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sive or elevated imagination. This is precisely the case with the author whose works we are considering. Genius in him shines paramount to every other quality of his mind. In every page of the volume, which has suggested these observations, there is something bold, original, and striking; and yet there is every now and then some peculiarity of expression that offends a cultivated taste, or some wildness of sentiment that excites astonishment and wonder rather than sympathy.
The author of these discourses is so well known to our readers in this part of the island, that it would be quite superfluous on their account to say any thing of his private history, but for the sake of our readers in the south, we suspect it may be necessary to tell, in a single sentence, who Dr Chalmers is, and how he has attained that uncommon celebrity he now enjoys among us.
Till within these few years, Dr Chalmers was scarcely known beyond the circle of his personal friends. He obtained, at an early period, a living in an obscure part of the country; and being naturally of an inquisitive and active disposition, he devoted himself, in the leisure of his professional engagements, to an ardent prosecution of scientific knowledge. Accident, according to report, led him, some few years ago, to examine with more than ordinary attention the foundations of the Christian faith; and as the result of his investigations was a deep impression of the strength of the evidence by which it is supported, he now brought to the illustration and defence of religion a double portion of the enthusiasm he had already devoted to science. Hitherto he had been attached to that party in our church which aspires to the title of moderate or liberal-he now connected himself with those who wish to be thought more strict and apostolic. His reputation as a preacher, as might have been expected from the warmth and fervour of his eloquence, began now rapidly to extend itself; and the whole country was soon filled with the fame of his eloquence and his merits. The reputation he had thus acquired was not diminished but enhanced, by his occasional appearances in the congregations of this metropolis. His speeches last year in the General Assembly of the Scottish Church, and his sermons before the
Lord High Commissioner and for the sons of the clergy, made known his merits to most of the eminent men in this part of the kingdom, and will be long remembered in this quarter as the most brilliant display of eloquence and of genius which we have ever had the good fortune to witness.
Such is our author's brief and simple story, previous to the publication of the present volume. We must not induce our readers, however, to believe that the public were as yet all agreed in their opinion of Dr Chalmers merits. His former publications had been distinguished rather by a fertility of imagination than by a deliberate and cool judgment. He had been accustomed, it was said, to take up an opinion as it were by accident, and to defend it with enthusiastic ingenuity and energy, though at the same time he was overlooking something so obvious and palpable, that the most simple novice might detect the fallacy of his argument. He had written on the national resources, and had attributed every thing to agriculture, demonstrating our perfect independence of the luxuries of trade and commerce. He had published a treatise on the Evidences of Christianity, and had denied that the internal evidence was of any importance. Some detached sermons which he had given to the public had been deformed by an austerity at which the polite world revolted; and it was thought that the new work which was announced would be found obnoxious to the same censures. With respect to this work, now that it has been published, we conceive that there can be but one opinion-that it is a piece of splendid and powerful eloquence, injured indeed by many peculiarities of expression, by provin cial idioms and colloquial barbarisms, but, at the same time, more free from the author's peculiar blemishes than any of his former productions, and forming, notwithstanding its many faults, a work likely to excite almost universal admiration. That it would be improved, we think, every one will likewise allow, were there less sameness of sentiment and of expressionwere there fewer words of the author's own invention-were the purity of the English language, in short, as much attended to as its power and energy. If the author would only cultivate his taste as much as his imagination, he
might do more for the cause he has at heart, the cause of Christianity, than any other person with whom we are acquainted.
