« 上一頁繼續 »
is adopted and then another-the horror of the first loan-the craving for the second-the hatred against our kind, which takes the place of all the once-ready affections-the grudging eye which we turn upon the blessings of others-the fierce vindictive joy which finds comfort in their misfortunes-the departure of shame, of gentleness, even of common civility-the meanness, the coarseness, that come in their place; all these are the attributes of those who, from better days, sink down into abject want. But these Mr. Bulwer has not painted. We must, however, admit, that in Algernon Mordaunt he has drawn the exceptionnot the rule. By-the-bye, we cannot but advert to the rare beauty of the love-letters-love-letters, generally speaking, the most luckless compositions, that ever made the false step that merges the sublime in the ridiculous. But here they are exquisite-tender, simple, and passionate. Another grace are the delicious touches of description that lie scattered through the pages. There are one or two bits of London, as real as a painting, and as imaginative as a poem.
A very clever essay on fiction is prefixed, full of acute and fine observation. There is one striking remark which we do not ever remember to have seen before the surmise that when Shakspeare described his characters, he described not so much his own conception as the person of the actor. The parallel between Shakspeare and Scott is drawn with admirable acumen; but not even Plutarch himself ever reconciled us to parallels. Opposition is the essence of genius-he were no great poet who resembled a predecessor. There is, however, one distinction. too true to be past over, viz., we are most familiar with the appearance of Scott's heroes, and with the hidden heart of those in Shakspeare. The bodily presence of Romeo or Hamlet are not imaged to the fancy as those of "the stately Leicester and the swart Templar." This is partly from the narrative giving scope for description not allowed by the drama-partly because the one was master of the internal, as the other was of the external world. No one ever described like Scott; you do not see the scene, you act in it. He himself tells a story of a Scotch country gentleman who broke in upon the description of the hunt in the "Lady of the Lake," by exclaiming, when the hounds swim after the boat in which Ellen and the knight seek "the enchanted hall," "By God, Sir, it will kill the dogs to take the water after such a day's work!" Who among us has not been equally carried away? But Shakspeare was as true and more profound; we know not the human emotion that might not find in him some most fitting expression. Scott delights in oddities, and he is more national than individual. But this is digressing. We cannot do more than allude to the notices of other writers scattered through this preface; they are as liberal as they are nicely discriminating. The fine mind delights in generous appreciation, and Mr. Bulwer never misses an opportunity of pointing out a merit or evincing a kindly interest in his cotemporaries. He concludes the exposition of his views in "The Disowned" by saying, "I was too young when I wrote it." Is not this rather an excellence? Every succeeding work will make us turn with a deeper interest to that which embodies the youth-the first, fresh, and enthusiastic feelings of Mr. Bulwer.
THE BLUNDERS OF THE REMARKABLY SKILFUL;
With a little Praise of the Press, and a Word on
Ir it be true that a little learning is a dangerous thing, it follows that a little more may be a little more dangerous; and that human liability to perpetrate blunders increases in the ratio of a capability to avoid them. We want a new version of the song of "Common Sense and Genius," which is good, as far as it goes-that is, just half-way towards truth. Its accomplished author, whose lively fancy is still exercising itself in new songs, ought to bestow upon this favourite among his old ones another catastrophe, which should do justice to Common Sense as well as to Genius, by making both heroes of the ballad walk into the river arm in arm. The truth would be doubled by doubling the tragedy. The only difference between the two-their fate being the same-consists in the place where, and the manner how. Genius, scrambling up Vesuvius, for the sake of saying that he had flung a summerset at the top, makes a magnificent exit down the crater. Common Sense, whose circuit is bounded by Temple-bar, Oxford-street, Hyde-parkcorner, and the House of Commons, on the east, north, west, and south, crosses the Regent-circus, and, with all his eyes fixed inquiringly upon Piccadilly, is run over by an omnibus suddenly emerging from the Quadrant. Genius acquires an ague in the Hellespont; while Common Sense takes the cramp in the Serpentine. "His genius was astonishing!" we all exclaim, when a man contrives to hang by the neck a few minutes too many in a slack-rope performance. "He was remarkable for his common sense!" is the invariable verdict, when a person achieves the distinction of setting fire to his house while reading the last " penny magazine" of useful knowledge in bed, with the candle rather near the curtain, on account of the small print.
