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MODERN PERIODICAL LITERATURE.

[New Monthly Magazine.]

LITTLE did the authors of the Spectator, all sympathize; without a command of images,

the Tattler, and the Guardian, think, while gratifying the simple appetites of our fathers for our periodical literature, how great would be the number, and how extensive the influence, of their successors in the nineteenth century. Little did they know that they were preparing the way for this strange era in the world of letters, when Reviews and Magazines supersede the necessity of research or thought —when each month they become more spirited, more poignant, and more exciting—and on every appearance awaken a pleasing crowd of turbulent sensations in authors, contributors, and the few who belong to neither of these classes, unknown to our laborious ancestors. Without entering, at present, into the inquiry whether this system be, on the whole, as beneficial as it is lively, we will just lightly glance at the chief of its productions, which have such varied and extensive influences for good or for evil. The Edinburgh Review—though its power is now on the wane—has perhaps, on the whole, produced a deeper and more extensive impression on the public mind than any other work of its species. It has two distinct characters— that of a series of original essays, and a critical examination of the new works of particular authors. The first of these constitutes its fairest claim to honourable distinction. In this point of view, it has one extraordinary merit, that instead of partially illustrating only one set of doctrines, it contains disquisitions equally convincing on almost all sides of almost all questions of literature or state policy. The “bane and antidote" are frequently to be found in the ample compass of its volumes, and not unfrequently from the same pen. Its Essays on Political Economy display talents of a very uncommon order. Their writers have contrived to make the dryest subjects enchanting, and the lowest and most debasing theories beautiful. Touched by them, the wretched dogmas of expediency have worn the air of venerable truths, and the degrading speculations of Malthus have appeared full of benevolence and of wisdom. They have exerted the uncommon art, while work.ng up a sophism into every possible form, to seem as though they had boundless store of reasons to spare— a very exuberance of proof–which the clearness of their argument rendered it unnecessary to use. The celebrated Editor of this work, with little imagination—little genuine wit—and no clear view of any great and central principles of criticism, has contrived to dazzle, to astonish, and occasionally to delight, multitudes of readers, and, at one period, to hold the temporary fate of authors at his will. His qualities are all singularly adapted to his office. Without deep feeling, which few can understand, he has a quick sensibility with which

he has a glittering radiance of words which the most superficial may admire; neither too hard-hearted always to refuse his admiration, nor too kindly to suppress a sneer, he has been enabled to appear most witty, most wise, and most eloquent, to those who have chosen him for their oracle. As Reviewers, who have exercised a fearful power over the hearts and the destinies of young aspirants to fame, this gentleman, and his varied coadjutors, have done many great and irreparable wrongs, Their very motto, “Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur,” applied to works offending only by their want of genius, asserted a fictitious crime to be punished by a voluntary tribunal. It implied that the author of a dull book was a criminal, whose sensibilities justice required to be stretched on the rack, and whose inmost soul it was a sacred duty to laceratel They even carried this atrocious absurdity farther—represented youthful poets as prima facie guilty; “swarming with a vicious fecundity, which invited and required destruction:” and spoke of the publication of verses as evidence, in itself, of want of sense, to be rebutted only by proofs of surpassing genius." Thus the sweetest hopes were to be rudely broken— the loveliest visions of existence were to be dissipated—the most ardent and most innocent souls were to be wrung with unutterable anguish—and a fearful risk incurred of crushing genius too mighty for sudden development, or of changing its energies into poison—in order that the public might be secured from the possibility of worthlessness becoming attractive, or individuals shielded from the misery of looking into a work which would not tempt their farther perusall But the Edinburgh Review has not been contented with deriding the pretensions of honest, but ungifted, aspirants; it has pursued with misrepresentation and ridicule the loftiest and the gentlest spirits of the age, and has prevented the world, for a little season, from recognising and enjoying their genius. One of their earliest numbers coutained an elaborate tissue of gross derision on that delicate production of feeling and of fancy—that fresh revival of the old English drama in all its antique graces—that piece of natural sweetness and of wood-land beautythe tragedy of John Woodvil. They directed the same species of barbarous ridicule against the tale of Cristabel, trying to excite laughter by the cheap process of changing the names of its heroines into Lady C. and Lady G., and employing the easy art of transmuting its rcmantic incidents into the language of frivolous life, to destroy the fame of its most profound and imaginative author. The mode of criticism adopted on this occasion might, it is