The principal object of the discourses in the present volume is to prepare the mind for the direct evidence of Christianity-to do away that presumption which is supposed to exist a priori against this astonishing dispensation to shew the infidel that there are things in nature hardly less wonderful than the redemption of man -and that, amazing as is the scheme of revelation, it is yet in perfect analogy with the known attributes of God. Men of science, who see the operations of nature conducted according to uniform laws, and without the visible interference of an external agent, are apt to take up a prepossession against any system of miracles; and when 'philosophy unfolds the volume of creation, and the understanding expatiates delighted on the laws and motions of planetary worlds, it is natural for us to imagine that science has out stript the discoveries of religion, and that the records of the gospel are thrown into the shade by the triumphs of reason. "These are the prejudices which lie at the foundation of natural science;" and our author has exposed them with an ability and a success scarcely inferior to that of Butler himself, and in a manner certainly "better adapted to the taste and literature of the times." He shews, that the faith of Christians is in reality something noble and sublime; and that, “elevated as the wisdom of him may be, who has ascended the heights of science, and poured the light of demonstration over the most wondrous of nature's mysteries-that even out of his own principles it may be proved, how much more elevated is the wisdom of him who sits with the docility of a little child to his Bible, and casts down to its authority all his lofty imaginations."
The limits of a publication of this kind prevent us from entering into a minute examination of the work before us; and as we are sensible that we could do no justice to an analysis of these discourses, without allotting to it a greater space than is consistent with the plan of our publication, we shall conclude these general hints by recommending the volume, in the
strongest manner, to the perusal of our readers. To Dr Chalmers we would earnestly recommend, in his future productions, to avoid that eccentric phraseology, and that occasional uncouthness and vulgarity of expression, which cannot but counteract, in a very considerable degree, the effect of his enthusiastic and touching eloquence. His object is a style "adapted to the taste and literature of the times ;" and the common defence of popular theologians, that they write to impress the heart and the understanding, and not to sooth or gratify a fastidious taste, will not avail Dr Chalmers, who writes expressly for the literary world, and who must be sensible that it cannot benefit his cause to appear before them with those very blemishes which are most revolting to their peculiar habits and associations.
Upon the whole, we are convinced that the effect of these discourses must be great and salutary. They will tend to shew the worshippers of reason and of science, that Christianity is in reality something transcendently sublime, interesting, and valuable; and to convince the world in general that a warm and habitual piety is really one of the characteristics of superior minds, while scepticism arises from an incapacity of profound emotion or grand conception. If the world were once convinced of this, the associations of the young and the gay would no longer interest them in favour of infidelity. Religion would become again universally loved, honoured, and practised; and the English character, instead of being gradually degraded to the diminutive model which is held out by the most flippant and unprincipled of our neighbours, would probably revert with unexpected celerity to its ancient style of grandeur and simplicity. It is only necessary that genius, which has been so long enlisted, throughout all Europe, on the side of infidelity, should again rouse itself in the cause of religion, to accomplish so desirable a revolution in the opinions and character of men. few great and original minds, like that of Dr Chalmers, should arise to advocate the cause of Christianity, it would no longer be the fashion to exalt the triumphs of reason and of science, in order to throw contempt on the discoveries of the gospel.
Harold the Dauntless; à Poem. By the Author of "The Bridal of Triermain." 1817, Constable & Co. pp. 200.
THIS is an elegant, sprightly, and delightful little poem, written apparently by a person of taste and genius, but who either possesses not the art of forming and combining a plot, or regards it only as a secondary and subordinate object. In this we do not widely differ from him, but are sensible meantime, that many others will; and that the rambling and uncertain nature of the story, will be the principal objection urged against the poem before us, as well as the greatest bar to its extensive popularity. The character of Mr Scott's romances has effected a material change in our mode of estimating poetical compositions. In all the estimable works of our former poets, from Spencer down to Thomson and Cowper, the plot seems to have been regarded only as good or bad, in proportion to the advantages which it furnished for poetical description; but of late years, one half, at least, of the merit of a poem is supposed to rest on the interest and management of the tale.
