網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

a heavenly origin and an immortal home; but given way to real operas, got up with great moulded of low selfishness, and animated by liberality, and the graceful performances of a demoniac fury. If earth has ever produced young gentleman named Smith, who acts with such beings as are here exposed on the scene, more taste and feeling than the clever aspirants they are not specimens of any class of hu- of his age usually exhibit. It was afterwards manity, but its monsters. And on what minds announced at both the winter theatres; but, is the exhibition to operate? On such as con- fortunately for Covent-Garden, Drury Lane obtain within themselves a conscious disposition tained the precedence, and the good sense of to its atrocities, if any such there be, or on the Mr. Kemble profited by the example set before rest of mankind, who sicken at the sight? The him. Here the enormities were somewhat first are far beyond the reach of the actor's foreshortened, being compressed into two acts, preaching; the last feel the lesson is not for but unredeemed by a single trait of kind or them—if they indulge in gambling, they have noble emotion. Cooper, as the more potent no fear of murdering their sons, and their devil, and Wallack, as his disgusting tool, withers are unwrung.” In the mean time the played with considerable energy; but no talent “moral lesson,” impotent for good, has a mis could alleviate the mingled sense of sickness chievous power to wear out the sources of and suffocation with which their slimy infamies sympathy, and to produce a dangerous fami- oppressed the spectators. Although much liarity with the forms of guilt, which according curiosity had been excited, the piece did not to the solemn warnings of Sir Thomas Browne, draw, and was speedily laid aside; while at “have oft-times a sin even in their histories." Covent-Garden, where its announcement was “We desire,” continues this quaint but noble dignified by the names of Kemble, Ward, and writer, “no records of such enormities; sins Miss Kelly, it was most wisely suppressed in should be accounted new, that so they may be the shell. At the Adelphi, we have been told esteemed monstrous; they omit of monstrosity that it was rendered soinewhat less revolting; as they fall from their rarity; for men count but we could not muster courage to face it it venial to err with their forefathers, and fool here, or even to endure it in the improved verishly conceive they divide a sin in its society. sion of the Surrey, where, according to the The pens of men may sufficiently expatiate play-bills, the Manager has, “after due correcwithout these singularities of villany; for, as tion, reformed his hero, and restored him to they increase the hatred of vice in some, so do happiness and virtue.” What a fine touch of they enlarge the theory of wickedness in all. maudlin morality! To hear Elliston deliver And this is one thing that may make latter it from the stage with all the earnestness of his ages worse than the former, for the vicious mock-heroic style, we would undergo the purga. example of ages past poisons the curiosity of tory with which he threatens us. He is the these present, affording a hint of sin unto se reforming Quaker of dramatic legislation, and duceable spirits, and soliciting those unto the his stage, during the run of the piece, was a imitation of them, whose heads were never so court of ease to Brixton, as Drury-Lane was perversely principled as to invent them. In to Newgate. Nothing can equal the benevolent things of this nature, silence commendeth discrimination of his theory, except that of a history; it is the veniable part of things lost; popular preacher whom we once heard deprewherein there must never rise a Pancovillus, cating the orthodox doctrine of the eternity of nor remain any register but that of Hell.” The future punishment, and cheering his audience murderous phantasm of Paris will never deler with the invigorating hope, that, after being men from becoming gamblers, who have the tormented for three hundred and sixty-five fatal passion within them, but it may assist in thousand years, the wicked would be made making gamblers demons.

good and happy. We are thankful, nevertheIn London this piece has, we are happy to less, that Mr. Elliston's tread-mill for gamblers find, succeeded only in the minor houses, has rested with the axes and ropes of his more where the audience are accustomed to look sanguinary rivals; and that the young gentle. for coarse and violent stimulants. It was first men addicted to play have finished their lesson. produced at the Coburgh; and, assisted by How it may operate in Paris and the neighsplendid scenery and powerful melo-dramatic bourhood of St. James's, will be ascertained acting, was attractive for some time; but has in the ensuing winter.

