the cause. Spleen or the exercise of intellectual power was the
motive of his patriotism, rather than principle. He would talk treason
with a saving clause; and instil sedition into the public mind, through
the medium of a third (who was to be the responsible) party. He made Sir
Francis Burdett his spokesman in the House and to the country, often
venting his chagrin or singularity of sentiment at the expense of his
friend; but what in the first was trick or reckless vanity, was in the
last plain downright English honesty and singleness of heart. In the
case of the State Trials, in 1794, Mr. Tooke rather compromised his
friends to screen himself. He kept repeating that "others might have
gone on to Windsor, but he had stopped at Hounslow," as if to go farther
might have been dangerous and unwarrantable. It was not the question how
far he or others had actually gone, but how far they had a right to go,
according to the law. His conduct was not the limit of the law, nor did
treasonable excess begin where prudence or principle taught him to stop
short, though this was the oblique inference liable to be drawn from his
line of defence. Mr. Tooke was uneasy and apprehensive for the issue of
the Government-prosecution while in confinement, and said, in speaking
of it to a friend, with a morbid feeling and an emphasis quite unusual
with him--"They want our blood--blood--blood!" It was somewhat
ridiculous to implicate Mr. Tooke in a charge of High Treason (and
indeed the whole charge was built on the mistaken purport of
an intercepted letter relating to an engagement for a private
dinnerparty)--his politics were not at all revolutionary. In this
respect he was a mere pettifogger, full of chicane, and captious
objections, and unmeaning discontent; but he had none of the grand
whirling movements of the French Revolution, nor of the tumultuous glow
of rebellion in his head or in his heart. His politics were cast in
a different mould, or confined to the party distinctions and court-
intrigues and pittances of popular right, that made a noise in the time
of Junius and Wilkes--and even if his understanding had gone along with
more modern and unqualified principles, his cautious temper would have
prevented his risking them in practice. Horne Tooke (though not of the
same side in politics) had much of the tone of mind and more of the
spirit of moral feeling of the celebrated philosopher of Malmesbury. The
narrow scale and fine-drawn distinctions of his political creed made
his conversation on such subjects infinitely amusing, particularly
when contrasted with that of persons who dealt in the sounding
_common-places_ and sweeping clauses of abstract politics. He knew all
the cabals and jealousies and heart-burnings in the beginning of the
late reign, the changes of administration and the springs of secret
influence, the characters of the leading men, Wilkes, Barre, Dunning,
Chatham, Burke, the Marquis of Rockingham, North, Shelburne, Fox, Pitt,
and all the vacillating events of the American war:--these formed a
curious back-ground to the more prominent figures that occupied the
present time, and Mr. Tooke worked out the minute details and touched in
the evanescent _traits_ with the pencil of a master. His conversation
resembled a political _camera obscura_--as quaint as it was magical. To
some pompous pretenders he might seem to narrate _fabellas aniles_ (old
wives' fables)--but not to those who study human nature, and wish to
know the materials of which it is composed. Mr. Tooke's faculties might
appear to have ripened and acquired a finer flavour with age. In a
former period of his life he was hardly the man he was latterly; or else
he had greater abilities to contend against. He no where makes so poor a
figure as in his controversy with Junius. He has evidently the best of
the argument, yet he makes nothing out of it. He tells a long story
about himself, without wit or point in it; and whines and whimpers like
a school-boy under the rod of his master. Junius, after bringing a hasty
charge against him, has not a single fact to adduce in support of it;
but keeps his ground and fairly beats his adversary out of the field by
the mere force of style. One would think that "Parson Horne" knew who
Junius was, and was afraid of him. "Under him his genius is" quite
"rebuked." With the best cause to defend, he comes off more shabbily
from the contest than any other person in the LETTERS, except Sir
William Draper, who is the very hero of defeat.

The great thing which Mr. Horne Tooke has done, and which he has left
behind him to posterity, is his work on Grammar, oddly enough entitled
THE DIVERSIONS OF PURLEY. Many people have taken it up as a description
of a game--others supposing it to be a novel. It is, in truth, one of
the few philosophical works on Grammar that were ever written. The
essence of it (and, indeed, almost all that is really valuable in it) is
contained in his _Letter to Dunning_, published about the year 1775.
Mr. Tooke's work is truly elementary. Dr. Lowth described Mr. Harris's
_Hermes_ as "the finest specimen of analysis since the days of
Aristotle"--a work in which there is no analysis at all, for analysis
consists in reducing things to their principles, and not in endless
details and subdivisions. Mr. Harris multiplies distinctions, and
confounds his readers. Mr. Tooke clears away the rubbish of school-boy
technicalities, and strikes at the root of his subject. In accomplishing
his arduous task, he was, perhaps, aided not more by the strength and
resources of his mind than by its limits and defects. There is a web of
old associations wound round language, that is a kind of veil over its
natural features; and custom puts on the mask of ignorance. But this
veil, this mask the author of _The Diversions of Purley_ threw aside and
penetrated to the naked truth of things, by the literal, matter-of-fact,
unimaginative nature of his understanding, and because he was not
subject to prejudices or illusions of any kind. Words may be said to
"bear a charmed life, that must not yield to one of woman born"--with
womanish weaknesses and confused apprehensions. But this charm was
broken in the case of Mr. Tooke, whose mind was the reverse of
effeminate--hard, unbending, concrete, physical, half-savage--and who
saw language stripped of the clothing of habit or sentiment, or the
disguises of doting pedantry, naked in its cradle, and in its primitive
state. Our author tells us that he found his discovery on Grammar among
a number of papers on other subjects, which he had thrown aside and
forgotten. Is this an idle boast? Or had he made other discoveries
of equal importance, which he did not think it worth his while to
communicate to the world, but chose to die the churl of knowledge? The
whole of his reasoning turns upon shewing that the Conjunction _That_
is the pronoun _That_, which is itself the participle of a verb, and
in like manner that all the other mystical and hitherto unintelligible
parts of speech are derived from the only two intelligible ones, the
Verb and Noun. "I affirm _that_ gold is yellow," that is, "I affirm
_that_ fact, or that proposition, viz. gold is yellow." The secret of
the Conjunction on which so many fine heads had split, on which so many
learned definitions were thrown away, as if it was its peculiar province
and inborn virtue to announce oracles and formal propositions, and
nothing else, like a Doctor of Laws, is here at once accounted for,
inasmuch as it is clearly nothing but another part of speech, the
pronoun, _that_, with a third part of speech, the noun, _thing_,
understood. This is getting at a solution of words into their component
parts, not glossing over one difficulty by bringing another to parallel
it, nor like saying with Mr. Harris, when it is asked, "what a
Conjunction is?" that there are conjunctions copulative, conjunctions
disjunctive, and as many other frivolous varieties of the species as any
one chooses to hunt out "with laborious foolery." Our author hit
upon his parent-discovery in the course of a law-suit, while he was
examining, with jealous watchfulness, the meaning of words to prevent
being entrapped by them; or rather, this circumstance might itself be
traced to the habit of satisfying his own mind as to the precise sense
in which he himself made use of words. Mr. Tooke, though he had no
objection to puzzle others, was mightily averse to being puzzled or
_mystified_ himself. All was, to his determined mind, either complete
light or complete darkness. There was no hazy, doubtful _chiaro-scuro_
in his understanding. He wanted something "palpable to feeling as to
sight." "What," he would say to himself, "do I mean when I use the
conjunction _that?_ Is it an anomaly, a class by itself, a word sealed
against all inquisitive attempts? Is it enough to call it a _copula_,
a bridge, a link, a word connecting sentences? That is undoubtedly its
use, but what is its origin?" Mr. Tooke thought he had answered this
question satisfactorily, and loosened the Gordian knot of grammarians,
"familiar as his garter," when he said, "It is the common pronoun,
adjective, or participle, _that_, with the noun, _thing or proposition_,
implied, and the particular example following it." So he thought, and
so every reader has thought since, with the exception of teachers and
writers upon grammar. Mr. Windham, indeed, who was a sophist, but not a
logician, charged him with having found "a mare's-nest;" but it is not
to be doubted that Mr. Tooke's etymologies will stand the test, and
last longer than Mr. Windham's ingenious derivation of the practice of
bull-baiting from the principles of humanity!

Having thus laid the corner-stone, he proceeded to apply the same method
of reasoning to other undecyphered and impracticable terms. Thus the
word, _And_, he explained clearly enough to be the verb _add_, or a
corruption of the old Saxon, _anandad_. "Two _and_ two make four," that
is, "two _add_ two make four." Mr. Tooke, in fact, treated words as
the chemists do substances; he separated those which are compounded of
others from those which are not decompoundable. He did not explain the
obscure by the more obscure, but the difficult by the plain, the complex
by the simple. This alone is proceeding upon the true principles of
science: the rest is pedantry and _petit-maitreship._ Our philosophical
writer distinguished all words into _names of things_, and directions
added for joining them together, or originally into _nouns_ and _verbs_.
It is a pity that he has left this matter short, by omitting to define
the Verb. After enumerating sixteen different definitions (all of which
he dismisses with scorn and contumely) at the end of two quarto volumes,
he refers the reader for the true solution to a third volume, which
he did not live to finish. This extraordinary man was in the habit
of tantalizing his guests on a Sunday afternoon with sundry abstruse
speculations, and putting them off to the following week for a
satisfaction of their doubts; but why should he treat posterity in the
same scurvy manner, or leave the world without quitting scores with it?
I question whether Mr. Tooke was himself in possession of his pretended
_nostrum_, and whether, after trying hard at a definition of the verb as
a distinct part of speech, as a terrier-dog mumbles a hedge-hog, he did
not find it too much for him, and leave it to its fate. It is also a
pity that Mr. Tooke spun out his great work with prolix and dogmatical
dissertations on irrelevant matters; and after denying the old
metaphysical theories of language, should attempt to found a
metaphysical theory of his own on the nature and mechanism of language.
The nature of words, he contended (it was the basis of his whole system)
had no connection with the nature of things or the objects of thought;
yet he afterwards strove to limit the nature of things and of the human
mind by the technical structure of language. Thus he endeavours to shew
that there are no abstract ideas, by enumerating two thousand instances
of words, expressing abstract ideas, that are the past participles of
certain verbs. It is difficult to know what he means by this. On the
other hand, he maintains that "a complex idea is as great an absurdity
as a complex star," and that words only are complex. He also makes out a
triumphant list of metaphysical and moral non-entities, proved to be
so on the pure principle that the names of these non-entities are
participles, not nouns, or names of things. That is strange in so close
a reasoner and in one who maintained that all language was a masquerade
of words, and that the class to which they grammatically belonged had
nothing to do with the class of ideas they represented.

It is now above twenty years since the two quarto volumes of the
_Diversions of Purley_ were published, and fifty since the same theory
was promulgated in the celebrated _Letter to Dunning_. Yet it is a
curious example of the _Spirit of the Age_ that Mr. Lindley Murray's
Grammar (a work out of which Mr. C---- helps himself to English, and Mr.
M---- to style[B]) has proceeded to the thirtieth edition in complete
defiance of all the facts and arguments there laid down. He defines a
noun to be the name of a thing. Is quackery a thing, _i.e._ a substance?
He defines a verb to be a word signifying _to be, to do, or to suffer_.
Are being, action, suffering verbs? He defines an adjective to be the
name of a quality. Are not _wooden, golden, substantial_ adjectives? He
maintains that there are six cases in English nouns [C], that is, six
various terminations without any change of termination at all, and that
English verbs have all the moods, tenses, and persons that the Latin
ones have. This is an extraordinary stretch of blindness and obstinacy.
He very formally translates the Latin Grammar into English (as so many
had done before him) and fancies he has written an English Grammar; and
divines applaud, and schoolmasters usher him into the polite world, and
English scholars carry on the jest, while Horne Tooke's genuine
anatomy of our native tongue is laid on the shelf. Can it be that our
politicians smell a rat in the Member for Old Sarum? That our clergy
do not relish Parson Horne? That the world at large are alarmed at
acuteness and originality greater than their own? What has all this
to do with the formation of the English language or with the first
conditions and necessary foundation of speech itself? Is there nothing
beyond the reach of prejudice and party-spirit? It seems in this, as in
so many other instances, as if there was a patent for absurdity in the
natural bias of the human mind, and that folly should be _stereotyped_!

