« PreviousContinue »
English Poetry; and a little later by Homer and the Bible. It was not likely to be corrupted afterwards."
The present volume contains " Joan of Arc," and deserves to be read and studied, not merely on account of its own merits, but as being the forerunner of more splendid achievements. Let us see what were the circumstances which attended the composition of this early poem.
Early in July 1793, I happened to fall into conversation at Oxford, with an old schoolfellow, upon the story of Joan of Acre, and it then struck me as being singularly well adapted for a poem. The long vacation commenced immediately afterwards. As soon as I reached home, I formed the outline of a plan, and wrote about three hundred lines. The remainder of the month was passed in travelling; and I was too much engaged with new scenes and circumstances to proceed, even in thought, with what had been broken off. In August I went to visit my old schoolfellow, Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, who at that time resided with his parents at Brixton Causeway, about four miles on the Surrey side of the metropolis. There, the day after completing my nineteenth year, I resumed the undertaking; and there, in six weeks from that day, finished what I called an epic poem in twelve books.
"My progress would not have been so rapid had it not been for the opportunity of retirement which I enjoyed there, and the encouragement that I received. In those days, London had not extended in that direction farther than Kennington; beyond which place the scene changed suddenly, and there was an air and appearance of country which might now be sought in vain at a far greater distance from town. There was nothing indeed to remind one that London was so near, except the smoke which overhung it. Mr. Bedford's residence was situated upon the edge of a common, on which shady lanes opened leading to the neighbouring villages (for such they were then) of Camberwell, Dulwich, and Clapham, and to Norwood. The view in front was bounded by the Surrey hills. Its size and structure showed it to be one of those good houses built in the early part of last century, by persons who having realised a respectable fortune in trade, were wise enough to be contented with it, and retire to pass the evening of their lives in the enjoyment of leisure and tranquillity. Tranquil indeed the place was for the neighbourhood did not extend beyond half-a-dozen families; and the London style and habits of visiting had not obtained among them. Uncle Toby himself might have enjoyed his rood and a half of ground there, and not have had it known. A fore court separated the house from the footpath and the road in front; behind, there was a large and well-stocked garden, with other spacious premises, in which utility and ornament were in some degree combined. At the extremity of the garden, and under the shade of four lofty linden trees, was a summer-house looking on an ornamental grass-plot, and fitted up as a conveniently habitable room. That summer-house was allotted to me, and there my mornings were passed at the desk. Whether it exists now or not, I am ignorant. The property has long since passed into other hands. The common is enclosed and divided by rectangular hedges and palings; rows of brick houses have supplanted the shade of aks and the elms; the brows of the Surrey hills bear a parapet of modərn villas, and the face of the whole district is changed."
How interesting are such facts as our last extract describes, especially
when such kindly and exalted sentiments clothed in unsurpassed beauty, crowd the narrative!
It is too late in the day to enter into any minute criticism of Joan of Arc, but we observe in Mr. Hall's "Book of Gems," a general estimate of Southey's Works, which, while generous, is upon the whole just. "Of late years," says Mr. Hall," the prose of Southey has been preferred to his poetry. It rarely happens that there is a preference without a disparagement. No poet in the present or the past century has written three such poems as Thalaba, Kahema, and Roderic. Others have more excelled in delineating what they can find before them in life; but none have given such proofs of extraordinary power in creating. He has been called diffuse, because there is a spaciousness and amplitude about his poetry—as if concentration was the highest quality of a writer. He lays all his thoughts before us; but they never rush forth tumultuously. He excels in unity of design and congruity of character; and never did poet more adequately express heroic fortitude and generous affections. He has not, however, limited his pen to grand paintings of epic character. Among his shorter productions will be found some light and graceful sketches, full of beauty and feeling, and not the less valuable because they invariably aim at promoting virtue." To this we would add, that Southey's great strength has been by many felt to be discoverable in his shorter pieces, where simplicity, magnanimity, and originality, all combine; and in these instead of creating he has, with a direct and erect grandeur of soul, addressed himself to human principles and sympathies of which all can judge, and which every one alive to poetry understands.
