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the to preserve, and of genius to exalt. principles. The common sense, even Assumptions were laid down as prin of the vulgar, was roused; and when ciples in morals, and inferences logi. it was no longer questioned that wa, cally enough deduced from them, with whether undertaken for objects of rethe determinate purpose of dissolving ligion or liberty, for colonies or conthe oldest and dearest ties of society, quest, ambition or revenge, was alike in the insane belief that doctrines, of calamitous to the many, it was gene which the inevitable tendency was to rally allowed that those institutions
, reduce man, in his affections and du- which time has hallowed to the affecties, to the irresponsible condition of tion of mankind, have their foundation the brute, must of necessity be alone in nature; and that the world is now the true philanthropy.
too old to dispute the justness of those Such was the state of literature, not decisions which successive ages have only in this country, but throughout pronounced, not only in morals, but Europe, till the French Revolution in all those modifications of art debegan to develope itself in events, pendent on sentiment, comprehending which could be clearly traced to the whatever relates to taste, philosophy, frantic maxims of its leaders--events or experience. 80 pregnant with crime and misery, This change, this counter-revolu. both of personal guilt and of national ca- tion, had taken place before the ape lamity, that some of the most eminent pearance of the Edinburgh Review; of the democratical school, startled at this was that susceptibility in the the practical enormities of their insane public mind, which prepared it to retheories, began openly to doubt the ceive a strong sensation (B) from a works soundness of many of their own first conducted professedly on rational and
(B) In speaking of the sensation which the early numbers of the work excited, it may be asked if it includes the effect produced by its personalities? Thelwall, in his Letter to Jeffrey, (and Thelwall, we believe, is the first who gave him a drubbing,) seems to have experienced the sensation in a very vivid degree.
“Some how or other,” says the angry author, " the treatment I have received must come before the public. Somewhere or other it must be inquired whether there are no limits to the impudent calumnies, the indecent scurrilities, and the audacious falsehoods and misrepresentations of Reviewers; or to the indecorous confederacies of young advocates, associated to destroy whomsoever such Reviewers may think proper to pro. scribe ? Somewhere or other it must be answered, why the conductors of a literary journal stept out of their way to injure an individual by the unprecedented review of a book that did not come within the regular cognizance of their tribunal ? Why they should have interlarded such pretended review with the grossest misrepresentations, the most demonstrable falsehoods, and even the mean insertion of pretended quotations of passages, not in that book to be found ?”
Again to Mr Jeffrey--at him, Thelwall
“ Why did you proceed to affirm as facts, upon the authority of that book, circumstances, for which, in that book, there is not a shadow of foundation? Why in such pretended Review, have you attributed to me boasts and ostentatious vauntings, not in that book to be found_or in any book-or any printing, writing, or speech, that ever proceeded from me? Why have you put together parts of disjointed propositions, in such a way as to make them insinuate conclusions the direct reverse of what the whole would necessarily demonstrate ? and finally, why have you printed within inverted commas, as quotations from that book, passages which, in that book, never existed ?"