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obvious, be used with equal success, to give to the purest and loftiest of works a ludicrous air. But the mightiest offence of the Edinburgh Review is the wilful injustice which it has done to Wordsworth, or rather to the multitude whom it has debarred from the noblest stock of intellectual delights to be found in modern poetry, by the misrepresentation and the scorn which it has poured on his effusions. It would require a far longer essay than this to expose all the arts (for arts they have been) which the Review has employed to depreciate this holiest of living bards. To effect this malignant design, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, have been constantly represented as forming one perverse school or band of innovators—though there are perhaps no poets whose whole style and train of thought more essentially differ. To the same end, a few peculiar expressions—a few attempts at simplicity of expression on simple themes—a few extreme instances of naked language, which the fashionable gaudiness of poetry had incited —were dwelt on as exhibiting the poet's intellectual character, while passages of the purest and most majestic beauty, of the deepest pathos, and of the noblest music, were regarded as unworthy even to mitigate the critic's scorn. To this end, Southey—who, with all his rich and varied accomplishments, has comparatively but a small portion of Wordsworth's genius —and whose “wild and wondrous lays” are the very antithesis to Wordsworth’s intense musings on humanity, and new consecrations of familiar things—was represented as redeeming the school which his mightier friend degraded. To this end, even Wilson—one who had delighted to sit humbly at the feet of Wordsworth, and who derived his choicest inspirations from him—was praised as shedding unwonted lustre over the barrenness of his master. But why multiply examples Why attempt minutely to expose critics, who in “thoughts which do often lie too deep for tears” can find matter only for jesting—who speak of the high, imaginative conclusion of the White Doe of Rylston as a fine compliment of which they do not know the meaning—and who begin a long and laborious article on the noblest philosophical poem in the world with—“This will never do?” The Quarterly Review, inferior to the Edinburgh in its mode of treating matters of mere reason—and destitute of that glittering eloquence of which Mr. Jeffrey has been so lavish —is far superior to it in its tone of sentiment, taste, and morals. It has often given intimations of a sense that there are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the philosophy” of the Northern Reviewers. It has not regarded the wealth of nations as every thing, and the happiness of nations as nothing—it has not rested all the foundations of good on the shifting expediences of time— it has not treated human nature as a mere problem for critics to analyze and explain. Its articles on travels have been richly tinged with a spirit of the romantic. Its views of religious sectarianism—unlike the flippant impieties of its rival—have been full of real kindliness and honest sympathy. Its disquisi