[Footnote A: "They receive him like a virgin at the Magdalen--_Go thou
and do likewise_."--JUNIUS.]

[Footnote B: This work is not without merit in the details and examples
of English construction. But its fault even in that part is that he
confounds the genius of the English language, making it periphrastic and
literal, instead of elliptical and idiomatic. According to Mr. Murray,
hardly any of our best writers ever wrote a word of English.]

[Footnote C: At least, with only one change in the genitive case,]

* * * * *


Sir Walter Scott is undoubtedly the most popular writer of the age--the
"lord of the ascendant" for the time being. He is just half what the
human intellect is capable of being: if you take the universe, and
divide it into two parts, he knows all that it _has been_; all that
it _is to be_ is nothing to him. His is a mind brooding over
antiquity--scorning "the present ignorant time." He is "laudator
temporis acti"--a "_prophesier_ of things past." The old world is to him
a crowded map; the new one a dull, hateful blank. He dotes on all well-
authenticated superstitions; he shudders at the shadow of innovation.
His retentiveness of memory, his accumulated weight of interested
prejudice or romantic association have overlaid his other faculties. The
cells of his memory are vast, various, full even to bursting with life
and motion; his speculative understanding is empty, flaccid, poor, and
dead. His mind receives and treasures up every thing brought to it by
tradition or custom--it does not project itself beyond this into the
world unknown, but mechanically shrinks back as from the edge of a
prejudice. The land of pure reason is to his apprehension like _Van
Dieman's Land_;--barren, miserable, distant, a place of exile, the
dreary abode of savages, convicts, and adventurers. Sir Walter would
make a bad hand of a description of the _Millennium_, unless he could
lay the scene in Scotland five hundred years ago, and then he would
want facts and worm-eaten parchments to support his drooping style.
Our historical novelist firmly thinks that nothing _is_ but what _has
been_--that the moral world stands still, as the material one was
supposed to do of old--and that we can never get beyond the point where
we actually are without utter destruction, though every thing changes
and will change from what it was three hundred years ago to what it is
now,--from what it is now to all that the bigoted admirer of the good
old times most dreads and hates!

It is long since we read, and long since we thought of our author's
poetry. It would probably have gone out of date with the immediate
occasion, even if he himself had not contrived to banish it from our
recollection. It is not to be denied that it had great merit, both of
an obvious and intrinsic kind. It abounded in vivid descriptions, in
spirited action, in smooth and flowing versification. But it wanted
_character_. It was poetry "of no mark or likelihood." It slid out of
the mind as soon as read, like a river; and would have been forgotten,
but that the public curiosity was fed with ever-new supplies from the
same teeming liquid source. It is not every man that can write six
quarto volumes in verse, that are caught up with avidity, even by
fastidious judges. But what a difference between _their_ popularity and
that of the Scotch Novels! It is true, the public read and admired the
_Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion_, and so on, and each individual was
contented to read and admire because the public did so: but with
regard to the prose-works of the same (supposed) author, it is quite
_another-guess_ sort of thing. Here every one stands forward to applaud
on his own ground, would be thought to go before the public opinion,
is eager to extol his favourite characters louder, to understand them
better than every body else, and has his own scale of comparative
excellence for each work, supported by nothing but his own enthusiastic
and fearless convictions. It must be amusing to the _Author of Waverley_
to hear his readers and admirers (and are not these the same thing?[A])
quarrelling which of his novels is the best, opposing character to
character, quoting passage against passage, striving to surpass each
other in the extravagance of their encomiums, and yet unable to settle
the precedence, or to do the author's writings justice--so various,
so equal, so transcendant are their merits! His volumes of poetry were
received as fashionable and well-dressed acquaintances: we are ready
to tear the others in pieces as old friends. There was something
meretricious in Sir Walter's ballad-rhymes; and like those who keep
opera _figurantes_, we were willing to have our admiration shared, and
our taste confirmed by the town: but the Novels are like the betrothed
of our hearts, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and we are
jealous that any one should be as much delighted or as thoroughly
acquainted with their beauties as ourselves. For which of his poetical
heroines would the reader break a lance so soon as for Jeanie Deans?
What _Lady of the Lake_ can compare with the beautiful Rebecca? We
believe the late Mr. John Scott went to his death-bed (though a painful
and premature one) with some degree of satisfaction, inasmuch as he had
penned the most elaborate panegyric on the _Scotch Novels_ that had as
yet appeared!--The _Epics_ are not poems, so much as metrical romances.
There is a glittering veil of verse thrown over the features of nature
and of old romance. The deep incisions into character are "skinned and
filmed over"--the details are lost or shaped into flimsy and insipid
decorum; and the truth of feeling and of circumstance is translated into
a tinkling sound, a tinsel _common-place_. It must be owned, there is a
power in true poetry that lifts the mind from the ground of reality to
a higher sphere, that penetrates the inert, scattered, incoherent
materials presented to it, and by a force and inspiration of its own,
melts and moulds them into sublimity and beauty. But Sir Walter (we
contend, under correction) has not this creative impulse, this plastic
power, this capacity of reacting on his first impressions. He is a
learned, a literal, a _matter-of-fact_ expounder of truth or fable:[B]
he does not soar above and look down upon his subject, imparting his own
lofty views and feelings to his descriptions of nature--he relies
upon it, is raised by it, is one with it, or he is nothing. A poet is
essentially a _maker_; that is, he must atone for what he loses in
individuality and local resemblance by the energies and resources of his
own mind. The writer of whom we speak is deficient in these last. He has
either not the faculty or not the will to impregnate his subject by an
effort of pure invention. The execution also is much upon a par with
the more ephemeral effusions of the press. It is light, agreeable,
effeminate, diffuse. Sir Walter's Muse is a _Modern Antique_. The
smooth, glossy texture of his verse contrasts happily with the quaint,
uncouth, rugged materials of which it is composed; and takes away any
appearance of heaviness or harshness from the body of local traditions
and obsolete costume. We see grim knights and iron armour; but then they
are woven in silk with a careless, delicate hand, and have the softness
of flowers. The poet's figures might be compared to old [C] tapestries
copied on the finest velvet:--they are not like Raphael's _Cartoons_,
but they are very like Mr. Westall's drawings, which accompany, and are
intended to illustrate them. This facility and grace of execution is the
more remarkable, as a story goes that not long before the appearance of
the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ Sir Walter (then Mr.) Scott, having, in
the company of a friend, to cross the Frith of Forth in a ferry-boat,
they proposed to beguile the time by writing a number of verses on a
given subject, and that at the end of an hour's hard study, they found
they had produced only six lines between them. "It is plain," said the
unconscious author to his fellow-labourer, "that you and I need never
think of getting our living by writing poetry!" In a year or so after
this, he set to work, and poured out quarto upon quarto, as if they had
been drops of water. As to the rest, and compared with true and great
poets, our Scottish Minstrel is but "a metre ballad-monger." We would
rather have written one song of Burns, or a single passage in Lord
Byron's _Heaven and Earth_, or one of Wordsworth's "fancies and
good-nights," than all his epics. What is he to Spenser, over whose
immortal, ever-amiable verse beauty hovers and trembles, and who has
shed the purple light of Fancy, from his ambrosial wings, over all
nature? What is there of the might of Milton, whose head is canopied in
the blue serene, and who takes us to sit with him there? What is there
(in his ambling rhymes) of the deep pathos of Chaucer? Or of the
o'er-informing power of Shakespear, whose eye, watching alike the
minutest traces of characters and the strongest movements of passion,
"glances from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven," and with the
lambent flame of genius, playing round each object, lights up the
universe in a robe of its own radiance? Sir Walter has no voluntary
power of combination: all his associations (as we said before) are those
of habit or of tradition. He is a mere narrative and descriptive poet,
garrulous of the old time. The definition of his poetry is a pleasing

Not so of his NOVELS AND ROMANCES. There we turn over a new
leaf--another and the same--the same in matter, but in form, in power
how different! The author of Waverley has got rid of the tagging of
rhymes, the eking out of syllables, the supplying of epithets, the
colours of style, the grouping of his characters, and the regular march
of events, and comes to the point at once, and strikes at the heart
of his subject, without dismay and without disguise. His poetry was a
lady's waiting-maid, dressed out in cast-off finery: his prose is a
beautiful, rustic nymph, that, like Dorothea in Don Quixote, when she is
surprised with dishevelled tresses bathing her naked feet in the brook,
looks round her, abashed at the admiration her charms have excited! The
grand secret of the author's success in these latter productions is that
he has completely got rid of the trammels of authorship; and torn off at
one rent (as Lord Peter got rid of so many yards of lace in the _Tale of
a Tub_) all the ornaments of fine writing and worn-out sentimentality.
All is fresh, as from the hand of nature: by going a century or two back
and laying the scene in a remote and uncultivated district, all becomes
new and startling in the present advanced period.--Highland manners,
characters, scenery, superstitions, Northern dialect and costume, the
wars, the religion, and politics of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, give a charming and wholesome relief to the fastidious
refinement and "over-laboured lassitude" of modern readers, like the
effect of plunging a nervous valetudinarian into a cold-bath. The
_Scotch Novels_, for this reason, are not so much admired in Scotland as
in England. The contrast, the transition is less striking. From the top
of the Calton-Hill, the inhabitants of "Auld Reekie" can descry, or
fancy they descry the peaks of Ben Lomond and the waving outline of Rob
Roy's country: we who live at the southern extremity of the island can
only catch a glimpse of the billowy scene in the descriptions of the
Author of Waverley. The mountain air is most bracing to our languid
nerves, and it is brought us in ship-loads from the neighbourhood
of Abbot's-Ford. There is another circumstance to be taken into the
account. In Edinburgh there is a little opposition and something of
the spirit of cabal between the partisans of works proceeding from Mr.
Constable's and Mr. Blackwood's shops. Mr. Constable gives the highest
prices; but being the Whig bookseller, it is grudged that he should
do so. An attempt is therefore made to transfer a certain share of
popularity to the second-rate Scotch novels, "the embryo fry, the little
airy of _ricketty_ children," issuing through Mr. Blackwood's shop-door.
This operates a diversion, which does not affect us here. The Author of
Waverley wears the palm of legendary lore alone. Sir Walter may, indeed,
surfeit us: his imitators make us sick! It may be asked, it has been
asked, "Have we no materials for romance in England? Must we look to
Scotland for a supply of whatever is original and striking in this
kind?" And we answer--"Yes!" Every foot of soil is with us worked up:
nearly every movement of the social machine is calculable. We have no
room left for violent catastrophes; for grotesque quaintnesses; for
wizard spells. The last skirts of ignorance and barbarism are seen
hovering (in Sir Walter's pages) over the Border. We have, it is true,
gipsies in this country as well as at the Cairn of Derncleugh: but they
live under clipped hedges, and repose in camp-beds, and do not perch
on crags, like eagles, or take shelter, like sea-mews, in basaltic
subterranean caverns. We have heaths with rude heaps of stones upon
them: but no existing superstition converts them into the Geese of
Micklestane-Moor, or sees a Black Dwarf groping among them. We have
sects in religion: but the only thing sublime or ridiculous in that way
is Mr. Irving, the Caledonian preacher, who "comes like a satyr staring
from the woods, and yet speaks like an orator!" We had a Parson Adams
not quite a hundred years ago--a Sir Roger de Coverley rather more than
a hundred! Even Sir Walter is ordinarily obliged to pitch his angle
(strong as the hook is) a hundred miles to the North of the "Modern
Athens" or a century back. His last work,[A] indeed, is mystical,
is romantic in nothing but the title-page. Instead of "a
holy-water sprinkle dipped in dew," he has given us a fashionable
watering-place--and we see what he has made of it. He must not come down
from his fastnesses in traditional barbarism and native rusticity: the
level, the littleness, the frippery of modern civilization will undo him
as it has undone us!

