Page images
PDF
EPUB

-the background to one dark and melancholy fortunate in his domestic relations; the public figure.

treated him with cruel injustice ; his health Never had any writer so vast a command and spirits suffered from his dissipated habits of the whole eloquence of scorn, misanthropy, of life; he was, on the whole, an unhappy and despair. That Marah was never dry. No man. He early discovered that, by parading art could sweeten, no draughts could exhaust, his unhappiness before the multitude, he exits perennial waters of bitterness. Never was cited an unrivalled interest. The world gave there such variety in monotony as that of By- him every encouragement to talk about his ron. From maniac laughter to piercing la- mental sufferings. The effect which his first mentation, there was not a single note of hu- confessions produced, induced him to affect man anguish of which he was not master. much that he did not feel; and the affectation Year after year, and month after month, he probably reacted on his feelings. How far continued to repeat that to be wretched is the the character in which he exhibited himself destiny of all; that to be eminently wretched, was genuine, and how far theatrical, would is the destiny of the eminent; that all the de- probably have puzzled himself to say. sires by which we are cursed lead alike to There can be no doubt that this remarkable misery ;-if they are not gratified, to the misery man owed the vast influence which he exerof disappointment; if they are gratified, to the cised over his contemporaries, at least as misery of satiety. His principal heroes are much to his gloomy egotism as to the rea! men who have arrived by different roads at power of his poetry. We never could very the same goal of despair, who are sick of life, clearly understand how it is that egotism, so who are at war with society, who are support- unpopular in conversation, should be so popu. ed in their anguish only by an unconquerable larin writing; or how it is that men who af. pride, resembling that of Prometheus on the fect in their compositions qualities and feel. rock, or of Satan in the burning marl; who can ings which they have not, impose so much master their agonies by the force of their will, more easily on their contemporaries than on and who, to the last, defy the whole power of posterity. The interest which the loves of earth and heaven. He always described him- Petrarch excited in his own time, and the pityself as a man of the same kind with his facing fondness with which half Europe looked vourite creations, as a man whose heart had upon Rousseau, are well known. To readers been withered, whose capacity for happiness of our time, the love of Petrarch seems to was gone, and could not be restored; but whose have been love of that kind which breaks no invincible spirit dared the worst that could be hearts; and the sufferings of Rousseau to have fall him here or hereafter.

deserved laughter rather than pity-to have How much of this morbid feeling sprung been partly counterfeited, and partly the confrom an original disease of mind, how much sequences of his own perverseness and vanity. from real misfortune, how much from the What our grandchildren may think of the nervousness of dissipation, how much of it was character of Lord Byron, as exhibited in his fanciful, how much of it was merely affected, poetry, we will not pretend to guess. It is it is impossible for us, and would probably certain, that the interest which he excited dur. have been impossible for the most intimate ing his life is without a parallel in literary friends of Lord Byron, to decide. Whether history. The feeling with which young readthere ever existed, or can ever exist, a person ers of poetry regarded him, can be conceived answering to the description which he gave of only by those who have experienced it. To himself, may be doubted: but that he was not people who are unacquainted with the real casuch a person is beyond all doubt. It is ri-lamity,“ nothing is so dainty sweet as lovely diculous to imagine that a man whose mind melancholy.” This faint image of sorrow has was really imbued with scorn of his fellow. in all ages been considered by young gentlecreatures, would have published three or four men as an agreeable excitement. Old gentlebooks every year in order to tell them so; or men and middle-aged gentlemen have so many that a man, who could say with truth that he real causes of sadness, that they are rarely neither sought sympathy nor needed it, would inclined to be as sad as night only for wanhave admitted all Europe to hear his farewell tonness.” Indeed they want the power almost to his wife, and his biessings on his child. In as much as the inclination. We know very the second canto of Childe Harold, he tells us few persons engaged in active life, who, even that he is insensible to fame and obloquy: if they were to procure stools to be melancholy “Il may such contest now the spirit move,

upon, and were to sit down with all the pre Which heeds nor keen reproof nor partial praige." meditation of Master Stephen, would be able Yet we know, on the best evidence, that a day to enjoy much of what somebody calls the or two before he published these lines, he was “ecstasy of wo." greatly, indeed childishly, elated by the com Among that large class of young persons pliments paid to his maiden speech in the whose reading is almost entirely confined to House of Lords.