tions on the state of the poor have been often replete with thoughts “informed by nobleness,” and rich in examples of lowly virtue, which have had power to make the heart glow with a genial warmth which Reviews can rarely inspire. Its attack on Lady Morgan, whatever were the merits of her work, was one of the coarsest insults ever offered in print by man to woman. But perhaps its worst piece of injustice was its laborious attempt to torture and ruin Mr. Keats, a poet, then of extreme youth, whose work was wholly unobjectionable in its tendencies, and whose sole offence was a friendship for one of the objects of the Reviewer's hatred, and his courage to avow it. We can form but a faint idea of what the heart of a young poet is, when he first begins to exercise his celestial faculties—how eager and tremulous are his hopes—how strange and tumultuous are his joys—how arduous is his difficulty of imbodying his rich imaginings in mortal language—how sensibly alive are all his feelings to the touches of this rough world! Yet we can guess enough of these to estimate, in some degree, the enormity of a cool attack on a soul so delicately strung—with such aspirations and such fears—in the beginning of its high career. Mr. Keats—who now happily has attained the vantage-ground whence he may defy criticism—was cruelly or wantonly held up to ridicule in the Quarterly Review— to his transitory pain, we fear, but to the lasting disgrace of his traducer. Shelley has less ground of complaining—for he who attacks established institutions with a martyr's spirit, must not be surprised if he is visited with a martyr's doom. All ridicule of Keats was unprovoked insult and injury—an attack on Shelley was open and honest warfare, in which there is nothing to censure but the mode in which it was conducted. To deprecate his principles—to confute his reasonings—to expose his inconsistencies—to picture forth vividly all that his critics believed respecting the tendencies of his works—was just and lawful; but to give currency to slanderous stories respecting his character, and above all, darkly to insinuate guilt which they forebore to develope, was unmanly, and could only serve to injure an honourable cause. Scarcely less disgraceful to the Review is the late elaborate piece of abuse against that great national work, the new edition of Stephens's Greek Thesaurus. It must, however, be confessed, that several articles in recent numbers of the Review have displayed very profound knowledge of the subjects treated, and a deep and gentle spirit of criticism. The British Review is, both in evil and good, far below the two great Quarterly Journals. It is, however, very far from wanting ability, and as it lacks the gall of its contemporaries, and speaks in the tone of real conviction, though we do not subscribe to all its opinions, we offer it our best wishes. The Pamphleteer is a work of very meritorious design. Its execution, depending less on the voluntary power of its editor than that of any other periodical work, is necessarily unequal. On the whole, it has imbodied a great number of valuable essays—which give a view of different sides of important questions, like the articles of the Edinburgh, but without the alloy which the inconsistency of the writers of the last mingle with their discussions. It has, we believe, on one or two occasions, suggested valuable hints to the legislature—especially in its view of the effects arising from the punishment of the pillory—which, although somewhat vicious and extravagant in its style, set the evils of that exhibition in so clear a light, that it was shortly after abolished, except in the instance of perjury. As the subject had not been investigated before, and the abolition followed so speedily, it may reasonably be presumed that this essay had no small share in terminating an infliction in which the people were, at once, judges and executioners—all the remains of virtue were too often extinguished —and justice perpetually insulted in the execution of its own sentences. The Retrospective Review is a bold experiment in these times, which well deserves to succeed, and has already attained far more notice than we should have expected to follow a periodical work which relates only to the past. To unveil with a reverent hand the treasures of other days—to disclose ties of sympathy with old time which else were hidden—to make us feel that beauty and truth are not things of yesterday—is the aim of no mean ambition, in which success will be without alloy, and failure without disgrace. There is an air of youth and inexperience doubtless about some of the articles; but can any thing be more pleasing than to see young enthusiasm, instead of dwelling on the gauds of the “ignorant present,” fondly cherishing the venerableness of old time, and reverently listening to the voices of ancestral wisdom? The future is all visionary and unreal—the past is the truly grand, and substantial and abiding. The airy visions of hope vanish as we proceed; but nothing can deprive us of our interest in that which has been. It is good, therefore, to have one periodical work exclusively devoted to “auld lang syne.” It is also pleasant to have one which, amidst an age whose literature is “rank with all unkindness,” is unaffected by party or prejudice, which feeds no depraved appetite, which ministers to no unworthy passion, but breathes one tender and harmonions spirit of revering love for the great departed. We shall rejoice, therefore, to see this work “rich with the spoils of time,” and gradually leading even the mere readers of periodical works, to feel with the gentle author of that divine sonnet, written in a blank leaf of Dugdale's Monasticon:—

“Notharsh nor rugged are the winding ways Of hoar antiquity, but strewn with flowers.”

