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universally known, and had been legally proved, filled some of the highest offices in the state, and in the army, presided at the meetings of religious and benevolent institutions, were the delight of every society, and the favourites of the multitude, a crowd of moralists went to the theatre, in order to pelt a poor actor for disturbing the conjugal felicity of an alderman? What there was in the circumstances, either of the offender or of the sufferer, to windicate the zeal of the audience, we could never conceive. It has never been supposed that the situation of an actor is peculiarly favourable to the rigid virtues, or that an alderman enjoys any special immunity from injuries such as that which on this occasion roused the anger of the public. But such is the justice of mankind. In these cases, the punishment was excessive; but the offence was known and proved. The case of Lord Byron was harder. True Jedwood justice was dealt out to him. First came the execution, then the investigation, and last of all, or rather not at all, the accusation. The public, without knowing any thing whatever about the transactions in his family, flew into a violent passion with him, and proceeded to invent stories which might justify its anger. Ten or twenty different accounts of the separation, inconsistent with each other, with themselves, and with common sense, circulated at the same time. What evidence there might be for any one of these, the virtuous people who repeated them neither knew nor cared. For in fact these stories were not the causes, but the effects of the public indignation. They resembled those loathsome slanders which Goldsmith, and other abject libellers of the same class, were in the habit of publishing about Bonaparte—how he poisoned a girl with arsenic, when he was at the military school— how he hired a grenadier to shoot Dessaix at Marengo—how he filled St. Cloud with all the pollutions of Capreae. There was a time when anecdotes like these obtained some credence from persons, who, hating the French Emperor without knowing why, were eager to believe any thing which might justify their hatred. Lord Byron fared in the same way. His countrymen were in a bad humour with him. His writings and his character had lost the charm of novelty. He had been guilty of the

offence which, of all offences, is punished more

severely; he had been over-praised; he had excited too warm an interest; and the public, with its usual justice, chastised him for its "own folly. The attachments of the multitude bear no small resemblance to those of the wanton enchantress in the Arabian Tales, who, when the forty days of her fondness were over, was not content with dismissing her lovers, put condemned them to expiate, in loathsome shapes, and under severe punishments, the crime of having once pleased her too well. The obloquy which Byron had to endure was such as might well have shaken a more constant mind. The newspapers were filled with lampoons. The theatres shook with execrations. He was excluded from circles where he had lately been the observed of all observors All those creeping things that riot in the

decay of nobler natures, hastened to their re past; and they were right; they did after their kind. It is not every day that the savage envy of aspiring dunces is gratified by the agenies of such a spirit and the degradation of such a name. The unhappy man left his country forever. The howl of contumely followed him across the sea, up the Rhine, over the Alps; it gradually waxed fainter; it died away. Those who had raised it began to ask each other, what, after all, was the matter about which they had been so clamorous; and wished to invite back the criminal whom they had just chased from them. His poetry became more popular than it had ever been; and his complaints were read with tears by thousands and tens of thousands who had never seen his face. He had fixed his home on the shores of the Adriatic, in the most picturesque and interesting of cities, beneath the brightest of skies, and by the brightest of seas. Censoriousness was not the vice of the neighbours whom he had chosen. They were a race corrupted by a bad government and a bad religion; long renowned for skill in the arts of voluptuousness, and tolerant of all the caprices of sensuality. From the public opinion of the country of his adontion he had nothing to dread. With the public opinion of the country of his birth he was at open war. He plunged into wild and desperate excesses, ennobled by no generous or tendersentiment. From his Venetian harem he sent forth volume after volume, full of eloquence, of wit, of pathos, of ribaldry, and of bitter disdain. His health sank under the effects of his intemperance. His hair turned gray. His food ceased to nourish him. A hectic fever withered him up. It seemed that his body and mind were about to perish together. From this wretched degradation he was in some measure rescued by an attachment, culpable indeed, yet such as, judged by the standard of morality established in the country where he lived, might be called virtuous. But an imagination polluted by vice, a temperimbittered by misfortune, and a frame habituated to the fatal excitement of intoxication, prevented him from fully enjoying the happiness which he might have derived from the purest and most tranquil of his many attachments. Midnight draughts of ardent spirits and Rhenish wines had begun to work the ruin of his fine intellect. His verse lost much of the energy and condensation which had distinguished it. But he would not resign, without a struggle, the empire which he had exercised over the men of his generation. A new dream of ambition arose before him, to be the centre : of a literary party; the great mover of an intellectual revolution; to guide the public mind of England from his Italian retreat, as Voltaire had guided the public mind of France from the villa of Ferney. With this hope, as it should seem, he established The Liberal. But powerfully as he had affected the imaginations of his contemporaries, he mistook his own powers, if he hoped to direct their opinions: and he still more grossly mistook his own disposition, if he thought that he could long act