ON THE INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER OF THE LATE

WILLIAM HAZLITT.

(FROM "THE EXAMINER” AND “The Review of William Hazlitt.'']

As an author, Mr. Hazlitt may be contem- | single, may be traced in the history of his mind, plated principally in three aspects,-as a moral at which it may be well to glance before adand political reasoner; as an observer of cha- verting to the examples. racter and manners; and as a critic in litera. William Hazlitt was the son of a dissenting ture and painting. It is in the first character minister, who presided over a small Unitarian only, that he should be followed with caution. congregation at Wem, in Shropshire. His His metaphysical and political essays contain father was one of those blameless enthusiasts rich treasures, sought with years of patient who, taking only one view of the question betoil, and poured forth with careless prodigality, tween right and power, embrace it with single-materials for thinking, a small part of which ness of heart, and hold it fast with inflexible wisely employed, will enrich him who makes purpose. He cherished in his son that attachthem his own,—but the choice is not wholly ment to truth for its own sake, and those habits unattended with perplexity and danger. He of fearless investigation which are the natural had, indeed, as passionate a desire for truth defences of a creed maintaining its ground as others have for wealth, or power, or fame. against the indolent force of a wealthy esThe purpose of his research was always steady tablishment, and the fervid attacks of combinand pure; and no temptation from without ing sectaries, without the fascinations of myscould induce him to pervert or to conceal the tery or terror. In the solitude of the country, faith that was in him. But, besides that love his pupil learned, at an early age, to think. of truth, that sincerity in pursuing it, and that But that solitude was something more to him boldness in telling it, he had earnest aspira- than a noiseless study, in which he might fight tions after the beautiful, a strong sense of over the battle between Filmer and Locke; or pleasure, an intense consciousness of his own exult on the shattered dogmas of Calvin ; or individual being, which broke the current of rivet the links of the immortal chain of necesabstract speculation into dazzling eddies, and sity, and strike with the force of ponderous sometimes turned it astray. The vivid sense understanding, on all mental fetters. A temof beauty may, indeed, have fit home in the perament of unusual ardour glowed amidst breast of the searcher after truth,—but then he those lonely fields, and imparted to the silent must also be endowed with the highest of all | objects of nature a weight of interest akin to human faculties, the great mediatory and inter- that with which Rousseau has oppressed the fusing power of imagination, which presides picture of his early years. He had not then, supreme in the mind, brings all its powers and nor did he find till long afterwards, power to impulses into harmonious action, and becomes imbody his meditations and feelings in words; itself the single organ of all. At its touch, the consciousness of thoughts which he could truth becomes visible in the shapes of beauty; not hope adequately to express, increased his the fairest of material things appear the living natural reserve; and he turned for relief to symbols of airy thought; and the mind appre- the art of painting, in which he might silently hends the finest affinities of the worlds of sense realize his dreams of beauty, and repay the and of spirit “in clear dream and solemnbounties of nature. A few old prints from the vision.” By its aid the faculties are not only old masters awakened the spirit of emulation balanced, but multiplied into each other; are within him; the sense of beauty became pervaded by one feeling, and directed to one identified in his mind with that of glory and issue. But, without it, the inquirer after truth duration; while the peaceful labour calmed the will sometimes be confounded by too intense a tumult in his veins, and gave steadiness to his yearning after the grand and the lovely,—not, pure and distant aim. He pursued the art indeed, by an elegant taste, the indulgence of with an earnestness and patience which he which is a graceful and harmless recreation vividly describes in his essay “ On the Pleaamidst severer studies, but by that passionate sure of Painting;” and to which he frequently regard which quickens the pulse, and tingles reverts in some of his most exquisite passages; in the veins, and “hangs upon the beatings of and, although in this, his chosen pursuit, he the heart.”. Such was the power of beauty in failed, the passionate desire for success, and Hazlitt's mind; and the interfusing faculty was the long struggle to attain it, left deep traces wanting. The spirit, indeed, was willing, but in his mind, heightening his strong perception the flesh was strong; and when these contend, of external things, and mingling, with all the it is not difficult to foretell which will obtain thoughts, shapes and hues which he had vainly the mastery; for “the power of beauty shall striven to render immortal. A painter may sooner transform honesty from what it is into acquire a fine insight into the nice distinctions a bawd, than the power of honesty shall trans- of character,—he may copy manners in words form beauty into its likeness." How this as he does in colours,—but it may be appresome-time paradox became exemplified in the hended that his course as a severe reasoner writings of one whose purpose was always I will be somewhat "troubled with thick ning