works of imagination, the popularity of Lord We are far, however, from thinking that his Byron was unbounded. They bought pictures sadness was altogether feigned. He was nad of him, they treasured up the smallest relics turally a man of great sensibility; he had been of him; they learned his poems by heart, and ill-educated; his feelings had been early ex-did their best to write like him, and to look posed to sharp trials; he had been crossed in like him. Many of them practised at the glass, his boyish love; he had been mortified by the in the hope of catching the curl of the upper failure of his first literary efforts; he was strait-lip, and the scowl of the brow, which appear ened in pecuniary circumstances; he was un- in some of his portraits. A few discarded

their neckcloths in imitation of their great were, to hate your neighbour, and to love your leader. For some years, the Minerva press neighbour's wife. sent forth no novel without a mysterious, un This affectation has passed away; and a few happy, Lara-like peer. The number of hope- more years will destroy whatever yet remains ful undergraduates and medical students who of that magical potency

which once belonged became things of dark imaginings, on whom to the name of Byron. To us he is still a man, the freshness of the heart ceased to fall like young, noble, and unhappy. To our children dew, whose passions had consumed themselves he will be merely a writer; and their imparto dust, and to whom the relief of tears was tial judgment will appoint his place among denied, passes all calculation. This was not writers, without regard to his rank or to his the worst. There was created in the minds of private history. That his poetry will undergo many of these enthusiasts, a pernicious and a severe sifting; that much of what has been absurd association between intellectual power admired by his contemporaries will be rejectand moral depravity. From the poetry of Lorded as worthless, we have little doubt. But we Byron they drew a system of ethics, compound- have as little doubt, that, after the closest scrued of misanthropy and voluptuousness; a sys- tiny, there will still remain much that can only tem in which the two great commandments' perish with the English language.

SOUTHEY'S EDITION OF THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.

(EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1831.]

This is an eminently beautiful and splendid in his choice of subjects. He should never edition of a book which well deserves all that have attempted to illustrate the Paradise Lost. the printer and the engraver can do for it. There can be no two manners more directly The life of Bunyan is, of course, not a per- opposed to each other, than the manner of his formance which can add much to the literary painting and the manner of Milton's poetry. reputation of such a writer as Mr. Southey. Those things which are mere accessaries in But it is written in excellent English, and, for the descriptions, become the principal objects the most part, in an excellent spirit. Mr. Sou in the pictures ; and those figures which they propounds, we need not say, many opi- are most prominent in the descriptions can be nions from which we altogether dissent; and detected in the pictures only by a very close his attempts to excuse the odious persecution scrutiny. Mr. Martin has succeeded perfectly to which Bunyan was subjected, have some- in representing the pillars and candelabras of times moved our indignation. But we will Pandemonium. But he has forgotten that avoid this topic. We are at present much Milton's Pandemonium is merely the back. more inclined to join in paying homage to the ground to Satan. In the picture, the Archangel genius of a great man, than to engage in a is scarcely visible amidst the endless coloncontroversy concerning church government nades of his infernal palace. Milton's Paraand toleration.

dise, again, is merely the background to his We must not pass without notice the en- Adam and Eve. But in Mr. Martin's picture gravings with which this beautiful volume is the landscape is every thing. Adam, Eve, decorated. Some of Mr. Heath's woodcuts are and Raphael attract much less notice than the admirably designed and executed. Mr. Mar- lake and the mountains, the gigantic flowers, cin's illustrations do not please us quite so and the giraffes which feed upon them. We well. His Valley of the Shadow of Death is have read, we forget where, that James the not that Valley of the Shadow of Death which Second sat to Verelst, the great flower-painter. Bunyan imagined. At all events, it is not that when the performance was finished, his madark and horrible glen which has from child- jesty appeared in the midst of sunflowers and hood been in our mind's eye. The valley is a tulips, which completely drew away all atten. cavern: the quagmire is a lake: the straight tion from the central figure. All who looked path runs zigzag: and Christian appears like at the portrait took it for a flower-piece. Mr. a speck in the darkness of the immense vault. Martin, we think, introduces his immeasurable We miss, too, those hideous forms which make spaces, his innumerable multitudes, his gorso striking a part of the description of Bunyan, geous prodigies of architecture and landscape, and which Salvator Rosa would have loved to almost as unseasonably as Verelst introduced draw. It is with unfeigned diffidence that we his flower-pots and nosegays. If Mr. Martin pronounce judgment on any question relating were to paint Lear in the storm, the blazing io the art of painting. But it appears to us sky, the sheets of rain, the swollen terrents, that Mr. Martin has not of late been fortunate and the tossing forest, would draw away all

