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to be everlasting: - Did it contribute to his happiness? I believe it did : it went a great way towards his occasional purification; if it had not burst out, it would have burnt sullenly within and consumed him. The triumph at home was, no doubt, transitory; it was scarcely more than three short years-1813, 1814, 1815. But then came Switzerland, and Italy, and Greece. There he had periods of darkness : but also how much splendour! None of these would have been lighted but for that propitious day of the spring of 1812, which set fire to the train of his genius in London !
Sir Egerton, in his admiration of this said ' propitious day in the spring of 1812, in London,' appears to forget the many propitious days and nights of labour which Lord Byron had devoted to writing his poem, out of London, in 1809, 1810, and 1811. How can he talk of his propitious day,' as setting fire to the train’ of that genius which had already produced such a work as the two first cantos of Childe Harold ? The next paragraph is equally just and vigorous
• There are many who will ask whether all the intense feelings expressed by Byron in these places were not factitious extravagancies in which he was not sincere, and which his life belied ? I say, sternly, no! it is a mean and stupid mind which can suspect so; no one can feign such intensities as Byron expresses: when he wrote, he was sincere, but his feelings were capricious, and not always the same. If it can be contended that inconsistency destroys merit, wo be to human, frailty! '-vol. i. p. 257.
Those who like lively and spirited sketches of men and manners, diversified with short critical digressions, sometimes wise, always clever, will find a large fund of entertainment in these volumes. We have perhaps bestowed more space on them than some readers may think they deserved ; but the truth is that Sir Egerton Brydges possesses the temperament of genius in as high perfection as any author of our times, and that we believe him to have here painted that temperament more minutely than any writer of loftier rank ever will, being perfectly sane, set himself to do. The book thus acquires a degree of value which we hardly venture to attach to any of the imaginative creations of the same pen. It is a most curious study for the psychologist-it ought to be placed in the hand of every young author. Every susceptible mind will be de. lighted with a thousand passages ; and there are not a few which ought to fix themselves on his memory, chasten his judgment, and control his conduct. How exquisitely beautiful, and, alas! how melancholy, are these paragraphs, with which, for the present, We take our leave of this deep-cutting self-anatomist !
· Men must work progressively and uninterruptedly,—not by fits, to find the extent of their own powers; and they who are diffident
work only by fits, when some momentary impulse overcomes their fears. Thus I passed at least forty years of my life. How different would have been the effect of a perseverance in a regular, unchecked plan! I wrote no long poem; I undertook no great work; I finished very few things, even of those which I began. Yet to have written numerous fictions would have been very easy; and those perhaps would have found a vent. Hayley talks of
" The cold blank bookseller's rhyme-freezing face;" — what would he have said if he had lived now? He would have found the check of the frost increased tenfold.'
(When will authors understand that booksellers are merchants, and that when they throw cold water on any literary project, it is simply and solely because they do not think it would be a profitable one for themselves ? What right has any man to expect that a trader will sacrifice capital merely for the chance of gratifying his literary vanity or ambition ? The bookseller who carries into his trade any principle of action but what animates any
other tradesman, is a fool—and worthy of publishing for such poets as Hayley. But this par parenthèse.)
• After all, there is but one pleasure, which is, to escape from the world, and indulge one's own thoughts uninterrupted. All show and luxury is idle, empty, satiating indulgence : calmness, leisure, and, above all, independence, with that humble competence which is necessary for the support of life, are all which are requisite.
• I know not why a cottage, neat and well situated, should not be as pleasant as a castle or a palace. I love solitude, and do not think that I ever should be tired of it: I wish I had never quitted it. I have met with little else but mortification and trouble. My imagination would then have been undamped, and my literary labours undistracted. I have undertaken to tell my feelings; these are among my leading and perpetually renewed regrets. I cannot be sure of other men's feelings; but I never met with one who seemed to have the same overruling passion for literature as I have always had. A thousand others have pursued it with more principle, reason, method, fixed purpose, and effect: mine I admit to have been pure, blind, unregulated love. The fruit has been such as mere passion generally produces—of little use and no fame. Wasted energies have ended in languor, debility, and despondence.'
Our author's highest ambition has not been gratified ; but he has, after all, secured a very graceful reputation; and he ought not to be discontented. How many in any generation do so much?
Let us be forgiven if we close with one piece of advice. It is tendered with kindness and with respect. Sir Egerton Brydges
never has written, never will write, a really great work: the want of logical movement in his mental processes must ever render it impossible for him to do so. But if any one else furnished him with a good plan, we know no author who could fill it up
with more grace and liveliness of detail ; and we venture to suggest to him, that he might yet earn high distinction by a Dictionary of English Literary History, after the fashion of Bayle. The alphabetical arrangement would supply the place of logical ordonnance : and the constant variety of persons and topics, with the perfect liberty of lengthening or shortening every article at pleasure, would, we think, be found admirably suited to his taste and talents.
We ought to observe, in closing this book, that it contains a highly interesting and beautiful series of letters from Mr. Southey and some others by the late Lord Tenterden, who was Sir Egerton's constant friend from childhood to the hour of death. That great judge, in point of fact the law-reformer of his age, had, it seems, retained to the last a warm pedilection for the classical studies of his youth.
ART. IV.-Philip van Artevelde ; a Dramatic Romance, in Two
Parls. By Henry Taylor, Esq. 2 vols. "12mo. London.