These, we believe, are all the larger periodical works of celebrity not devoted to merely scientific purposes. Of the lesser Reviews, the Monthly, as the oldest, claims the first notice; though we cannot say much in its praise. A singular infelicity has attended many of its censures. To most of those who have conduced to the revival of poetry it has opposed its jeers and its mockeries. Cowper, who first

of rural scenery—whose timid and delicate soul shrunk from the slighest encounter with the world—whose very satire breathed gentleness and good-will to all his fellows—was agonized by its unfeeling scorn. Kirke White, another spirit almost too gentle for earth— painfully struggling by his poetical efforts to secure the scanty means of laborious study, was crushed almost to earth by its pitiable sentence, and his brief span of life filled with bitter anguish. This Review seems about twenty years behind the spirit of the times; and this, for a periodical work, is fully equal to a century in former ages. Far other notice does the Eclectic Review require. It is, indeed, devoted to a party; and to a party whose opinions are not very favourable to genial views of humanity, or to deep admiration of human genius. But not all the fiery zeal of sectarianism which has sometimes blazed through its disquisitions—nor all the strait-laced nicety with which it is sometimes disposed to regard earthly enjoyments—nor all the gloom which its spirit of Calvinism sheds on the mightiest efforts of virtue—can prevent us from feeling the awe-striking influences of honest principle — of hopes which are not shaken by the fluctuations of time—of faith which looks to “temples not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The Eclectic Review, indeed, in its earliest numbers, seemed resolved to oppose the spirit of its religion to the spirit of intellect and humanity, and even went to the fearful excess of heaping the vilest abuse on Shakspeare, and of hinting that his soul was mourning in the torments of hell, over the evils which his works had occasioned in the world." But its conductors have since

* This marvellous effusion of bigotry is contained in an article on Twiss's Index to Shakspeare in the third volume of the Review, p. 75. The Reviewer commences with the following tremendous sentence:–

“If the compiler of these volumes had been properly sensible of the value of time, and the relation which the employment of it bears to his eternal state, we should not have had to present our readers with the pitiable spectacle of a man advanced in years consuming the embers of vitality in making a complete verbal Index to the Plays of Shakspeare.”

After acknowledging the o of Shakspeare, the Reviewer observes, “He has been called, and justly too, the 'Poet of Nature.'. A slight acquaintance .# the religion of the Bible will show that it is of human nature in its worst shape, deformed by the basest passions, and agitated by the most vicious propensities, that the poet became the priest; and the incense offered at the altar of his goddess will spread its poisonous fumes over the hearts of his countrymen, till the memory of his works is extinct. Thousands of unhappy spirits, and thousands yet to increase their number, will everlastingly look back with unutterable anguish on the nights and days in which the plays of Shakspeare ministered to their guilty delights.” The Reviewer further complains of the inscription on Garrick's tomb (which is absurd enough, though on far different grounds)—as “the absurd and impious epitaph upon the tablet raised to one of themiserable retailers of his impurities?” “We commiserate,” continues the critic, “the heart of the man who can read the following lines without indignation:—

“And till eternity, with power sublime,
Shall mark the mortal hour of hoary time,
Shakspeare and Garrick, like twin stars, shall shine,
And each irradiate with a beam divine."

Par nobile fratrum!, Your same shall last during the emF. of vice and misery, in the extension of which you

ave acted so great a part! We make no apology for our sentiments, unfashionable as they are. Feeling the im portance of the condition of man as a moral agent, accountable not merely for the direct effects, but also for

restored “free nature's grace” to our pictures the remotest influence of his actions, while we arecrotrow