attention from the agonies of the insulted king * The Pilgrim's Progress, with a life of John Bunyan. and father. If he were to paint the death of Ity ROBERT Souther, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. Ilustrated with Engravings. 8vo. London. 1830.

Lear the old man, asking the bystanders to

undo his button, would be thrown into the are not should be as though they were, that the shade by a vast blaze of pavilions, standards, imaginations of one mind should become the armour, and herald's coats. He would illus- personal recollections of another. And this trate the Orlando Furioso well, the Orlando miracle the tinker has wrought. There is no Innamorato still better, the Arabian Nights ascent, no declivity, no resting-place, no turnbest of all. Fairy palaces and gardens, porti- stile, with which we are not perfectly acquaintcoes of agate, and groves flowering with eme-ed. The wicket gate, and the desolate swamp ralds and rubies, inhabited by people for whom which separates it from the City of Destrucnobody cares, these are his proper domain. tion; the long line of road, as straight as a rule He would succeed admirably in the enchanted can make it; the Interpreter's house, and all ground of Alcina, or the mansion of Aladdin. its fair shows; the prisoner in the iron cage; But he should avoid Milton and Bunyan. the palace, at the doors of which armed men

The characteristic peculiarity of the Pil- kept guard, and on the battlements of which grim's Progress is, that it is the only work of walked persons clothed all in gold; the cross its kind which possesses a strong human in- and the sepulchre; the steep hill and the pleaterest. Other allegories only amuse the fancy. sant arbour; the stately front of the House The allegory of Bunyan has been read by many Beautiful by the wayside; the low green valley thousands with tears. There are some good of Humiliation, rich with grass and covered allegories in Johnson's works, and some of with flocks, all are as well known to us as the still higher merit by Addison. In these per- sights of our own street. Then we come to the formances there is, perhaps, as much wit and narrow place where Apollyon strode right ingenuity as in the Pilgrim's Progress. But across the whole breadth of the way, to stop the pleasure which is produced by the Vision the journey of Christian, and where afterwards of Mirza, or the Vision of Theodore, the gene the pillar was set up to testify how bravely the alogy of Wit, or the contest between Rest and pilgrim had fought the good fight. As we adLabour, is exactly similar to the pleasure vance, the valley becomes deeper and deeper. which we derive from one of Cowley's Odes, The shade of the precipices on both sides falls or from a Canto of Hudibras. It is a pleasure blacker and blacker. The clouds gather overwhich belongs wholly to the understanding, head. Doleful voices, the clanking of chains, and in which the feelings have no part what- and the rushing of many feet to and fro, are ever. Nay, even Spenser himself, though heard through the darkness. The way, hardly assuredly one of the greatest poets that ever discernible in gloom, runs close by the mouth lived, could not succeed in the attempt to make of the burning pit, which sends forth its flames, allegory interesting. It was in vain that he its noisome smoke, and its hideous shapes, to lavished the riches of his mind on the House terrify the adventurer. Thence he goes on, of Pride, and the House of Temperance. One amidst the snares and pitfalls, with the mangled unpardonable fault, the fault of tediousness, bodies of those who have perished lying in the pervades the whole of the Faerie Queen. We ditch by his side. At the end of the long dark become sick of Cardinal Virtues and Deadly valley, he passes the dens in which the old Sins, and long for the society of plain men and giants dwelt, amidst the bones and ashes of women. of the persons who read the first those whom they had slain. Canto, not one in ten reaches the end of the Then the road passes straight on through a First Book, and not one in a hundred perse- waste moor, till at length the towers of a disveres to the end of the poem. Very few and tant city appear before the traveller; and soon very weary are those who are in at the death he is in the midst of the innumerable multiof the Blatant Beast. If the last six books, tudes of Vanity Fair. There are the jugglers which are said to have been destroyed in Ire- and the apes, the shops and the puppet-shows. land, had been preserved, we doubt whether There are Italian Row, and French Row, and any heart less stout than that of a commentator Spanish Row, and Britain Row, with their would have held out to the end.

