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vances and the final perfection of the species. It was this good hope for humanity which excited Mr. Malthus to affirm, that there is in the constitution of man's nature a perpetual barrier to any extensive improvement in his earthly condition. After a long interval, Mr. Godwin has announced a reply to this popular system— a system which reduces man to an animal, governed by blind instinct, and destitute of reason, sentiment, imagination, and hope, whose most mysterious instincts are matter of calculation to be estimated by rules of geometrical series —Most earnestly do we desire to wit
ness his success. To our minds, indeed, he sufficiently proves the falsehood of his adversary's doctrines by his own intellectual character. His works are, in themselves, evidences that there is power and energy in man which have never yet been fully brought into action, and which were not given to the species in vain. He has lived himself in the soft and mild light of those peaceful years, which he believes shall hereafter bless the world, when force and selfishness shall disappear, and love and joy shall be the unerring lights of the species.
[New MonTHLY MAGAZINE.]
The author of Montorio and of Bertram is unquestionably a person gifted with no ordinary powers. He has a quick sensibility—a penetrating and intuitive acuteness—and an unrivalled vigour and felicity of language, which enable him at one time to attain the happiest condensation of thought, and at others to pour forth a stream of eloquence, rich, flowing, and deep, checkered with images of delicate loveliness, or darkened by broad shadows cast from objects of stern and adamantine majesty. Yet, in common with many other potent spirits of the present time, he fails to excite within us any pure and lasting sympathy. We do not, on reading his works, feel that we have entered on a precious and imperishable treasure. They dazzle, they delight, they surprise, and they weary us—we lay them down with a vague admiration for the author, and try to shake off their influence as we do the impressions of a feverish dream. It is not thus that we receive the productions of genuine and holy bards—of Shakspeare, of Milton, of Spenser, or of Wordsworth—whose farreaching imaginations come home to our hearts, who become the companions of our sweetest moods, and with whom we long to “set up our everlasting rest.” Their creations are often nearest to our hearts when they are farthest removed from the actual experience of our lives. We travel on the bright tracks which their genius reveals to us as safely and with as sure and fond a tread as along the broad highway of the world. When the regions which they set before us are the most distant from our ordinary perceptions, we yet seem at home in them, their wonders are strangely familiar to us, and the scene, overspread with a consecrating and lovely lustre, breaks on us, not as a wild fantastic novelty, but as a revived recollection of some holier life, which the soul rejoices thus delightfully to recognise.
Not thus do the works of Mr. Maturin–original and surprising as they often are—affect us. They have no fibres in them which en
twine with the heart-strings, and which keep their hold until the golden chords of our sensibility and imagination themselves are broken. They pass by us sometimes like gorgeous phantoms, sometimes like “horrible shadows and unreal mockeries,” which seem to elude us because they are not of us. When we follow him closest, he introduces us into a region where all is unsatisfactory and unreal—the chaos of principles, fancies, and passions— where mightiest elements are yet floating without order, where appearances between substance and shadow perpetually harass us, where visionary forms beckon us through painful avenues, and, on approach, sink into despicable realities; and pillars which looked ponderous and immovable at a distance, melt at the touch into air, and are found to be only masses of vapour and of cloud. He neither raises us to the skies, nor “brings his angels down,” but astonishes by a phantasmagoria of strange appearances, sometimes scarcely distinguishable in member, joint, or limb, but which, when most clearly defined, come not near us, nor claim kindred by a warm and living touch. This chill remoteness from humanity is attended by a general want of harmony and proportion in the whole—by a wild excursiveness of sensibility and thought— which add to its ungenial influence, and may be traced to the same causes. If we were disposed to refer these defects to one general source, we should attribute them to the want of an imagination proportionate to sensibility and to mastery