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Famous Reviews by Editor: R. Brimley Johnson

Part 3 out of 10

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ready admission to the first literary circles. While he was still at
Lynn, he had won Johnson's heart by sounding with honest zeal the
praises of the English Dictionary. In London the two friends met
frequently, and agreed most harmoniously. One tie, indeed, was wanting
to their mutual attachment. Burney loved his own art passionately; and
Johnson just knew the bell of St. Clement's church from the organ. They
had, however, many topics in common; and on winter nights their
conversations were sometimes prolonged till the fire had gone out, and
the candles had burned away to the wicks. Burney's admiration of the
powers which had produced Rasselas and The Rambler, bordered on
idolatry. He gave a singular proof of this at his first visit to
Johnson's ill-furnished garret. The master of the apartment was not at
home. The enthusiastic visitor looked about for some relique which he
might carry away; but he could see nothing lighter than the chairs and
the fire-irons. At last he discovered an old broom, tore some bristles
from the stump, wrapped them in silver paper, and departed as happy as
Louis IX when the holy nail of St. Denis was found. Johnson, on the
other hand, condescended to growl out that Burney was an honest fellow,
a man whom it was impossible not to like.

Garrick, too, was a frequent visitor in Poland Street and St. Martin's
Lane. That wonderful actor loved the society of children, partly from
good-nature, and partly from vanity. The ecstasies of mirth and terror
which his gestures and play of countenance never failed to produce in a
nursery, flattered him quite as much as the applause of mature critics.
He often exhibited all his powers of mimicry for the amusement of the
little Burneys, awed them by shuddering and crouching as if he saw a
ghost, scared them by raving like a maniac in St. Lukes', and then at
once became an auctioneer, a chimney-sweeper, or an old woman, and made
them laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks.

But it would be tedious to recount the names of all the men of letters
and artists whom Frances Burney had an opportunity of seeing and
hearing. Colman, Twining, Harris, Baretti, Hawkesworth, Reynolds, Barry,
were among those who occasionally surrounded the tea-table and
supper-tray at her father's modest dwelling. This was not all. The
distinction which Dr. Burney had acquired as a musician, and as the
historian of music, attracted to his house the most eminent musical
performers of that age. The greatest Italian singers who visited England
regarded him as the dispenser of fame in their art, and exerted
themselves to obtain his suffrage. Pachierotti became his intimate
friend. The rapacious Agujari, who sang for nobody else under fifty
pounds an air, sang her best for Dr. Burney without a fee; and in the
company of Dr. Burney even the haughty and eccentric Gabrielli
constrained herself to behave with civility. It was thus in his power to
give, with scarcely any expense, concerts equal to those of the
aristocracy. On such occasions the quiet street in which he lived was
blocked up by coroneted chariots, and his little drawing-room was
crowded with peers, peeresses, ministers, and ambassadors. On one
evening, of which we happen to have a full account, there were present
Lord Mulgrave, Lord Bruce, Lord and Lady Edgecumbe, Lord Barrington from
the War-Office, Lord Sandwich from the Admiralty, Lord Ashburnham, with
his gold key dangling from his pocket, and the French Ambassador, M. De
Guignes, renowned for his fine person and for his success in gallantry.
But the great show of the night was the Russian Ambassador, Count
Orloff, whose gigantic figure was all in a blaze with jewels, and in
whose demeanour the untamed ferocity of the Scythian might be discerned
through a thin varnish of French politeness. As he stalked about the
small parlour, brushing the ceiling with his toupee, the girls whispered
to each other, with mingled admiration and horror, that he was the
favoured lover of his august mistress; that he had borne the chief part
in the revolution to which she owed her throne; and that his huge hands,
now glittering with diamond rings, had given the last squeeze to the
windpipe of her unfortunate husband.

With such illustrious guests as these were mingled all the most
remarkable specimens of the race of lions--a kind of game which is
hunted in London every spring with more than Meltonian ardour and
perseverance. Bruce, who had washed down steaks cut from living oxen
with water from the fountains of the Nile, came to swagger and talk
about his travels. Omai lisped broken English, and made all the
assembled musicians hold their ears by howling Otaheitean love-songs,
such as those with which Oberea charmed her Opano.

