« 前へ次へ »
“ Some cry up Gunnersbury,
For Sion some declare,
No villa can compare ;
Who know the country well,
Earl of Bath's Ballad on Strawberry Hill.
LORD BYRON has somewhere observed, that it has long been the fashion for the canaille of literary criticism to vituperate Horace Walpole, “ because he was a gentleman.” An unfounded observation, which the “Edinburgh Review” has successfully refuted,
and refuted upon the testimony of a deeper experience, and more intimate knowledge of the science of literary economy (if the phrase may be allowed,) than could have been attained by one, whose high rank, and high genius, alike placed him far beyond the dabblings of literary intrigue, or the possibility of intellectual subserviency.
If ministers of state best know every man's price in the political market, if they are best acquainted with the inherent littleness of that “poor human nature,” to the corruptibility of which they have the means of applying such powerful stimulants, such resistless temptations, the editors of an influential party and periodical work best know of what stuff those “Swiss of the press” are made, who deal out opinion according “ to the measure that is measured unto them" by their taskers,of what mixed metal the current coin of literary criticism is composed, which ductile, though base, takes the mark of any dye impressed on it by the master-worker of the mint. The Edinburgh Reviewers, therefore, told Lord Byron, and told him truly, that, as a body, the periodical critics of the day bore no malice against Lord Orford, because he was “a gentleman,” and that, far from rank being injurious to literary fame, even he, Lord Byron, the star of the ascendant, stood indebted for the lenity with which the author of “ Don Juan" was treated by the most orthodox reviewers in England, at least as much to the elevation of his rank, as to the loftiness of his genius-to his “ gentle blood,” as to his splendid talents. The fact is, that if
“ A saint in crape be twice a saint in lawn,".
an author in a coronet has twice the chance of obtaining a favourable judgment, that can be expected by mere plebeian talent, which has only its original merits to plead for those “sins” which all literary “flesh is heir to."
”. With what indulgence has not the accomplished, but titled Author of “ Matilda” been treated by the reviewing hierarchy of the day, even in spite of the little faux-pas which forms the groundwork of his catastrophe,—in spite of the vertu de moins of his bon-ton heroine,-in spite of a moral produced by a cold in the head (when a more legitimate source of poetical justice was at hand, in the fate and story of many fair contemporary délaissées in real life and living frailty)--nay, in spite even of his wiriggism, his liberalism, and his anti-Austrianism ; and when rebuked, how gently and with what a patte de velours has this lordly
author been treated by the great conservators of public and literary morals. What honours indeed have not been done to the light and pleasant pages of one, who has so agreeably added to the daily increasing list of noble authors,* and who is certainly something more than “a wit among lords, and a lord among wits.” But who among the literary toparchs, who are so ready to bring mediocrity into fashion, and to patronize the usurpations that can never interfere with their own acknowledged supremacy--who among the great fame-bestowing reviewers, that 6
give and take away” the bubble reputation, or try to do it, have turned out the author of 6 Crohoore of the Bill Hook," and John Doe,” for public admiration? And yet in these two great pictures of an unopened vein of national manners, there is as
* Every possible encouragement should be held out to the rising aristocracy, to pursue other roads to distinction than those acquired by coronets and quarterings. Upon such heaven-born distinctions, the world is now somewhat désabusé! thanks to the Monsieur Tonsons of the French revolution, and to the Jesuitism and toujours en arrière vocation of the premier sang Chrétien de l'Europe. The bel air pages of “ Matilda” and “ Granby,” light as they are, are real benefactions, after the eternal imitations of the Scotch novels.
bold etching, and as fine masses of chiaro oscuro, as were ever produced even by the exquisite burin of the Scottish Rembrandt. It was not, then, the gentility of Horace Walpole, that stood in the way of his preferment in reviews, and his popularity with the members of literary coteries. Yet that he has been borne down, from his own to the present time, both by the corporate bodies, and by the honorary members of criticism, is quite true -his claims to genius denied, his pretensions to taste ridiculed, his style termed “
slip-slop,” his “ Historic Doubts" doubted, and his villa at Strawberry Hill, which he himself has named “ a paper fabric to hold an assemblage of curious trifles," selected as a damning proof against his antiquarianism, by the learned young gentlemen of the “old lady's logic"*—(the learning which draws fools from their obscurity) -- who have always affected to consider it as a “Gothic Vatican of Greece and Rome," and a standing monument of his ignorance of all true virtù. And yet Horace Walpole has established his claims to genius by its
* Archæology, so called playfully by H. W.