We speak not exclusively of that numerous class of readers, who peruse and estimate a new poem, or any poem, with the same feelings and precisely on the same principles as they do a novel. It is natural for such persons to judge only by the effect produced by the incidents; but we have often been surprised that some of our literary critics, even those to whose judgment we were most disposed to bow, should lay so much stress on the probability and fitness of every incident which the fancy of the poet may lead him to embellish in the course of a narrative poem, a great proportion of which must necessarily be descriptive. The author of Harold the Dauntless seems to have judged differently from these critics, and in the lightsome rapid strain of poetry which he has chosen, we feel no disposition to quarrel with him on account of the easy and careless manner in which he has arranged his story. In many instances, he undoubtedly shows the hand of a master, and (as the director-general of our artists would say,) "has truly studied and seized the essential character of the antique-his attitudes and draperies are unconfined, and varied with
demi-tints, possessing much of the lustre, freshness, and spirit of Rembrandt. The airs of his heads have grace, and his distances something of the lightness and keeping of Salvator Rosa. The want of harmony and union in the carnations of his females, is a slight objection, and there is like wise a meagre sheetiness in his contrasts of chiaroscuro; but these are all redeemed by the felicity, execution, and master traits, distinguishable in his grouping, by which, like Murillo or Carraveggio, he sometimes raises from out the rubbish masses of a colossal trifle."
But the work has another quality; and though its leading one, we do not know whether to censure or approve it. It is an avowed imitation, and therefore loses part of its value, if viewed as an original production, On the other hand, regarded solely as an imitation, it is one of the closest and most successful, without being either a caricature or a parody, that perhaps ever appeared in any language. Not only is the general manner of Scott ably maintained throughout, but the very structure of the language, the associations, and the train of thinking, appear to be precisely the same. It was once alleged by some writers, that it was impossible to imitate Mr Scott's style, but it is now fully proved to the world, that there is no style more accessible to imitation; for it will be remarked, (laying parodies aside, which any one may execute), that Mr Davidson and Miss Holford, as well as Lord Byron and Wordsworth, each in one instance, have all, without, we believe, intending it, imitated him with considerable closeness. The author of the Poetic Mirror has given us one specimen of his most polished and tender style, and another still more close of his rapid and careless manner; but all of them fall greatly short of The Bridal of Triermain, and the poem now before us.
We are sure the author will laugh heartily in his sleeve, at our silliness and want of perception, when we confess to him that we never could open either of these works, and peruse his pages for two minutes with attention, and at the same time divest our minds of the idea, that we were engaged in an early or experimental work of that great master. That they are generally inferior to the works of Mr Scott, in
vigour and interest, admits not of dispute; still they have many of his wild and softer beauties; and if they fail to be read and admired, we shall not on that account think the better of the taste of the age.
With regard to the former of these poems, we have often heard, from what may be deemed good authority, a very curious anecdote, which we shall give merely as such, without vouching for the truth of it. When the article entitled The Inferno of Altisidora,' appeared in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1809, it will be remembered, that the last fragment contained in that singular production, is the beginning of the romance of Triermain. Report says, that the fragment was not meant to be an imitation of Scott but of Coleridge; and that for this purpose the author borrowed both the name of the hero and the scene from the then unpublished poem of Christabelle; and further,that so few had ever seen the manuscript of that poem, that amongst these few the author of Triermain could not be mistaken. Be that as it may, it is well known, that on the appearance of this fragment in the Annual Register, it was universally taken for an imitation of Walter Scott, and never once of Coleridge. The author perceiving this, and that the poem was well received, instantly set about drawing it out into a regular and finished work; for shortly after, it was announced in the papers, and continued to be so for three long years; the author, as may be supposed, having, during that period, his hands occasionally occupied with heavier metal. In 1813 the poem was at last produced, avowedly and manifestly as an imitation of Mr Scott; and it may easily be observed, that from the 27th page onward, it becomes much more decidedly like the manner of that poet than it is in the preceding part which was published in the Register, and which undoubtedly does bear some similarity to Coleridge in the poetry, and more especially in the rythm,-as,
Harpers must lull him to his rest, With the slow tunes he loves the best, Till sleep sink down upon his breast, Like the dew on a summer hill.'