If there was any truth in these charges, certainly it is not surprising that the Edinburgh Review did produce a sensation ; for it is not to be imagined that the dereliction of critical honesty was confined to Thelwall's case. Be this, however, as it may, it cannot be said that the charge in his case was unfounded. “ You insert,” says Thelwall, “ the following pretended quotations, marked with the distinction of inverted commas, as quotations in Reviews usually are ; and as, therefore, nothing but quotations certainly ought to be." We shall quote from the Review itself
“ In every page of this extraordinary Memoir, (Thelwal's Life,) we discover traces of that impatience of honest industry, that presumptuous vanity, and precarious principle
, (the devil's in it, if this does not look libetious and personal,) that have
thrown so many
adventurers upon the world, and drawn so many females from their plain work and their embroidery, to deļight the public by their beauty in the streets, and their novels in the
ablished principles; and whether and the nausea of the democratical
Review had or had not been a work debauch had subsided, that it was eminent ability, such was the desire necessarily most welcome, and natu
wholesome and temperate food, rally relished with avidity. er the stimulants of intoxication, Another preparatory cause essential
ulating libraries. They have all ' ardent temperaments,' like Mr Thelwall, ire ble feelings, enthusiastic virtues, and a noble contempt for mechanical drudgery, 1 regularity, and slow-paced erudition. These performances need no description.' Thelwall demands of MrJeffrey to point out in what page
of his lucubrations quotation here marked is to be found. In their answer the Reviewers are not licit, and they aggravate the cause of the author's sensation, by classing him
h the corporation of the persons of precarious and prostitute principles rein described. “ It would,” they say, “ be of little consequence, although -part of this impassioned phraseology could be found in Mr Thelwall’s Me. sir; but the truth is, that by far the greater part of it is to be found there, . much more than enough, to satisfy the reader, independently of other dence, that the Reviewer has judiciously classed him with persons of a kina ed taste and disposition. In the beginning of the life, for instance, we have, he ardent and independent spirit, who is the subject of this memoir, .8;) and we soon hear abundantly of “ his over irritable nerves,” (p. 9. ;) 3" feelings, which enthusiasm persuaded him were the badges of intellect,
the distinctions of virtue,” (p. 17;) the “ irritability of his mind,” (p. »;) bis “ enthusiasm and his temperament,” (p. 42. ;)" his distaste for bu. ess,” (p. 7. ;)" and his indignation and abhorrence of his trade,” (p. 13,) Now, if this is not special pleading, I should be glad to know what is?
ctor Johnson wrote, perhaps, all the words used by Mr Jeffrey; and it ruld be as much to the purpose to say, that he wrote also the articles write by the critic in the Edinburgh Review. I have thus been so particular uth poor Thelwall's case, because it was the first, and because also, it affords one comment on the Whiggish outcry about libels and personalities. The next author who openly expressed his sensations, was Dr Thomson, Remarks on the Review of his System of Chemistry, in which the charges are nilar to those of Thelwall. He accuses the Reviewers of a predetermined
rpose to attack his work. They,“ in the fulness of their hearts, had anunced their intention." * The Review of my work,” says the Doctor, “ was committed to the charge of a Sıtleman very well inclined, it was supposed, to tear it in pieces. The manuscript was mpleted in five weeks, and put into the hands of the Editor, with express permission make what alterations on the paper he thought proper. The Editor, who is fond of 'casm, thought it too tame a performance for the Edinburgh Review, and even de. Cred that the preface alone, in the hands of a good workman, would have furnished
fficient matter for filling a whole Review with abuse and repartee. It was thought resisite, of course, to give it a few touches of his own masterly hand; but, instead of ensulting the original, he satisfied himself with the garbled accounts of the Reviewer.
leaving out half sentences, and pruning away others, till they answered his purse, he has totally altered the original meaning, he has succeeded in giving the paraiph some point, at the trifling sacrifice of truth and candour.”_Page 11.
It may be worth while to give the reader a specimen of the perversion of ceaping here alluded to.
" The second part of the Preface,” says the Reviewer," rather checked our grows3 partiality; for instead of returning thanks to our fellow-labourers on the other side the Tweed, for the almost unqualified approbation which they bestowed on his fornier ition, or soliciting the same attention to the present, he boldly sets our whole corpora. in at defiance, and denies the competency of our tribunal." What is the fact ? The following passage occurs in Dr Thomson's Preface:
It would be improper to pass over in silence the many observations on the former lition, with which the author has been privately favoured, or which have made their pearance in the different
journals. To these the present edition is much indebted for accuracy,” &c. No wonder, indeed, that such sort of reviewing produced a sensation. How in Mr Jeffrey explain such things ?