in concert with other men of letters. The plan failed, and failed ignominiously. Angry with himself, angry with his coadjutors, he relinquished it: and turned to another project, the last and the noblest of his life. A nation, once the first among the nations, pre-eminent in knowledge, pre-eminent in military glory, the cradle of philosophy, of eloquence, and of the fine arts, had been for ages bowed down under a cruel yoke. All the vices which tyranny generates—the abject vices which it generates in those who submit to it, the ferocious vices which it generates in those who struggle against it—had deformed the character of that miserable race. The valour which had won the great battle of human civilization, which had saved Europe, and subjugated Asia, lingered only among pirates and robbers. The ingenuity, once so conspicuously displayed in every department of physical and moral science, had been depraved into a timid and servile cunning. On a sudden this degraded people had risen on their oppressors. Discountenanced or betrayed by the surrounding potentates, they had found in themselves something of that which might well supply the place of all foreign assistance —something of the energy of their fathers. As a man of letters, Lord Byron could not but be interested in the event of this contest. His political opinions, though, like all his opinions, unsettled, leaned strongly towards the side of liberty. He had assisted the Italian insurgents with his purse; and if their struggle against the Austrian government had been prolonged, would probably have assisted them with his sword. But to Greece he was attached by peculiar ties. He fiad, when young, resided in that country. Much of his most splendid and popular poetry had been inspired by its scenery and by its history. Sick of inaction, degraded in his own eyes by his private vices and by his literary failures, pining for untried excitement and honourable distinction, he carried his exhausted body and his wounded spirit to the Grecian camp. His conduct in his new situation showed so much vigour and good sense as to justify us in believing, that, if his life had been prolonged, he might have distinguished himself as a soldier and a politician. But pleasure and sorrow had done the work of seventy years upon his delicate frame. The hand of death was on him; he knew it; and the only wish which he uttered was that he might die sword in hand. This was denied to him. Anxiety, exertion, exposure, and those fatal stimulants which had become indispensable to him, soon stretched him on a sick-bed, in a strange land, amidst strange faces, without one human being that he loved near him. There, at thirty-six, the most celebrated Englishman of the nineteenth century closed his brilliant and miserable career. - We cannot even now retrace those events without feeling something of what was felt by the nation, when it was first known that the grave had closed over so much sorrow and so much glory;-something of what was felt by those who saw the hearse, with its long train

