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mentioned, called forth by circumstances, not wrought out with exertion; it less resembles the artificial tones of other instruments, than the music of that harp to which any passing wind gives being. We are not liberal in giving extracts from her works, hoping that they will soon be in the hands of every lover of talent. They will find her a powerful and excellent poet; less adventurous than others, Mrs Hemans for instance, the lovely favorite of the day, but not less pleasing. Her writings will give pleasure to readers of any age or character. Those who love poetry will admire her for her genius, and readers of a different taste, will be attracted by the unaffected good sense in which she always abounds.
We are now to look upon Mrs Barbauld as a prose writer, and shall be able to make a fairer estimate of her real strength of mind from her prose writings than her poetry. For in the most important of these, it is not her object to please or entertain, but to express with clearness her decided opinion on subjeats deeply interesting to herself, and, as she thought, important to the destinies of the world. In these of course she puts forth all her power. Her lighter writings afford us another ground for estimating her extent of talent, by showing what she could do when she made no exertion. Nothing can be more amusing and at the same time so delicate and graceful. They show how easily she could pass from the fervent eloquence with which she always defended the right, to a playful exposure of the trifling nature of those subjects, which occasion so much oppression and disunion in the world.
The first of her larger prose pieces, was written when an attempt to remove the Corporation and Test Acts had failed. It is an address to the opposers of the repeal. She was a Dissenter and a Unitarian, and could not see with patience the disabilities under which her party labored; not, perhaps, because the operation of these unrighteous laws was very severely felt, but because they were a standing reproach on a body of men who yielded to none in respectability and honest attachment to their country. This is what a generous spirit cannot easily bear; and when the authorised voice of the nation declared that the stamp of degradation should remain, it was natural that she should feel strongly. She knew that she had power to make others feel too, and no one can help admiring the sincerity and boldness with which she writes, the well bred sarcasm, often
employed by powerful minds to express their deepest emotions,—and the hopelessness, resembling that of an ancient prophet, with which she reminds the nation that it is now too late to conciliate their injured brethren, if they would, as the spirit of liberty is abroad, and her reign is almost come. One passage remarkably exemplifies her unusual clearness of thought.'What you call toleration,' she says, 'we call the exercise of a natural and inalienable right. We do not conceive it to be toleration, first to strip a man of all his dearest rights, and then to give Lim back a part; or even if it were the whole. You tolerate us in worshipping God according to our consciences— and why not tolerate a man in the use of his limbs, in the disposal of his private property, the contracting his domestic engagements, or any other the most acknowledged privileges of humanity 1 It is not to these things that the word toleration is applied with propriety. It is applied, where from lenity or prudence we forbear doing all which in justice we might do. It is the bearing with what is confessedly an evil, for the sake of some good with which it is connected. It is the christian virtue of long suffering; it is the political virtue of adapting measures to times and seasons and situations. Abuses are tolerated, when they are so interwoven with the texture of the piece, that the operation of removing them becomes too delicate and hazardous. Unjust claims are tolerated, when they are complied with for the sake of peace and conscience. The failings and imperfections of those characters in which there appears an evident preponderancy of virtue, are tolerated. These are the proper objects of toleration, these exercise the patience of the christian and the prudence of the statesman; but if there be a power that advances pretensions which we think unfounded in reason or scripture, that exercises an empire within an empire, and claims submission from those naturally her equals; and if we, from a spirit of brotherly charity, and just deference to public opinion, and a salutary dread of innovation, acquiesce in these pretensions; let her at least be told that the virtue of forbearance should be transferred, and that it is we who tolerate her, not she who tolerates us.' Vol. 2. pp. 245-6.
In the year 1792, she wrote her 'Remarks on Mr Gilbert Wakefield's Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship.' Though this was written in reply to Mr Wakefield, and so far may be called controversial, it does not lose its interest now the question is at rest. It must long be valued as a fine essay upon the subject, in which the advantages of public worship are eloquently unfolded. A defence of it can hardly be needed now; it is universally acknowledged to be the principal engine, by which a sense of religion is kept alive in the community. If there are those who do not think it enjoined in scripture, they have no right to speak against it for that reason; because, if its influence and results are good, we are bound to respect it, let it be the positive institution of God, or of man. It may not have any thing like the influence that might be expected. We are ready to confess that it has not. But so long as it has any, so numerous are the enemies of virtue and religious feeling, it is entitled to the grateful support of every friend of man. We do not allow, however, that its influence is small. No; the traveller can judge of the character of a village by the appearance of the house of God. If the paths to it are grassgrown, and the building neglected and ready to fall, he knows that the vile haunts of dissipation will be found crowded, and the house which charity, perhaps mistaken charity, has built for the destitute, full; and if he asks the history of the abandoned of the place, he will find that they began their course of depravity on that day of the seven, when the gate of the narrow way stands widest open, and seems to implore men to enter. *
What induced that distinguished man to declare war on this religious institution, we cannot tell. Perhaps, from having severely felt the evils of religious intolerance, he acquired a hostility to every thing that might be bent to the purposes of oppression, even to every thing he had seen associated with what was wrong ; and while he saw that some good was done by the institution to the cause of religion, he might have thought it overbalanced by the injury it did, in extending the influence of an illiberal party. But we have little concern with his motives. It is enough to say, that had he succeeded in convincing others, he would have given a death-blow to religion;—not perhaps to the religion of the few who think, and judge, and feel for themselves, but of the many, who depend on others for instruction, whose devotion, instead of being self-inspired, is kindled by the sympathy of religious feeling which passes from heart to heart.