With the literary and fashionable society which occasionally met under
Dr. Burney's roof, Frances can scarcely be said to have mingled. She was
not a musician, and could therefore bear no part in the concerts. She
was shy almost to awkwardness, and scarcely ever joined in the
conversation. The slightest remark from a stranger disconcerted her; and
even the old friends of her father who tried to draw her out could
seldom extract more than a Yes or a No. Her figure was small, her face
not distinguished by beauty. She was therefore suffered to withdraw
quietly to the background, and, unobserved herself, to observe all that
passed. Her nearest relations were aware that she had good sense, but
seem not to have suspected, that under her demure and bashful deportment
were concealed a fertile invention and a keen sense of the ridiculous.
She had not, it is true, an eye for the fine shades of character. But
every marked peculiarity instantly caught her notice and remained
engraven on her imagination. Thus, while still a girl, she had laid up
such a store of materials for fiction as few of those who mix much in
the world are able to accumulate during a long life. She had watched and
listened to people of every class, from princes and great officers of
state down to artists living in garrets, and poets familiar with
subterranean cook-shops. Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed in
review before her, English, French, German, Italian, lords and fiddlers,
deans of cathedrals and managers of theatres, travellers leading about
newly caught savages, and singing women escorted by deputy-husbands.

So strong was the impression made on the mind of Frances by the society
which she was in the habit of seeing and hearing, that she began to
write little fictitious narratives as soon as she could use her pen with
ease, which, as we have said, was not very early. Her sisters were
amused by her stories. But Dr. Burney knew nothing of their existence;
and in another quarter her literary propensities met with serious
discouragement. When she was fifteen, her father took a second wife. The
new Mrs. Burney soon found out that her daughter-in-law was fond of
scribbling, and delivered several good-natured lectures on the subject.
The advice no doubt was well-meant, and might have been given by the
most judicious friend; for at that time, from causes to which we may
hereafter advert, nothing could be more disadvantageous to a young lady
than to be known as a novel-writer. Frances yielded, relinquished her
favourite pursuit, and made a bonfire of all her manuscripts.[1]

[1] There is some difficulty here as to the chronology. "This
sacrifice," says the editor of the Diary, "was made in the young
authoress's fifteenth year." This could not be; for the sacrifice
was the effect, according to the editor's own showing, of the
remonstrances of the second Mrs. Burney; and Frances was in her
sixteenth year when her father's second marriage took place.

She now hemmed and stitched from breakfast to dinner with scrupulous
regularity. But the dinners of that time were early; and the afternoon
was her own. Though she had given up novel-writing, she was still fond
of using her pen. She began to keep a diary, and she corresponded
largely with a person who seems to have had the chief share in the
formation of her mind. This was Samuel Crisp, an old friend of her
father. His name, well known, near a century ago, in the most splendid
circles of London, has long been forgotten.

Crisp was an old and very intimate friend of the Burneys. To them alone
was confided the name of the desolate old hall in which he hid himself
like a wild beast in a den. For them were reserved such remains of his
humanity as had survived the failure of his play. Frances Burney he
regarded as his daughter. He called her his Fannikin, and she in return
called him her dear Daddy. In truth, he seems to have done much more
than her real father for the development of her intellect; for though he
was a bad poet, he was a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent
counsellor. He was particularly fond of Dr. Burney's concerts. They had,
indeed, been commenced at his suggestion, and when he visited London he
constantly attended them. But when he grew old, and when gout, brought
on partly by mental irritation, confined him to his retreat, he was
desirous of having a glimpse of that gay and brilliant world from which
he was exiled, and he pressed Fannikin to send him full accounts of her
father's evening parties. A few of her letters to him have been
published; and it is impossible to read them without discerning in them
all the powers which afterwards produced Evelina and Cecilia, the
quickness in catching every odd peculiarity of character and manner, the
skill in grouping, the humour, often richly comic, sometimes even

