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from the exceptions or the inuendoes of her ladyship. With regard, however, to her allegation that the fictions of Lord Byron are more singular than ingenious, and that he is not imbued with the feelings and sentiments of humanity, there are many of his lordship's productions which justify the opinion,—“Manfred,” “ Cain,” and “Don Juan”—although the two first display several most beautiful and sublime apostrophes, and all we shall say of the latter at present is, that we are sorry to be obliged to enumerate it amongst the works of its noble author, may in the aggregate abundantly afford grounds for charging him with being of a singular and eccentric turn of genius. With more pretension (and it is with regret we are compelled to admit that the bumiliating fact must be invariably coupled with a review of his lordship's poems,) is it alleged, that a gloomy misanthropy often pervades his writings, fatal sometimes to the pleasing elevation which the scope and weight of his thoughts would otherwise secure, in a very high degree. Many of the writings of this gifted nobleman, (and the remark peculiarly applies to his “ Childe Harold,” the poblest, and the most intellectual, of all his productions,) are of that abstract, thoughtful, and philosophic character, that the desponding sentiments of his mind sometimes, (like evil suggestions, from one whose speculations have occasionally been introduced in bis lordship's page,) predominate, and, in the general complexion which they throw over his narrative, interweave the morbid misanthropy of a heart soured with discontent, with passages whose impassioned beauty and well-drawn imagery must sometimes strike the mind of the reader as amongst the most felicitous efforts of poetry.
In high reaching sublimity the muse of Byron sits throned on a pinnacle, which looks down upon the performances of other cotemporary poets as to a point considerably beneath it. As a rock which towers proudly above that occan, from which, in his “ Harold,” he draws some of his most beautiful similitudes, his name stands alone amidst his numerous compeers, who circle in their various but humbler spheres of literary glory : and who, without aspiring to bear away the palm, are content to share the more measured immunities which their countrymen have to bestow. His imaginings are not those of an ordinary writer, but the bold fictions, sometimes of frenzied fancy, or the illustrations of fact, delineated in characters of strength and vividness which would strike few other minds besides his own. In those poems where the energies of his mind chiefly appear, (for to some only of his writings will these observations apply) he searches for recondite aspects of his subject, and imparts to them a natural significancy. He places the persons or things he treats of in new points of view ; he avails himself of “ancient story” to adorn his facts with a profusion of new thoughts and ideas, the offspring essentially of his own mind, like a philosopher, who, despising the hackneyed gossip of the multitude, thinks for himself, and draws his own inferences respecting the causes of the natural phenomena about him. It is impossible to read many of the passages of “Harold,” “Manfred,” or “Cain,” without adopting opinions somewhat similar to those here expressed.---Scene 2, Act II., Scene 3, Act III., and Scene 4, Act III., in “ Manfred;" many speculations in Scene 2, Act II., in “Cain," and some half dozen stanzas concluding the last canto of “ Harold,” are of a character wild, daring, and grand in a degree, to set competition at utter defiance, and establish a claim of equality with the most celebrated compozition of the masters of the “olden time” in English poetry.
We have, however, admitted that there existed considerable color for the critique of the Countess of Genlis. That restless perturbation of soul, which, where his lordship breathes his own sentiments, is perpetually
depicting the recesses of a heart, lowering with clouds, and sickening with disappointment, are well calculated to impress a foreigner with disparaging sentiments. In the metaphorical language of poetry, this present life has often been represented as a cheat and a bubble : but his lordship bas depicted the world as a vast charnel-house, an inhospitable desert, where hope never comes,” the permanent abodes of inquietude and sorrow, the lone solitudes or the gloomy regions described by Milton, or Dante. In the lax morality breathed throughout his writings; and if we find it not there, from what source are his followers to gather it? no consolatory medium of hope, which may alleviate the present lot, is superinduced; the fleeting portion of this life, however infelicitous, is all that exists; when the spirit, essentially mortal, struggles through that, it sinks to utter annihilation. It is not much a source of wonder, that from a school imbued with such opinions, emanated a code of ethics of the most exceptionable characters, as ethics liave been recognized by the best and wisest of mankind. The injury therefore to society at large, arising from such doctrines, broadly avowed, is far from imaginary; ought it not rather to be assumed to be as great as has been deprecated by the numerous remonstrants who have predicted these evils ? But the noble author who has incurred the lash of the Countess of Genlis, is no more: we shall not arraign him at our tribunal, further than seems imperative on us whilst viewing the complexion and tendency of his works.