of language in the writer's mind, or to his comparative neglect of that most divine of human faculties. It is edifying to observe how completely the nature of this power is mistaken by many who profess to decide on matters of taste. They regard it as something wild and irregular, the reverse of truth, nature, and reason, which is divided from insanity only by “a thin partition,” and which, uncontrolled by sterner powers, forms the essence of madness. They think it abounds in speeches crowded with tawdry and superfluous epithets—in the discourses of Dr. Chalmers, because they deal so largely in infinite obscurities that there is no room for a single image—and in the poems of Lord Byron, because his characters are so unlike all beings which have ever existed. Far otherwise thought Spencer when he represented the laurel as the meed—not of poets insane—but “of poets sage.” True imagination is, indeed, the deep eye of the profoundest wisdom. It is opposed to reason, not in its results, but in its process; it does not demonstrate truth only because it sees it. There are vast and eternal realities in our nature, which reason proves to exist— which sensibility “feels after and finds"—and which imagination beholds in clear and solemn vision, and pictures with a force and vividness which assures their existence even to ungifled mortals. Its subjects are the true, the universal, and the lasting. Its distinguishing property has no relation to dimness, or indistinctness, or dazzling radiance, or turbulent confusedness, but is the power of setting all things in the clearest light, and bringing them into perfect harmony. Like the telescope it does not only magnify celestial objects, but brings them nearer to us. Of all the faculties it is the severest and the most unerring. Reason may beguile with splendid sophistry; sensibility may fatally misguide; but if imagination exists at all, it must exhibit only the real. A mirror can no more reflect an object which is not before it, than the imagination can show the false and the baseless. By revealing to us its results in the language of imagery, it gives to them almost the evidence of the senses. If the analogy between an idea and its physical exponent is not complete, there is no effort of imagination—if it is, the truth is seen, and felt, and enjoyed, like the colours and forms of the material universe. And this effect is produced not only with the greatest possible certainty, but in the fewest possible words. Yet even when this is done—when the illustration is not only the most enchanting, but the most convincing of proofs—the writer is too often contemptuously depreciated as flowery, by the advocates of mere reason. Strange chance! that he who has imbodied truth in a living image, and thus rendered it visible to the intellectual perceptions, should be confounded with those who conceal all sense and meaning beneath mere verbiage and fragments of disjointed metaphor? Thus the products of genuine imagination are “all compact.” It is, indeed, only the compactness and harmony of its pictures which give to it its name or its value. To discover that there are mighty elements in humanity—to observe that there are bright hues and graceful forms in the external world —and to know the fitting names of these—is all which is required to furnish out a rich stock of spurious imagination to one who aspires to the claim of a wild and irregular genius. For him a dictionary is a sufficient guide to Parnassus. It is only by representing those intellectual elements in their finest harmony—by combining those hues and forms in the fairest pictures—or by making the glorious combinations of external things the symbols of truth
and moral beauty—that imagination really puts forth its divine energies. We do not charge on Mr. Maturin that he is destitute of power to do this, or that he does not sometimes direct it to its purest uses. But his sensibility is so much more quick and subtle than his authority over his impressions is complete; the flow of his words so much more copious and facile than the throng of images on his mind; that he too often confounds us with unnumbered snatches and impersect gleams of beauty, or astonishes us by an outpouring of eloquent bombast, instead of enriching our souls with distinct and vivid conceptions. Like many other writers of the present time—especially of his own country—he does not wait until the stream which young enthusiasm sets loose shall work itself clear, and calmly reflect the highest heavens. His creations bear any stamp but that of truth and soberness. He sees the glories of the external world, and the mightier wonders of man's moral and intellectual nature, with a quick