Fanny's propensity to novel-writing had for a time been kept down. It
now rose up stronger than ever. The heroes and heroines of the tales
which had perished in the flames, were still present to the eye of her
mind. One favourite story, in particular, haunted her imagination. It
was about a certain Caroline Evelyn, a beautiful damsel who made an
unfortunate love match, and died, leaving an infant daughter. Frances
began to imagine to herself the various scenes, tragic and comic,
through which the poor motherless girl, highly connected on one side,
meanly connected on the other, might have to pass. A crowd of unreal
beings, good and bad, grave and ludicrous, surrounded the pretty, timid,
young orphan; a coarse sea-captain; an ugly insolent fop, blazing in a
superb court-dress; another fop, as ugly and as insolent, but lodged on
Snow Hill, and tricked out in second-hand finery for the Hampstead ball;
an old woman, all wrinkles and rouge, flirting her fan with the air of a
Miss of seventeen, and screaming in a dialect made up of vulgar French
and vulgar English; a poet lean and ragged, with a broad Scotch accent.
By degrees these shadows acquired stronger and stronger consistence: the
impulse which urged Frances to write became irresistible; and the result
was the history of Evelina.

Then came, naturally enough, a wish, mingled with many fears, to appear
before the public; for, timid as Frances was, and bashful, and
altogether unaccustomed to hear her own praises, it is clear that she
wanted neither a strong passion for distinction, nor a just confidence
in her own powers. Her scheme was to become, if possible, a candidate
for fame without running any risk of disgrace. She had no money to bear
the expense of printing. It was therefore necessary that some bookseller
should be induced to take the risk; and such a bookseller was not
readily found. Dodsley refused even to look at the manuscript unless he
were trusted with the name of the author. A publisher in Fleet Street,
named Lowndes, was more complaisant. Some correspondence took place
between this person and Miss Burney, who took the name of Grafton, and
desired that the letters addressed to her might be left at the Orange
Coffee-House. But, before the bargain was finally struck, Fanny thought
it her duty to obtain her father's consent. She told him that she had
written a book, that she wished to have his permission to publish
[Transcriber's note: "published" in original] it anonymously, but that
she hoped that he would not insist upon seeing it. What followed may
serve to illustrate what we meant when we said that Dr. Burney was as
bad a father as so good-hearted a man could possibly be. It never seems
to have crossed his mind that Fanny was about to take a step on which
the whole happiness of her life might depend, a step which might raise
her to an honourable eminence, or cover her with ridicule and contempt.
Several people had already been trusted, and strict concealment was
therefore not to be expected. On so grave an occasion, it was surely his
duty to give his best counsel to his daughter, to win her confidence, to
prevent her from exposing herself if her book were a bad one, and, if it
were a good one, to see that the terms which she made with the publisher
were likely to be beneficial to her. Instead of this, he only stared,
burst out a laughing, kissed her, gave her leave to do as she liked, and
never even asked the name of her work. The contract with Lowndes was
speedily concluded. Twenty pounds were given for the copyright, and were
accepted by Fanny with delight. Her father's inexcusable neglect of his
duty, happily caused her no worse evil than the loss of twelve or
fifteen hundred pounds.

After many delays Evelina appeared in January 1778. Poor Fanny was sick
with terror, and durst hardly stir out of doors. Some days passed before
any thing was heard of the book. It had, indeed, nothing but its own
merits to push it into public favour. Its author was unknown. The house
by which it was published, was not, we believe, held in high estimation.
No body of partisans had been engaged to applaud. The better class of
readers expected little from a novel about a young lady's entrance into
the world. There was, indeed, at that time a disposition among the most
respectable people to condemn novels generally; nor was this disposition
by any means without excuse; for works of that sort were then almost
always silly, and very frequently wicked.