Certain it is that exceeding skill is the prolific parent of exceedingly woful failures. The newspapers 66 teem, ," all the year round, with shocking accidents and calamitous occurrences, that would seem to have no origin on earth but the uncommon caution and peculiar ability of the parties who suffer by them. If we hear of a disaster above the average scale of calamity, we are sure to hear also that the ill-starred victim to it had a natural turn for averting danger, and a particular knack at keeping on the safe side of things. If a heavy waggon come in contact with a frailer vehicle, the waggoner is sure to be on his own side of the road, and not on the shafts; and if a gentleman happen to overturn his cab, and dash it to pieces, we know that he must be a driver of no ordinary skill and experience. If we are told of a horse gallopping over a few people in a crowded thoroughfare, we are sure to be informed at the same time that the rider is celebrated among his acquaintance for his equestrian accomplishments. In like manner, if a boat be run down by a craft, or carried away by the tide and upset, the feat is infallibly achieved under the auspices of somebody who had sounded all the depths and shoals of the river, and left no aquatic mystery unmastered. Would it not seem-(we beseech the reader to lay down his Magazine Sept.-VOL. XLV. NO. CLXXVII.
for a moment, and refer to any newspaper that may be near him)would it not seem that all the carriages which are demolished are driven by the more expert and cautious professors of the art, and that all the boats which are lost are managed by crack watermen? From this we must necessarily conclude, either that a character for excessive prudence and ability is only to be gained through the medium of a glaring mistake, and a fearful calamity as its consequence, or else that there is no danger so great as that of committing our destinies to hands best adapted to ensure our safety and keep us out of harm's way. Indeed, we may come to both conclusions. To the last we are led by the fact, that nine-tenths of the damage we have sustained in rubs against the sharp edges of the world, we owe to nothing else than the amazing cleverness and profound experience of our pastors and masters. The prodigiously-accomplished pilot by repute, is he who in practice brings you in safety almost to the very shore. Cunning people are admirable hands at an almost. Such knowledge as theirs supersedes the necessity of watchfulness, and they consequently fall fast asleep just as they arrive in the vicinity of a sand-bank. The greater the trust in our guide, the deeper the pit we walk into. If we would come to the other conclusion, we have only to open our eyes to the truth, that the world is abundantly beneficent to error, and waits only for a due exhibition of our vices, to give us credit for a prodigious degree of virtue. A man should make a fool of himself now and then, if he would attract attention to his wisdom. The " soberest creature alive" is a creature whom nobody notices or knows anything about; but let him parody the poet's celebrated maxim about error and forgiveness, and take for his motto
"To drink is human; to get drunk, divine;
and the world, immediately discovering all his previous sobriety, attributes his little falling-off to a natural generosity and liveliness of disposition, acted upon by a virtuous abhorrence of the cant of those Temperance Societies. A speculation suddenly fails. "Well, who would have guessed that?" cries everybody. "Such an admirable scheme!" says No. 1; "So ingenious and so original!" observes No. 2; "It was managed throughout with wonderful skill and knowledge of business!" remarks No. 3; "Especially that last movement which has so unluckily ended in ruin!" insinuates No. 4; "He is decidedly the most practical man in Europe!" asserts No. 5; "His judgment, it must be owned, is infallible!" pronounces No. 6. People never obtain a reputation for being infallible until they have undeniably failed; your bankrupt is worth two solvent men; he seldom wants backers when he has once fairly broken down. The road to success lies through defeat, as prophets flourish by the non-fulfilment of their predictions. To be the victim of an "unforeseen" accident is the surest way to procure a reputation for forethought. Who would think of placing implicit reliance on the construction of a safety-lamp that has not been celebrated by an explosion? Those safety-coaches that are renowned for the regularity of their upsets exactly opposite every twentieth milestone, are always inquired for with peculiar avidity by the knowing passenger. "Book me for the 'Safety' that overturned yesterday," is the demand most common among the various enterprising speculators by whom the stability of affairs is sustained. It tells the story of most of our fellowpassengers to the land's end of life.