sense, and feels them with an exquisite sympathy—but he gazes on them in “very drunkenness of heart,” and becomes giddy with his own indistinct emotions, till all things seem confounded in a gay bacchanalian dance, and assume strange fantastic combinations; which, when transferred to his works, startle for a moment, but do not produce that “sober certainty of waking bliss" which real imagination assures. There are two qualities necessary to form a truly imaginative writer—a quicker and an intenser feeling than ordinary men possess for the beautiful and the sublime, and the calm and meditative power of regulating, combining, and arranging its own impressions, and of distinctly bodying forth the final results of this harmonizing process. Where the first of these properties exists, the last is, perhaps, attainable by that deep and careful study which is more necessary to a poet than to any artist who works in mere earthly materials. But this study many of the most gifted of modern writers unhappily disdain; and if mere sale and popularity are their objects, they are right; for, in the multitude, the wild, the disjointed, the incoherent, and the paradoxical, which are but for a moment, necessarily awaken more immediate sensation than the pure and harmonious, which are destined to last while nature and the soul shall endure. It is easy to perceive how it is that the imperfect creations of men of sensibility and of eloquence strike and dazzle more at the first, than the completest works of truly imaginative poets. A perfect statue—a temple fashioned with exactest art—appear less, at a mere glance, from the nicety of their proportions. The vast majority of readers, in an age like ours, have neither leisure nor taste to seek and ponder over the effusions of holiest genius. They must be awakened into admiration by something new and strange and surprising; and the more remote from their daily thoughts and habits—the more fantastical and daringthe effort, the more will it please, because the more it will rouse them. Thus a man who will exhibit some impossible combination of heroism and meanness—of virtue and of vige —of heavenly love and infernal malignity and baseness—will receive their wonder and their praise. They call this powen, which is in reality the most pitiable weakness. It is because a writer has not imagination enough to exhibit in new forms the universal qualities of nature and the soul, that he takes some strange and horrible anomaly as his theme. Incompetent to the divine task of rendering beauty “a simple product of the common day,” he tries to excite emotion by disclosing the foulest recess of the foulest heart. As he strikes only one feeling, and that coarsely and ungently, he appears to wield a mightier weapon than he whose harmonious beauty sheds its influence equably over the whole of the sympathies. That which touches with strange commotion, and mere violence on the heart, but leaves no image there, seems to vulgar spirits more potent than the faculty which applies to it all perfect figures, and leaves them to sink gently into its fleshly tablets to remain there for ever. Yet, surely, that which merely shakes is not equal even in power to that which impresses. The wild disjointed part may be more amazing to a diseased perception • than the well-compacted whole; but it is the nice balancing of properties, the soft blending of shades, and the all-pervading and reconciling light shed over the harmonious imagination, which take off the sense of rude strength that alone is discernible in its naked elements. Is there more of heavenly power in seizing from among the tumult of chaos and eternal night, strange and fearful abortions, or in brooding over the vast abyss, and making it pregnant with life and glory and joy? Is it the higher exercise of human faculties to represent the frightful discordances of passion, or to show the grandeurs of humanity in that majestic repose which is at once an anticipation and a proof of its eternal destiny? Is transitory vice—the mere accident of the species—and those vices too which are the rarest and most appalling of all its accidents—or that good which is its essence and which never can perish, fittest for the uses of the bardo Shall he desire to haunt the caves which lie lowest on the banks of Acheron, or the soft bowers watered by “Siloa's brook that flows fast by the oracle of God?” Mr. Maturin gave decisive indications of a morbid sensibility and a passionate eloquence out-running his imaginative faculties, in the commencement of his literary career. His first romance, the “Family of Montorio,” is one of the wildest and strangest of all “false creations proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain.” It is for the most part a tissue of magnificent yet unappalling horrors. Its great faults as a work of amusement, are the long and unrelieved series of its gloomy and marvellous scenes, and the unsatisfactory explanation of them all, as arising from mere human agency. This last error he borrowed from Mrs. Ratcliffe, to whom he is far inferior in the economy of terrors, but whom he greatly transcends in the dark majesty of his style. As his events are far more wild and wondrous than hers, so his development is necessarily far more incredible and vexatious. There is,