It is proper to state that this first volume is illustrated by a likeness of the author. The portrait is full of spirit and character; it is evidently a likeness. There is also a beautiful vignette of the monument of the " Maid.” In every external and mechanical respect, the volume is worthy of our fastidious age.
ART. XXXI.—Le Keux's Memorials of Cambridge. London: Tilt. In an Address, the proprietor of this new publication tells us that the complete success which has attended the Memorials of Oxford,—a work which we frequently had the pleasure to notice and recommend, has encouraged him to commence a similar undertaking in illustration of the University and Town of Cambridge. There can be no doubt, the me morials the latter great and ancient seat of learning rival those of the former, in point of variety, interest, and importance. The present number gives ample promise of all this, and no doubt, from what we have already seen in reference to Oxford, will become one of the best illustrated historical works that exists in this country. The engravings are by J. Le Keux, from original drawings made expressly for this publication, and the historical and descriptive accounts of the buildings, &c. are by Thomas Wright, M. A., of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Trinity College is the subject of the present number, a view of the Library and of the Great Court, in the finest style of Line Engraving, and two wood cuts embellishing and illustrating its pages. When completed, the work will form three handsome volumes, consisting of Forty-eight Monthly parts, each Octavo part at the price of One Shilling; while for the Quarto, with proof impressions, the charge is doubled.
ART. XXXII.-Third Report of the Glasgow Educational Society's Normal Seminary. Read at a Public Meeting, 13th April, 1837. Glasgow: Collins.
In an outline of the Constitution and Regulations of this Society, it is stated that its objects "shall be to obtain and diffuse information regarding the popular schools of our own and other countries-their excellences and defects, to awaken our countrymen to the educational wants of Scotland, -to solicit parliamentary inquiry and aid in behalf of the extension and improvement of our parochial schools, and, in particular, to maintain a Normal Seminary, in connection with our parochial Institutions, for the training of teachers in the most improved modes of intellectual and moral training, so that schoolmasters may enjoy a complete and professional education." It is further stated, that the Society shall consist of persons attached to the principles of a National Religious Establishment, and approving of a connexion between the Parochial Schools and the National Church; but yet that "all persons, of whatever religious denomination, desirous of being professionally trained as Schoolmasters, shall be admissible to the benefits of the Society's Normal Seminary." This latter clause and regulation ought to command the attention and admiration even of the most decided and strenuous advocate of the voluntary system. But we must say something more in behalf of the "Glasgow Educational Society," for its principles and deeds are too important to be let pass with a general announcement,-principles of deeds worthy, as well as sure to obtain a continuance and an enlargement of the notice which the British empire and enlightened Europe bestow upon the spirited and philanthropic achievements of the metropolis of the west of Scotland.
The germ of the Glasgow Educational Society was formed so far back as 1826, but it seems to have been at intervals receiving an accession of improvements, as inquiry and the development of the system suggested, till, as the Report states, from its commencement to the present date, it "has trained several thousand children, and above 260 teachers, two-thirds of whom are juvenile, and one-third Infant School teachers." A field has been purchased in the immediate vicinity of a large manufacturing population for £2,540, upon which buildings have been commenced in November last, that, when completed, will cost £9,000. Government having hitherto declined giving any answers to the applications of the Committee for the Society, the two great wings of the edifice, embracing two-thirds of the whole, are proceeding with, "leaving the Rector's hall, library, museum, and several other rooms, unprovided. The four Model Schools, with seventeen class-rooms, and two teachers' houses, are embraced in the two wings. In these buildings," it is further added, there will be accommodation for the daily training of 100 teachers, and above 1,000 children, with every arrangement fitted to render the Seminary a complete Schoolmaster's College, for the cultivation and training of the teachers and tutors of youth."