With regard to the “Great known Unknown," as he has been called, doubtless his novels and “bis name will pass for as much as they are worth,” amongst posterity. It is not here intended to hazard a criticism upon these novels, celebrated as they are on our own shores: but certainly Madame de Genlis must have read under the influence of strange aberrations of mind, if she could find in them “neither imagination, real interest, or eloquent passages.” A reader of ordinary attention, even in a foreigo language, will doubtless find very many instances of these literary requisites; but the different members of this indefinitely large “family," are nnequal in their claims to be enrolled in the annals of their country's literature. Some pervading features of resemblance in style and thinking, run through the whole classification, (if the term be not improper,) and proclaim their common origin; otherwise the tame monotony which swells the dialogue to a wearisome length in the volumes of several of them, is not much calculated to secure that immortality which bis admirers predict. Enough remains, however, to establish his pretensions to a very distinguished rank as a novelist, notwithstanding the levelling exceptions of French critics. But the unlimited panegyrics which have been sometimes heaped upon the productions of the “ Author of Waverley,” want discrimination and propriety, and, when measured by the standard which constitutes high eminence in literature, will weigh as little with the thoughtful observer, as the particular suffragte of Madame de Genlis.
Whilst contemplating the eminence which the author of these novels has attained amongst his own countrymen, in the present age, we naturally revert to the period of a few years since, when, as a poet, he occupied, or seemed to occupy, in the public mind, as high a ground as he has since seized upon in the magic regions of Fable and Romance. The “ Author of Waverley,” is an epithet which now forms the ultimatum of his distinction; it is not too much to assume, that a portion of juvenile society scarcely know him by any other designation ; the fame of the poet may be said to bave merged in ihe fame of his later achievements. We were once told, however, or rather we could gather from the encomiums of his friends, that the laurelled wreath hung thickly about his brows, and
budded with honors, not only above his cotemporaries, but many other great names in English poetry. A Reviewer in one of the quarterly publications, some ten or twelve years since, gravely told his readers, (or Sir Walter himself) that “he was ready to allow him imagination and genius beyond almost any other English poet, Shakspeare himself not excepted.” Indeed! this is striking at high game; but this sapient critic did not condescend to tell us whether he was to be understood as speaking of his description of border feuds, knight-errant adventures, or love-sick damsels ; or of that genius whose pervading universality few, if any, besides the illustrious Bard of Avon, ever possessed in the same degree,---a standard of genius which constituted him great upon the great subject of mankind.
The author of "Marmion" drew in bis train the talents of the most eminent professors of arts. The achievements of Heath, Warren, Engleheart, and Westall, decorate his page,---the finest specimens of the typographer have embellished the productions of his pen,---the comparative and personal merits of his rival chieftains have formed current topics of discussion in the drawing-rooms of the fashionable and the wealthy; while the destinies of the lovely or the luckless heroine of his tale have drawn sympathy from the humbler tea-table coterie of the tradesman. But sic transit------; within the lapse of a few years, the semi-barbarian adventures of these brigands, their martial prowess, and their mortal bate --topics which, as delineated by this distinguished author, fill a space of an equal extent with the Æneid, the Lusiad, and the Paradise Lost, slumber peacefully in their gorgeous bindings upon our shelves: or if removed from the company with which they once associated, at least form an elegant appendage of my lady's boudoir. Sir Walter Scott's poems appeared at a period most felicitous for their author, when the spirit of the times was essentially warlike. Opportunely for the fame of the poet, the tremendous contest which we so long sustained with imperial France, was not then terminated; Jove, and mortal combat, and the clangor of martial parade and equipments, from the peculiar circumstances of the nation, carried an interest with them through the pages of these poems; which, although destitute of many essentials in poetry, drew very general attention. As there is a fashion in praise as well as in censure, their merits filled the “ speaking trump of fame" for their term of popularity,---the public admired, and the critics recognizing the award of promiscuous society, confirmed it by the voice of oracular authority.
To say there are not passages of pathos and beauty in so many volumes of epic narrative which have passed a distinguished ordeal, would be to advance a paradox. But the “ wild slogans” of the clansmen, the moated turret, and their mailed inmates, “ sheathed in complete steel,” with the predatory incursions of the moss trooper, objects upon which his verse dwells with not much either of dignity or variety, have silently withdrawn many of their claims, and will doubtless find their proper level in a future age.