in this story, a being whom we are long led to believe is not of this world—who speaks in the tones of the sepulchre, glides through the thickest walls, haunts two distant brothers in their most secret retirements through their strange wanderings, leads one of his victims to a scene which he believes infernal, and there terrifies him with sights of the wildest magic—and who after all this, and after really vindicating to the fancy his claim to the supernatural by the fearful cast of his language—is discovered to be a low impostor, who has produced all by the aid of poor tricks and secret passages! Where is the policy of this? Unless, by his power, the author had given a credibility to magic through four-fifths of his work, it never could have excited any feeling but that of impatience or of scorn. And when we have surrendered ourselves willingly to his guidance—when we have agreed to believe impossibilities at his bidding —why does he reward our credence with derision, and tacitly reproach us for not having detected his idle mockeries? After all, too, the reason is no more satisfied than the fancy; for it would be a thousand times easier to be. lieve in the possibility of spiritual influences, than in a long chain of mean contrivances, no one of which could ever succeed. The first is but one wonder, and that one to which our na. ture has a strange leaning; the last are numberless, and have nothing to reconcile them to our thoughts. In submitting to the former, we contentedly lay aside our reasoning faculties; in approaching the latter our reason itself is appealed to at the moment when it is insulted. Great talent is, however, unquestionably exhibited in this singular story. A stern justice breathes solemnly through all the scenes in the devoted castle, “Fate sits on its dark battlements, and frowns.” There is a spirit of deep philosophy in the tracing of the gradual influence of patricidal thoughts on the hearts of the brothers, which would finally exhibit the danger of dallying with evil fancies, if the subject were not removed so far from all ordinary temptations. Some of the scenes of horror, if they were not accumulated until they wear out their impression, would produce an effect inferior to none in the works of Ratcliffe or of Lewis. The scene in which Flippo escapes from the assassins, deserves to be ranked with the robber-scenes in the Monk and Count Fathom. The diction of the whole is rich and energetic—not, indeed, flowing in a calm beauty which may glide on for everbut impetuous as a mountain torrent, which, though it speedily passes away, leaves behind it no common spoilsit. sits on the sile §:...; ". and oran Which cannot die, and will not be destroyed.”
“The Wild Irish Boy” is, on the whole, inferior to Montorio, though it served to give a farther glimpse into the vast extent of the author's resources. “The Milesian” is, perhaps, the most extraordinary of his romances. There is a bleak and misty grandeur about it, which, in spite of its glaring defects, sustains for it an abiding-place in the soul. Yet never, perhaps, was there a more unequal productionrendered popular, not by its poetical beauties, but by the violence with which it jars on the sensibilities, and awakens the sluggish heart from its lethargy. “Manuel,” its successor, feebler, though in the same style, excited little attention, and less sympathy. In “Fredolpho,” the author, as though he had resolved to sting the public into a sense of his power, crowded together characters of such matchless depravity, sentiments of such a demoniac cast, and events of such gratuitous horror, that the
alternately exhibiting the grossest plagiarism and the wildest originality—now swelling into offensive bombast, and anon disclosing the simplest majesty of nature, fluctuating with inconstant ebb between the sublime and the ridiculous, the delicate and the revolting. “Women, or Pour et Contre,” is less unequal, but we think, on the whole, less interesting than the author's earlier productions. He should not venture, as in this work he has done, into the ordinary paths of existence.