ly contributed to ensure success and become a spiritless analysis, or, at best
, popularity to a work conducted on the a prosing speciality, in which the book rational and literary principles which under review was alone considered; the Edinburgh Review professed. Cri- and the reviewer shewed himself
, as it ticism, in the English journals, was were, acquainted with no other sub
Dr Robert Jackson's “ Letter to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review” complains, in the same strain of Thelwall and Dr Thomson, of “ garbled state. '37, ments, supported by rash assertion and pointed invective,” (p. 2.); and Lond Lauderdale, much about the same time (1804), also brought similar, and even greater charges against the Reviewers, on account of his work on Public Wealth
. in a pamphlet which they published in reply to his Lordship, they endeavour to answer an accusation of malignity, another of want of truth, a third, that the Reviewer of his Lordship's work wished to recommend himself to Mt 15 Pitt, by attacks on Lord Lauderdale's work. So much, therefore, for the sensation it produced.
It is not easy to imagine a greater blemish in the character of a critic, than? what is implied in the charge of misrepresentation of the author's meaning, and malicious misquotations of his sytle and statement. And yet there are charges against the Edinburgh Review which go even farther, and accuse it of being occasionally lent to purposes of personal pique and detraction. This we should hope is not well founded. It is, we believe, true of it, as of other per la riodical works, that besides the articles of regular correspondents
, it has now and then illuminated the world with certain efforts on the part of“ persons of quality." I I have been told, that the present Marquis of Lansdowne, when Lord Henry Petty, was a contributor, and that his Lordship favoured mankind with her: a review of one of his own published speeches, in which, without saying a werd -about the speech, he has spoken in very creditable terms of himself. This is a however, not very atrocious ; but the Rev. Mr Cockburn, in a pamphlet pub 1.7 lished at Cambridge, in 1803, entitled, a Letter to the Editors of the Edinburgh Review, in conclusion, after exposing a deal of most nefarious criticism, and 1 cloudy reasoning, says:
“ Before I take my leave, gentlemen, let me ask one question : Was the criticism or a sus my Work really written by any of those gentlemen who usually conduct the Edinburgh jik 130 Review? I think not :-The Introduction contained in the two first pages is, probably, by one of yourselves; the neat and terse criticism on my style at the conclusion, the op sting in the tail of the wasp, speaks the same acuteness which we have been accustomed to admire in your Review ; but all the body of the work is dull and confused. If I am not misinformed, you do frequently accept of foreign assistance. Have you not, in the present instance, allowed some disappointed candidate for Mr Buchanan's Prize, tu vent his anger and ill-will against the Examiners and me, and to bring disgrace upon
The next work in my collection of notices respecting the delinquency of the * Edinburgh Review, is “ A letter to Francis Jeffrey, Esq. by an Anti-reformist
, Edinburgh 1811.". The author imputes to the Review a tendency or design
lou to render the people “ dissatisfied and sulky.”
“I am unwilling,” says he, “ to impute such a design to any set of men ; but though your intentions may have been pointed to another object, certainly your language has always tended to produce this effect. Throughout your pages, the sentiments favour * strongly, so systematically, any uncharitable constructions of this nature, that many
8 will be of opinion, and certainly not without very strong grounds, that you had in vier the full design of exciting general discontent at least, if not absolute insurrection. In analyzing the system of criminal jurisprudence, established in France by Buonaparte
, you compare with it the analogous part of our own code. And what must be the feels ings the indignation of every true Briton, on hearing that our criminal law is considered as in
many respects inferior to Buonaparte's caricature of justice !"-p. 27. Another of the unanswered accusations of the French and anti-national predilections of the Edinburgh Review, is from the same work:
“ I cannot, sir, bring these remarks to a close without commenting on the almost us: accountable eagerness with which you seize every opportunity to palliate the revolting crimes of Buonaparte, and to hold him out to the country as irresistible from his talents and resources. In this partiality for him, you are not the only, though the loudest partizan. “While we,' exclaimed Lord Melville, with honest indignation, have been beat. ing up the spirit of the country, and
encouraging the people to encounter manfully the same difficulties and dangers to which they were unavoidably exposed,” &c.-P. 60.