fancies.” And if the successful pursuit of art | whole “Quarterly Review,” were dismissed may thus disturb the process of abstract con- with affected contempt, as the drivelling of an templation, how much more may an unsatis impudent pretender, whose judgment was to fied passion rufile it, bid the dark threads of be estimated by an enthusiastic expression thought glitter with radiant fancies unrealized, torn from its context, and of whose English and clothe its diagrams with the fragments of style a decisive specimen was found in an picture which the hand refused to execute! error of the press. Thus was a temperament, What wonder, if, in the mind of an ardent always fervid, stung into irregular action; the youth, thus struggling in vain to give palpable strong regard to things was matched by as existence to the shapes of loveliness which vivid a dislike of persons; and the ense of haunted him, “the homely beauty of the good injury joined with the sense of beauty to disold cause" should assume the fascinations not turb the solemn musings of the philosopher properly its own! At this time, also, while at and the great hatreds of the patriots. once laborious and listless, he became the One of the most remarkable effects of the associate of a band of young poets of power strong sense of the personal on Hazlitt's abstract and promise such as England had not pro- speculations, is a habit of confounding his own duced for two centuries, whose genius had feelings and experiences in relation to a subbeen awakened by the rising sun of liberty, ject with proofs of some theory which had and breathed forth most eloquent music. grown out of them, or had become associated Their political creed resembled his own; yet, with them. Thus, in his “Essay on the Past for the better and more influential part, they and the Future,” he asserts the startling propowere poets, not metaphysicians; and his inter- sition, that the past is, at any given moment, course with them tended yet farther to spread of as much consequence to the individual as the noble infection of beauty through all his the future; that he has no more actual interest thoughts. That they should have partially in what is to come than in what has gone by, understood him at that time was much, both except so far as he may think himself able to for them and for him; for the faculty of ex- avert the future by action; that whether he pression remained imperfect and doubtful until was put to torture a year ago, or anticipates the quickened at that chosen home of genius and rack a year hence, is of no importance, if his kindness, the fire-side of the author of “ John destiny is so fixed that no effort can alter it; Woodvil.” There his bashful struggles to ex- and this paradox its author chiefly seeks to press the fine conceptions with which his establish by beautiful instances of what the bosom laboured were met by entire sympathy; past, as matter of contemplation, is to thoughtthere he began to stammer out his just and ful minds, and in fine glances at his individual original notions of Chaucer and Spenser, and history. The principal sophism consists in old English writers, less talked of, though not varying the aspect in which the past and future less known, by their countrymen; there he are viewed ;-in one paragraph, regarding was understood and cheered by one who them as apart from personal identity and conthought after their antique mode, and wrote in sciousness, as if a being, who was “not a child their spirit, and by a lady, “ sister every way” of time,” looked down upon them; and, in to his friend, whose fine discernment of his another, speaking in his own person as one first efforts in conversation, he dwelt upon who feels the past as well as future in the inwith gratitude even when most out of humour stant. When the quarrels with a supposed with the world. He wrote then slowly, and disputant who would rather not have been with great difficulty, being, as he himself states Claude, because then all would have been in his “Letter to Gifford,” “eight years in over with him, and asserts that it cannot sig. writing as many pages;" in that austere labour nify when we live, because the value of existe the sense of the beautiful was rebuked, and ence is not altered in the course of centuries, his first work, the “Essay on the Principles he takes a stand apart from present consciousof Human Action," is composed in a style as ness and the immediate question-for the dry and hard as a mathematical demonstration. desire to have been Claude could only be But when his pen was loosed from its long gratified in the consciousness of having been bondage, the accumulated stores of thought Claude-which belongs to the present moment, and observation pressed upon him; images of and implies present existence in the party beauty hovered round him ; deep-rooted attach- making the choice, though for such a moment ments to books and works of art, which had he might be willing to die. He strays still been friends to him through silent years, wider from the subject when he observes a glowed for expression, and a long arrear of treatise on the Millennium is dull; but asks personal resentments struggled to share in the who was ever weary of reading the fables of masterdom of conscious power. The room of the Golden Age ? for both fables essentially Imagination, which would have enabled him belong neither to past nor future, and depend to command all his resources, and place his for their interest, not on the time to which they rare experiences to their true account, was are referred, but the vividness with which supplied by a will-sufficiently sturdy by pa- they are drawn. But supposing the Golden lure, and made irritable and capricious by the Age and the Millennium to be happy conditions most inexcusable misrepresentation and abuse of being—which 10 our poor, frail, shivering with which the virulence of party-spirit ever virtue they are not—and the proposal to be disgraced literary criticism. His works were made, whether we would remember the first, or shamelessly garbled; his person and habits enter upon the last, surely we should “hail the slandered ; and volumes, any one page of coming on of time,” and prefer having our which contained thought sufficient to supply a store of happiness yet to expend, to the know