Sir Walter has found out (oh, rare discovery) that facts are better than
fiction; that there is no romance like the romance of real life; and
that if we can but arrive at what men feel, do, and say in striking and
singular situations, the result will be "more lively, audible, and full
of vent," than the fine-spun cobwebs of the brain. With reverence be it
spoken, he is like the man who having to imitate the squeaking of a pig
upon the stage, brought the animal under his coat with him. Our author
has conjured up the actual people he has to deal with, or as much as he
could get of them, in "their habits as they lived." He has ransacked old
chronicles, and poured the contents upon his page; he has squeezed out
musty records; he has consulted wayfaring pilgrims, bed-rid sibyls; he
has invoked the spirits of the air; he has conversed with the living and
the dead, and let them tell their story their own way; and by borrowing
of others, has enriched his own genius with everlasting variety, truth,
and freedom. He has taken his materials from the original, authentic
sources, in large concrete masses, and not tampered with or too much
frittered them away. He is only the amanuensis of truth and history. It
is impossible to say how fine his writings in consequence are, unless we
could describe how fine nature is. All that portion of the history of
his country that he has touched upon (wide as the scope is) the manners,
the personages, the events, the scenery, lives over again in his
volumes. Nothing is wanting--the illusion is complete. There is a
hurtling in the air, a trampling of feet upon the ground, as these
perfect representations of human character or fanciful belief come
thronging back upon our imaginations. We will merely recall a few of
the subjects of his pencil to the reader's recollection; for nothing we
could add, by way of note or commendation, could make the impression
more vivid.

There is (first and foremost, because the earliest of our acquaintance)
the Baron of Bradwardine, stately, kind-hearted, whimsical, pedantic;
and Flora MacIvor (whom even _we_ forgive for her Jacobitism), the
fierce Vich Ian Vohr, and Evan Dhu, constant in death, and Davie
Gellatly roasting his eggs or turning his rhymes with restless
volubility, and the two stag-hounds that met Waverley, as fine as ever
Titian painted, or Paul Veronese:--then there is old Balfour of Burley,
brandishing his sword and his Bible with fire-eyed fury, trying a
fall with the insolent, gigantic Bothwell at the 'Change-house, and
vanquishing him at the noble battle of Loudonhill; there is Bothwell
himself, drawn to the life, proud, cruel, selfish, profligate, but with
the love-letters of the gentle Alice (written thirty years before), and
his verses to her memory, found in his pocket after his death: in the
same volume of _Old Mortality_ is that lone figure, like a figure in
Scripture, of the woman sitting on the stone at the turning to the
mountain, to warn Burley that there is a lion in his path; and
the fawning Claverhouse, beautiful as a panther, smooth-looking,
blood-spotted; and the fanatics, Macbriar and Mucklewrath, crazed with
zeal and sufferings; and the inflexible Morton, and the faithful Edith,
who refused to "give her hand to another while her heart was with her
lover in the deep and dead sea." And in _The Heart of Mid-Lothian_ we
have Effie Deans (that sweet, faded flower) and Jeanie, her more than
sister, and old David Deans, the patriarch of St. Leonard's Crags, and
Butler, and Dumbiedikes, eloquent in his silence, and Mr. Bartoline
Saddle-tree and his prudent helpmate, and Porteous swinging in the
wind, and Madge Wildfire, full of finery and madness, and her ghastly
mother.--Again, there is Meg Merrilies, standing on her rock, stretched
on her bier with "her head to the east," and Dirk Hatterick (equal to
Shakespear's Master Barnardine), and Glossin, the soul of an attorney,
and Dandy Dinmont, with his terrier-pack and his pony Dumple, and the
fiery Colonel Mannering, and the modish old counsellor Pleydell, and
Dominie Sampson,[D] and Rob Roy (like the eagle in his eyry), and
Baillie Nicol Jarvie, and the inimitable Major Galbraith, and Rashleigh
Osbaldistone, and Die Vernon, the best of secret-keepers; and in the
_Antiquary_, the ingenious and abstruse Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, and the
old beadsman Edie Ochiltree, and that preternatural figure of old Edith
Elspeith, a living shadow, in whom the lamp of life had been long
extinguished, had it not been fed by remorse and "thick-coming"
recollections; and that striking picture of the effects of feudal
tyranny and fiendish pride, the unhappy Earl of Glenallan; and the Black
Dwarf, and his friend Habbie of the Heughfoot (the cheerful hunter), and
his cousin Grace Armstrong, fresh and laughing like the morning; and the
_Children of the Mint_, and the baying of the blood-hound that tracks
their steps at a distance (the hollow echoes are in our ears now), and
Amy and her hapless love, and the villain Varney, and the deep voice of
George of Douglas--and the immoveable Balafre, and Master Oliver the
Barber in Quentin Durward--and the quaint humour of the Fortunes of
Nigel, and the comic spirit of Peveril of the Peak--and the fine old
English romance of Ivanhoe. What a list of names! What a host of
associations! What a thing is human life! What a power is that of
genius! What a world of thought and feeling is thus rescued from
oblivion! How many hours of heartfelt satisfaction has our author given
to the gay and thoughtless! How many sad hearts has he soothed in pain
and solitude! It is no wonder that the public repay with lengthened
applause and gratitude the pleasure they receive. He writes as fast as
they can read, and he does not write himself down. He is always in the
public eye, and we do not tire of him. His worst is better than any
other person's best. His _backgrounds_ (and his later works are little
else but back-grounds capitally made out) are more attractive than the
principal figures and most complicated actions of other writers. His
works (taken together) are almost like a new edition of human nature.
This is indeed to be an author!

The political bearing of the _Scotch Novels_ has been a considerable
recommendation to them. They are a relief to the mind, rarefied as it
has been with modern philosophy, and heated with ultra-radicalism. At a
time also, when we bid fair to revive the principles of the Stuarts,
it is interesting to bring us acquainted with their persons and
misfortunes. The candour of Sir Walter's historic pen levels our
bristling prejudices on this score, and sees fair play between
Roundheads and Cavaliers, between Protestant and Papist. He is a writer
reconciling all the diversities of human nature to the reader. He does
not enter into the distinctions of hostile sects or parties, but treats
of the strength or the infirmity of the human mind, of the virtues or
vices of the human breast, as they are to be found blended in the whole
race of mankind. Nothing can shew more handsomely or be more gallantly
executed. There was a talk at one time that our author was about to take
Guy Faux for the subject of one of his novels, in order to put a more
liberal and humane construction on the Gunpowder Plot than our "No
Popery" prejudices have hitherto permitted. Sir Walter is a professed
_clarifier_ of the age from the vulgar and still lurking old-English
antipathy to Popery and Slavery. Through some odd process of _servile_
logic, it should seem, that in restoring the claims of the Stuarts by
the courtesy of romance, the House of Brunswick are more firmly seated
in point of fact, and the Bourbons, by collateral reasoning, become
legitimate! In any other point of view, we cannot possibly conceive
how Sir Walter imagines "he has done something to revive the declining
spirit of loyalty" by these novels. His loyalty is founded on _would-be_
treason: he props the actual throne by the shadow of rebellion. Does
he really think of making us enamoured of the "good old times" by the
faithful and harrowing portraits he has drawn of them? Would he carry us
back to the early stages of barbarism, of clanship, of the feudal system
as "a consummation devoutly to be wished?" Is he infatuated enough,
or does he so dote and drivel over his own slothful and self-willed
prejudices, as to believe that he will make a single convert to the
beauty of Legitimacy, that is, of lawless power and savage bigotry, when
he himself is obliged to apologise for the horrors he describes, and
even render his descriptions credible to the modern reader by referring
to the authentic history of these delectable times?[E] He is indeed
so besotted as to the moral of his own story, that he has even the
blindness to go out of his way to have a fling at _flints_ and _dungs_
(the contemptible ingredients, as he would have us believe, of a modern
rabble) at the very time when he is describing a mob of the twelfth
century--a mob (one should think) after the writer's own heart, without
one particle of modern philosophy or revolutionary politics in their
composition, who were to a man, to a hair, just what priests, and kings,
and nobles _let_ them be, and who were collected to witness (a spectacle
proper to the times) the burning of the lovely Rebecca at a stake for
a sorceress, because she was a Jewess, beautiful and innocent, and the
consequent victim of insane bigotry and unbridled profligacy. And it is
at this moment (when the heart is kindled and bursting with indignation
at the revolting abuses of self-constituted power) that Sir Walter
_stops the press_ to have a sneer at the people, and to put a spoke (as
he thinks) in the wheel of upstart innovation! This is what he "calls
backing his friends"--it is thus he administers charms and philtres to
our love of Legitimacy, makes us conceive a horror of all reform, civil,
political, or religious, and would fain put down the _Spirit of the
Age_. The author of Waverley might just as well get up and make a speech
at a dinner at Edinburgh, abusing Mr. Mac-Adam for his improvements in
the roads, on the ground that they were nearly _impassable_ in many
places "sixty years since;" or object to Mr. Peel's _Police-Bill_, by
insisting that Hounslow-Heath was formerly a scene of greater interest
and terror to highwaymen and travellers, and cut a greater figure in
the Newgate-Calendar than it does at present.--Oh! Wickliff, Luther,
Hampden, Sidney, Somers, mistaken Whigs, and thoughtless Reformers in
religion and politics, and all ye, whether poets or philosophers, heroes
or sages, inventors of arts or sciences, patriots, benefactors of the
human race, enlighteners and civilisers of the world, who have (so far)
reduced opinion to reason, and power to law, who are the cause that we
no longer burn witches and heretics at slow fires, that the thumb-screws
are no longer applied by ghastly, smiling judges, to extort confession
of imputed crimes from sufferers for conscience sake; that men are no
longer strung up like acorns on trees without judge or jury, or hunted
like wild beasts through thickets and glens, who have abated the cruelty
of priests, the pride of nobles, the divinity of kings in former times;
to whom we owe it, that we no longer wear round our necks the collar of
Gurth the swineherd, and of Wamba the jester; that the castles of great
lords are no longer the dens of banditti, from whence they issue with
fire and sword, to lay waste the land; that we no longer expire in
loathsome dungeons without knowing the cause, or have our right hands
struck off for raising them in self-defence against wanton insult; that
we can sleep without fear of being burnt in our beds, or travel without
making our wills; that no Amy Robsarts are thrown down trap-doors by
Richard Varneys with impunity; that no Red Reiver of Westburn-Flat sets
fire to peaceful cottages; that no Claverhouse signs cold-blooded
death-warrants in sport; that we have no Tristan the Hermit, or Petit-
Andre, crawling near us, like spiders, and making our flesh creep, and
our hearts sicken within us at every moment of our lives--ye who have
produced this change in the face of nature and society, return to earth
once more, and beg pardon of Sir Walter and his patrons, who sigh at not
being able to undo all that you have done! Leaving this question, there
are two other remarks which we wished to make on the Novels. The one
was, to express our admiration at the good-nature of the mottos, in
which the author has taken occasion to remember and quote almost every
living author (whether illustrious or obscure) but himself--an indirect
argument in favour of the general opinion as to the source from which
they spring--and the other was, to hint our astonishment at the
innumerable and incessant in-stances of bad and slovenly English in
them, more, we believe, than in any other works now printed. We should
think the writer could not possibly read the manuscript after he has
once written it, or overlook the press.

If there were a writer, who "born for the universe"--

"-----------Narrow'd his mind, And to party gave up what was meant for

who, from the height of his genius looking abroad into nature, and
scanning the recesses of the human heart, "winked and shut his
apprehension up" to every thought or purpose that tended to the future
good of mankind--who, raised by affluence, the reward of successful
industry, and by the voice of fame above the want of any but the most
honourable patronage, stooped to the unworthy arts of adulation, and
abetted the views of the great with the pettifogging feelings of the
meanest dependant on office--who, having secured the admiration of the
public (with the probable reversion of immortality), shewed no respect
for himself, for that genius that had raised him to distinction, for
that nature which he trampled under foot--who, amiable, frank, friendly,
manly in private life, was seized with the dotage of age and the fury
of a woman, the instant politics were concerned--who reserved all his
candour and comprehensiveness of view for history, and vented his
littleness, pique, resentment, bigotry, and intolerance on his
contemporaries--who took the wrong side, and defended it by unfair
means--who, the moment his own interest or the prejudices of others
interfered, seemed to forget all that was due to the pride of intellect,
to the sense of manhood--who, praised, admired by men of all parties
alike, repaid the public liberality by striking a secret and envenomed
blow at the reputation of every one who was not the ready tool of
power--who strewed the slime of rankling malice and mercenary scorn
over the bud and promise of genius, because it was not fostered in the
hot-bed of corruption, or warped by the trammels of servility--who
supported the worst abuses of authority in the worst spirit--who joined
a gang of desperadoes to spread calumny, contempt, infamy, wherever they
were merited by honesty or talent on a different side--who officiously
undertook to decide public questions by private insinuations, to prop
the throne by nicknames, and the altar by lies--who being (by common
consent) the finest, the most humane and accomplished writer of his age,
associated himself with and encouraged the lowest panders of a venal
press; deluging, nauseating the public mind with the offal and garbage
of Billingsgate abuse and vulgar _slang_; shewing no remorse, no
relenting or compassion towards the victims of this nefarious and
organized system of party-proscription, carried on under the mask of
literary criticism and fair discussion, insulting the misfortunes of
some, and trampling on the early grave of others--

"Who would not grieve if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he?"