1834. THIS is an historical romance, in consecutive dramatic scenes ;
a species of composition not uncommon among the Germans, which has, as adopting the language of poetry, some great and obvious advantages over the prose narrative form recently adorned among us by the highest genius of the age. Its inherent disadvantages, as respects the chances of immediate popularity, must be nearly as obvious. We shall not, at present, enter upon the relative merits of the two methods: we have here before us something too attractive to admit of a preliminary dissertation on a cold question of criticism. On such now rare occasions as the present, we experience a gratification which none but those who have been teazed and wearied with the incessant appeals of clamorous mediocrity and impatient affectation can fully understand. We know not that there is any better description of genius than that of Mr. Crabbe – I recognise that,' says the old bard, wherever there is
power to stimulate the thoughts of men, and command their feelings.' If this be true, the author of Philip van Artevelde may take his place at the bar with the sure hope of a triumphant verdict.
The groundwork of his design is the idealized portraiture of a revolutionary age; and his motto, from the Leviathan, sufficiently points out the leading characteristics of every age in which the revolutionary spirit is the prime mover of things - No arts, no letters,
VOL. LI. NO. CII.
no society,-and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short!' The scene is laid in Flanders, at the close of the fourteenth century; and those who desire to study the new poet with the care which he deserves, may find the real personages and events of which he makes use recorded, in all the naked force of their vitality, by the prince of chroniclers, and father as well of all bistorical romancers, Froissart. No reader of that most captivating conteur can have forgotten the two Van Arteveldes, father and son, citizens of revolted Ghent, each of whom swayed for a season almost the whole power of Flanders against their legitimate prince-and each of whom paid the penalty of ambition by an untimely and violent death. The younger of these, Philip, has been adopted for the centre figure in our author's elaborate and deeply tragic panorama of the existence of a revolutionary period; and there is much to be admired in the whole conception and delineation of this character.
The poet's purpose, if we read him aright, has been to make Artevelde at once true enough to his age not to disturb our sense of the probable, and yet sufficiently above his age to admit of his forming, without reference to times and degrees of civilization, a real Mirror of Magistrates.' He has desired, in this person, to represent a combination-rare, but not unnatural-of the contemplative powers of the mind with the practical—of philosophy with efficiency. That there is anything unnatural or impossible in the union of these attributes, no one surely can aver who has read Bacon's book de negotiis ; and that the actual circumstances of Artevelde's life were in so far compatible and congenial with such a combination appears from genuine history. Froissart tells us that to angle in the Scheldt had been his chief pleasure and occupation, up to the day when he was abruptly called to a predominant political station. Notwithstanding the advantageous introduction to public life which his birth might have insured to him, he had been entirely content to continue in privacy, till the difficulties of the times almost compelled him forth of it. During this leisure of his earlier life, his mind seems to have been more cultivated than was at all usual in that age : in the words of the chronicler, he
moult bien enlangagé et bien lui advenoit ;' and the career and fate of his father must have supplied ample food for meditation to a naturally thoughtful mind. It is sufficiently obvious that Mr. Taylor has never intended to present in Philip's person a literal specimen of the ordinary heroes of that time. Had such been the design of such an artist, Artevelde's language, throughout many of these scenes at least, must have been less rhetorical; the habitual strain of thought ascribed to him more crude and rude. In short, having in view the eminent
endowments which history ascribes to Philip, and the singular course of his life from first to last, beginning and ending in such opposite extremes of contemplative tranquillity and energetic action, the author has evidently thought himself justified in considering him, upon certain points, rather as a substantive product of nature, than as the creature of contemporary circumstances, or as strictly in conformity with the times in which he lived.
Again, as regards Philip's competency for the business of life and the management of men, there is ample evidence, that, when at length induced to interfere in public affairs, he was found to be largely possessed of every necessary qualification. He spake kindly to all whom he had to do with ; and dealt so wisely that every man loved him.' So says Froissart, who certainly had no partiality for demagogues in general, or for him. The whole of his recorded career shows that, although deficient in technical military skill, he had extraordinary power over the minds and affections of his followers, and that this power was acquired by judgment, promptitude, and stern decision on the one hand-by generosity and clemency, whenever these could be safely indulged, on the other ; in other words, that he aimed equally at being feared and loved, and was successful on both points. Froissart represents him as saying briefly, previous to his bold measure of taking off the two chiefs of the opposite faction in Ghent, unless we be feared among the commons it is nothing.' Yet the same author records that he had
much pity for the common people ;' and describes him as willing, on a momentous occasion, to sacrifice himself with a heroism equal to that of Regulus, solely for their sakes. He entreated the people kindly and sagely,' we are told, ' wherefore they would live or die with him. Kindness alone could not have thus attached such a people in such times : great practical abilities must have been at least as essential.
Such being the ideal of Van Artevelde, intellectually considered, the poet has endeavoured to keep his moral attributes and his temperament in harmony with it. He represents him as naturally kind and good, but, bearing in view the leading characteristic, he never carries his feelings so far, or his virtuous principles so high, as materially to interfere with his efficiency. He seems, in a word, meant to be, under all circumstances, a statesman and a man of business. The dramatist has not wished to paint him as an example of pure and scrupulous morality, such as might befit an equally considerate moral agent of modern times; but as exhibiting some broad features of humanity and virtue-as being in the main a high-minded, strong-minded, just, and merciful man. We speak at present, be it observed, of Philip van Artevelde as 2 c 2