"You talk of the world, Sir; the world is in its dotage; and yet the cosmogony" We know what you were about to observe, Mr. Jenkinson; we do talk of the world, and however much it may have puzzled the philosophers of all ages, the said philosophers have puzzled it still Our greatest moralists have indited the greatest libels upon its character. Commentators upon mundane matters have ever been ready enough to tell us, and we have been as apt to believe, that if a man makes but one false step-errs egregiously only once-discovers ignorance or infirmity upon a single point-the world never fails to cry out, "Just like him; we always said so; we told him how it would be!" If this were the cry our fathers heard, it has changed. It is manifest that a more generous system of injustice has come into fashion, for the good-natured world appears now to see in its votary's grandest blunder only the signal for recognising his consummate capacity; and in his most palpable failing, the cue for acknowledging his exemplary cha
We have just said-our self-complacency must be pardoned-we have just said something that smacks of originality. We have applied an epithet where it never was applied before, by writer in verse, or writer in prose, or writers who write in neither. The term good-natured" was never before connected with the "world," save in the sense intended by Sir Fretful in his association of the phrase with friendship. Yet have we, as we hope we have partly shown, applied it justly; and we once more appeal, for the rest of our proofs, to the press. It is thought by some that there is a disposition in high quarters to take the duty off newspapers; let us hope that the duty will never be taken off editors, for it is to them and theirs that we must attribute much of the influence which has already worked this improvement in the character of the world. Yes, even with the fear-and deep and most reverential it is—of the Member for Bath before our eyes, we scruple not to attribute the more charitable and generous feeling which has already diffused itself over society, to the working of that engine of corruption-that instrument of atrocity that weapon of the most cowardly wickedness-that dagger in the dark-that black thing without a white spot upon it, the press. Yes, though it hurl stones at us, still there are sermons in them. Let us own the truth. It is in the newspaper that we find the most kindly and beneficent views of the daily calamities it records; it is the newspaper that applies itself to bind up the wounds of society with the smallest amount of suffering and the largest degree of sympathy; it is the newspaper that, after relating a melancholy occurrence in terms more expressive of the harrowed feelings of a friend than of a mere looker-on and chronicler, takes the wider view of justice, and vindicates humanity, by intimating that "no blame is attributable to the coachman," and that "the conductor of the steam-carriage did all he could to prevent the mischief." According to the virtuous deplorers of the iniquity of the press, the newspaper should, in these cases, gratify its insatiable malice by imputing the utmost possible blame to all parties implicated, and by holding up each separate criminal to public reprobation as "a monster in the human form."
The newspaper is more generous than its assailants. If we admit the bitterness of its censure, we must also own the sweetness of its praise; for one drop of gall, it gives us fifty of honey. It is easy to say
that it traduces public men and stabs at private character; but you shall count up these its offences in an hour, and not find a year long enough to enumerate its voluntary laudations and spontaneous defences of mankind. Say what we will, it is in the main a peace-maker; it is the best adjudicator we can have, for rather than condemn rashly, it acquits both parties. Do we want evidence of the fact? every day furnishes it. We have a paragraph or two before us which we shall put into the witness-box. The other day, a steam-packet, while chasing another, was met by a third of larger size. They struck-the concussion was tremendous-the smaller vessel was partly destroyed, and a hundred persons, thankful for the preservation of their lives, were put on shore. Here there seemed to be something really wrong; no. "It is but right," says the account," to state that both captains are very old conductors of steam-vessels, and are considered to be two of the most skilful men in the trade." Does not this help our argument? Had these captains never come into disastrous collision, should we have ever heard of their skill? What appeared to be their misconduct has procured them a character for ability. Two or three days after this, a similarly creditable freak occurred; a schooner coming in contact with a steamer, and certain shoulders were dislocated. What says the narrative? "No blame is attached to the captain of the schooner." Is any imputable to the other party? no; "The captain of the steamer is a very persevering and steady man." We quote the very words of the account; and ask, would our captain ever have been, as he now is, celebrated for steadiness, had he not played off a prank that rendered his possession of that respectable quality particularly problematical?
It would be a little curious, under these circumstances, if the world were to fail of growing considerate and merciful-even overmuch, if that be possible. At any rate, let us leave off the old-fashioned habit of assertion, that society, receiving these impressions, is unindulgent and uncharitable, and that the papers it patronises are fond of construing harshly and dealing in libel. All that is to be feared is, that, as this good-nature is the product of the small tree of knowledge which is already planted among us, the considerateness for human error may byand-by reach to an inconvenient pitch; as a man may be tempted to transgress for the sake of acquiring a certificate of innocence- to blunder outrageously, by way of distinguishing himself for his infallibility. We are yet in our infancy of intelligence, and, like infants, must be fed through the medium of a quill for some time longer. But the day is fast approaching when we shall no longer buy other people's papers, but write them ourselves-when every family will produce its own journal, and every man will be his own editor. Then what a rivalry will there be in the race of generosity! Society will be one virtue, and the world will be an "entire and perfect chrysolite." So may we prophesy from the fact, that every one of us can already reckon up a dozen acquaintances whom we might suppose to be really vulgar people, if the world had not decreed them to be persons of high breeding; and as many more whom we should be apt enough to mistake for dull dogs, if the world were not in raptures with their brilliant gifts and incredible accomplishments.