crowds of buyers, sellers, and loungers, jabIt is not so with the Pilgrim's Progress. bering all the languages of the earth. That wonderful book, while it obtains admira Thence we go on by the little hill of the siltion from the most fastidious critics, is loved ver mine, and through the meadow of lilies, by those who are too simple to admire it. along the bank of that pleasant river which is Doctor Johnson, all whose studies were desul-bordered on both sides by fruit trees. On the tory, and who hated, as he said, to read books left side, branches off the path leading to that through, made an exception in favour of the horrible castle, the court-yard of which is Pilgrim's Progress. That work, he said, was paved with the skulls oi pilgrims; and right one of the two or three works which he wished onward are the sheepfolds and orchards of the longer. It was by no common merit that the Delectable Mountains. illiterate sectary extracted praise like this from From the Delectable Mountains, the way lies the most pedantic of critics and the most through the fogs and briers of the Enchanted bigoted of Tories. In the wildest parts of Ground, with here and there a bed of sot: Scotland the Pilgrim's Progress is the delight cushions spread under a green arbour. And of the peasantry. In every nursery the Pil-beyond is the land of Beulah, where the flowers, grim's Progress is a greater favourite than the grapes, and the songs of birds never cease, Jack the Giant-Killer. Every reader knows and where the sun shines nighi and day. the straight and narrow path, as well as he Thence are plainly seen the golden pavements knows a road in which he has gone backward and streets of pearl

, on the other side of that and forward a hundred times. This is the black and cold river over which there is 10. highest miracle of genius-that thing's which bridge.

VOL. I.-17

All the stages of the journey, all the But we must return to Bunyan. The Pilforms which cross or overtake the pilgrims, grim's Progress undoubtedly is not a perfect -giants and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones allegory. The types are often inconsistent and shining ones; the tall, comely, swarthy with each other; and sometimes the allegorie Madam Bubble, with her great purse by her cal disguise is altogether thrown off. The side, and her fingers playing with the money ; river, for example, is emblematic of death, the black man in the bright vesture; Mr. and we are told that every human being must Worldly-Wiseman, and my Lord Hategood; pass through the river. But Faithful does not Mr. Talkative, and Mrs. Timorous—are all pass through it. He is martyred, not in sha. actually existing beings to us. We follow the dow, but in reality, at Vanity Fair. Hopeful travellers through their allegorical progress talks to Christian about Esau's birthriglit