t than the particular matter imme- be traced in the meagre and manifold itely before him. The personality articles of the monthly press. The d bitterness of a Dennis, and the spirit of the art was at once stale and ilosophy and dignity of a Warbur- acrid on particular topics, insipid and i and a Johnson, could no longer odious with respect to others. No at
The controversy between the English Universities and the Edinburgh Re?w, it is now unnecessary to notice. The ignorance of “ the associates,” was mpletely exposed, and the result is known to so many of those who were filly interested in the discussion, that it is needless almost to refer to it. But, dependent of the general question, there were particular topics intruded that ght to be noticed, as they serve to prove the ignorance of the Reviewers on every subjects which they affected to discuss most learnedly. For some of these would refer to the Rev. Mr S. Butler's letter to the Rev. Mr C. J. Blomfieldublished at Shrewsbury, in 1810.—The letter respects the Cambridge Eschys, and the Oxford Strabo. “ The Edinburgh Review,” says Mr Butler, “observes, that there is reason, how. er, to believe, that some of the libraries on the continent conceal manuscripts, more luable than any which have yet been collated by any editor ; one in particular, of nerable antiquity, is preserved in the Medicean library at Florence ; unless, as it is ost probable, it has been conveyed with the other treasures of that city, to the vast useum of learning and arts at Paris.' _“ Now from hence,” says Mr Butler, ust infer that the Medicean MS. has never been collated. The contrary is the fact ; have now two very accurate collations of that MS. lying before me, one of which is anscribed from the book already mentioned, [a book which the Reviewer saw,] and as made for Dr Nedham, by Salvini, &c.—I put it therefore to you, my dear sir, shether the Reviewer, in this instance, is not guilty of a most unfair and illiberal insi. uation ?. He could not be ignorant of what must have stared him in the face in every ote; he must, therefore, have been silent through the basest and most malevolent de. ign.”_P. 13. Mr R. Wharton, we ought to have mentioned, in 1809, published narks on the jacobinical tendency of the Edinburgh Review, in a letter to he Earl of Lonsdale,” which may, perhaps, account for the violence which las subsequently been expressed by some of the Reviewers against the noble Lord and his family; but it is not my object, nor the design of these brief and ursory sketches, to notice matters of this sort. There is, however, an amusing etter by a personage who styles himself Senex, published by Hatchard about he same time, that deserves some attention. Pages 5th and 6th are, indeed, particularly entertaining, wherein the writer alludes to certain physiognomical peculiarities of the writers in the Review, as indicatory of their character ; but I cannot afford to quote such passages, and it would destroy their effect to abridge them.
In 1809, an Expostulatory Letter was addressed to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review, published by Longman. It seems to have been called forth by the want of critical discernment in the review of the works of Miss Baillie.
" You have uniformly,” says the author, “ treated all feminine attempts in literature as King Lear's fool describes the cook-maid to have treated the live eels that she was putting in a pye. Whenever they lifted their heads, she rapped them on the coxcombs with a stick, and cried, Down, wantons, down." **** 66 Witness the unmanly and illiberal treatment of your fair and ingenious countrywomen, Mrs H. and Miss B. The pretensions of the first to poetical elegance, in the very limited department which she has modestly chosen, have been already acknowleged by the public, to whom you, as well as she, must finally submit, as your ultimate judge.'
*Miss B. without pretensions to learning, and too much occupied by the duties of a life singularly useful and innocent, even to find leisure for extensive reading, has been urged, by the irresistible impulse of a daring and truly original genius, to throw into a dramatic form the noble conceptions of her untutored mind. Thus circumstanced, and thus impelled, she certainly claims every indulgence.”. P. 20.
But the author, in a subsequent paragraph, says,
“ It is not altogether the matter, but the caustic harshness of the manner, to an author so modest, defenceless, and respectable, that produced general disgust."
