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or, appank of his amily of of protection
of Wootton, near Canterbury, in 1762 ; the second son of a country gentleman of honourable (if not of illustrious) descent, and the possessor, apparently, of an estate amply sufficient to maintain him in the rank of his ancestors. Our author's, mother was a lady of the great family of Egerton; whence his baptismal name, and subsequently a large addition of property to this branch of the house of Brydges. He received, of course, the best education, as far as he was willing to avail himself of the opportunities placed liberally within his reach; spent several years at Cambridge; was called to the bar in 1787; and mingled from early youth in the best society, whether in Kent or in London. Not attaining rapid success at the bar, where few, if any, ever do so, he soon wearied of his profession, retired into a country house in Hampshire, and there devoted himself to belles-lettres and English antiquities, until, by the death of his elder brother, he came into possession of the family estates, when he removed into Kent. His love of the scenery of his native county appears to have been one of the strongest feelings in his breast; and here he continued all through the prime of his life, eternally writing and printing; a catalogue of the productions of his private press at Lee Priory would indeed fill one of our pages, A short period, during which he acted as captain of a troop of fencibles—and another, hardly longer, during which he sat in the House of Commons, but without making any figure there-hardly deserve to be noticed as breaking his course of rural retirement in what ought to be, perhaps, the very happiest of all earthly stations, Habits of careless, lavish expenditure, however, gradually crumbled down the very handsome fortune which he had inherited; and being no longer able to maintain the style of living to which he had been accustomed, and moreover thoroughly disgusted with this country for two specific reasons to be hereafter touched upon, Sir Egerton at length quitted Kent and England ; and has, witli rare intervals, resided on the continent for the last sixteen years. His innumerable publications of this period bear dates almost as nuniberlessFlorence, Rome, Naples, Paris—and latterly, for the most part, that of Geneva. He is now in the seventythird year of his age : as indefatigable in composition as ever, with all his faculties entire, and with abundance of leisure, at all events, to review calmly a long course of experience.
The result may be thus shortly stated. If we were to judge from isolated passages, no one ever reviewed the life of another with more calmness and fairness than Sir Egerton would seem to have carried over the retrospect of his own. There is not a word, perhaps, which any human being would think it right to say of him, in his literary capacity at least, which he has not said of
Sir Egentry for two specind moreover the of living to tedi, and
himself somewhere in the course of these two volumes; and we doubt if there be any criticism honestly due to his course of life as an English landlord, which has not in like manner been anticipated in his own nervous and feeling language. But these things are the panni ; the main texture of the work is throughout that of complaint and repining—a strain of angry invective against individuals and society at large is constantly resumed; and though he over and over again confesses distinctly his own guilt of every imputation that has been laid to his charge, his own perfect desert especially of the comparative neglect with which his literary efforts have been treated by the generality of his contemporaries, he seems to have these admissions extorted from him in moments of lucid vision, only granted to render more palpable the habitual darkness in which it is his pleasure to wrap his reflections. Sir Egerton may be compared to a man who has a good pair of eyes of his own, and now and then condescends to make good use of them; but who, from some fantastic caprice, has so long indulged in the habit of looking at all the world, his own image included, through an artificially tinted lens, that he is never at his ease when the unfortunate toy is in his pocket.
There are, in a word, two circumstances which have poisoned this accomplished man's existence: first, the failure of his family to satisfy the House of Peers, about the beginning of this century, that they had made out a legal claim to the honours of the old barony of Chandos ; and secondly, his own failure in achieving for hiinself a first-rate name as an English author, by a long lifetime most zealously devoted to the pursuits of literature. With regard to the first of these affairs, we must content ourselves with stating the universal belief of sane mankind, that a tribunal more entirely free from every suspicion than the British House of Lords, acting in its judicial capacity, never existed in this world, and never will exist; and that, whether Sir Egerton Brydges be or be not right in his personal judgment that the claim was made out, no living creature but himself will ever entertain the slightest notion that that claim could have been there disallowed, except in reluctant obedience to the dictates of deliberate conviction. We ourselves incline to believe that the claim was just in itself, but that the evidence was not technically complete; but however this may be, our author's eternal insinuations, that personal pique and spleen were the true motives of opposition on the part of the crown lawyers, are the merest day-dreams of exaggerated self-love. The virulent abuse with which, in numberless publications, he has assailed the memory of Mr. Perceval, then solicitor-general, is wholly indefensible. What possible gratification could it afford to such a man as Mr. Perceval to strain the course of justice in order
to exclude a respectable, wealthy, and ancient country-gentleman from the honours of an English barony to which he was really entitled? The crown officers were bound to fulfil a certain course of duty; so were the judges of the high tribunal before which the case was tried. And Sir Egerton ought, at least, to have the matter tried over again, before he dares to hazard one whisper of the injurious tenour thus shortly alluded to by us—once for all, and not,' we must own, without some mixture of indignation in our pity. He now, we see, announces himself on his title-pages, and, we are told, signs his letters, as per legem terræ Lord Chandos of Sudeley. Can this childish vaunt afford even a momentary satisfaction to a high mind ?
The other great grievance is Sir Egerton's literary one. With respect to it, we cannot do better than re-quote an emphatic sentence from Mr. Sharp's · Letters :' namely, “A want of harmony between the talents and the temperament is, wherever it is found, the fruitful source of faults and of sufferings. Perhaps few are less happy than those who are ambitious without industry --who pant for the prize, but will not run the race. Sir Egerton has all his days been busy without industry-perpetually panting for the prize, but never sufficiently persevering to make out one real heat.
