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has an ey& to seize and a hand to copy the wild and fleeting appearances of nature.
The lines which commence the second letter are so much to our taste,, and go so far toward making some degree of atonement for the moral blemishes of the poem already noticed, that we willingly introduce them.
'"What is a Church ?"—let Truth and Reason speak,
* From Christian folds, the one selected race, .
* Of all professions, and in every place.'' p. 17.
■ This letter includes an indifferent description of the church and monuments, with a well told and pathetic story.
In the third letter, which describes the Vicar and Curate, we should be at no loss to find room for censure- The terms in which the frigidity of the former is adverted to^ and the address to * male lilies,'produce an impression more conformable to the strain of sentiment Mr. C. has too often pursued, than to that sober and subdued state of the passions which it would be in character for him to recommend. The. strength of the sensual appetites is surely an adequate competitor to the rational and spiritual powers of our nature, without being made the subject of poetical panegyric by a Christian moralist. This is another of the numerous instances.) in which Mr. Crabbe has certainly not been prompted by an anxiety to employ his influence with the public in assisting the cause of virtue. We have said enough on the subject of religion and religious parties, to take no farther notice of the fourth letter: the following lines, on the fiilfilment of prophecy exhibited in the present- state of the Jewish people, will shew what reason we have to regret the manner in which the author's talents have been hitherto employed. - ,
'What said their Prophet?—" Should'st thou disobey,
"Thy evening wish,—would God! I saw the Sun;
The characters of Archer, the honest but stern and suspicious attorney, and that of the cunning and unprincipled Swallow, are well drawn; but in the latter, Mr. C. takes care to throw in some sarcasms on the '■ zealoti,' who were too ready to claim him as a convert and trust him as a treasurer.
We must pass hastily over several of the succeeding letters, which contain some pleasing sketches of scenery and manners, but upon the whole rather tire than encourage the attention. The tenth letter affords a good specimen of Mr. C.'s manner; ft is a card-table scene, which some of our readers may find no difficulty in realizing.
.* Meantime Discretion bids the Tongue be still,
"Sir, I protest, were Job himself at play,
4 Complain of me! and so you might indeed,
* That fatal Heart—but I forgot your Play—
4 Some Folk have ever thrown their Hearts away.'
44 Yes, and their Diamonds: I have heard of one *' Who made a Beggar of an only Son."
4 Better a Beggar, than to see htm tied *To Art and Spite, to Insolence and Pride.'
44 Sir, were I you, I'd strive to be polite, "Against my Nature, for a single Night."
4 Against their Nature they might show their Skill
* With small Success, who're Maids against their will.*
Is this too much? alas! my bashful Muse
•I scorn Suspicion, Ma'am, but while you star»4»"^r • " *
• Behind that Lady, pray keep down your hand.' >-i.
'Good Heav'n, revoke! remember, if the Set
* Be lost, in honour you should pay the Debt.' ,(,
"There, there's your Money; but, while I have'life, "I'll never more sit down with Man and Wife; *' They snap and snarl indeed, but in the heat "Of all their Spleen, their Understandings meet; "They are Free-Masons, and have many a Sign, "That we, poor devils ! never can divine: "May it be told, do ye divide th' Amount, "Or goes it all to Family Account ?"' pp. 138, 139, There are some happy observations in the same letter, ott
the quarrels and reconciliations of what is ealled a convivial
'Till Wine, that rais'd the Tempest makes it cease,
In this and the following extract, there is an air of truth and a vein of humour, which recal and perhaps excel many of the passages we admire in Cowper.
'A Club there is of Smokers—Dare you come
Much of a similar kind will be found in the amu'stng letter on Inns: but the mode of introducing the sighs, is rather forced and affected. The story of James and Juliet exposes the, author to the same kind of censure we'have already intimated; his lenity and sprightliness on tfie subject of 'frailty,' is a fine contrast to his bitterness on that of 'enthusiasm.' The story of Frederic, in the letter on Strolling Players, is curious, but not told with the author's usual felicity^
The character of Sir Dtvys Brand, governor of the almshouse, is a fine portrait of a very original and peculiar subject. It is needless to observe, how well Mr. Grabbe succeeds in thi* sort of delineation. He chooses his character well: his strokes are masterly, and his likenesses striking. We cannot particularize the distinguishing merits of those of Blaney the profligate, Clelia the vicious and worn-out coquette, Benbaw the 'boon companion,' (the least interesting of all except for the memoir of a Squire Asgill which he is made to relate,)- Jachin already alluded to, and Ellen Orford a signal example of patience under a complication of distress. In this last story, a horrible incident is introduced, like a ghastly corpse or frightful spectre in the back ground of a picture, hot very obvious, but which the moment it is discerned chills the blood: it even surpasses the unnatural outrage related in his poem, intitled the ' Hall of Justice.' The art with which this discovery is iutimated, would on any other occasion deserve praise. But we question the wisdom of familiarizing the mind with brutal profligacy and portentous crimes.