But we believe there is no other age or country of the world (but ours),
in which such genius could have been so degraded!

[Footnote A: No! For we met with a young lady who kept a circulating
library and a milliner's-shop, in a watering-place in the country, who,
when we inquired for the _Scotch Novels_, spoke indifferently about
them, said they were "so dry she could hardly get through them," and
recommended us to read _Agnes_. We never thought of it before; but we
would venture to lay a wager that there are many other young ladies in
the same situation, and who think "Old Mortality" "dry."]

[Footnote B: Just as Cobbett is a _matter-of-fact reasoner_.]

[Footnote C: St. Ronan's Well.]

[Footnote D: Perhaps the finest scene in all these novels, is that where
the Dominie meets his pupil, Miss Lucy, the morning after her brother's

[Footnote E: "And here we cannot but think it necessary to offer some
better proof than the incidents of an idle tale, to vindicate the
melancholy representation of manners which has been just laid before
the reader. It is grievous to think that those valiant Barons, to whose
stand against the crown the liberties of England were indebted for their
existence, should themselves have been such dreadful oppressors, and
capable of excesses, contrary not only to the laws of England, but to
those of nature and humanity. But alas! we have only to extract from the
industrious Henry one of those numerous passages which he has collected
from contemporary historians, to prove that fiction itself can hardly
reach the dark reality of the horrors of the period.

"The description given by the author of the Saxon Chronicle of the
cruelties exercised in the reign of King Stephen by the great barons and
lords of castles, who were all Normans, affords a strong proof of the
excesses of which they were capable when their passions were inflamed.
'They grievously oppressed the poor people by building castles; and when
they were built, they filled them with wicked men or rather devils, who
seized both men and women who they imagined had any money, threw them
into prison, and put them to more cruel tortures than the martyrs ever
endured. They suffocated some in mud, and suspended others by the feet,
or the head, or the thumbs, kindling fires below them. They squeezed the
heads of some with knotted cords till they pierced their brains, while
they threw others into dungeons swarming with serpents, snakes, and
toads.' But it would be cruel to put the reader to the pain of perusing
the remainder of the description."--_Henry's Hist_. edit. 1805, vol.
vii. p. 346.]

* * * * *


Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott are among writers now living[A] the two,
who would carry away a majority of suffrages as the greatest geniuses of
the age. The former would, perhaps, obtain the preference with the fine
gentlemen and ladies (squeamishness apart)--the latter with the critics
and the vulgar. We shall treat of them in the same connection, partly
on account of their distinguished pre-eminence, and partly because they
afford a complete contrast to each other. In their poetry, in their
prose, in their politics, and in their tempers no two men can be more
unlike. If Sir Walter Scott may be thought by some to have been

"Born universal heir to all humanity,"

it is plain Lord Byron can set up no such pretension. He is, in a
striking degree, the creature of his own will. He holds no communion
with his kind; but stands alone, without mate or fellow--

"As if a man were author of himself,
And owned no other kin."

He is like a solitary peak, all access to which is cut off not more by
elevation than distance. He is seated on a lofty eminence, "cloud-capt,"
or reflecting the last rays of setting suns; and in his poetical moods,
reminds us of the fabled Titans, retired to a ridgy steep, playing on
their Pan's-pipes, and taking up ordinary men and things in their hands
with haughty indifference. He raises his subject to himself, or tramples
on it: he neither stoops to, nor loses himself in it. He exists not by
sympathy, but by antipathy. He scorns all things, even himself. Nature
must come to him to sit for her picture--he does not go to her. She must
consult his time, his convenience, and his humour; and wear a _sombre_
or a fantastic garb, or his Lordship turns his back upon her. There is
no ease, no unaffected simplicity of manner, no "golden mean." All is
strained, or petulant in the extreme. His thoughts are sphered and
crystalline; his style "prouder than when blue Iris bends;" his spirit
fiery, impatient, wayward, indefatigable. Instead of taking his
impressions from without, in entire and almost unimpaired masses, he
moulds them according to his own temperament, and heats the materials
of his imagination in the furnace of his passions.--Lord Byron's verse
glows like a flame, consuming every thing in its way; Sir Walter Scott's
glides like a river, clear, gentle, harmless. The poetry of the first
scorches, that of the last scarcely warms. The light of the one proceeds
from an internal source, ensanguined, sullen, fixed; the other reflects
the hues of Heaven, or the face of nature, glancing vivid and various.
The productions of the Northern Bard have the rust and the freshness
of antiquity about them; those of the Noble Poet cease to startle
from their extreme ambition of novelty, both in style and matter. Sir
Walter's rhymes are "silly sooth"--

"And dally with the innocence of thought,
Like the old age"--

his Lordship's Muse spurns _the olden time_, and affects all the
supercilious airs of a modern fine lady and an upstart. The object of
the one writer is to restore us to truth and nature: the other chiefly
thinks how he shall display his own power, or vent his spleen, or
astonish the reader either by starting new subjects and trains of
speculation, or by expressing old ones in a more striking and emphatic
manner than they have been expressed before. He cares little what it is
he says, so that he can say it differently from others. This may account
for the charges of plagiarism which have been repeatedly brought against
the Noble Poet--if he can borrow an image or sentiment from another, and
heighten it by an epithet or an allusion of greater force and beauty
than is to be found in the original passage, he thinks he shews his
superiority of execution in this in a more marked manner than if
the first suggestion had been his own. It is not the value of the
observation itself he is solicitous about; but he wishes to shine by
contrast--even nature only serves as a foil to set off his style. He
therefore takes the thoughts of others (whether contemporaries or not)
out of their mouths, and is content to make them his own, to set his
stamp upon them, by imparting to them a more meretricious gloss, a
higher relief, a greater loftiness of tone, and a characteristic
inveteracy of purpose. Even in those collateral ornaments of modern
style, slovenliness, abruptness, and eccentricity (as well as in
terseness and significance), Lord Byron, when he pleases, defies
competition and surpasses all his contemporaries. Whatever he does, he
must do in a more decided and daring manner than any one else--he lounges
with extravagance, and yawns so as to alarm the reader! Self-will,
passion, the love of singularity, a disdain of himself and of others
(with a conscious sense that this is among the ways and means of
procuring admiration) are the proper categories of his mind: he is a
lordly writer, is above his own reputation, and condescends to the Muses
with a scornful grace!

Lord Byron, who in his politics is a _liberal_, in his genius is haughty
and aristocratic: Walter Scott, who is an aristocrat in principle, is
popular in his writings, and is (as it were) equally _servile_ to nature
and to opinion. The genius of Sir Walter is essentially imitative, or
"denotes a foregone conclusion:" that of Lord Byron is self-dependent;
or at least requires no aid, is governed by no law, but the impulses of
its own will. We confess, however much we may admire independence of
feeling and erectness of spirit in general or practical questions, yet
in works of genius we prefer him who bows to the authority of nature,
who appeals to actual objects, to mouldering superstitions, to history,
observation, and tradition, before him who only consults the pragmatical
and restless workings of his own breast, and gives them out as oracles
to the world. We like a writer (whether poet or prose-writer) who takes
in (or is willing to take in) the range of half the universe in feeling,
character, description, much better than we do one who obstinately and
invariably shuts himself up in the Bastile of his own ruling passions.
In short, we had rather be Sir Walter Scott (meaning thereby the Author
of Waverley) than Lord Byron, a hundred times over. And for the reason
just given, namely, that he casts his descriptions in the mould of
nature, ever-varying, never tiresome, always interesting and always
instructive, instead of casting them constantly in the mould of his
own individual impressions. He gives us man as he is, or as he was, in
almost every variety of situation, action, and feeling. Lord Byron
makes man after his own image, woman after his own heart; the one is
a capricious tyrant, the other a yielding slave; he gives us the
misanthrope and the voluptuary by turns; and with these two characters,
burning or melting in their own fires, he makes out everlasting centos
of himself. He hangs the cloud, the film of his existence over all
outward things--sits in the centre of his thoughts, and enjoys dark
night, bright day, the glitter and the gloom "in cell monastic"--we see
the mournful pall, the crucifix, the death's heads, the faded chaplet of
flowers, the gleaming tapers, the agonized brow of genius, the wasted
form of beauty--but we are still imprisoned in a dungeon, a curtain
intercepts our view, we do not breathe freely the air of nature or of
our own thoughts--the other admired author draws aside the curtain, and
the veil of egotism is rent, and he shews us the crowd of living men and
women, the endless groups, the landscape back-ground, the cloud and
the rainbow, and enriches our imaginations and relieves one passion
by another, and expands and lightens reflection, and takes away that
tightness at the breast which arises from thinking or wishing to think
that there is nothing in the world out of a man's self!--In this point
of view, the Author of Waverley is one of the greatest teachers of
morality that ever lived, by emancipating the mind from petty, narrow,
and bigotted prejudices: Lord Byron is the greatest pamperer of those
prejudices, by seeming to think there is nothing else worth encouraging
but the seeds or the full luxuriant growth of dogmatism and
self-conceit. In reading the _Scotch Novels_, we never think about
the author, except from a feeling of curiosity respecting our unknown
benefactor: in reading Lord Byron's works, he himself is never absent
from our minds. The colouring of Lord Byron's style, however rich and
dipped in Tyrian dyes, is nevertheless opaque, is in itself an object
of delight and wonder: Sir Walter Scott's is perfectly transparent. In
studying the one, you seem to gaze at the figures cut in stained glass,
which exclude the view beyond, and where the pure light of Heaven is
only a means of setting off the gorgeousness of art: in reading the
other, you look through a noble window at the clear and varied landscape
without. Or to sum up the distinction in one word, Sir Walter Scott is
the most _dramatic_ writer now living; and Lord Byron is the least so.
It would be difficult to imagine that the Author of Waverley is in the
smallest degree a pedant; as it would be hard to persuade ourselves that
the author of Childe Harold and Don Juan is not a coxcomb, though a
provoking and sublime one. In this decided preference given to Sir
Walter Scott over Lord Byron, we distinctly include the prose-works of
the former; for we do not think his poetry alone by any means entitles
him to that precedence. Sir Walter in his poetry, though pleasing and
natural, is a comparative trifler: it is in his anonymous productions
that he has shewn himself for what he is!--