His persons, if not cast in a high and heroic | moral taste of the audience, injured as it had mould, have no stamp of reality upon them. been by the success of similar works, felt the The reader of this work, though often dazzled insult, and rose up indignantly against it. Yet and delighted, has a painful feeling that the in this piece were passages of a soft and characters are shadowy and unreal, like that mournful beauty, breathing a tender air of which is experienced in dreams. They are romance, which led us bitterly to regret that unpleasant and tantalizing likenesses, ap- the poet chose to “embower the spirit of a
proaching sufficiently near to the true to make us feel what they would be and lament what they are. Eva, Zaira, the manaic mother, and the group of Calvinists, have all a resemblance to nature—and sometimes to nature at its most passionate or its sweetest—but they look as at a distance from us, as though between us and them there were some veil, or discolouring medium, to baffle and perplex us. Still the novel is a splendid work; and gives the feeling that its author has “riches fineless” in store, which might delight as well as astonish the world, if he would cease to be their slave, and become their master. In the narrow boundaries of the Drama the redundancies of Mr. Maturin have been necessarily corrected. In this walk, indeed, there seems reason to believe that his genius would have grown purer, as it assumed a severer attitude; and that he would have sought to attain high and true passion, and lofty imagination, had he not been seduced by the admiration unhappily lavished on Lord Byron's writings. The feverish strength, the singular blending of good and evil, and the spirit of moral paradox, displayed in these works, were congenial with his tastes, and aroused in him the desire to imitate. “Bertram,” his first and most successful tragedy, is a fine piece of writing, wrought out of a nauseous tale, and
fiend, in mortal paradise of such sweet” song. We do not, however despair even yet of the regeneration of our author's taste. There has always been something of humanity to redeem those works in which his genius has been most perverted. There is no deliberate sneering at the disinterested and the pure—no cold derision of human hopes—no deadness to the lonely and the loving, in his writings. His error is that of a hasty trusting to feverish impulses, not of a malignant design. There is far more of the soul of goodness in his evil things, than in those of the noble bard whose example has assisted to mislead him. He does not, indeed, know so well how to place his unnatural characters in imposing attitudes—to work up his morbid sensibilities for sale—or to “build the lofty rhyme” on shattered principles, and the melancholy fragments of hope. But his diction is more rich, his fancy is more fruitful, and his compass of thought and feeling more extensive. Happy shall we be to see him doing justice at last to his powers— studying not to excite the wonder of a few barren readers or spectators, but to live in the hearts of the good of future times—and, to this high end, leaving discord for harmony, the startling for the true, and the evil which, however potent, is but for a season, for the pure and the holy which endure for ever'
REVIEW OF RYMER'S
WORKS ON TRAGEDY.
These are very curious and edifying works. The author (who was the compiler of the Fa:dera) appears to have been a man of considerable acuteness, maddened by a furious zeal for the honour of tragedy. He lays down the most fantastical rules for the composition which he chiefly reverses, and argues on them as “truths of holy writ.” He criticises Shakspeare as one invested with authority to sit in judgment on his powers, and passes on him as decisive a sentence of condemnation, as ever was awarded against a friendless poet by a Re
| viewer. We will select a few passages from his work, which may be consolatory to modern authors and useful to modern critics. The chief weight of Mr. Rymer's critical vengeance is wreaked on Othello. After a slight sketch of the plot, he proceeds at once to speak of the moral, which he seems to regard as of the first importance in tragedy. “Whatever rubs or difficulty may stick on the bark, the moral use of this fable is very instructive. First, this may be a caution to all maidens of quality, how, without their parents'
consent, they run away with blackamoors.. " Horace describes a soldier otherwise, Secondly, this may be a warning to all good Impyger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer. wives, that they look well to their linen. "Shakspeare knew his character of lago Thirdly, this may be a lesson to husbands, that was inconsistent. In this very play he probefore their jealousy be tragical, the proofs may nounces, be mathematical."
*If thou deliver more or less than truth, Our author then proceeds happily to satirize Thou art no soldier. Othello's colour. He observes, that "Shaks * This he knew, but to entertain the audience peare was accountable both to the eyes and with something new and surprising against to the ears." On this point we think his ob- common sense and nature, he would pass upon * jection is not without reason. We agree with us a close, dissembling, false, insinuating rasan excellent modern critic in the opinion, that cal, instead of an open-hearted, frank, plainthough a reader may sink Othello's colour in dealing soldier, a character constantly worn by his mind, a spectator can scarcely avoid losing them for some thousands of years in the world." the mind in the colour. But Mr. Rymer pro Against "the gentle lady married to the ceeds thus to characterize Othello's poble ac- Moor," Mr. Rymer cherishes a most exemplary count to the Senate of his whole course of hatred. He seems to labour for terms strong love.