The Rector that has been appointed to superintend this large institution, which seems to be admirably calculated, from all that we have heard, to lend to the school system of Scotland, (which is founded on a Scriptural basis,) that aid which will educe its elastic power and tendency, is Mr. John M'Crie, son of the celebrated biographer of Knox and Melville,—a young
gentleman, who, besides the paternal training which he must be presumed to have obtained, has, since his appointment, been travelling in Germany and France, for the purpose of visiting the various Educational Institutions of these countries —thus harnessing himself for the responsible office which he is to occupy. There seems also, from the subscriptions on the part of private individuals, which have already been received, together with the annual subscriptions which are to follow, besides other sources of income, to be attained that point of activity and aid, which, if the institution meet the hopes of its friends, is sure to secure for it permanency and fame. It is, at any rate, a very noble experiment; and we feel confident, that by its exertions and achievements, it is to be the means of proving how necessary it is to combine moral with intellectual education, suited to a transition period in these departments, as well as of showing that knowledge alone, without Christian habits being inculcated and communicated, will fail in regard to the attainment of many of those great ends contemplated by the sanguine.
We have only to add, that this Report, extending only to about thirtysix pages, presents one of the most hopeful signs of the times, and is full of suggestive matter, especially to all who, as we do, watch narrowly the improvements which are taking place, and likely speedily to make advancement in the theory and practice of civilization.
ART. XXXIII.-Rev. David Simpson's Plea for Religion. Edited by his London: Jackson and Walford. 1837.
Or a New Edition of such a celebrated and standard work as the present, it is unnecessary for us to do more than to mention its merits and claims as compared with former impressions; and these are such as to entitle it to a decided preference. There is first of all the revision of the text by one who must be supposed best qualified to the duty, many additional Notes, and that various Statistics, which are adapted to the present time, did not enrich the former edition. There is also a Life of the Author by Sir J. B. Williams, LL. D., which is not only well written, ut evinces a genial spirit highly necessary to a satisfactory performance of such an important duty; and lastly, a thing not to be passed over in the present fastidious and polished age, the work has been got up with great care, besides being embellished with a fine Portrait, as well as a Vignette of Christ-Church, Macclesfield. These engravings will appeal to the hearts of many in a more touching manner than in their character of mere specimens of the fine arts; and in this view deserve to be considered.
In relation to such an invaluable work, it is with pleasure that we have also to announce, that a Cheap Edition of it has been published, (without the Life), and is to be obtained for three shillings and sixpence, being scarcely half the price of the preceding.
ART. I.-Colloquies on Religion and Religious Education. Being a Supplement to "Hampden in the Nineteenth Century. London:
A MORE remarkable sign of the times in which we live does not exist than the general intensity of anxiety respecting education which we have of late had numerous opportunities to note. A national system established and regulated by the legislature upon a broad, liberal, and enlightened basis, is by very many persons regarded as the only guarantee for the high purposes contemplated; and, indeed, as the only means of preserving that rank for the realm in the scale of European civilization that the nation has been accustomed to boast of. We cannot for a moment doubt of the period being at no great distance when some such large measure will be introduced, and therefore every effort which individuals can make to instruct the community, in reference to the grand principles that ought to characterize such a magnificent scheme, deserves to be hailed most cordially.
It is quite manifest that a system of national education for such a country as England demands not only the most anxious and guarded legislation, but that the different orders and sects in the state will render the question one of the very gravest nature that ever was started. We do not suppose that it will precisely engage in hostile array those who are ordinarily meant by the phrase political parties; for it would be taking a more unfavourable view of humanity than even these combined hosts have exhibited, to believe that any one of them, as a body, is inimical to social and moral improvement on the part of the people-objects which every system of education professes to accomplish, and which eertainly are not beyond the reach of a nation's wisdom. There are, however, such various methods proposed to arrive at this desirable consummation, some of them involving great differences in metaphysics and religious belief, that we may expect no small share of opposition to any one suggested plan.
One of these plans has found its principal advocate in Lord VOL. III. (1837) No. IV.