of coaches, turn slowly northward, leaving be. hind it that cemetery, which had been conse. crated by the dust of so many great poets, but of which the doors were closed against all that remained of Byron. We well remember that, on that day, rigid moralists could not refrain from weeping for one so young, so illustrious, so unhappy, gifted with such rare gifts, and tried by such strong temptations. It is unnecessary to make any reflections. The history carries its moral with it. Our age has indeed been fruitful of warnings to the eminent, and of consolations to the obscure. Two men have died within our recollection, who at a time of life at which few people have completed their education, had raised themselves, . each in his own department, to the height of glory. One of them died at Longwood, the other at Missolonghi. It is always difficult to separate the literary character of a man who lives in our own time from his personal character. It is peculiarly difficult to make this separation in the case of Lord Byron. For it is scarcely too much to say, that Lord Byron never wrote without some reference, direct or indirect, to himself. The interest excited by the events of his life mingles itself in our minds, and probably in the minds of almost all our readers, with the interest which properly belongs to his works. A generation must pass away before it will be possible to form a fair judgment of his books, considered merely as books. At present they. are not only books, but relics. We will, however, venture, though with unfeigned diffidence, to offer some desultory remarks on his poetry. His lot was cast in the time of a great literary revolution. That poetical dynasty which had dethroned the successors of Shakspeare and Spenser-was, in its turn, dethroned by a race who represented themselves as heirs of the ancient line, so long dispossessed by usurpers. The real nature of this revolution has not, we think, been comprehended by the great majority of those who concurred in it. If this question were proposed—wherein especially does the poetry of our times differ from that of the last century ninety-nine ersons out of a hundred would answer, that, he poetry of the last century was correct, but cold and mechanical, and that the poetry of our time, though wild and irregular, presented far more vivid images, and excited the Passions far more strongly, than that of Parnell, of Addison, or of Pope. In the same mann or we constantly hear it said, that the poets of the age of Elizabeth had far more genius, but farless correctness, than those of the age of Anne. It seems to be taken for granted, that there is some necessary incompatibility, some antithesis, between correctness and creative power. We rather suspect that this notion arises merely from an abuse of words; and that it has been the parent of many of the fallacies which perplex the science of criticism. . What is meant by correctness in poetry" If by correctness be meart the conforming to rules which have their foundation in truth and in the principles of human nature, the: correctness is only another name for excel lence. If by correctness be meant the soon

forming to rules purely arbitrary, correctness may be another name for dulness and absurdity. A writer who describes visible objects falsely, and violates the propriety of character—a writer who makes the mountains “nod their drowsy heads” at night, or a dying, man take leave of the world with a rant like that of

Maximin, may be said, in the high and just ||

sense of the phrase, to write incorrectly. He violates the first great law of his art. His imitation is altogether unlike the thing imilated. The four poets who are most eminently free from incorrectness of this description are | Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Milton. They are, therefore, in one sense, and that the best sense, the most correct of poets. When it is said that Virgil, though he had less genius than Homer, was a more correct writer, what sense is attached to the word correctness? Is it meant that the story of the AEneid is developed more skilfully than that of the Odyssey? that the Roman describes the face of the external world, on the emotions of the mind, more accurately unan the Greek 1 that the characters of Achates and Mnestheus are more nicely discriminated, and more consistently supported, than those of Achilles, of Nestor, and of Ulysses? The fact incontestably is, that for every violation of the fundamental laws of poetry, which can be found in Homer, it would be easy to find twenty in Virgil. * Troilus and Cressida is perhaps of all the plays of Shakspeare that which is commonly considered as the most incorrect. Yet it seems to us infinitely more correct, in the sound sense of the term, than what are called the most correct plays of the most correct dramatists. Compare it, for example, with the Iphigénie of Racine. We are sure that the Greeks of Shakspeare bear a far greater resemblance than the Greeks of Racine, to the real Greeks who besieged Troy; and for this reason, that the Greeks of Shakspeare are human beings, and the Greeks of Racine mere names;–mere words printed in capitals at the head of paragraphs of declamation. Racine, it is true, would have shuddered at the thought of making Agamemnon quote Aristotle. But of what use is it to avoid a single anachronism, when the whole play is one anachronism—the topics and phrases of Versailles in the camp of Aulns In the sense in which we are now using the word correctness, we think that Sir Walter Scot, Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Coleridge, are far mr re correct writers than those who are commonly extolled as the models of correctness— Pope for example, and Addison. The single description of a moonlight night in Pope's Iliad contains more inaccuracies than can be found in all the Excursion. There is not a single scene in Cato in which everything that conduces to poetical illusion—the propriety of character, of language, of situation, is not more grossly violated than in any part of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. No man can possibly think that the Romans of Addison resemb'e the real Romans so closely as the mosstroopers of Scott resemble the real moss-troop