changed, or have grown wiser. Their Reviews of poetry have been, perhaps, on the whole, in the purest and the gentlest spirit of any which have been written in this age of criticism. Without resigning their doctrines, they have softened and humanized those who profess them, and have made their system of religion look smilingly, while they have striven to preserve it unspotted from the world. If occasionally they introduce their pious feelings where we regard them as misplaced, we may smile, but not in scorn." Their zeal is better than heartless indifference—their honest denunciations are not like the sneers of envy or the heartless jests which a mere desire of applause inspires. It is something to have real {...}. in times like these—a sense of things yond our frail nature—even where the feeling of the eternal is saddened by too harsh and exclusive views of God, and of his children: for, as observed by one of our old poets, “ Unless above himself he can Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!”f The British Critic is a highly respectable work, which does not require our praise, or offer any marks for our censure. It is, in a great measure, devoted to the interests of the church and of her ministers. It has sometimes shown a little sourness in its controversial discussions—but this is very different, indeed, from using cold sneers against unopposing authors. Its articles of criticism on poetryif not adorned by any singular felicity of expression—have often been, of late, at once clear-sighted and gentle. The Edinburgh Monthly Review is, on the whole, one of the ablest and fairest of the Monthly Reviews, though somewhat disproportionably filled with disquisitions on matters of state policy. Few literary changes within the late changeful years have been more remarkable than the alteration in the style and spirit of the magazines. Time was when their modest ambition reached only to the reputation of being the “abstracts and brief chronicles” of passing events—when they were well pleased to afford vent to the sighs of a poetical lover, or to give light fluttering for a month to an epigram on a lady's fan—when a circumstantial account of

names, we cannot but shudder at the state of those who hare opened fountains of impurity at which fashion leads its sucressive generations greedily to drink.”—Merciful Heaven: * We will give an instance of this—with a view to exhibit the peculiarities into which exclusive feelings lead; for observation, not for derision. In a very beautiful article on Wordsworth's Excursion, the critic notices a stanza, among several, on the death of Fox, where the poet—evidently not referring to the questions of immortality and judgment, but to the deprivations sustained by the world in the loss of the objects of its admiration—exclaims, -- Af. is passing from the earth o breathless nature's vast abyss; But when the mighty pass away, What is it more than thi That man, who is from §. sent forth, Doth yet to God return? Such ebb and flow will ever be, Then wherefore shall we mourn?” On which the Reviewer observes; “The question in the last two lines needs no answer: to that in the four preceding ones we must reply distinctly, “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the JudgMENT.’”—Heb. Ax. v. 27. f Daniel.

a murder, or an authentic description of a |birth-day dress, or the nice development of a family receipt, communicated, in their pages, to maiden ladies of a certain age an incalculable pleasure—and when the learned deciphering of an inscription on some rusty coin suf. ficed to give them a venerableness in the eyes of the old. If they, then, ever aspired to criticism, it was in mere kindness—to give a friendly greeting to the young adventurer, and afford him a taste of unmingled pleasure at the entrance of his perilous journey. Now they are full of wit, satire, and pungent remark —touching familiarly on the profoundest questions of philosophy as on the lightest varieties of manners—sometimes overthrowing a system with a joke, and destroying a reputation in the best humour in the world. One magazine— the Gentleman's—almost alone retains “the homely beauty of the good old cause,” in pristine simplicity of style. This periodical work is worthy of its title. Its very dulness is agreeable to us. It is as destitute of sprightliness and of gallas in the first of its years. Itsantiquarian disquisitions are very pleasant, giving us the feeling of sentiment without seeming to obtrude it on us, or to be designed for a display of the peculiar sensibility of their authors. We would not on any account lose the veteran Mr. Urban—though he will not, of course, suf. fice as a substitute for his juvenile competitors —but we heartily wish that he may go flourishing on in his green old age and honest selfcomplacency, to tell old stories, and remind us of old times, undisturbed by his gamesome and ambitious progeny! Yet we must turn from his gentle work to gaze on the bright Aurora Borealis, the new and ever-varying Northern Light—Blackwood's Magazine. We remember no work of which so much might be truly said, both in censure and in eulogy—no work, at some times so profound, and at others so trifling—one moment so instinct with noble indignation, the next so pitifully falling into the errors it had denounced—in one page breathing the deepest and the kindliest spirit of criticism, in another condescending to give currency to the lowest calumnies. The air of young life—the exuberance both of talent and of animal spirits— which this work indicates, will excuse much of that wantonness which evidently arises from the fresh spirit of hope and of joy. But there are some of its excesses which nothing can palliate, which can be attributed to nothing but malignant passions, or to the baser desire of extending its sale. Less censurable, but scarcely less productive of unpleasant results, is its practice of dragging the peculiarities, the conversation, and domestic habits of distinguished individuals into public view, to gratify a diseased curiosity at the expense of men by whom its authors have been trusted. Such a course, if largely followed, would destroy all that is private and social in life, and leave us nothing but our public existence. How must the joyous intercourses of society be chilled, and the free unbosoming of the soul be checked, by the feeling that some one is present who will put down every look, and word, and tone, in a note-book, and exhibit them to the com