The story of Abel Keene\% very singular. He is described as a quiet simple man, who grew old in the lowest rank of pedagogues, and at length became clerk in ;i countinghouse, vyhere he was persuaded to turn infidel, beau, and debauchee. Ou^ first extract contains part of his confessions, when worn out \vi;h age, and struggling, half-insane, between fear and presumption, remorse ana infidelity.
The master-piece of the volume, however, for energy of conception and effect, is the sory of Peter Griwes, a ruffian from his very infancy, a ferocious tyrant and suspected murderer, who finally became a madman, tormented with the most gloomy visions, and self-convicted of the most atrocious crimes. We have been exceedingly struck with the peculiar and unrivalled skill, with which Mr. Crabbe paints the horrors of a disordered imagination; a pre-eminence which we can only account for, by supposing it may have been his mournful privilege, for a considerable length of tieie, to watch the emotions and hear the ravings of the insane.
Our extracts must conclude with a view of low life, in Mr. Cfibbe's own manner. It represents the interior of a large building, inhabited by a promiscuous and vile assemblage of all the shapes, of physical and moral evil. It is a companionpictui* to the smuggler's haunt in his ' Village.* '. • 'Where'er the Floor allows an even space,
. . , , , Chalking and Marks of various Games have place;
Boys, without foresight, pleased in Halters swing;
On fixed Hook Men cast a flying Ring;
While Gin and Snuff their female Neighbours share,
And the black Beverage in the fractur'd Ware.
Are various Beds conceal'd, but none with care;
Where some by Day and some by Night, at best ■ -' "• Suit their Employments, seek uncertain Rest; j "■ '. The drowsy Children at their pleasure creep •-•
To the known Crib, and there securely sleep.
• Each end contains a Grate, and there beside Are hung Utensils for their boil'd and fry'd— All used at any hour, by Night, by Day, As suit the Purse, the Person, or the Prey.' p. 250. If we had not trespasser too far, we should add our author'* character of the excellent Eusebiua. We have left, however, too little room for a few general remarks. On the whole, we must say this is uot a very pleasing poem, and we question whether its popularity will ever bear a due proportion to the talent which in many passages it displays. There is no unity in it, no subject on which the interest excited may be concentrated and fixed. Of the borough, we know and care as little at the last page as at the first; perhaps less, because the title raises a curiosity which the volume disappoints. The admirable descriptions of scenery and sketches of character have^scarcely any connection and dependence, either mutual or common; and would lose; no interest if detached. There is also a great sameness in the subjects; they are specifically different, but generically alike. As the poem is too long, this fault is peculiarly unfortunate. Moral reflections are interspersed, of which, generally, however, it were better to be silent; for what could- we say in behalf of such lines as these?
'Vice, dreadful habit! when assum'd so long,
There is often a point and an edge in the expression, when there is not much strength or temper in the thought. There is little to delight the fancy, and less to captivate the heart. The versification also is monotonous; the perpetual, snappish recurrence of antitheses is tiresome; there are many very dull paragraphs, and numberless feeble lines. Several couplets are patched up with expletive clauses; and as the rhymes are generally very good, the consequence is that they are sometimes better than the diction. On one occasion, Mr. C. mentions the singular phenomenon of a young woman's 'tenors doubling as her hopes withdrew;' and in the following couplet, the Suvn amynn of rhyme is but too tyrannical.
• These drew him back, till Juliet's hut appeared, . »
Where love had drawn him when he should have—feared.'
It js .quite needless- to add any recommendation to pUr readers, to examine ^e,poemjbrtMi»seIvesV * Vou VI. * '^ T t