_Intensity_ is the great and prominent distinction of Lord Byron's
writings. He seldom gets beyond force of style, nor has he produced any
regular work or masterly whole. He does not prepare any plan beforehand,
nor revise and retouch what he has written with polished accuracy. His
only object seems to be to stimulate himself and his readers for the
moment--to keep both alive, to drive away _ennui_, to substitute a
feverish and irritable state of excitement for listless indolence or
even calm enjoyment. For this purpose he pitches on any subject at
random without much thought or delicacy--he is only impatient to
begin--and takes care to adorn and enrich it as he proceeds with
"thoughts that breathe and words that burn." He composes (as he himself
has said) whether he is in the bath, in his study, or on horseback--he
writes as habitually as others talk or think--and whether we have the
inspiration of the Muse or not, we always find the spirit of the man
of genius breathing from his verse. He grapples with his subject, and
moves, penetrates, and animates it by the electric force of his own
feelings. He is often monotonous, extravagant, offensive; but he is
never dull, or tedious, but when he writes prose. Lord Byron does not
exhibit a new view of nature, or raise insignificant objects into
importance by the romantic associations with which he surrounds them;
but generally (at least) takes common-place thoughts and events, and
endeavours to express them in stronger and statelier language than
others. His poetry stands like a Martello tower by the side of his
subject. He does not, like Mr. Wordsworth, lift poetry from the ground,
or create a sentiment out of nothing. He does not describe a daisy or a
periwinkle, but the cedar or the cypress: not "poor men's cottages, but
princes' palaces." His Childe Harold contains a lofty and impassioned
review of the great events of history, of the mighty objects left as
wrecks of time, but he dwells chiefly on what is familiar to the mind of
every school-boy; has brought out few new traits of feeling or thought;
and has done no more than justice to the reader's preconceptions by the
sustained force and brilliancy of his style and imagery. Lord Byron's
earlier productions, _Lara_, the _Corsair_, &c. were wild and gloomy
romances, put into rapid and shining verse. They discover the madness
of poetry, together with the inspiration: sullen, moody, capricious,
fierce, inexorable, gloating on beauty, thirsting for revenge, hurrying
from the extremes of pleasure to pain, but with nothing permanent,
nothing healthy or natural. The gaudy decorations and the morbid
sentiments remind one of flowers strewed over the face of death! In
his _Childe Harold_ (as has been just observed) he assumes a lofty and
philosophic tone, and "reasons high of providence, fore-knowledge, will,
and fate." He takes the highest points in the history of the world,
and comments on them from a more commanding eminence: he shews us the
crumbling monuments of time, he invokes the great names, the
mighty spirit of antiquity. The universe is changed into a stately
mausoleum:--in solemn measures he chaunts a hymn to fame. Lord Byron has
strength and elevation enough to fill up the moulds of our classical and
time-hallowed recollections, and to rekindle the earliest aspirations of
the mind after greatness and true glory with a pen of fire. The names of
Tasso, of Ariosto, of Dante, of Cincinnatus, of Caesar, of Scipio, lose
nothing of their pomp or their lustre in his hands, and when he begins
and continues a strain of panegyric on such subjects, we indeed sit
down with him to a banquet of rich praise, brooding over imperishable

"Till Contemplation has her fill."

Lord Byron seems to cast himself indignantly from "this bank and shoal
of time," or the frail tottering bark that bears up modern reputation,
into the huge sea of ancient renown, and to revel there with untired,
outspread plume. Even this in him is spleen--his contempt of his
contemporaries makes him turn back to the lustrous past, or project
himself forward to the dim future!--Lord Byron's tragedies, Faliero,[B]
Sardanapalus, &c. are not equal to his other works. They want the
essence of the drama. They abound in speeches and descriptions, such as
he himself might make either to himself or others, lolling on his couch
of a morning, but do not carry the reader out of the poet's mind to the
scenes and events recorded. They have neither action, character,
nor interest, but are a sort of _gossamer_ tragedies, spun out, and
glittering, and spreading a flimsy veil over the face of nature. Yet
he spins them on. Of all that he has done in this way the _Heaven and
Earth_ (the same subject as Mr. Moore's _Loves of the Angels_) is the
best. We prefer it even to _Manfred_. _Manfred_ is merely himself,
with a fancy-drapery on: but in the dramatic fragment published in the
_Liberal_, the space between Heaven and Earth, the stage on which
his characters have to pass to and fro, seems to fill his Lordship's
imagination; and the Deluge, which he has so finely described, may be
said to have drowned all his own idle humours.

We must say we think little of our author's turn for satire. His
"English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" is dogmatical and insolent, but
without refinement or point. He calls people names, and tries to
transfix a character with an epithet, which does not stick, because
it has no other foundation than his own petulance and spite; or he
endeavours to degrade by alluding to some circumstance of external
situation. He says of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry, that "it is his
aversion." That may be: but whose fault is it? This is the satire of
a lord, who is accustomed to have all his whims or dislikes taken for
gospel, and who cannot be at the pains to do more than signify his
contempt or displeasure. If a great man meets with a rebuff which he
does not like, he turns on his heel, and this passes for a repartee.
The Noble Author says of a celebrated barrister and critic, that he was
"born in a garret sixteen stories high." The insinuation is not true; or
if it were, it is low. The allusion degrades the person who makes, not
him to whom it is applied. This is also the satire of a person of birth
and quality, who measures all merit by external rank, that is, by
his own standard. So his Lordship, in a "Letter to the Editor of My
Grandmother's Review," addresses him fifty times as "_my dear Robarts_;"
nor is there any other wit in the article. This is surely a mere
assumption of superiority from his Lordship's rank, and is the sort of
_quizzing_ he might use to a person who came to hire himself as a valet
to him at _Long's_--the waiters might laugh, the public will not. In
like manner, in the controversy about Pope, he claps Mr. Bowles on the
back with a coarse facetious familiarity, as if he were his chaplain
whom he had invited to dine with him, or was about to present to a
benefice. The reverend divine might submit to the obligation, but he has
no occasion to subscribe to the jest. If it is a jest that Mr. Bowles
should be a parson, and Lord Byron a peer, the world knew this before;
there was no need to write a pamphlet to prove it.

The _Don Juan_ indeed has great power; but its power is owing to the
force of the serious writing, and to the oddity of the contrast between
that and the flashy passages with which it is interlarded. From the
sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step. You laugh and are
surprised that any one should turn round and _travestie_ himself: the
drollery is in the utter discontinuity of ideas and feelings. He makes
virtue serve as a foil to vice; _dandyism_ is (for want of any other) a
variety of genius. A classical intoxication is followed by the splashing
of soda-water, by frothy effusions of ordinary bile. After the lightning
and the hurricane, we are introduced to the interior of the cabin and
the contents of wash-hand basins. The solemn hero of tragedy plays
_Scrub_ in the farce. This is "very tolerable and not to be endured."
The Noble Lord is almost the only writer who has prostituted his talents
in this way. He hallows in order to desecrate; takes a pleasure in
defacing the images of beauty his hands have wrought; and raises our
hopes and our belief in goodness to Heaven only to dash them to the
earth again, and break them in pieces the more effectually from the very
height they have fallen. Our enthusiasm for genius or virtue is thus
turned into a jest by the very person who has kindled it, and who thus
fatally quenches the sparks of both. It is not that Lord Byron is
sometimes serious and sometimes trifling, sometimes profligate, and
sometimes moral--but when he is most serious and most moral, he is only
preparing to mortify the unsuspecting reader by putting a pitiful _hoax_
upon him. This is a most unaccountable anomaly. It is as if the eagle
were to build its eyry in a common sewer, or the owl were seen soaring
to the mid-day sun. Such a sight might make one laugh, but one would not
wish or expect it to occur more than once![C]

In fact, Lord Byron is the spoiled child of fame as well as fortune.
He has taken a surfeit of popularity, and is not contented to delight,
unless he can shock the public. He would force them to admire in spite
of decency and common sense--he would have them read what they would
read in no one but himself, or he would not give a rush for their
applause. He is to be "a chartered libertine," from whom insults are
favours, whose contempt is to be a new incentive to admiration. His
Lordship is hard to please: he is equally averse to notice or neglect,
enraged at censure and scorning praise. He tries the patience of the
town to the very utmost, and when they shew signs of weariness or
disgust, threatens to _discard_ them. He says he will write on, whether
he is read or not. He would never write another page, if it were not
to court popular applause, or to affect a superiority over it. In this
respect also, Lord Byron presents a striking contrast to Sir Walter
Scott. The latter takes what part of the public favour falls to his
share, without grumbling (to be sure he has no reason to complain) the
former is always quarrelling with the world about his _modicum_ of
applause, the _spolia opima_ of vanity, and ungraciously throwing the
offerings of incense heaped on his shrine back in the faces of his
admirers. Again, there is no taint in the writings of the Author of
Waverley, all is fair and natural and _above-board:_ he never outrages
the public mind. He introduces no anomalous character: broaches no
staggering opinion. If he goes back to old prejudices and superstitions
as a relief to the modern reader, while Lord Byron floats on swelling

"Like proud seas under him;"

if the one defers too much to the spirit of antiquity, the other
panders to the spirit of the age, goes to the very edge of extreme and
licentious speculation, and breaks his neck over it. Grossness and
levity are the playthings of his pen. It is a ludicrous circumstance
that he should have dedicated his _Cain_ to the worthy Baronet! Did the
latter ever acknowledge the obligation? We are not nice, not very nice;
but we do not particularly approve those subjects that shine chiefly
from their rottenness: nor do we wish to see the Muses drest out in
the flounces of a false or questionable philosophy, like _Portia_ and
_Nerissa_ in the garb of Doctors of Law. We like metaphysics as well as
Lord Byron; but not to see them making flowery speeches, nor dancing a
measure in the fetters of verse. We have as good as hinted, that his
Lordship's poetry consists mostly of a tissue of superb common-places;
even his paradoxes are _common-place_. They are familiar in the schools:
they are only new and striking in his dramas and stanzas, by being out
of place. In a word, we think that poetry moves best within the circle
of nature and received opinion: speculative theory and subtle casuistry
are forbidden ground to it. But Lord Byron often wanders into this
ground wantonly, wilfully, and unwarrantably. The only apology we can
conceive for the spirit of some of Lord Byron's writings, is the spirit
of some of those opposed to him. They would provoke a man to write any
thing. "Farthest from them is best." The extravagance and license of the
one seems a proper antidote to the bigotry and narrowness of the other.
The first _Vision of Judgment_ was a set-off to the second, though

"None but itself could be its parallel."

Perhaps the chief cause of most of Lord Byron's errors is, that he is
that anomaly in letters and in society, a Noble Poet. It is a double
privilege, almost too much for humanity. He has all the pride of birth
and genius. The strength of his imagination leads him to indulge in
fantastic opinions; the elevation of his rank sets censure at defiance.
He becomes a pampered egotist. He has a seat in the House of Lords, a
niche in the Temple of Fame. Every-day mortals, opinions, things are not
good enough for him to touch or think of. A mere nobleman is, in his
estimation, but "the tenth transmitter of a foolish face:" a mere man of
genius is no better than a worm. His Muse is also a lady of quality.
The people are not polite enough for him: the Court not sufficiently
intellectual. He hates the one and despises the other. By hating and
despising others, he does not learn to be satisfied with himself. A
fastidious man soon grows querulous and splenetic. If there is nobody
but ourselves to come up to our idea of fancied perfection, we easily
get tired of our idol. When a man is tired of what he is, by a natural
perversity he sets up for what he is not. If he is a poet, he pretends
to be a metaphysician: if he is a patrician in rank and feeling, he
would fain be one of the people. His ruling motive is not the love of
the people, but of distinction not of truth, but of singularity. He
patronizes men of letters out of vanity, and deserts them from caprice,
or from the advice of friends. He embarks in an obnoxious publication to
provoke censure, and leaves it to shift for itself for fear of scandal.
We do not like Sir Walter's gratuitous servility: we like Lord Byron's
preposterous _liberalism_ little better. He may affect the principles of
equality, but he resumes his privilege of peerage, upon occasion. His
Lordship has made great offers of service to the Greeks--money and
horses. He is at present in Cephalonia, waiting the event!

* * * * *

We had written thus far when news came of the death of Lord Byron, and
put an end at once to a strain of somewhat peevish invective, which was
intended to meet his eye, not to insult his memory. Had we known that we
were writing his epitaph, we must have done it with a different feeling.
As it is, we think it better and more like himself, to let what we had
written stand, than to take up our leaden shafts, and try to melt them
into "tears of sensibility," or mould them into dull praise, and an
affected shew of candour. We were not silent during the author's
life-time, either for his reproof or encouragement (such us we
could give, and _he_ did not disdain to accept) nor can we now turn
undertakers' men to fix the glittering plate upon his coffin, or fall
into the procession of popular woe.--Death cancels every thing but
truth; and strips a man of every thing but genius and virtue. It is a
sort of natural canonization. It makes the meanest of us sacred--it
installs the poet in his immortality, and lifts him to the skies. Death
is the great assayer of the sterling ore of talent. At his touch the
drossy particles fall off, the irritable, the personal, the gross, and
mingle with the dust--the finer and more ethereal part mounts with the
winged spirit to watch over our latest memory and protect our bones from
insult. We consign the least worthy qualities to oblivion, and cherish
the nobler and imperishable nature with double pride and fondness.
Nothing could shew the real superiority of genius in a more striking
point of view than the idle contests and the public indifference about
the place of Lord Byron's interment, whether in Westminster-Abbey or
his own family-vault. A king must have a coronation--a nobleman a
funeral-procession.--The man is nothing without the pageant. The poet's
cemetery is the human mind, in which he sows the seeds of never ending
thought--his monument is to be found in his works:

"Nothing can cover his high fame but Heaven;
No pyramids set off his memory,
But the eternal substance of his greatness."