enough to express the antipathy and scorn be “This was the charm, this was the philtre, bears her. The following are some of the the love-powder that took the daughter of this daintiest: noble Venetian. This was sufficient to make * There is nothing in the noble Desdemona, the Blackamoor white, and reconcile all, though that is not below any country kitchen-maid there had been a cloven foot into the bargain. with us.”—“No woman bred out of a pig-stye A meaner woman might as soon be taken by could talk so meanly." Aqua Tetrachymagogon."
Yet is Mr. Rymer no less enraged at her The idea of Othello's elevation to the rank death than at her life. of a general, stings Mr. Rymer almost to mad " Here (he exclaims in an agony of passion) ness. He regards the poet's offence as a kind a noble Venetian lady is to be murdered by of misprision of treason.
our poet, in sober sadness, purely for being « The character of the state (of Venice) is a fool. No pagan poet but would have found to employ strangers in their wars; but shall a some machine for her deliverance. Pegasus poet thence fancy that they will set a negro to would have strained hard to have brought old be their general; or trust a Moor to defend Perseus on his back, time enough to rescue them against the Turk? With us, a Blacka- this Andromeda from so foul a monster. Has moor might rise to he a trumpeter, but Shaks- our Christian poetry no generosity, no bowels ? peare would not have him less than a lieute- Ha, ha, Sir Launcelot! Ha, Sir George ! Will nant-general. With us, a Moor might marry no ghost leave the shades for us in extremity, some little drab or small-coal wench ; Shaks- to save a distressed damsel ?" peare would provide him the daughter and heir On the “expression," that is, we presnme, the of some great lord, or privy-counsellor; and poetry of the work, Mr. Rymer does not think all the town should reckon it a very suitable it necessary to dwell; though he admits that match : yet the English are not bred up with the verses rumbling in our ears, are of good that hatred and aversion to the Moors as the use to help off the action.” On those of ShaksVenetians, who suffer by a perpetual hostility peare he passes this summary judgment: "In from them,
the neighing of a horse, or in the growling of Littora littoribus contrària.'»
, there is a meaning, there is as lively Our author is as severe on Othello's cha- expression, and may I say more humanity, racter, as on his exaltation and colour. than many times in the tragical flights of
“Othello is made a Venetian general. We Shakspeare. Having settled this trivial point, see nothing done by him, nor related concern- he invites the reader“ to step among the scenes, ing him, that comports with the condition of a to observe the conduct on this tragedy." general, or, indeed, of a man, unless the killing In examining the first scene of Othello, our himself to avoid a death the law was about to critic weightily reprehends the sudden and inflict upon him. When his jealousy had startling manner in which Iago and Roderigo wrought him up to a resolution of his taking inform Brabantio of his daughter's elopement revenge for the supposed injury, he sets lago with the Moor. He regards their abruptness to the fighting part to kill Cassio, and chooses as an unpardonable violation of decorum, and, himself to murder the silly woman, his wife, by way of contrast to its rudeness, informs us, that was like to make no resistance."
that Mr. Rymer next undertakes to resent the
“In former days there wont to be kept at the affront put on the army by the making lago a courts of princes somebody in a fool's coat, soldier.
that in pure simplicity might let slip something, “But what is most intolerable is lago. He which made way for the ill news, and blunted is no Blackamoor soldier, so we may be sure the shock, which otherwise might have come he should be like other soldiers of our acquaint- too violent on the party." ance; yet never in tragedy, nor in comedy, nor
Mr. Rymer shows the council of Venice no in nature, was a soldier with his character ;- quarter. He thus daringly scrutinizes their take it in the author's own words :
proceedings. -some eternal villain,
"By their conduct and manner of talk, a Some busy and insinuating rogue,
body must strain hard to fancy the scene at Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office. Venice, and not rather at some of our Cinque