It was the dawn of an autumn day, The sun was struggling with frost-fog gray,
• And light they fell, as when earth receives,
Or if 'twas but an airy thing,
These, it will be seen, are not exactly Coleridge, but they are precisely such an imitation of Coleridge as, we conceive, another poet of our acquaintance would write: on that ground, we are inclined to give some credit to the anecdote here related, and from it we leave our readers to guess, as we have done, who is the author of the poems in question.
It may be argued by the capricious, and those of slow-motioned souls, that this proves nothing; but we assure them it proves all that we intend or desire to have proved; for we think the present mode of endeavouring to puzzle people's brains about the authors of every work that appears extremely amusing. It has likewise a very beneficial and delightful consequence, in as much as it makes many persons to be regarded as great authors, and looked up to as extraordinary characters, who otherwise would never have been distinguished in the slightest degree from their fellows. We shall only say, once for all, that whenever we are admitted behind the curtain, we shall never blab the secrets of the green-room, for we think there is neither honour nor discretion in so doing; but when things are left for us to guess at, we may sometimes blunder on facts that will astonish these mist-enveloped authors, as well as their unfathomable printer, who we think may soon adopt for a sign-board or motto, Mr Murray's very appropriate and often-repeated postscript→
No admittance behind the scenes, And, at all events, if we should some
times mistake, it will only be productive of a little more amusement in the discussion of the literary capabilities of some new individuals, with their styles and manners, even down to the composition of a law paper.
We cannot give long extracts from every work which we propose to notice, but we have no hesitation in saying, that the poem of Harold is throughout easy and flowing; never tame, and often exhibits great spirit. But it is apparent that the author had no plan in going on, farther than the very affected and unnatural one, now rendered trite by repetition, of making his hero wed his page, who turns out to be a lady in disguise. All the rest of the poem seems to run on at mere random. The introduction begins with the following stanzas. "There is a mood of mind we all have known, On drowsy eve, or dark and low'ring day, When the tired spirits lose their sprightly tone,
And nought can chace the lingering hours away,
Dull on our soul falls Fancy's dazzling ray, And. Wisdom holds his steadier torch in vain, Obscured the painting seems, mistuned the lay,
Nor dare we of our listless load complain, For who for sympathy may seek that cannot tell of pain!
Ennui !-or, as our mothers call'd thee,
will shew how extremely it is like to the manner of Scott.
A professed imitator will not, we presume, value himself much on his pretensions to originality, else we might perhaps give the author some offence by remarking, that the demeanour of Harold in the fane of St Cuthbert, is too like that of Wat o' the Cleuch in Jedburgh abbey, to be viewed as purely incidental; and it is not a little singular, that he should have judged it meet to borrow from another imitator, who, in that style and instance, is so decidedly his inferior.
We shall only add, that Harold the Dauntless is a fit and reputable companion to Triermain. The poetry is more equal, and has more of nature and human character; yet when duly perused and reflected on, it scarcely leaves on the mind, perhaps, so distinct and powerful an impression.
Armata. A Fragment. London, Mur
ray, 1817. pp. 210.
It is a remarkable fact, that no crisis of our political existence, during the last half-century, has called forth so few of our pamphleteer speculators on statistics as the present;-when the unexampled difficulties which have oppressed our agriculture, our manufactures, and our commerce,-difficulties from whose operation no one amongst us has been exempt, and whose extent no one amongst us can define, present so wide a field to our soi-disant philosophers and statesmen. Whether this silence be owing to a want of ability, or a want of inclination to encounter a subject of such magnitude, it is not now our business to determine. Two plans, however, have been brought forward, which we are assured will relieve us from all our embarrassments. Major Cartwright prescribes for us universal suffrage and annual parliaments, while a
distinguished member of the Legispectation, that our farmers and our lature is not less sanguine in his exmanufactures will find a remedy for all their distresses in-the plains of South America! The subject having been thus neglected, it was with not less pleasure than surprise, that on reading the tract before us, we found that the author,-whoever he be-developes in a masterly manner the causes which have brought us into our present alarming situation, and explains the measures which, he thinks, ought to be adopted to work out our deliverance.