ledge that we had just spent it! When Mr./ barren spectators, and that which is diffused Hazlitt instances the agitation of criminals through ihe hearts and affections of thousands, before their trial, and their composure after and fructifies and expands in generations yet their conviction, as proofs that if a future unborn, and connects its author with far disevent is certain," it gives little more disturb- tant times, not by cold renown, but by the links ance or emotion than if it had already taken of living sympathy—to be exemplified in the place, or were something to happen in another very essay which would decry it, and to be state of being, or to another person,” he gives nobly vindicated by its author at other times, an example which is perfectly fair, but which when he shows, and makes us feel, that every one sees is decisive against his theory. "words are the only things which last for If peace followed when hope was no longer ever."* So his attacks on the doctrine of busy; if the quiet of indifference was the same utility, which were provoked by the cold exthing as the stillness of despair; if the palsy travagancies of some of its supporters, consist of fear did not partially anticipate the stroke of noble and passionate eulogies on the graces, of death, and whiten the devoted head with pleasures, and ornaments, of life, which leave premature age; there might be some ground the theory itself, with which all these are confor this sacrifice of the future at the shrine of sistent, precisely where it was. So his “ Essays the past; but the poor wretch who grasps the on Mr. Owen's View of Society" are full of hand of the chaplain or the under-sheriff's exquisite banter, well-directed against the inclerk, or a turnkey, or an alderman, in con- dividual: of unanswerable expositions of the vulsive agony, as his last hold on life, and falsehood of his pretensions to novelty and of declares that he is happy, would tell a different the quackery by which he attempted to render tale! It seems strange that so profound a them notorious; of happy satire against the thinker, and so fair a reasoner, as Mr. Hazlitt, aristocratic and religious patronage which he should adduce such a proof of such an hypo- sought and obtained for schemes which were thesis—but the mystery is solved when we tolerated by the great because they were regard the mass of personal feeling he has believed by them to be impracticable; but the brought to bear on the subject, and which has truth of the principal idea itself remains almost made his own view of it unsteady. All untouched. In these instances the personal this picturesque and affecting retrospection has prevailed over the abstract in the mind of amounts to nothing, or rather tells against the the thinker; his else clear intellectual vision argument; because the store of contemplation has been obscured by the intervention of his which is, will ever be while consciousness re- own recollections, loves, resentments, or fanmains; nay, must increase even while we cies; and the real outlines of the subject have reckon it, as the present glides into the past, been overgrown by the exuberant fertility of and turns another arch over the cave of me- the region which bordered upon them. mory. This very possession which he would The same causes diminished the immediate set against the future is the only treasure effect of Mr. Hazlitt's political writings. It which with certainty belongs to it, and of was the fashion to denounce him as a sour which no change of fortune can deprive him; Jacobin; but no description could be more unand, therefore, it is clear that the essayist mis- just. Under the influence of some bitter feeltakes a sentiment for a demonstration, when ing, he occasionally poured out a furious inhe expatiates upon it as proof of such a doc- vective against those whom he regarded as the trine. There is nothing affected in the asser- enemies of liberty, or the apostates from its tion-no desire to startle—no playing with the cause; but, in general, his force was diverted subject or the reader; for of such intellectual (unconsciously to himself) by figures and trickeries he was incapable; but an honest fantasies, by fine and quaint allusions, by mistake into which the strong power of per- quotations from his favourite authors, introsonal recollection, and the desire to secure it duced with singular felicity as respects the within the lasting fret-work of a theory, drew direct link of association, but tending by their him. So, when wearied with the injustice very beauty to unnerve the mind of the reader, done to his writings by the profligate misre- and substitute the sense of luxury for that of presentations of the government critics, and the hatred or anger. In some of his essays, when slothful acquiescence of the public, and con- the reasoning is most cogent, every other sentrasting with it the success of the sturdy play- tence contains some exquisite passage from ers at his favourite game of fives, which no one Shakspeare, or Fletcher, or Wordsworth, trailcould question, he wrote elaborate essays* to ing after it a line of golden associations-or prove the superiority of physical qualifications some reference to a novel, over which we have to those of intellect-full of happy illustrations a thousand times forgotten the wrongs of and striking instances, and containing one in- mankind; till in the recurring shock of pleaimitable bit of truth and pathos “On the Death surable surprise, the main argument escapes of Cavanagh,”—but all beside the mark-proving us. When, for example, he compares the ponothing but that which required no proof-that sition of certain political waverers to that of corporeal strength and beauty are more speed- Clarissa Harlowe when Lovelace would reily and more surely appreciated than the pro- peat his outrage, and describes them as having ducts of genius; and leaving the essential been, like her, trepanned into a house of illdifferences of the two, of the transitory and the fame near Pall Mall

