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are made to give in their own conversation. That condition so indispensable to the true comic, their utter unconsciousness of the effect they are producing, is strictly observed. The hand of the author is never perceived, (as it almost constantly is in our modern comedies, to the entire disgust of all persons of tolerable taste,) but they are led in the most natural manner imaginable, and with. out saying any thing that they might not be supposed to say, to cover themselves with ridicule. The absolute want of colouring and exaggeration only serves to improve the picture, and strengthens the impression almost up to that of the same circumstances in real life. We have always thought these dramatic parts of Miss Edgeworth’s books, which, indeed, take up a considerable share of them, very much the best; and it is to this remarkable talent for humour, that she is indebted for the popularity she enjoys, in spite, not only of the disadvantages to which (as we have already observed) she has spontaneously submitted, but also of some defects which we shall now, though unwillingly, proceed to notice.
In the first, and one of the most material branches of novelwriting, that of framing a story, she is remarkably deficient. It must at the same time be owned, that this art, when carried to its highest pitch, is a great, and therefore uncommon specimen of genius and skill. Indeed, if we were to mention that which, in a choice of excellences, we most admire in Fielding's great work, it would, perhaps, be that wonderful variety of incidents arising without improbability, and introduced without confusion, and tending, through a story constantly rising in interest, to an unforeseen catastrophe. Any comparison with so happy an effort of so great a master, would necessarily be unfair; but the truth is, that in this respect Miss Edgeworth is inferior, not only to those that are generally her superiors, but to many among those that are vastly below her in every thing else. She has little fertility in contriving, and still less dexterity in combining events. It is in characters that she shines; when she attempts to give interest to events, it is almost always at the expense of nature and probability. Her narrative is hammered out inviâ Mineria," and she never would have attempted it at all, except as a convenient vehicle for sketches of life and manners.
On her morality we have bestowed its due praise. It is of that sort which is most calculated to do real practical good; but the desire of instructing is too little disguised. The reader sees too plainly that he is under discipline. There is too much downright lecturing. The serious parts have a prim didactic air. The lesser rules of conduct are deduced truly enough, but with too much parade of accuracy and strictness, from general principles. We know how necessary the square and the rule are to the architect, but we do not like to see the chalk-marks upon the building. Morality ought not to smell of the lamp. It has been Miss Edgeworth's fancy to give all her virtuous characters a tincture of science, and to make them fond of chymistry and mechanics. We have no sort of objection to see them endowed with this useful knowledge, provided it does not prevent them from having rather more warmth, and rather more grace. To say the truth, we are inclined to think that in avoiding the common error of novelwriters who make morality depend too much upon feeling, and too little upon the understanding, she has not completely escaped the opposite fault, but has ascribed too large a share of it to the head, and too little to the heart.
Carmen Triumphale, for the commencement of the year 1814.
4to. By Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureat.
[In this his first laureat ode, though there are several stanzas of great excellence, Mr.
Southey does not appear to have answered the public expectations The Edinburgh Reviewers have taken much mischievous pleasure in plaeing it in a very ridiculous point of view. ? hey exhaust upon this subject all those well-known arts of sarcastio criticism which they have hitherto used with such effect upon Montgomery and Lord Byron, and sum up their opinion with the following contemptuous epitome of the ode.]
The subject is the grand one of the approaching liberation of Europe from the tremendous thraldrom of France; and noble and inspiring as it is, it is treated by the laureat bard with such inconceivable tameness and sterility, that we have not been able to discover one striking thought, or glowing phrase-one trait of feeling, or spark of fancy-nay, not even one bolu image, or lofty expression, in the whole compass of his performance. To coinpensate for the want of all these, he shouts vehemently, as is his manner, seven several times,“ Glory to God! Deliverance to mankind!”—and then proceeds to tell the old story of the war in the Peninsula-not inerely for the last year, which is all that comes fairly within the province of a new-year poet-but for the five last campaigns ;—and then, having spent fifteen strophes in praising " the Wellesley," as he affectedly calls Lord Wellington, and abusing the French in the dullest style, and meanest diction of a newspaper, he proceeds to say a word or two on the exploits of the northern princes, and especially of the King of Prussia, whom he ingeniously designates by the name of "the Brandenberg." He then dutifully congratulates Hanover on the restoration of its old
illustrious line-speaks a word of comfort to the injured Hollanders—and ends with an anticipation of restoration and peace.”
[In all this there appears to us not only a good deal of party bitterness, but also a something of personal malice. It is unworthy of both parties. Why, says Dugald Stewart, do not men of superior talents learn, for the honour of the arts which they love, to conceal their ignoble enmities from the malignity of those whom mortified pride and conscious incapacity have leagued together as the covenanted foes of worth and genius From the Eclectic Review, a very unequal work, but occasionally displaying much ability, we have extracted the following article, which, while it is marked by good sense and taste, breathes a spirit of candour not to be found in the Edinburgh oriticism.]