Lord Byron is dead: he also died a martyr to his zeal in the cause of
freedom, for the last, best hopes of man. Let that be his excuse and his

[Footnote A: This Essay was written just before Lord Byron's death.]

[Footnote B:

"Don Juan was my Moscow, and Faliero
My Leipsic, and my Mont St. Jean seems Cain,"
_Don Juan_, Canto. XI.]

[Footnote C: This censure applies to the first Cantos of DON JUAN much
more than to the last. It has been called a TRISTRAM SHANDY in rhyme: it
is rather a poem written about itself.]

* * * * *


"Mr. Campbell may be said to hold a place (among modern poets) between
Lord Byron and Mr. Rogers. With much of the glossy splendour, the
pointed vigour, and romantic interest of the one, he possesses the
fastidious refinement, the classic elegance of the other. Mr. Rogers, as
a writer, is too effeminate, Lord Byron too extravagant: Mr. Campbell is
neither. The author of the _Pleasures of Memory_ polishes his lines till
they sparkle with the most exquisite finish; he attenuates them into the
utmost degree of trembling softness: but we may complain, in spite of
the delicacy and brilliancy of the execution, of a want of strength
and solidity. The author of the _Pleasures of Hope_, with a richer and
deeper vein of thought and imagination, works it out into figures of
equal grace and dazzling beauty, avoiding on the one hand the tinsel of
flimsy affectation, and on the other the vices of a rude and barbarous
negligence. His Pegasus is not a rough, skittish colt, running wild
among the mountains, covered with bur-docks and thistles, nor a tame,
sleek pad, unable to get out of the same ambling pace, but a beautiful
_manege_-horse, full of life and spirit in itself, and subject to the
complete controul of the rider. Mr. Campbell gives scope to his feelings
and his fancy, and embodies them in a noble and naturally interesting
subject; and he at the same time conceives himself called upon (in these
days of critical nicety) to pay the exactest attention to the expression
of each thought, and to modulate each line into the most faultless
harmony. The character of his mind is a lofty and self-scrutinising
ambition, that strives to reconcile the integrity of general design with
the perfect elaboration of each component part, that aims at striking
effect, but is jealous of the means by which this is to be produced.
Our poet is not averse to popularity (nay, he is tremblingly alive to
it)--but self-respect is the primary law, the indispensable condition
on which it must be obtained. We should dread to point out (even if we
could) a false concord, a mixed metaphor, an imperfect rhyme in any of
Mr. Campbell's productions; for we think that all his fame would hardly
compensate to him for the discovery. He seeks for perfection, and
nothing evidently short of it can satisfy his mind. He is a _high
finisher_ in poetry, whose every work must bear inspection, whose
slightest touch is precious--not a coarse dauber who is contented to
impose on public wonder and credulity by some huge, ill-executed design,
or who endeavours to wear out patience and opposition together by a load
of lumbering, feeble, awkward, improgressive lines--on the contrary, Mr.
Campbell labours to lend every grace of execution to his subject, while
he borrows his ardour and inspiration from it, and to deserve the
laurels he has earned, by true genius and by true pains. There is an
apparent consciousness of this in most of his writings. He has attained
to great excellence by aiming at the greatest, by a cautious and yet
daring selection of topics, and by studiously (and with a religious
horror) avoiding all those faults which arise from grossness, vulgarity,
haste, and disregard of public opinion. He seizes on the highest point
of eminence, and strives to keep it to himself--he "snatches a grace
beyond the reach of art," and will not let it go--he steeps a single
thought or image so deep in the Tyrian dyes of a gorgeous imagination,
that it throws its lustre over a whole page--every where vivid _ideal_
forms hover (in intense conception) over the poet's verse, which
ascends, like the aloe, to the clouds, with pure flowers at its top. Or
to take an humbler comparison (the pride of genius must sometimes stoop
to the lowliness of criticism) Mr. Campbell's poetry often reminds us of
the purple gilliflower, both for its colour and its scent, its glowing
warmth, its rich, languid, sullen hue,

"Yet sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes,
Or Cytherea's breath!"

There are those who complain of the little that Mr. Campbell has done
in poetry, and who seem to insinuate that he is deterred by his own
reputation from making any further or higher attempts. But after having
produced two poems that have gone to the heart of a nation, and are
gifts to a world, he may surely linger out the rest of his life in a
dream of immortality. There are moments in our lives so exquisite that
all that remains of them afterwards seems useless and barren; and there
are lines and stanzas in our author's early writings in which he may
be thought to have exhausted all the sweetness and all the essence of
poetry, so that nothing farther was left to his efforts or his ambition.
Happy is it for those few and fortunate worshippers of the Muse (not
a subject of grudging or envy to others) who already enjoy in their
life-time a foretaste of their future fame, who see their names
accompanying them, like a cloud of glory, from youth to age,

"And by the vision splendid,
Are on their way attended"--

and who know that they have built a shrine for the thoughts and
feelings, that were most dear to them, in the minds and memories
of other men, till the language which they lisped in childhood is
forgotten, or the human heart shall beat no more!

The _Pleasures of Hope_ alone would not have called forth these remarks
from us; but there are passages in the _Gertrude of Wyoming_ of so rare
and ripe a beauty, that they challenge, as they exceed all praise.
Such, for instance, is the following peerless description of Gertrude's

"A loved bequest--and I may half impart
To those that feel the strong paternal tie,
How like a new existence in his heart
That living flow'r uprose beneath his eye,
Dear as she was, from cherub infancy,
From hours when she would round his garden play,
To time when as the ripening years went by,
Her lovely mind could culture well repay,
And more engaging grew from pleasing day to day.

"I may not paint those thousand infant charms
(Unconscious fascination, undesign'd!)
The orison repeated in his arms,
For God to bless her sire and all mankind;
The book, the bosom on his knee reclined,
Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con
(The play-mate ere the teacher of her mind)
All uncompanion'd else her years had gone,
Till now in Gertrude's eyes their ninth blue summer shone.

"And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,
When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,
An Indian from his bark approach their bower,
Of buskin'd limb and swarthy lineament;
The red wild feathers on his brow were blent,
And bracelets bound the arm that help'd to light
A boy, who seem'd, as he beside him went,
Of Christian vesture and complexion bright,
Led by his dusty guide, like morning brought by night."

In the foregoing stanzas we particularly admire the line--

"Till now in Gertrude's eyes their ninth blue summer shone."

It appears to us like the ecstatic union of natural beauty and poetic
fancy, and in its playful sublimity resembles the azure canopy mirrored
in the smiling waters, bright, liquid, serene, heavenly! A great outcry,
we know, has prevailed for some time past against poetic diction and
affected conceits, and, to a certain degree, we go along with it; but
this must not prevent us from feeling the thrill of pleasure when we see
beauty linked to beauty, like kindred flame to flame, or from applauding
the voluptuous fancy that raises and adorns the fairy fabric of thought,
that nature has begun! Pleasure is "scattered in stray-gifts o'er the
earth"--beauty streaks the "famous poet's page" in occasional lines of
inconceivable brightness; and wherever this is the case, no splenetic
censures or "jealous leer malign," no idle theories or cold indifference
should hinder us from greeting it with rapture.--There are other parts
of this poem equally delightful, in which there is a light startling as
the red-bird's wing; a perfume like that of the magnolia; a music
like the murmuring of pathless woods or of the everlasting ocean. We
conceive, however, that Mr. Campbell excels chiefly in sentiment and
imagery. The story moves slow, and is mechanically conducted, and rather
resembles a Scotch canal carried over lengthened aqueducts and with a
number of _locks_ in it, than one of those rivers that sweep in their
majestic course, broad and full, over Transatlantic plains and lose
themselves in rolling gulfs, or thunder down lofty precipices. But in
the centre, the inmost recesses of our poet's heart, the pearly dew of
sensibility is distilled and collects, like the diamond in the mine, and
the structure of his fame rests on the crystal columns of a polished
imagination. We prefer the _Gertrude_ to the _Pleasures of Hope_,
because with perhaps less brilliancy, there is more of tenderness and
natural imagery in the former. In the _Pleasures of Hope_ Mr. Campbell
had not completely emancipated himself from the trammels of the more
artificial style of poetry--from epigram, and antithesis, and hyperbole.
The best line in it, in which earthly joys are said to be--

"Like angels' visits, few and far between"--

is a borrowed one.[A] But in the Gertrude of Wyoming "we perceive a
softness coming over the heart of the author, and the scales and crust
of formality that fence in his couplets and give them a somewhat
glittering and rigid appearance, fall off," and he has succeeded in
engrafting the wild and more expansive interest of the romantic school
of poetry on classic elegance and precision. After the poem we have
just named, Mr. Campbell's SONGS are the happiest efforts of his
Muse:--breathing freshness, blushing like the morn, they seem, like
clustering roses, to weave a chaplet for love and liberty; or their
bleeding words gush out in mournful and hurried succession, like "ruddy
drops that visit the sad heart" of thoughtful Humanity. The _Battle of
Hohenlinden_ is of all modern compositions the most lyrical in spirit
and in sound. To justify this encomium, we need only recall the lines to
the reader's memory.

"On Linden, when the sun was low,
All bloodless lay th' untrodden snow,
And dark as winter was the flow
Of Iser, rolling rapidly.

But Linden saw another sight,
When the drum beat at dead of night,
Commanding fires of death to light
The darkness of her scenery.

By torch and trumpet fast array'd,
Each horseman drew his battle blade,
And furious every charger neigh'd,
To join the dreadful revelry.

Then shook the hills with thunder riv'n,
Then rush'd the steed to battle driv'n,
And louder than the bolts of heav'n
Far flash'd the red artillery.

But redder yet that light shall glow
On Linden's hills of stained snow,
And bloodier yet the torrent flow
Of Iser, rolling rapidly.

'Tis morn, but scarce yon level sun
Can pierce the war-clouds, rolling[B] dun,
Where furious Frank and fiery Hun
Shout in their sulph'rous canopy.

The combat deepens. On, ye brave,
Who rush to glory, or the grave!
Wave, Munich! all thy banners wave!
And charge with all thy chivalry!

Few, few shall part, where many meet!
The snow shall be their winding-sheet,
And every turf beneath their feet
Shall be a soldier's sepulchre."

Mr. Campbell's prose-criticisms on contemporary and other poets (which
have appeared in the New Monthly Magazine) are in a style at once
chaste, temperate, guarded, and just.