, and defending their soiled lasting-of that which is confined to a few virtue with their pen-knives,-who, at the

suggestion of the stupendous scene which the ** On the Indian Jugglers," and "On the DisadvanLages of Intellectual Superiority."

"On Thought and Action.”

allusion directly revives, can think or care this strong attachment, at once personal and about the renegade of yesterday? Here, again, refined, would have enabled him to encounter is felt the want of that imagination which the toil of collecting and arranging facts and brings all things into one, tinges all our dates for four volumes of narrative ;-a drudg. thoughts and sympathies with one joyous or ery too abhorrent to his habits of mind as a solemn hue, and rejects every ornament which thinker, to be sustained by any stimulus which does not heighten or prolong the feeling which the prospect of wealth or reputation could is proper to the design. Even when Mr. Haz- supply. It is not so much in the ingenious litt retaliates on Mr. Southey for attacking his excuses which he discovers for the worst acts old co-patriots, the poetical associations which of his hero, even for the midnight execution bitter remembrance suggests almosi neutralize of the Duke d'Enghein, and the invasion of the attack, else overpowering; he brings every Spain, that the stamp of personal devotion is "flower which sad embroidery wears to strew obvious, as in the graphic force with which the laureate hearse,” where patriotism is in- he has delineated the short-lived splendours terred; and diverts our indignation and his of the Imperial Court, and “the trivial fond own by affecting references to an early friend records" he has gathered of every vestige of ship. So little does he regard the unity of his human feeling by which he could reconcile compositions, that in his “ Leiter to Gifford,” the Emperor to his mind. The first two voafter a series of the most just and bitter retorts lumes of the “Life of Napoleon," although on his maligner,—"the fine link which con- redeemed by scattered thoughts of true originected literature with the police"-he takes a nality and depth, are often confused and spifancy to teach that “ Ultra-crepidarian Critic" ritless; the characters of the principal revohis own theory of the natural disinterestedness lutionists are drawn too much in the style of of the human mind, and developes inot now caricatures; but when the hero throws all bis in the mathematical style in which it was first rivals into the distance, erects himself the inenunciated, but "o'er-informed” with the glow dividual enemy of England, consecrates his of sentiment, and terminating in an eloquent power by religious ceremonies, and defines it rhapsody. This latter part of the letter is one by the circle of a crown, the author's strength of the noblest of his effusions, but it entirely becomes concentrated, his narrative assumes destroys the first in the mind of the reader; an epic dignity and fervour, and glows with for who, when thus contemplating the living “ the long-resounding march and energy diwheels on which human benevolence is borne vine.” How happy and proud is he to picture onward in its triumphant career, and the spirit the meeting of Napoleon with the Pope, and with which they are instinct, can think of the the grandeurs of the coronation! How he poor wasp settled upon them, and who was grows wanton in celebrating the fêtes of the just before transfixed with minikin arrows? Tuileries, as "presenting all the elegance of