, and with interest not inferior to that with which about his own convictions of sin, as Bunyar we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, might have talked with one of his own con. or Jeanie Deans from Edinburgh to London. gregation. The damsels at the House BeautiBunyan is almost the only writer that ever ful catechise Christiana's boys, as any good gave to the abstract the interest of the con- ladies might catechise any boys at a Sunday: crete. In the works of many celebrated au- school. But we do not believe that any man, thors, men are mere personifications. We whatever might be his genius, and whatever have not an Othello, but jealousy; not an Iago, his good luck, could long continue a figurative but perfidy; not a Brutus, but patriotism. history without falling into many inconsistThe mind of Bunyan, on the contrary, was so encies. We are sure that inconsistencies, imaginative, that personifications, when he scarcely less gross than the worst into which dealt with them, became men. A dialogue Bunyan has fallen, may be found in the shortbetween two qualities in his dream, has more est and most elaborate allegories of the Specdramatic effect than a dialogue between two tator and the Rambler. The Tale of a Tub and human beings in most plays. In this respect the History of John Bull swarm with similar the genius of Bunyan bore a great resem- errors, if the name of error can be properly blance to that of a man who had very little applied to that which is unavoidable. It is not else in common with him, Percy Bysshe Shel- easy to make a simile go on all-fours. But ley. The strong imagination of Shelley made we believe that no human ingenuity could him an idolater in his own despite. Out of produce such a centipede as a long allegory, the most indefinite terms of a hard, cold, dark, in which the correspondence between the outmetaphysical system, he made a gorgeous ward sign and the thing signified should be Pantheon, full of beautiful, majestic, and life-exactly preserved. Certainly no writer, anlike forms. He turned atheism itself into a cient or modern, has yet achieved the advenmythology, rich with visions as glorious as the ture. The best thing, on the whole, that an gods that live in the marble of Phidias, or the allegorist can do, is to present to his readers a virgin saints that smile on us from the canvass succession of analogies, each of which may of Murillo. The Spirit of Beauty, the Prin- separately be striking and happy, without lookciple of Good, the Principle of Evil, when he ing very nicely to see whether they harmonize treated of them, ceased to be abstractions. with each other. This Bunyan has done; and, They took shape and colour. They were no though a minute scrutiny may detect inconlonger mere words; but “intelligible forms;" sistencies in every page of his tale, the general "fair humanities;” objects of love, of adora- effect which the tale produces on all persons, tion, or of fear. As there can be no stronger learned and unlearned, proves that he has done signs of a mind destitute of the poetical faculty well. The passages which it is most difficult than that tendency which was so common to defend, are those in which he altogether among the writers of the French school to turn drops the allegory, and puts into the mouth of images into abstractions—Venus, for example, his pilgrims religious ejaculations and disquiinto Love, Minerva into Wisdom, Mars into sitions, better suited to his own pulpit at BedWar, anıl Bacchus into Festivity-so there can ford or Reading, than to the Enchanted Ground be no stronger sign of a mind truly poetical, of the Interpreter's Garden. Yet even these than a disposition to reverse this abstracting passages, though we will not undertake to deprocess, and to make individuals out of gene- fend them against the objections of critics, ralities. Some of the metaphysical and ethical we feel that we could ill spare. We feel that theories of Shelley were certainly most absurd the story owes much of its charm to these ocand pernicious. But we doubt whether any casional glimpses of solemn and affecting modern poet has possessed in an equal degree subjects, which will not be hidden, which force the highest qualities of the great ancient mas- themselves through the veil, and appear before

The words bard and inspiration, which us in their native aspect. The effect is not seem so cold and affected when applied to unlike that which is said to have been proother modern writers, have a perfect propriety duced on the ancient stage, when the eyes of when applied to him. He was not an author, the actor were seen flaming through his mask, but a bard. His poetry seems not to have been and giving life and expression to what would an art, but an inspiration. Had he lived to the else have been inanimate and uninteresting full age of man, he might not improbably have disguise. given to the world some great work of the very It is very amusing and very instructive ta highest rank ia design and execution. But, compare the Pilgrim's Progress with the Grace Alas!

Abounding. The latter work is indeed one of ο Δαφν και εβα ροον' εκλυσε δινα

the most remarkable pieces of autobiography ον Μωσαις φιλον νόρα, τον ου Νυμφαισιν απεχθη

in the world. It is a full and open confession

ters.

of the fancies which passed through the mind every tinker that ever lived has been a blackof an illiterate man, whose affections were guard. Indeed Mr. Southey acknowledges this warm, whose nerves were irritable, whose “Such he might have been expected to be by imagination was ungovernable, and who was his birth, breeding, and vocation. Scarcely under the influence of the strongest religious indeed, by possibility, could he have been excitement. In whatever age Bunyan had otherwise." "A man, whose manners and senlived, the history of his feelings would, in all timents are decidedly below those of his class, probability, have been very curious. But the deserves to be called a blackguard. But it is time in which his lot was cast was the time surely unfair to apply so strong a word of reof a great stirring of the human mind. A proach to one who is only what the great mass tremendous burst of public feeling, produced of every community must inevitably be. by the tyranny of the hierarchy, menaced the Those horrible internal conflicts which Bunold ecclesiastical institutions with destruction. yan has described with so much power of To the gloomy regularity of one intolerant language prove, not that he was a worse man church had succeeded the license of innume- than his neighbours, but that his mind was rable sects, drunk with the sweet and heady constantly occupied by religious considera. I 'st of their new liberty. Fanaticism, en- tions, that his fervour exceeded his knowledge, į dered by persecution, and destined to en- and that his imagination exercised despotic { der fresh persecution in turn, spread rapid- power over his body and mind. He heard ly through society. Even the strongest and voices from heaven: he saw strange visions most commanding minds were not proof against of distant hills, pleasant and sunny as his own this strange taint. Any time might have pro- Delectable Mountains; from those seats he was duced George Fox and James Naylor. But to shut out, and placed in a dark and horrible one time alone belong the frantic delusions wilderness, where he wandered through ice of such a statesman as Vane, and the hyste- and snow, striving to make his way into the rical tears of such a soldier as Cromwell." happy region of light. At one time he was