ers. Watt Tinlinn and William of Deloraine are not, it is true, persons of so much dignity as Cato. But the dignity of the persons represented has as little to do with the correctness of poetry as with the correctness of painting. We prefer a gipsy by Reynolds to his majesty's head on a signpost, and a borderer by Scott to a senator by Addison. In what sense, then, is the word correctness used by those who say, with the author of the Pursuits of Literature, that Pope was the most correct of English poets, and, that next to Pope, came the late Mr. Gifford 4 What is the nature and value of that correctness, the praise of which is denied to Macbeth, to Lear, and te Othello, and given to Hoole's translations and to all the Seatonian prize-poems? We can discover no eternal rule, no rule founded in reason and in the nature of things, which Shakspeare does not observe much more strictly than Pope. But if by correctness be meant the conforming to a narrow legislation, which, while lenient to the mala in se, multiplies, without the shadow of a reason, the mala prohibita; if by correctness be meant a strict attention to certain ceremonious observances, which are no more essential to poetry than etiquette to good government, or than the washings of a Pharisee to devotion; then, assuredly, Pope may be a more correct poet than Shakspeare; and, if the code were a little altered, Colley Cibber might be a more correct poet than Pope. But it may well be doubted whether this kind of correctness be a merit; nay, whether it be not an absolute fault. It would be amusing to make a digest of the irrational laws which bad critics have framed for the government of poets. First in celebrity and in absurdity stand the dramatic unities of place and time. No human being has ever been able to find any thing that could, even by courtesy, be called an argument for these unities, except that they have been deduced from the general practice of the Greeks. It requires no very profound examination to discover that the Greek dramas, often admirable as compositions, are, as exhibitions of human character and human life, far inferior to the English plays of the age of Elizabeth. Every scholar , knows that the dramatic part of the Athenian tragedies was at first subordinate to the lyrical part. It would, therefore, have been little less than a miracle is the laws of the Athenian stage had been found to suit plays in which there was no chorus. All the great masterpieces of the dramatic art have been composed in direct violation of the unities, and could never have been composed if the unities had not been violated. It is clear, for example, that such a character, as that of Hamlet could never have been developed within the limits to which Alfieri confined himself. Yet such was the reverence of literary men during the last century for these unities, that Johnson, who, much to his honour, took the opposite side, was, as he says, “frighted at his own te. merity;” and “afraid to stand against the authorities which might be produced against him.” There are other rules of the same kind without end. “Shakspeare,” says Rymer,

•ought not to have made Othello black; for the hero of a tragedy ought always to be white.” “Milton,” says another critic, “ought not to have taken Adam for his hero; for the hero of an epic poem ought always to be victorious.” “Milton,” says another, “ought not to have put so many similes into his first book; for the first book of an epic poem ought always to be the most unadorned. There are no similes in the first book of the Iliad.” “Milton,” says another, “ought not to have placed in an epic poem such lines as these :

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Sir Roger Newdigate is fairly entitled, we think, to be ranked among the great critics of this school. He made a law that none of the o written for the prize which he estabished at Oxford should exceed fifty lines. This law seems to us to have at least as much soundation in reason as any of those which we have mentioned; nay, much more, for the world, we believe, is pretty well agreed in thinking that the shorter a prize-poem is, the better. We do not see why we should not make a few more rules of the same kind—why we should not enact that the number of scenes in every act shall be three, or some multiple of three; that the number of lines in every scene shall be an exact square; that the dramatis personae shall never be more nor fewer than sixteen; and that, in heroic rhymes, every thirtysixth line shall have twelve syllables. If we were to lay down these canons, and to call Pope, Goldsmith, and Addison incorrect writers for not having complied with our whims, we should act precisely as those critics act who find incorrectness in the magnificent imagery and the varied music of Coleridge and Shelley. The correctness which the last century prized so much resembled the correctness of those pictures of the garden of Eden which we Wol. I.-16