But the most signal result which “the shows enchanted pageants," and laments them as of things” had over Mr. Hazlitt's mind, was 'gone like a fairy revel!" How he “lives his setting up the Emperor Napoleon as his along the line" of Austerlitz, and rejoices in idol. He strove to justify his predilection to its thunder, and hails its setting sun, and exhimself by referring it to the revolutionary ults in the minutest details of the subsequent origin of his hero, and the contempt with meeting of the conquered sovereigns with the which he trampled upon the claims of legiti- conqueror! How he expatiates on the fatal macy, and humbled the pride of kings. But marriage with the “deadly Austrian,” (as Mr. if his “only love" thus sprung " from his only Cobbett justly called that most heartless of her hate,” it was not wholly cherished by antipa- sex,) as though it were a chapter in romance, thies. If there had been nothing in his mind and added the grace of beauty to the imperial which tended to aggrandizement and glory, picture! How he kindles with martial ardour and which would fain reconcile the principles as he describes the preparations for the expeof liberty with the lavish accumulation of dition against Russia; musters the myriads power, he might have desired the triumph of of barbarians with a show of dramatic jusyoung tyranny over legitimate thrones; but he tice; and fondly lingers among the brief triwould scarcely have watched its progress umphs of Moskwa on the verge of the terrible “ like a lover and a child." His feeling for catastrophe! The narrative of that disastrous Bonaparte was not a sentiment of respect for expedition is, indeed, written with a master's fallen greatness: not a desire to trace “the hand; we see the “Grand Army” marching soul of goodness in things evil;” not a loath- to its destruction through the immense pering of the treatment the emperor received spective ; the wild hordes flying before the from “his cousin kings" in the day of adver-terror of its “coming;" the barbaric magnifisity ; but entire affection mingling with the cence of Moscow towering in the far distance; current of the blood, and pervading the moral and when we gaze upon the sacrificial confiaand intellectual being.* Nothing less than gration of the Kremlin, we feel that it is the

funeral pile of the conqueror's glories. It is * Proofs of the singular fascination which the idea of well for the readers of this splendid work, Bonaparte created on Mr. Hazlitt's mind abound in his that there is more in it of the painter than of writings. One example of which suffices to show how it mingled with his most passionate thoughts-his earliest aspirations, and his latest sympathies. Having re first bloomed there. The years that are fled knock at ferred to some association which revived the memory the door and enter. I am in the Louvre once more of his happiest days, he breathes out into this rhapsody: The Sun of Austerlitz has not set. It shines here, in my - As I look on the long-neglected copy of the Death heart ; and he the Son of Glory is not dead, nor ever shall of Clorinda, golden dreams play upon the canvas as be to me. I am as when my life began."-See the Essay they used when I painted it. 'The flowers of Hope and on “Great and Little Things." Table Talk, vol. ii., p. Joy springing up in my mind, recall the time when they 171.

« 上一頁繼續 »