In vain would he console himself with such fond flattery as the following
Genuine poetry lies in the thought and sentiment, not in the dress; and these spring from the native powers of the head and heart, which no study or artifice can give. Memory, artifice, and industry may assist an author in making imitations, but they will want raciness and life. Lord Byron has made a great outcry against pretensions to sensibility; but no one had more intense sensibility than he had ; and this outcry was itself an affectation. It is fear to go alone, and frankly to lay open one's own internal movements, which diverts genius from its course, and makes it produce spurious fruit. But I cannot think that any one can so deceive himself as to believe, when he is writing from the memory, that he is writing from the heart. My sensitiveness from childhood was the source of the most morbid sufferings, as well as of the most intense pleasures, &c. &c.'- vol. i. p. 5. Does Sir Egerton seriously believe that Lord Byron ever dreamt of disparaging sensibility ? He attacks the professors of ultrasensibility, because he had observed mankind sharply, and seen that these were often in fact cold-hearted scoundrels; but the glorious gift of Heaven itself he partook as largely and reverenced as profoundly as any of his contemporaries. He, no doubt, despised those who set up for poets with no stock in trade but sensibility ; but this was simply because he himself happened
to be a great artist, as well as a man of delicate nervoris organization ; and he therefore very well knew that he owed to intense study of himself and of the world to most indefatigable industry - the means of stamping immortality on the delineations of mental emotion. - Sir Egerton would fain deceive himself—but he does not succeed even in that: by us, and by all who have observed his career attentively, it is considered as highly probable that, had he done justice to his own powers, had he been able to command his thirst for fame, and brave enough to make one really great effort, and await the result with manly calmness, instead of frittering away his strength in puny lucubrations, each forgotten next morning only to be followed by another equally ephemeral, he might have long ere now taken his place among the best of his age ; but if a man, a man of leisure and fortune too, far removed from the necessity of writing for bread, will indulge himself in a fretful career of pettynesses, he must take the consequences. The men whose lot he would fain have partaken were cast in a far other mould than his : they did not confound real literary industry, the noble toil of energetic intellect, with the habit of covering every day a certain surface of paper—they never expected the rewards of first-rate authorship from broadsides and pamphlets, a few hasty novels,
and a swarm of black-letter reprints. Hi . But of all this, as we have already hinted, Sir Egerton himself,
in his saner moods, appears to be completely conscious. He then feels, as we all see, that the temperament of genius has been his in an exquisite degree, but that his strength of mind and fixity of purpose have never been on the same scale either with that or with his ambition. It is on this point that we wish principally to arrest the attention of young literary enthusiasts. The delicate sensibilities of genius are precious gifts : nothing great can be done without them ; but by their means alone nothing either great or good ever has been or ever will be effected in the world of letters. They are but the materials for laborious and patient art to work with ; and he who cannot command them within his own bosom, will never command the thoughts and feelings of mankind to such an extent as is required for the erection of an intellectual authority over a cultivated age. Sir Egerton's ambition in this way has evidently been set upon something rather more important than the Barony of Chandos.
Having missed the prize, he is now not seldom in the mood to disparage it; but who does not understand such passages as the following ?
The wise plan would seem to me, at this too late period of my life, to be, in cases of the most humble competence, to keep aloof from all the paths of human contest or rivalry, and to pass one's days in retirement, despising show, and vanity, and notice, and seek: ing to while away the time by any innocent and self-dependent amusement. We seek distinction by an inherent propensity; but it is of no worth if obtained. I regret that I ever had any ambition." -pp. 102-4. The true subject of regret ought to be that he did not either bring up his mental habits to the pitch of his ambition, or lower his ambition to some point of easier attainment. He says elsewhere, however,-nay, it is but at the distance of a couple of pages,— .
"In the sphere of higher society—among those whose intellect must guide human affairs, there is a demand for the genius and talents which see far and wide,-into which individual interests, and the petty management which give selfish advantages at the expense of others, do not enter. There great mental gifts are properly appreciated, and make their way. Thus no man of genius, or superiority of mind, should ever place himself in a narrow neighbourhood.'-p. 94. And this comes from the same pen which can still pour out such eternal diatribes as the following :
" I' now sit at the window of my humble campagne at Geneva, catching a glimpse of the noble lake, and defy or forget a world which once troubled me, and whose spite and other evil passions I once was not strong enough to overcome. Now they pass by me unheeded; they rattle along the road, but do not disturb my calm; and I live in the company of departed poets, and sublime and tender moralists, Many of my feelings have been anticipated by Cowley in his admiralle prose-essays, which are models of thought, sentiment, and language. Everything is at the mercy of mind : if we think rightly we are capable of enjoyment under almost any adversity or deprivation. Calumny and detraction may rage; but in retirement we hear it not. There is a noble stanza in Thomson's “ Castle of Indolence,! beginning
. "I care not, Fortune, what you me deny !"'—pp. 105. We believe we have now quoted enough to let our readers into the secret of Sir Egerton's unfortunate state of mind. His burden is very like that of our old friend Timon of Athens- ..
The learned pate Ducks to the golden fool; all is oblique.' We proceed to extract a few specimens of this strange nará rative, not with any view of further criticising the author's mistakes about himself, but simply as illustrative of the unhappy consequences which attend an exquisite temperament unaccompanied by strength of mind and firmness of purpose. The mingled tone of self-satisfaction and self-reproach which runs through the whole book is painfully but most interestingly characteristic; but