see in old Bibles—an exact square, enclosed by the rivers Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates, each with a convenient bridge in the centre–rectangular beds of flowers—a long canal neatly bricked and railed in—the tree of knowledge, clipped like one of the limes behind the Tuileries, standing in the centre of the grand alley—the snake twined round it— the man on the right hand, the woman on the left, and the beasts drawn up in an exact circle round them. In one sense the picture is correct enough. That is to say, the squares are correct; the circles are correct; the man and woman are in a most correct line with the tree; and the snake forms a most correct spiral. But if there were a painter so gifted, that he should place in the canvass that glorious paradise seen by the interior eye of him whose outward sight had failed with long watching and labouring for liberty and truth—if there were a painter who could set before us the mazes of the sapphire brook, the lake with its fringe of myrtles, the flowery meadows, the grottoes overhung by vines, the forests shining with Hesperian fruit and with the plumage of gorgeous birds, the massy shade of that nuptial bower which showered down roses on the sleeping lovers—what should we think of a connoisseur who should tell us that this painting, though finer than the absurd picture of the old Bible, was not so correct? Surely we should answer, It is both finer and more cor-rect; and it is finer because it is more correct. It is not made up of correctly drawn diagrams, but it is a correct painting, a worthy representation of that which it is intended to represent. It is not in the fine arts alone that this false correctness is prized by narrow-minded men, by men who cannot distinguish means from ends, or what is accidental from what is essential. Mr. Jourdain admired correctness in fencing. “You had no business to hit me then. You must never thrust in quart till you have thrust in tierre.” M. Tomés liked correctness in medical practice. “I stand up for Artemius. That he killed his patient is plain enough. But still he acted quite according to rule. A man dead is a man dead, and there is an end of the matter. But if rules are to be broken, there is no saying what consequences mag. follow.” We have heard of an old Germal. officer, who was a great admirer of correctness in military operations. He used to revile Bonaparte for spoiling the science of war, which had been carried to such an exquisite perfec- . tion by Marshal Daun. “In my youth we used to march and countermarch all the summer, without gaining or losing a square league, and then we went into winter-quarters. And now comes an ignorant, hot-headed young man. who flies about from Boulogne "o Ulm, and from Ulm to the middle of Moravia, and fights battles in December. The whole system of his tactics is monstrously incorrect.” The world is of opinion, in spite of critics like these, that the end of fencing is to hit, that the end of medicine is to cure, that the end of war is t conquer, and that those means are the mon correct which best accomplish the ends. And has poetry no * no eternal and iu,

mutable principles? Is poetry, like heraldry, mere matter of arbitrary regulation ? The heralds tell us that certain scutcheons and bearings denote certain conditions, and that to