Mr. Crabbe presents an entire contrast to

Mr. Campbell:--the one is the most ambitious and aspiring of living
poets, the other the most humble and prosaic. If the poetry of the one
is like the arch of the rainbow, spanning and adorning the earth, that
of the other is like a dull, leaden cloud hanging over it. Mr. Crabbe's
style might be cited as an answer to Audrey's question--"Is poetry
a true thing?" There are here no ornaments, no flights of fancy, no
illusions of sentiment, no tinsel of words. His song is one sad reality,
one unraised, unvaried note of unavailing woe. Literal fidelity serves
him in the place of invention; he assumes importance by a number of
petty details; he rivets attention by being tedious. He not only deals
in incessant matters of fact, but in matters of fact of the most
familiar, the least animating, and the most unpleasant kind; but he
relies for the effect of novelty on the microscopic minuteness with
which he dissects the most trivial objects--and for the interest he
excites, on the unshrinking determination with which he handles the most
painful. His poetry has an official and professional air. He is called
in to cases of difficult births, of fractured limbs, or breaches of the
peace; and makes out a parochial list of accidents and offences. He
takes the most trite, the most gross and obvious and revolting part of
nature, for the subject of his elaborate descriptions; but it is Nature
still, and Nature is a great and mighty Goddess! It is well for the
Reverend Author that it is so. Individuality is, in his theory, the only
definition of poetry. Whatever _is_, he hitches into rhyme. Whoever
makes an exact image of any thing on the earth, however deformed or
insignificant, according to him, must succeed--and he himself has
succeeded. Mr. Crabbe is one of the most popular and admired of our
living authors. That he is so, can be accounted for on no other
principle than the strong ties that bind us to the world about us, and
our involuntary yearnings after whatever in any manner powerfully and
directly reminds us of it. His Muse is not one of _the Daughters of
Memory_, but the old toothless, mumbling dame herself, doling out the
gossip and scandal of the neighbourhood, recounting _totidem verbis et
literis_, what happens in every place of the kingdom every hour in the
year, and fastening always on the worst as the most palatable morsels.
But she is a circumstantial old lady, communicative, scrupulous, leaving
nothing to the imagination, harping on the smallest grievances, a
village-oracle and critic, most veritable, most identical, bringing us
acquainted with persons and things just as they chanced to exist, and
giving us a local interest in all she knows and tells. Mr. Crabbe's
Helicon is choked up with weeds and corruption; it reflects no light
from heaven, it emits no cheerful sound: no flowers of love, of hope,
or joy spring up near it, or they bloom only to wither in a moment. Our
poet's verse does not put a spirit of youth in every thing, but a spirit
of fear, despondency, and decay: it is not an electric spark to kindle
or expand, but acts like the torpedo's touch to deaden or contract. It
lends no dazzling tints to fancy, it aids no soothing feelings in the
heart, it gladdens no prospect, it stirs no wish; in its view the
current of life runs slow, dull, cold, dispirited, half under ground,
muddy, and clogged with all creeping things. The world is one vast
infirmary; the hill of Parnassus is a penitentiary, of which our author
is the overseer: to read him is a penance, yet we read on! Mr. Crabbe,
it must be confessed, is a repulsive writer. He contrives to "turn
diseases to commodities," and makes a virtue of necessity. He puts us
out of conceit with this world, which perhaps a severe divine should do;
yet does not, as a charitable divine ought, point to another. His morbid
feelings droop and cling to the earth, grovel where they should soar;
and throw a dead weight on every aspiration of the soul after the good
or beautiful. By degrees we submit, and are reconciled to our fate, like
patients to the physician, or prisoners in the condemned cell. We can
only explain this by saying, as we said before, that Mr. Crabbe gives
us one part of nature, the mean, the little, the disgusting, the
distressing; that he does this thoroughly and like a master, and we
forgive all the rest.

Mr. Crabbe's first poems were published so long ago as the year 1782,
and received the approbation of Dr. Johnson only a little before he
died. This was a testimony from an enemy; for Dr. Johnson was not an
admirer of the simple in style or minute in description. Still he was an
acute, strong-minded man, and could see truth when it was presented to
him, even through the mist of his prejudices and his foibles. There was
something in Mr. Crabbe's intricate points that did not, after all, so
ill accord with the Doctor's purblind vision; and he knew quite
enough of the petty ills of life to judge of the merit of our poet's
descriptions, though he himself chose to slur them over in high-sounding
dogmas or general invectives. Mr. Crabbe's earliest poem of the
_Village_ was recommended to the notice of Dr. Johnson by Sir Joshua
Reynolds; and we cannot help thinking that a taste for that sort of
poetry, which leans for support on the truth and fidelity of its
imitations of nature, began to display itself much about that time, and,
in a good measure, in consequence of the direction of the public taste
to the subject of painting. Book-learning, the accumulation of wordy
common-places, the gaudy pretensions of poetical fiction, had enfeebled
and perverted our eye for nature. The study of the fine arts, which came
into fashion about forty years ago, and was then first considered as a
polite accomplishment, would tend imperceptibly to restore it. Painting
is essentially an imitative art; it cannot subsist for a moment on empty
generalities: the critic, therefore, who had been used to this sort of
substantial entertainment, would be disposed to read poetry with the
eye of a connoisseur, would be little captivated with smooth, polished,
unmeaning periods, and would turn with double eagerness and relish to
the force and precision of individual details, transferred, as it were,
to the page from the canvas. Thus an admirer of Teniers or Hobbima
might think little of the pastoral sketches of Pope or Goldsmith; even
Thompson describes not so much the naked object as what he sees in his
mind's eye, surrounded and glowing with the mild, bland, genial vapours
of his brain:--but the adept in Dutch interiors, hovels, and pig-styes
must find in Mr. Crabbe a man after his own heart. He is the very thing
itself; he paints in words, instead of colours: there is no other
difference. As Mr. Crabbe is not a painter, only because he does not use
a brush and colours, so he is for the most part a poet, only because
he writes in lines of ten syllables. All the rest might be found in a
newspaper, an old magazine, or a county-register. Our author is himself
a little jealous of the prudish fidelity of his homely Muse, and tries
to justify himself by precedents. He brings as a parallel instance of
merely literal description, Pope's lines on the gay Duke of Buckingham,
beginning "In the worst inn's worst room see Villiers lies!" But surely
nothing can be more dissimilar. Pope describes what is striking, Crabbe
would have described merely what was there. The objects in Pope stand
out to the fancy from the mixture of the mean with the gaudy, from the
contrast of the scene and the character. There is an appeal to the
imagination; you see what is passing in a poetical point of view. In
Crabbe there is no foil, no contrast, no impulse given to the mind. It
is all on a level and of a piece. In fact, there is so little connection
between the subject-matter of Mr. Crabbe's lines and the ornament of
rhyme which is tacked to them, that many of his verses read like serious
burlesque, and the parodies which have been made upon them are hardly so
quaint as the originals.

Mr. Crabbe's great fault is certainly that he is a sickly, a querulous,
a uniformly dissatisfied poet. He sings the country; and he sings it in
a pitiful tone. He chooses this subject only to take the charm out of
it, and to dispel the illusion, the glory, and the dream, which had
hovered over it in golden verse from Theocritus to Cowper. He sets out
with professing to overturn the theory which had hallowed a shepherd's
life, and made the names of grove and valley music to our ears, in order
to give us truth in its stead; but why not lay aside the fool's cap and
bells at once? Why not insist on the unwelcome reality in plain prose?
If our author is a poet, why trouble himself with statistics? If he is a
statistic writer, why set his ill news to harsh and grating verse? The
philosopher in painting the dark side of human nature may have reason
on his side, and a moral lesson or remedy in view. The tragic poet, who
shews the sad vicissitudes of things and the disappointments of the
passions, at least strengthens our yearnings after imaginary good, and
lends wings to our desires, by which we, "at one bound, high overleap
all bound" of actual suffering. But Mr. Crabbe does neither. He gives
us discoloured paintings of life; helpless, repining, unprofitable,
unedifying distress. He is not a philosopher, but a sophist, a
misanthrope in verse; a _namby-pamby_ Mandeville, a Malthus turned
metrical romancer. He professes historical fidelity; but his vein is not
dramatic; nor does he give us the _pros_ and _cons_ of that versatile
gipsey, Nature. He does not indulge his fancy, or sympathise with us, or
tell us how the poor feel; but how he should feel in their situation,
which we do not want to know. He does not weave the web of their lives
of a mingled yarn, good and ill together, but clothes them all in the
same dingy linsey-woolsey, or tinges them with a green and yellow
melancholy. He blocks out all possibility of good, cancels the hope, or
even the wish for it as a weakness; check-mates Tityrus and Virgil at
the game of pastoral cross-purposes, disables all his adversary's white
pieces, and leaves none but black ones on the board. The situation of a
country clergyman is not necessarily favourable to the cultivation of
the Muse. He is set down, perhaps, as he thinks, in a small curacy for
life, and he takes his revenge by imprisoning the reader's imagination
in luckless verse. Shut out from social converse, from learned colleges
and halls, where he passed his youth, he has no cordial fellow-feeling
with the unlettered manners of the _Village_ or the _Borough_; and he
describes his neighbours as more uncomfortable and discontented than
himself. All this while he dedicates successive volumes to rising
generations of noble patrons; and while he desolates a line of coast
with sterile, blighting lines, the only leaf of his books where honour,
beauty, worth, or pleasure bloom, is that inscribed to the Rutland
family! We might adduce instances of what we have said from every page
of his works: let one suffice--

"Thus by himself compelled to live each day,
To wait for certain hours the tide's delay;
At the same times the same dull views to see,
The bounding marsh-bank and the blighted tree;
The water only when the tides were high,
When low, the mud half-covered and half-dry;
The sun-burnt tar that blisters on the planks,
And bank-side stakes in their uneven ranks;
Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float,
As the tide rolls by the impeded boat.
When tides were neap, and in the sultry day,
Through the tall bounding mud-banks made their way,
Which on each side rose swelling, and below
The dark warm flood ran silently and slow;
There anchoring, Peter chose from man to hide,
There hang his head, and view the lazy tide
In its hot slimy channel slowly glide;
Where the small eels, that left the deeper way
For the warm shore, within the shallows play;
Where gaping muscles, left upon the mud,
Slope their slow passage to the fall'n flood:
Here dull and hopeless he'd lie down and trace
How side-long crabs had crawled their crooked race;
Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry
Of fishing gull or clanging golden-eye;
What time the sea-birds to the marsh would come,
And the loud bittern, from the bull-rush home,
Gave from the salt ditch-side the bellowing boom:
He nursed the feelings these dull scenes produce
And loved to stop beside the opening sluice;
Where the small stream, confined in narrow bound,
Ran with a dull, unvaried, saddening sound;
Where all, presented to the eye or ear,
Oppressed the soul with misery, grief, and fear."

This is an exact _fac-simile_ of some of the most unlovely parts of the
creation. Indeed the whole of Mr. Crabbe's _Borough_, from which the
above passage is taken, is done so to the life, that it seems almost
like some sea-monster, crawled out of the neighbouring slime, and
harbouring a breed of strange vermin, with a strong local scent of
tar and bulge-water. Mr. Crabbe's _Tales_ are more readable than his
_Poems_; but in proportion as the interest increases, they become more
oppressive. They turn, one and all, upon the same sort of teazing,
helpless, mechanical, unimaginative distress;--and though it is not
easy to lay them down, you never wish to take them up again. Still in
this way, they are highly finished, striking, and original portraits,
worked out with an eye to nature, and an intimate knowledge of the
small and intricate folds of the human heart. Some of the best are
the _Confidant_, the story of _Silly Shore_, the _Young Poet_, the
_Painter_. The episode of _Phoebe Dawson_ in the _Village_, is one of
the most tender and pensive; and the character of the methodist parson
who persecutes the sailor's widow with his godly, selfish love, is one
of the most profound. In a word, if Mr. Crabbe's writings do not add
greatly to the store of entertaining and delightful fiction, yet they
will remain "as a thorn in the side of poetry," perhaps for a century to

[Footnote A:

"Like angels' visits, short and far between."--.
_Blair's Grave_.]

[Footnote B: Is not this word, which occurs in the last line but one,
(as well as before) an instance of that repetition, which we so often
meet with in the most correct and elegant writers?]