If it be necessary, for the glory of the British court, to have a poet laureat, we presume it is equally so that he should be a man of genius, and that the emoluments of the office should be worthy of the munificence of the sovereign. We recollect no living bard who has more ability to confer honour on the bays, or less occasion to seek honour from princes, than Mr. Southey. But, we think some objections lie against the place itself, considered in its present degraded state, as being beneath the dignity of the court to offer to a man of transcendent intellect--not to say whether it be not beneath the dignity of such a man to accept it. From the manner in which its duties have hitherto been performed, the office can confer on him who holds it but a small portion of credit, inferior even to its scanty emolument. To furnish laudatory odes, at certain seasons, appears to be a servile duty; yet surely the annals of this country, in an age so fruitful of great events as the present, might, twice a-year, supply themes on which the noblest talents might be happily employed in the small compass of an ode. A hundred pounds and a butt of sack, were, we confess, monstrous overpayment for such annual strains of stupifying praise as Cibber, Whitehead, and Pye, were wont to pour into the ear of royalty, being after the rate of twenty shillings a line for pigmy lyrics. Brevity, indeed, was their principal merit; a merit of no ordinary sise in dull poetry, which, like a humming top, spins the longest when it sleeps; for when the quality of poetry is indifferent, the quantity cannot be too small. Mr. Suuthey’s booksellers might not perhaps venture to purchase the copyright of his best verses at the royal price; yet, considered as being the bounty of a great monarch, which ought to reflect Justie on bimself, and for such services as might be rendered by a poet of high order, the remuneration is mean. In the reign of James 1. a hundred pounds a year were adequate to the support of one of his majesty's servants in ease and affluence, according to the style of those days; and a butt of sack, even in the present day, is quite as much wine as any poet, accustomed to pures and more delightfully exhilarating draughts from Helicon, could well drink, yet probably far too little for “ rare Ben Jonson,” to whom this inspiring perquisite was first awarded. To continue the same stipend, from generation to generation, while the modes and expenses of living are progressively changing and increasing, is to sink the office lower and lower in poverty, and consequently into disrepute, the inevitable attendant on splendid poverty. On a recent occasion, the court has done only half a good deed—it has conferred the laurel on a man unquestionably worthy to wear it; but to have done the whole, and to have done it well, it ought to have made the emolument equivalent to a hundred pounds in the days of old Ben; and also, to have given the poet a carte blanche, to be filled up in respect both to time and subject, according to his own judgment. That no degrading conditions have been imposed on Mr. Southey, we have the evidence of bis first ode, now before us, in which there is not a line of flattery to the great personage
at present exercises the sovereign authority, and to whom an expression of gratitude for the appointment could neither bave been unseasonable nor reprehensible. The poem is wholly na-' tional; and Mr. Southey has conferred, both on his royal patron and on himself, the highest honour, by coming out as the Poet Laureat of the British Isles rather than of Carlton House.
But ought a man of integrity and independence of mind to accept such a post? Upon this point we do not think ourselves competent to say any thing decisive. Yet there does not appear, at least to us, any sufficient reason that should influence a highly gifted and truly honest man to reject it, if proffered to him. The discussion of this question may, bowever, well be suspended till there be another vacancy ;-a vacancy which, we sincerely hope, will not take place in our day. A man, of whose integrity and independence of mind we have always entertained an exalted opinion, notwithstanding some change in the tone of his politics, has accepted the post, and long may he live to celebrate the glories of his country-once, and bul once mure in war, and ever after in peace and prosperity. Since the time of Dryden the court has not bestowed the bays on any poet comparable to Mr. Southey. Warton alone deserved the name; and yet we have never felt that he was a poet of nature's making, but such a one as any man of mind and study can make of himself by patient brooding within the walls of a college. A king is always a king, a poet always a poet. The actor who assumes the dignity of a monarch, however excellently he may sustain it, is a monarch only while he is performing the part: as soon as that is finished, he returns into himself, or transmigrates into another character. But he who inherits a throne is, at all times, and under all circumstances, like poor mad Lear, "every inch a king." He, too, who is born a poet is a poet in all things, in prose as well as in verse, in his greatest failures as well as in his most glorious performances. In every production of his mind there is the peculiar form of thought, habit of feeling, and tone of expression, which belong to him exclusively, and distinguish him unequivocally from the man who merely loves poetry, and practises it as an artwho is a poet only when he acts a poet's part. Mr. Southey is eminently a poet, in the first sense of the term as we have used it: Mr. Warton was one in the second sense. In his history of English Poetry, Warton is thoroughly the critic and the antiquary; he understands, admires, and loves his subject; but if he had never written a line of metre, we doubt whether he would have written a line of those three heavy quartos otherwise than as it is written. Southey, who busies himself with literature in every shape, whether he writes history, biography, criticism, romance, or “Omniana,” inevitably shows himself to be a poet; for though he may occasionally be prosaic in his poetry, he is always poetical in his prose; we do not mean ostentatiously, or even meritoriously so, but that he treats all these subjects as no one but a poet would treat them. We therefore augur well of the laureatship during his reign; for though his periodical lyrics should be deemed tame in comparison with the choice themes of his heart, into which he has breathed his whole soul, they will still be of a character far superior to the feeble, cold, and insipid effusions of ordinary laureats, and possess more natural interest than the gorgeous pageants exhibited by Warton's Gothic Muse.
It was a perilous experiment to take so long a first flight as the new laureat has done in his Carmen Triumphale. We remember no precedent, except the late Mr. Pye's Carmen Seculare, on the commencement of the present century, of which we now recollect nothing but the first two lines, and that there were several hundreds equally energetic and sublime.
“ Incessant down the stream of Time,
In his attempt to give a poetical bird's-eye view of the progress of “ the deliverance of Europe," from the time that Spain, aided by Britain, unexpectedly made a stand against the usurpation of Bonaparte, and turned the tide of fortune against hiin, from the straits of Gibraltar to the shores of the Baltic, Mr. Southey has succeeded as well as poetical talent could be expected to succeed. A good political poein, we think, does not exist. Even in Lucan's Pharsalia, (which, however, is rather an historical romance, the patriotism overpowers the poetry : and what can be made of a chronicle in verse of modern warfare, of which the scene alter