put colours on colours, or metals on metals, is

false blazonry. If all this were reversed; if every coat of arms in Europe were new-fashioned; if it were decreed that or should never be placed but on argent, or argent but on or; that illegitimacy should be denoted by a lozenge, and widowhood by a-bend, the new science would be just as good as the old science, because both the new and the old would be good for nothing. The mummery of Portcullis and Rouge Dragon, as it has no other value than that which caprice has assigned to it, may well submit to any laws which caprice may impose on it. But it is not so with that great imitative art, to the power of which all ages, the rudest and the most enlightened, bear witness. Since its first grea' inasterpieces were produced, everything to at is changeable in this world has been changed. Civilization has been gained, los', gained again. Religions, and languages, and forms of government, and usages of private life, and the modes of thinking, all have undergone a succession of revolutions. Every thing has passed away but the great features of nature, the heart of man, and the miracles of that art of which it is the office to reflect back the heart of man and the features of nature. Those two strange old poems, the wonder of ninety generations, still retain all their freshness. They still command the veneration of minds enriched by the literature of many nations and ages. They are still, even n wretched translations, the delight of school•oys. Having survived ten thousand capritious fashions, having seen successive codes bf criticism become obsolete, they still remain, Immortal with the immortality of truth, the same when perused in the study of an English scholar as when they were first chanted at the banquets of the Ionian princes. Poetry is, as that most acute of human beings, Aristotle, said, more than two thousand years ago, imitation. It is an art analogous in many respects to the art of painting, sculpture, and acting... The imitations of the painter, the sculptor, and the actor are, indeed, within certain limits, more perfect than those of the poet. The machinery which the poet employs consists merely of words; and words cannot, even when employed by such an artist as Homer or Dante, present to the mind images of visible objects quite so lively and exact as those which we carry away from looking on the works of the brush and the chisel. But, on the other hand, the range of poetry is infinitely wider than that of any other imitative art, or than that of all the other imitative arts together. The sculptor can imitate only form; the painter otly form and colour; the actor, until the poet supplies him with words, only form, colour, and motion. Poetry holds the outer world in common with the other arts. The heart of it an is the province of poetry, and o' poetry alone. The painter, the sculptor, and the *ter, when the actor is unassisted by the poet,

can exhibit no more of human passion and | reaped were first sown. While poetry was

character than that small portion which over

flows into the gesture and the face—always an imperfect, often a deceitful sign of that which is within. The deeper and more complex parts

of human nature can be exhibited by means

of words alone. Thus the objects of the imitation of poetry are the whole external and the whole internal universe, the face of nature, the vicissitudes of fortune, man as he is in himself, man as he appears in society, all things of which we can form an image in our minds, by combining together parts of things which really exist. The domain of this imperial art is commensurate with the imaginative faculty. An art essentially imitative ought not surely to be subjected to rules which tend to make its imitations less perfect than they would otherwise be; and those who obey such rules ought to be called, not correct, but incorrect artists. The true way to judge of the rules by which English poetry was governed during the last century, is to look at the effects which they produced. - s It was in 1780 that Johnson completed his Lives of the Poets. He tells us in that work that since the time of Dryden, English poetry had shown no tendency to relapse into its original savageness; that its language had been refined, its numbers tuned, and its sentiments improved. It may, perhaps, be doubted whether the nation had any great reason to exult in the refinements and improvements which gave it Douglas for Othello, and the Triumphs of Temper for the Faerie Queen. It was during the thirty years which preceded the appearance of Johnson's Lives, that the diction and versification of English poetry were, in the sense in which the word is commonly used, most correct. Those thirty years form the most deplorable part of our literary history. They have bequeathed to us scarcely any poetry which deserves to be remembered. Two or three hundred lines of Gray, twice as many of Goldsmith, a few stanzas of Beattie and Collins, a few strophes of Mason, and a few clever prologues and satires, were the masterpieces of this age of consummate excellence... They may all be printed in one volume, and that volume would be by no means a volume of extraordinary merit. It would contain no poetry of the highest class, and little which could be placed very high in the second class, The Paradise Regained, or Comus, would outweigh it all, At last, when poetry had fallen into such utter decay that Mr. Hayley was thought a great poet, it began to appear that the excess of the evil was about to work the cure. Men became tired of an insipid conformity to a standard which derived no authority from nature or reason. A shallow criticism had taught them to ascribe a superstitious value to the spurious correctness of poetasters. A deeper criticism brought them back to the free correctness of the first great masters. The eternal laws of poetry regained their power, and the temporary fashions which had superseded those laws went after the wig of Lovelace and the hoop of Clarissa. It was in a cold and barren season that the seeds of that rich harvest which we have.

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