The history of Bunyan is the history of a seized with an inclination to work miracles. most excitable mind in an age of excitement. At another time he thought himself actually By most of his biographers he has been treated possessed by the devil. He could distinguish with gross injustice. They have understood the blasphemous whispers. He felt his inferin a popular sense all those strong terms of nal enemy pulling at his clothes behind him. self-condemnation which he employed in a He spurned with his feet, and struck with his theological sense. They have, therefore, re- hands, at the destroyer. Sometimes he was presented him as an abandoned wretch, re- tempted to sell his part in the salvation of manclaimed by means almost miraculous; or, to kind. Sometimes a violent impulse urged him use their favourite metaphor, “as a brand to start up from his food, to fall on his knees, plucked from the burning.” Mr. Ivimey calls and break forth into prayer. At length he him the depraved Bunyan, and the wicked fancied that he had committed the unpardontinker of Elstow. Surely Mr. Ivimey ought able sin. His agony convulsed his robust to have been too familiar with the bitter accu- frame. He was, he says, as if his breastbone sations which the most pious people are in the would split; and this he took for a sign that habit of bringing against themselves, to under- he was destined to burst asunder like Judas. stand literally all the strong expressions which The agitation of his nerves made all his moveare to be found in the Grace Abounding. It is ments tremulous; and this trembling, he supquite clear, as Mr. Southey most justly re- posed, was a visible mark of his reprobation, marks, that Mr. Bunyan never was a vicious like that which had been set on Cain. At one man. He married very early; and he solemn- time, indeed, an encouraging voice seemed ly declares that he was strictly faithful to his to rush in at the window, like the noise of wife. He does not appear to have been a wind, but very pleasant, and commanded, as drunkard. He owns, indeed, that when a boy, he says, a great calm in his soul. At another he never spoke without an oath. But a single time, a word of comfort "was spoke loud admonition cured him of this bad habit for life; unto him ; it showed a great word; it seemed and the cure must have been wrought early: to be writ in great letters.” But these intervals for at eighteen he was in the army of the Par- of ease were short. His state, during two liament; and if he had carried the vice of years and a half, was generally the most horri. profaneness into that service, he would doubt- ble that the human mind can imagine. “I less have received something more than an walked,” says he, with his own peculiar eloadmonition from Sergeant Bind-their-kings-in- quence, “to a neighbouring town; and sat chains, or Captain Hew-Agag-in-pieces-before-down upon a settle in the street, and fell into the-Lord. Bell-ringing, and playing at hockey a very deep pause about the most fearful state on Sundays, seem to have been the worst my sin had brought me to; and, aiter long vices of this depraved tinker. They would musing, I lifted up my head; but methought I have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud. saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens It is quite clear that, from a very early age, did grudge to give me light; and as if the very Banyan was a man of a strict life and of a stones in the streets and tiles upon the houses tender conscience. “He had been,” says Mr. did band themselves against me. Methought Southey, “a blackguard.” Even this we think that they all combined together to banish me too hard a censure. Bunyan was not, we ad- out of the world! I was abhurred of them, and mit, so fine a gentleman as Lord Digby; yet unfit to dwell among them, because I had sin. he was a blackguard no otherwise than as ned against the Saviour. Oh, how happy now

« PreviousContinue »