It was about 1808-9, that the Edinburgh Review reached the acme of insolence. It had then become fearless and infatuated, and the cry began to rise from all sides against it. Among others who attacked it at that time, the
tempt was made to govern or direct nected students, to ridicule and coin die public taste, or public opinion, but tempt. The persons concerned in the only to puff to palling the works of inglorious profession of a London reo the trade-hacks, and to sentence, in a viewer of that period, were unknow; single sentence, the labours of uncon- and the ignorance of the world, which
deadliest wound it received was from a pamphlet entitled, “The Dangers of ! the Edinburgh Review; or a brief Exposure of its Principles in Religion, Mom! rals, and Politics.” The writer accused it “ of infidelity in religion ; licen ! tiousness in morals; and seditious and revolutionary principles in politics." P.4 T! And, with considerable ability and great temper, substantiates the first of these grave accusations. “ As these Reviewers," says he, “recommend infidel books," so, in perfect consistency, they despise the Scriptures.
5. We shall leave it,” (say they, No. 13, p. 99.) * to others to decide, whether the taste of that critic be very good, who prefers the harp of the Jerus to the lyre of the Greeks ; and who plucks the laurel from the brow of Homer, to place it on the head of a i good King David. P. 6.
And as the Edinburgh Reviewers despise the Scriptures, so of course they reject their doctrines.
" We do not,” (say they, No. 14, p. 418 and 419,)“ know the designs of the Cra. tor in the construction of the universe, or the ultimate destination of man. The ides of its being our duty to co-operate with the designs of Providence, we think the meet impious presumption !” “ Now, Christians do know the ultimate destination of mat; they know that he will arise at the last day from the dead, and will be either eternally happy or eternally miserable. Infidels do not know this.”' &c. P. 8.
In No. 24, p. 357, they scruple not to call Plato, Zeno, and Leibnitz, the “sublimest teachers of moral wisdom."-" Now believers in the Gospel think that Jesus Christ is the sublimest teacher of moral wisdom," &c. P. 10.
The writer of the pamphlet, after shewing the infidel spirit that pervaded the Review, proceeds with the proofs of its licentiousness.
“ Now," says he,“ no man of strict moral principles can speak of vicious and levd books but with reprehension; but the Edinburgh Reviewers speak of Voltaire's Can. dide, one of the most obscene books, as a work which afforded them much pleasure." |
*••“ A work, whose great object it was to ridicule a Providence, and which abounds with the most lewd and licentious incidents and descriptions." P. 16.
Upon the subject of its seditious tendency I shall say nothing. Party spirit at the time ran high,--the Whigs had been expelled from office by the late King, and they were still, like the outcast devils of the Paradise Losty weltering in the torments of mortified ambition, fallen from such a height.
I have already said that it is unnecessary to notice the controversy te u specting “ The Calumnies of the Edinburgh Review against the University o of Oxford ;” but I have before me an Edinburgh pamphlet, written by Mary H. Home Drummond, in which it appears that the Reviewers were ignorant 3 of the subject on which they had written ; and that their observations, instead of applying to the then state of the University, referred to a period long priat
“ It is strange,” says Mr Drummond, " that while these authors can set at defiance the anti-commercial decrees of Buonaparte, and present their readers with such inge nious and interesting pictures of foreign literature; that while Paris, and Petersburgh and Turkey, the East and West Indies, and the whole continent of America, are open to their researches, their supplies of information from the West of England should be 80 miserably scanty, that ten long years shall elapse before they are perfectly aware
" that a new system of education is established at Oxford.” P. 71.
The Reviewers probably knew as little of the state of literature in other countries as they did of the University of Oxford. But these notes have already extended to such a length that I must conclude them. They are sufficient to shew that a work, which failed so essentially in all the rules of just criticism, could not possibly endure long. Smartness and pertness for a tlme may amuse; but qualities of a more solid kind are requisite to preserve the public approbation.
It was my intention to have mentioned the conduct of the Review towards the late amiable Mr Grahame's beautiful poem of the “Sabbath ;” but as I Jeffrey personally'expressed his grief and contrition for the spleen he indulged on that occasion, it is unnecessary.