mon gaze! If the enshading sanctities of life for inspiration from a purer spring than Belare to be cut away, as in Peter's Letters, or in sher's tap; and to desire sight of Apollo and the Letters from the Lakes—its joys will the Muses in a brighter ring than that of speedily perish. When they can no longer Moulsey-hurst. We ought not to forget the neste in privacy, they will wither. We can- debt which we owe to this magazine for infus. not, however, refuse to Blackwood's contribu- ing something of the finest and profoundest tors the praise of great boldness in throwing spirit of the German writers into our criticism, away the external dignities of literature, and and for its “high and hearted" eulogies of the mingling their wit and eloquence and poetry greatest, though not the most popular of our with the familiarities of life, with an ease living poets. which nothing but the consciousness of great We have thus impartially, we think, endeaand genuine talent could inspire or justify. voured to perform the delicate task of characMost of their jests have, we think, been carried terizing the principal contemporaries and rivals a little too far. The town begins to sicken of of the New Monthly Magazine ;-of which their pugilistic articles; to nauseate the blended our due regard to the Editor's modesty forbids language of Olympus and St. Giles's; to longl us to speak.

ON THE GENIUS AND WRITINGS OF WORDSWORTH.

[New MONTHLY MAGAZINE.)

How charming is divine Philosophy!
Not harsh nor crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo's lute!-MILTON.
Blessings be on him and immortal praise,
Who gave us nobler loves and nobler cares,
The Poet who on earth hath made us heirs
Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays!-WORDS WORTH.

Our readers will be disappointed if they ex-ling sentiment-or one new gleam cast on the pect to find in this article any of the usual inmost recesses of the soul, is more than a flippancies of criticism. Were we accustom- sufficient

compensation for a thousand critical ed to employ them, its subject would utterly errors. False doctrines of taste can endure confound us. Strange is their infatuation only for a little season, but the productions of who can fancy that the merits of a great poet genius are "for all time." Its discoveries are subjected to their decision, and that they cannot be lost-its images will not perish have any authority to pass judicial censures, its most delicate influences cannot be dissior confer beneficent praises, on one of the di- pated by the changes of times and of seasons. Vinest of intellects! We shall attempt to set it may be a curious and interesting question, forth the peculiar immunities and triumphs of whether a poet laboriously builds up his fame Wordsworth's genius, not as critics, but as with purpose and judgment, or, as has most disciples. To him our eulogy is nothing. But falsely been said of Shakspeare, " grows imwe would fain induce our readers to follow us mortal in his own despite;" but it cannot af" where we have garnered up our hearts," and feet his highest claims to the gratitude and would endeavour to remove those influences admiration of the world. If Milton preferred by which malignity and prejudice have striven Paradise Regained to Paradise Lost, does that to deter them from seeking some of the holiest strange mistake detract from our revering of those living springs of delight which poets love! What would be our feeling towards have opened for their species.

critics, who should venture to allude to it as A minute discussion of Wordsworth's system a proof that his works were unworthy of pewill not be necessary to our design. It is rusal, and decline an examination of those manifestly absurd to refer to it as a test of his works themselves on the ground that his perpoetical genius. When an author has given verse taste sufficiently proved his want of numerous creations to the world, he has fur- genius? Yet this is the mode by which ponisbed positive evidence of the nature and ex- pular Reviewers have attempted to depreciate tent of his powers, which must preclude the Wordsworth-they have argued from his theonecessity of deducing an opinion of them from ries to his poetry, instead of examining the the truth or falsehood of his theories. One poetry itsell-as if their reasoning was better poble imagination-one profound and affect-than the fact in question, or as if one eternal

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