The narrative in Scott's poetry is often protracted with little incident, or at any event with little incident of that interest and importance which can powerfully enchain the attention of an intelligent reader. We know not, indeed, whether the author of “ Marion” sought to produce the sublime through amplification. Although rarely within the accomplishment of an author, Longinus has yet decidedly taught, that both by that figure, and another very similar to it (the Periphrasis), a writer is capable of ascending to the sublime; but this celebrated critic premises, that unless used with greater caution, it is ore dangerous than any other figure, as it is apt to grow trilling and insipid, and savour of pedantry and dulness.
is to be feared, that the poet of “Marmion” has altogether failed in rising to the sublime. If his compositions are sometimes characterised by beauty of description and elegance of sentiment, it will not be denied, that they more frequently exhibit a monotony of manner, and a mediocrity of thought, which dwelling continually in a circle, upon one set of images, rarely enlivens his story with scenery, or with allusions to any tbing beyond the isolated spot which comprises the little world where his characters bustle and " strut their bour."
With regard, however, to this talent of producing the sublime, by dwelling upon the sentiment, or lengthening the style, Sir Walter Scoit has certainly not, throughout the whole course of his poems, presented an example so successful as that wbich follows of Pope from Homer, noticed by Melmoth in his very celebrated “ Letters.” The original runs thus (Juno is remonstrating with Jupiter in a general council of the gods):
до Фот Λαον αγειρεση, Πριαμε κακά τοιο τε σαισιν. Which in literal English may be translated, as Melmoth says, Why, surely, Jupiter, you won't be so cruel as to render ineffectual all my expense of labour and sweat !---have I not tired every horse in my stable in order to raise forces to ruin Priam and his family?"---This is the familiar and the low in writing ; but Pope, who, as Warton once said, “ invades like a conqueror the sentiments of his predecessors," has raised both the expression and sentiment to a standard of elevation and beauty:
• Shall then, O tyrant of the etherial plains !
The immortal coursers scarce the labour bore."
On lips which Love ne'er taught to roam ;
To Jure affection to its home.
'Midst the song of birds,---and the sweet of flow'rs,
Nor comes to mar the festive scene,
Its bolt in my scath'd breast has been.
In converse with those who shall love thee less,
1. Anecdotes. Anecdotes are among the luxuries of literature. They stimnlate the appetite for reading, and almost create where deficient. They make study so like idleness, that even the idle are delighted with it.
2. EG G-EATING FORMERLY FELONY. The bigotry of the Scottish clergy was so intense during the reign of James V., that Beaton issued a proclamation, denouncing the punishment of death by fine and confiscation of goods, against any one who should buy or eat an egg on forbidden days. This we learn from Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers.
3. AN EXPENSIVE Toy. Lamia, mistress to Demetrius, another Aspasia in her way, judging from her letters preserved in Alciphron's epistles (see p. 99, of the English Translation, ed. 1791), was extremely well paid for her condescension ; for, upon one occasion, Demetrius commanded the Athenians to raise immediately the sum of 250 talents (i. e. 48,4371. 10s. sterling); when collected, he ordered it all to be given to Lamia and her companions to-buy sdap! See Plutarch's Life of Demetrius.
4. The Devil Not DUMB. This singular fact we learn from Captain Knox, who published an account of Ceylon in 1681. At p. 78 he has the following passage: “ This for certain I can aflirm, that oftentimes the devil doth cry with an audible voice in the night: it is very shrill, almost like the barking of a dog. This I have often heard myself, but never heard that he did any harm."
5. NUPTIAL OIL. Philostratus says, that on the banks of the Hyphasis grow some trees, from which the Indians obtain a liquor used as a nuptial oil, with which new married people are anointed all over, by persons appointed for that purpose. See p. 125, Berwick's Translation. A similar custom appears to prevail among the inhabitants of the Tonga Islands. See pp. 126, 153, vol. I. Mariner's Tonga Islands, where he describes the ceremonies which usually take place at a chief's marriage, when the bride is “profusely anointed with cocoa nut oil, scented with sandal wood.”
6. Suicide. According to Strabo, book x., and Elian, Var. Hist., book iii. ch. xxxvii., the Ceans enacted a law, by which all persons upwards of three score were obliged to drink hemlock juice. Val. Maximus relates, book ii. ch. vi., that a poisonous liquor was kept publicly at Marseilles, and that it was given to all such as satisfied the senate of the propriety of the reasons which prompted them to commit suicide. According to Pliny, book iv. ch. xii., when the Hyperboreans intended to commit suicide, they invited their friends to a banquet, and when finished, threw themselves from a rock into the sea.
7. Nests of the WHITE ANT. Mr. Caldecleugh, in his recent Travels in South America, mentions baving seen a considerable number of the nests of the copim (white ant), five feet high, and formed of white clay : they exhibit a singular chain of dependent existences. They are frequented by a toad, a snake, and a seriema: the toad eats the ant, the snake eats the toad, and the bird eats the snake. See vol. ii. p. 194.