« 前へ次へ »
the domain of the arts, and multiplies the amount of our moral enjoyments.
It is curious to observe the Edinburgh Review setting out, by declaring the unchangability of the principles of classical taste, and some few numbers afterwards, applauding some recent poet for devi. ating from the beaten track, in order to proceed with energy and liberty.
Poetry, it is said, in the midst of allusions which would have caused the puritan ancestors of the editor to have cried sacrilege—“ poetry has so much, in common with religion, that its laws were fixed ages back by inspired writers, whose authority, it is no longer permitted to doubt; as, also, that many pretend to be devotees to its worship, who cannot exhibit good works in evidence of their call. The catholic church of poetry has similarly performed but few miracles since the first ages
of its establishment, and has since been more rich in teachers than in saints. It has had its corruptions and its reformation, and has given birth to an infinity of heresies and erroneous sects, the partizans of which reciprocally hate and prosecute each other, with as much cordiality as any other class of bigots."
- A few years after this, Pope is no more than an elegant versifier; Addison, than a frigid prose writer. The genius of the nineteenth century has tended to redeem English poetry from the insipidity of the classical school. It is true, that further on, returning to their first principles, we learn that “we should seek in vain, in modern times,
that rich and harmonious versification, those correct rhymes, those energetic thoughts, and those skilful transitions which characterise the poets of the preceding age. Such is the thirst for novelty, such the inconstancy of taste, such the caprice of fashion, even in literature, that an author is warned, whatever be the vogue of what he shall dare to publish, that a few months will suffice to plunge him in oblivion, He therefore labours carelessly for so transitory a glory.” “Whence it proceeds,” adds Jeffrey, “ that our poems, like our stuffs and our houses, although more brilliant in appearance, have much less solidity than the poems, the stuffs, and the houses of our ancestors.”
These contradictions, which I shall exhibit in a more direct manner when necessary, would only be laughable if one dared to laugh at such an authority as the Edinburgh Review ; but in spite of all its importance, one cannot avoid being occasionally disgusted by its calumnious personalities. Below is a specimen of its pretentions to a tone of levity and derision.
“ There is a society of gentlemen well dressed, and in easy circumstances, who assemble daily at Hatchard's, the bookseller's shop; they are neat, polite individuals; hand and glove with people in office, satisfied with every thing as it is; and, from time to time, one of the fraternity writes a little volume; the others puff the said little volume, making their account, in being puffed in their turn as soon as their pamphlets appear; every
thing leads us to believe, that the publication before us is one of the pamphlets, written by the above personages, so neat, so polite, and so certain of the praise which awaits them, &c. &c. ;” and after a strong, dry, and contemptuous decision, conveyed in three lines, the editor dresses the subject after his own fashion.
This was an intoxication resulting from the in. solence of success. The ministry, for a considerable time, had felt the necessity of erecting one creed against another. The London writers were not sorry to have an inquisition of their own; the Quarterly Review appeared upon the same model as the Scotch review, and under the auspices of Murray the bookseller. The editorship was confided to Mr. Gifford, a very distinguished satyrist, who was enabled, in a short time, to organise a counter-association, capable of contending with the elite of Jeffrey.
The Quarterly Review is the natural organ of tory literature. It not only combats the religious and political principles of its rival, but it finds itself also prompted to arm itself with prejudices against such writers as were recommended by its rival's praises. Again, there was the same caprice for the poor author to encounter, the same insolence against talent and reputation. Private individuals, as well as the public in mass, may be periodically calumniated by the two reviews. Some of these articles are worth the refutation, for which we shall find room during the course of
our investigation. There are some which, if published separate, would be classed among the number of good books. I confess it with perfect frankness, I should glory to see my own country enlightened, and even directed by works of so high a degree of merit. This might be if our savans and our poets would rally their forces, and establish only a single undertaking of the same description. All that I despair of is their perseverance.
Since Napoleon, his glory, his tyranny, and his reverses continually reappear in the English review, it must be allowed that the Edinburgh Review has judged him almost throughout, with tolerable impartiality ; but it is disgraceful for the ministerial organ, that it should have persecuted him with so much ferocity when the rock of St. Helena became his prison, for the good of Europe, no doubt, but for the shame of the British administration. Even since his death, their champions couch their lances against his mighty shade, as if his very memory oppressed them. I am, perhaps, less of a Buonapartist than many others; but these dastardly insults render me as indignant as exaggerated panegyrics. There is something sacred in the genius of an enemy.
TO M. PROSPER BONNARIC.
Dean Swift was a bitter wag, who amused himself occasionally at the expense of his countrymen. He has endeavoured to prove, at the end of his treatise upon puns, that Hebrew, Greek, and Latin are derived from English. But the English, whose ambition extends even as far as grammatical questions, have predicted seriously, that the day will come when there will only be two languages in Europe, the Russian and the English. These learned polyglots have also discovered a great analogy between their idiom and the Chinese. I am sorry that I am neither sufficient politician, nor sufficiently versed in the syntax of the mandarines, to be enabled to treat these two questions at length. Deign, therefore, to content yourself with the few notions which I have gleaned from the cumbrous volumes of the antiquaries.
The origin of the principal European nations is there referred to three great races : the Latin race, the Teutonic race, and the Sclavonian race. The various dialects of our days are all traceable to these three races. The Celtic language, omitted by Madame de Staël, would form a fourth family, if it were a fact well established, that it had been applied to literary compositions. Ma