* * * * *


The subject of the present article is one of the ablest and most
accomplished men of the age, both as a writer, a speaker, and a
converser. He is, in fact, master of almost every known topic, whether
of a passing or of a more recondite nature. He has lived much in
society, and is deeply conversant with books. He is a man of the
world and a scholar; but the scholar gives the tone to all his other
acquirements and pursuits. Sir James is by education and habit, and we
were going to add, by the original turn of his mind, a college-man; and
perhaps he would have passed his time most happily and respectably, had
he devoted himself entirely to that kind of life. The strength of his
faculties would have been best developed, his ambition would have met
its proudest reward, in the accumulation and elaborate display of grave
and useful knowledge. As it is, it may be said, that in company he talks
well, but too much; that in writing he overlays the original subject and
spirit of the composition, by an appeal to authorities and by too formal
a method; that in public speaking the logician takes place of the
orator, and that he fails to give effect to a particular point or to
urge an immediate advantage home upon his adversary from the enlarged
scope of his mind, and the wide career he takes in the field of

To consider him in the last point of view, first. As a political
partisan, he is rather the lecturer than the advocate. He is able to
instruct and delight an impartial and disinterested audience by the
extent of his information, by his acquaintance with general principles,
by the clearness and aptitude of his illustrations, by vigour and
copiousness of style; but where he has a prejudiced or unfair antagonist
to contend with, he is just as likely to put weapons into his enemy's
hands as to wrest them from him, and his object seems to be rather to
deserve than to obtain success. The characteristics of his mind are
retentiveness and comprehension, with facility of production: but he is
not equally remarkable for originality of view, or warmth of feeling, or
liveliness of fancy. His eloquence is a little rhetorical; his reasoning
chiefly logical: he can bring down the account of knowledge on a vast
variety of subjects to the present moment, he can embellish any cause he
undertakes by the most approved and graceful ornaments, he can support
it by a host of facts and examples, but he cannot advance it a step
forward by placing it on a new and triumphant 'vantage-ground, nor
can he overwhelm and break down the artificial fences and bulwarks
of sophistry by the irresistible tide of manly enthusiasm. Sir James
Mackintosh is an accomplished debater, rather than a powerful orator: he
is distinguished more as a man of wonderful and variable talent than
as a man of commanding intellect. His mode of treating a question is
critical, and not parliamentary. It has been formed in the closet and
the schools, and is hardly fitted for scenes of active life, or the
collisions of party-spirit. Sir James reasons on the square; while the
arguments of his opponents are loaded with iron or gold. He makes,
indeed, a respectable ally, but not a very formidable opponent. He is as
likely, however, to prevail on a neutral, as he is almost certain to be
baffled on a hotly contested ground. On any question of general
policy or legislative improvement, the Member for Nairn is heard with
advantage, and his speeches are attended with effect: and he would have
equal weight and influence at other times, if it were the object of the
House to hear reason, as it is his aim to speak it. But on subjects of
peace or war, of political rights or foreign interference, where the
waves of party run high, and the liberty of nations or the fate of
mankind hangs trembling in the scales, though he probably displays equal
talent, and does full and heaped justice to the question (abstractedly
speaking, or if it were to be tried before an impartial assembly), yet
we confess we have seldom heard him, on such occasions, without pain for
the event. He did not slur his own character and pretensions, but he
compromised the argument. He spoke _the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth_; but the House of Commons (we dare aver it) is
not the place where the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth can be spoken with safety or with advantage. The judgment of the
House is not a balance to weigh scruples and reasons to the turn of a
fraction: another element, besides the love of truth, enters into the
composition of their decisions, the reaction of which must be calculated
upon and guarded against. If our philosophical statesman had to open the
case before a class of tyros, or a circle of grey-beards, who wished to
form or to strengthen their judgments upon fair and rational grounds,
nothing could be more satisfactory, more luminous, more able or more
decisive than the view taken of it by Sir James Mackintosh. But the
House of Commons, as a collective body, have not the docility of youth,
the calm wisdom of age; and often only want an excuse to do wrong, or
to adhere to what they have already determined upon; and Sir James,
in detailing the inexhaustible stores of his memory and reading, in
unfolding the wide range of his theory and practice, in laying down
the rules and the exceptions, in insisting upon the advantages and the
objections with equal explicitness, would be sure to let something drop
that a dextrous and watchful adversary would easily pick up and turn
against him, if this were found necessary; or if with so many _pros_ and
_cons_, doubts and difficulties, dilemmas and alternatives thrown into
it, the scale, with its natural bias to interest and power, did not
already fly up and kick the beam. There wanted unity of purpose,
impetuosity of feeling to break through the phalanx of hostile and
inveterate prejudice arrayed against him. He gave a handle to his
enemies; threw stumbling-blocks in the way of his friends. He raised so
many objections for the sake of answering them, proposed so many doubts
for the sake of solving them, and made so many concessions where none
were demanded, that his reasoning had the effect of neutralizing itself;
it became a mere exercise of the understanding without zest or spirit
left in it; and the provident engineer who was to shatter in pieces
the strong-holds of corruption and oppression, by a well-directed and
unsparing discharge of artillery, seemed to have brought not only his
own cannon-balls, but his own wool-packs along with him to ward off
the threatened mischief. This was a good deal the effect of his maiden
speech on the transfer of Genoa, to which Lord Castlereagh did not deign
an answer, and which another Honourable Member called "a _finical_
speech." It was a most able, candid, closely argued, and philosophical
exposure of that unprincipled transaction; but for this very reason it
was a solecism in the place where it was delivered. Sir James has, since
this period, and with the help of practice, lowered himself to the tone
of the House; and has also applied himself to questions more congenial
to his habits of mind, and where the success would be more likely to be
proportioned to his zeal and his exertions.

There was a greater degree of power, or of dashing and splendid effect
(we wish we could add, an equally humane and liberal spirit) in the
_Lectures on the Law of Nature and Nations_, formerly delivered by Sir
James (then Mr.) Mackintosh, in Lincoln's-Inn Hall. He shewed greater
confidence; was more at home there. The effect was more electrical and
instantaneous, and this elicited a prouder display of intellectual
riches, and a more animated and imposing mode of delivery. He grew
wanton with success. Dazzling others by the brilliancy of his
acquirements, dazzled himself by the admiration they excited, he lost
fear as well as prudence; dared every thing, carried every thing before
him. The Modern Philosophy, counterscarp, outworks, citadel, and all,
fell without a blow, by "the whiff and wind of his fell _doctrine_," as
if it had been a pack of cards. The volcano of the French Revolution
was seen expiring in its own flames, like a bon-fire made of straw: the
principles of Reform were scattered in all directions, like chaff before
the keen northern blast. He laid about him like one inspired; nothing
could withstand his envenomed tooth. Like some savage beast got into
the garden of the fabled Hesperides, he made clear work of it, root and
branch, with white, foaming tusks--

"Laid waste the borders, and o'erthrew the bowers."

The havoc was amazing, the desolation was complete. As to our visionary
sceptics and Utopian philosophers, they stood no chance with our
lecturer--he did not "carve them as a dish fit for the Gods, but hewed
them as a carcase fit for hounds." Poor Godwin, who had come, in the
_bonhommie_ and candour of his nature, to hear what new light had broken
in upon his old friend, was obliged to quit the field, and slunk away
after an exulting taunt thrown out at "such fanciful chimeras as a
golden mountain or a perfect man." Mr. Mackintosh had something of the
air, much of the dexterity and self-possession, of a political and
philosophical juggler; and an eager and admiring audience gaped and
greedily swallowed the gilded bait of sophistry, prepared for their
credulity and wonder. Those of us who attended day after day, and were
accustomed to have all our previous notions confounded and struck out of
our hands by some metaphysical legerdemain, were at last at some loss to
know _whether two and two made four_, till we had heard the lecturer's
opinion on that head. He might have some mental reservation on the
subject, some pointed ridicule to pour upon the common supposition,
some learned authority to quote against it. To anticipate the line of
argument he might pursue, was evidently presumptuous and premature. One
thing only appeared certain, that whatever opinion he chose to take up,
he was able to make good either by the foils or the cudgels, by gross
banter or nice distinctions, by a well-timed mixture of paradox and
common-place, by an appeal to vulgar prejudices or startling scepticism.
It seemed to be equally his object, or the tendency of his Discourses,
to unsettle every principle of reason or of common sense, and to leave
his audience at the mercy of the _dictum_ of a lawyer, the nod of a
minister, or the shout of a mob. To effect this purpose, he drew largely
on the learning of antiquity, on modern literature, on history, poetry,
and the belles-lettres, on the Schoolmen and on writers of novels,
French, English, and Italian. In mixing up the sparkling julep, that
by its potent operation was to scour away the dregs and feculence and
peccant humours of the body politic, he seemed to stand with his back
to the drawers in a metaphysical dispensary, and to take out of them
whatever ingredients suited his purpose. In this way he had an antidote
for every error, an answer to every folly. The writings of Burke, Hume,
Berkeley, Paley, Lord Bacon, Jeremy Taylor, Grotius, Puffendorf, Cicero,
Aristotle, Tacitus, Livy, Sully, Machiavel, Guicciardini, Thuanus, lay
open beside him, and he could instantly lay his hand upon the passage,
and quote them chapter and verse to the clearing up of all difficulties,
and the silencing of all oppugners. Mr. Mackintosh's Lectures were after
all but a kind of philosophical centos. They were profound, brilliant,
new to his hearers; but the profundity, the brilliancy, the novelty were
not his own. He was like Dr. Pangloss (not Voltaire's, but Coleman's)
who speaks only in quotations; and the pith, the marrow of Sir James's
reasoning and rhetoric at that memorable period might be put within
inverted commas. It, however, served its purpose and the loud echo died
away. We remember an excellent man and a sound critic[A] going to hear
one of these elaborate effusions; and on his want of enthusiasm being
accounted for from its not being one of the orator's brilliant days, he
replied, "he did not think a man of genius could speak for two hours
without saying something by which he would have been electrified."
We are only sorry, at this distance of time, for one thing in these
Lectures--the tone and spirit in which they seemed to have been composed
and to be delivered. If all that body of opinions and principles of
which the orator read his recantation was unfounded, and there was an
end of all those views and hopes that pointed to future improvement, it
was not a matter of triumph or exultation to the lecturer or any body
else, to the young or the old, the wise or the foolish; on the contrary,
it was a subject of regret, of slow, reluctant, painful admission--

"Of lamentation loud heard through the rueful air."

The immediate occasion of this sudden and violent change in Sir James's
views and opinions was attributed to a personal interview which he
had had a little before his death with Mr. Burke, at his house at
Beaconsfield. In the latter end of the year 1796, appeared the _Regicide
Peace_, from the pen of the great apostate from liberty and betrayer of
his species into the hands of those who claimed it as their property
by divine right--a work imposing, solid in many respects, abounding in
facts and admirable reasoning, and in which all flashy ornaments were
laid aside for a testamentary gravity, (the eloquence of despair
resembling the throes and heaving and muttered threats of an earthquake,
rather than the loud thunder-bolt)--and soon after came out a criticism
on it in _The Monthly Review_, doing justice to the author and the
style, and combating the inferences with force and at much length; but
with candour and with respect, amounting to deference. It was new to Mr.
Burke not to be called names by persons of the opposite party; it was
an additional triumph to him to be spoken well of, to be loaded with
well-earned praise by the author of the _Vindiciae Gallicae_. It was a
testimony from an old, a powerful, and an admired antagonist.[B] He sent
an invitation to the writer to come and see him; and in the course of
three days' animated discussion of such subjects, Mr. Mackintosh became
a convert not merely to the graces and gravity of Mr. Burke's style, but
to the liberality of his views, and the solidity of his opinions.--The
Lincoln's-Inn Lectures were the fruit of this interview: such is the
influence exercised by men of genius and imaginative power over those
who have nothing to oppose to their unforeseen flashes of thought and
invention, but the dry, cold, formal deductions of the understanding.
Our politician had time, during a few years of absence from his native
country, and while the din of war and the cries of party-spirit "were
lost over a wide and unhearing ocean," to recover from his surprise and
from a temporary alienation of mind; and to return in spirit, and in the
mild and mellowed maturity of age, to the principles and attachments of
his early life.

The appointment of Sir James Mackintosh to a Judgeship in India was one,
which, however flattering to his vanity or favourable to his interests,
was entirely foreign to his feelings and habits. It was an honourable
exile. He was out of his element among black slaves and sepoys, and
Nabobs and cadets, and writers to India. He had no one to exchange ideas
with. The "unbought grace of life," the charm of literary conversation
was gone. It was the habit of his mind, his ruling passion to enter into
the shock and conflict of opinions on philosophical, political, and
critical questions--not to dictate to raw tyros or domineer over persons
in subordinate situations--but to obtain the guerdon and the laurels of
superior sense and information by meeting with men of equal standing, to
have a fair field pitched, to argue, to distinguish, to reply, to
hunt down the game of intellect with eagerness and skill, to push an
advantage, to cover a retreat, to give and take a fall--

"And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach."


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