We will not do injustice to these Remarks by attempting to make an extract from them. No single passage would fairly exhibit the various excellence of the whole essay, in which all her different traits of intellectual power are here and there dis
vol. HI. No. Iv. 40
played. Its eloquence is of the first order; fervent, graceful, commanding. Truth and feeling glow in every line. Its satire is keen, but perfectly respectful, and she shows a delicate forbearance, in not pressing her antagonist with the character of those, who would be most likely to thank him for effecting this peculiar reform. If all her other writings should be forgotten, this will and ought to endure. If any one would understand its usefulness, let him read it on the sabbath morning, and we are much deceived if he do not enter with warmer, purer, and more exalted feelings than ever upon the duties and devotions of the day.
In her 'Sins of Rulers, Sins of the Nation,' she makes a a powerful appeal to the people of England, reminding them that each one is guilty of national transgressions. The government is the organ of the people. If it represents their feelings, they are answerable for the injuries it might have prevented, and the good it might have done. If the popular feeling is not represented by the government, they cannot resist the conclusion that it needs reform. The lofty tone of indignant remonstrance, and the bold charges in which she numbers the misdemeanours of her country, often remind us of Cowper's 'Expostulation,'one of the highest strains in which national guilt has been lamented since the departing flight of prophetic inspiration.
Mrs Barbauld has written some fine imitations of Addison and Johnson; but it must be remarked that she imitates, not with a view of acquiring the beauties of other writers, but merely to make a playful trial of her own skill. Of her smaller pieces, however, we shall only notice the fine essay on ! Inconsistency in our Expectations.' It gives us a dark picture of human life, but at the same time explains the causes within ourselves which combine to darken it, and affords us a solemn and much needed lesson, expressed with the severe simplicity of truth. We say much needed, because we believe disappointment to be the parent of many vices. The young invariably enter life with brilliant anticipations, which experience cannot always realize. The field of life is all before them with its paths to knowledge, wealth, or what the world calls glory, all of which they fondly hope to reach, forgetting that of the many ways before them, they can seldom walk but one. And when they find it so, they resort to feverish and licentious pleasures, or become a listless burden to themselves and the world. It would be well, therefore, if this eloquent warning were deeply written on every youthful heart.
Mrs Barbauld's writings have been thought to bear a general resemblance to those of Addison. If it were so, it would be natural, as when she was young, he was still ' lord of the ascendant.' Other lights of literature had not risen high enough to dim the brightness of his fame. But, whether it be treason to that great man's fame or not, we are constrained to say, that we think her writings, especially in verse, superior to his, though not perhaps superior to what he might have written. He throws out his essays with the easy air of a wellbred gentleman, seldom appearing to pour out his heart in his writings, and probably those whom he wished to reform, would have been less impressed by fervor, than by indifference bordering on contempt. Her thoughts, on the contrary, evidently flow from the soul; she is deeply sincere in her endeavours to send home conviction to the cold and slow hearts of men, and in every appeal to the feelings, sincerity is power.
We must now take leave of Mrs Barbauld, having no time to notice the 'Legacy ' published since her decease, except to say that it is light and airy, and will not injure her literary fame. If we are thought extravagant in our estimate of her merits, we have only to ask the objector to read her works. He will there find noble powers* nobly devoted to the cause of virtue. He will see poetry free from false sentiment, and eloquence such as religion inspires; and what can be said of few who have written so much, may be truly said of her,—there is none of her writings which she might not bear with her into the presence of her God.
Art. X.—1. A Sermon, delivered in King's Chapel, Boston, 9th July, 1826; being the next Lord's Day after the Death of John Adams, late President of the United States. By Henry Ware, D. D. Hollis Professor of Divinity in Harvard University. Cambridge. Hilliard SiMetcalf. 1826. 2. A Sermon delivered July 9th, 1826. the Sunday following the Death of the Hon. John Adams, aformer President of the United States. By Aaron Bancroft, D. D. Pas