Soon, however, the first faint accents of praise began to be heard. The
keepers of the circulating libraries reported that every body was asking
for Evelina, and that some person had guessed Anstey to be the Author.
Then came a favourable notice in the London Review; then another still
more favourable in the Monthly. And now the book found its way to tables
which had seldom been polluted by marble-covered volumes. Scholars and
statesmen who contemptuously abandoned the crowd of romances to Miss
Lydia Languish and Miss Sukey Saunter, were not ashamed to own that they
could not tear themselves away from Evelina. Fine carriages and rich
liveries, not often seen east of Temple Bar, were attracted to the
publisher's shop in Fleet Street. Lowndes was daily questioned about the
author; but was himself as much in the dark as any of the questioners.
The mystery, however, could not remain a mystery long. It was known to
brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins: and they were far too proud and
too happy to be discreet. Dr. Burney wept over the book in rapture.
Daddy Crisp shook his fist at his Fannikin in affectionate anger at not
having been admitted to her confidence. The truth was whispered to Mrs.
Thrale; and then it began to spread fast.

The book had been admired while it was ascribed to men of letters long
conversant with the world, and accustomed to composition. But when it
was known that a reserved, silent young woman had produced the best work
of fiction that had appeared since the death of Smollett, the
acclamations were redoubled. What she had done was, indeed,
extraordinary. But, as usual, various reports improved the story till it
became miraculous. Evelina, it was said, was the work of a girl of
seventeen. Incredible as this tale was, it continued to be repeated down
to our own time. Frances was too honest to confirm it. Probably she was
too much a woman to contradict it; and it was long before any of her
detractors thought of this mode of annoyance. Yet there was no want of
low minds and bad hearts in the generation which witnessed her first
appearance. There was the envious Kenrick and the savage Wolcot, the asp
George Steevens and the polecat John Williams. It did not, however,
occur to them to search the parish-register of Lynn, in order that they
might be able to twit a lady with having concealed her age. That truly
chivalrous exploit was reserved for a bad writer of our own time, whose
spite she had provoked by not furnishing him with materials for a
worthless edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, some sheets of which our
readers have doubtless seen round parcels of better books.

But we must return to our story. The triumph was complete. The timid and
obscure girl found herself on the highest pinnacle of fame. Great men,
on whom she had gazed at a distance with humble reverence, addressed her
with admiration, tempered by the tenderness due to her sex and age.
Burke, Windham, Gibbon, Reynolds, Sheridan, were among her most ardent
eulogists. Cumberland acknowledged her merit, after his fashion, by
biting his lips and wriggling in his chair whenever her name was
mentioned. But it was at Streatham that she tasted, in the highest
perfection, the sweets of flattery, mingled with the sweets of
friendship. Mrs. Thrale, then at the height of prosperity and
popularity--with gay spirits, quick wit, showy though superficial
acquirements, pleasing though not refined manners, a singularly amiable
temper, and a loving heart--felt towards Fanny as towards a younger
sister. With the Thrales Johnson was domesticated. He was an old friend
of Dr. Burney; but he had probably taken little notice of Dr. Burney's
daughters, and Fanny, we imagine, had never in her life dared to speak
to him, unless to ask whether he wanted a nineteenth or a twentieth cup
of tea. He was charmed by her tale, and preferred it to the novels of
Fielding, to whom, indeed, he had always been grossly unjust. He did
not, indeed, carry his partiality so far as to place Evelina by the side
of Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison; yet he said that his favourite
had done enough to have made even Richardson feel uneasy. With Johnson's
cordial approbation of the book was mingled a fondness, half gallant
half paternal, for the writer; and his fondness his age and character
entitled him to show without restraint. He began by putting her hand to
his lips. But soon he clasped her in his huge arms, and implored her to
be a good girl. She was his pet, his dear love, his dear little Burney,
his little character-monger. At one time, he broke forth in praise of
the good taste of her caps. At another time, he insisted on teaching her
Latin. That, with all his coarseness and irritability, he was a man of
sterling benevolence, has long been acknowledged. But how gentle and
endearing his deportment could be, was not known till the Recollections
of Madame D'Arblay were published.

We have mentioned a few of the most eminent of those who paid their
homage to the author of Evelina. The crowd of inferior admirers would
require a catalogue as long as that in the second book of the Iliad. In
that catalogue would be Mrs. Cholmondeley, the sayer of odd things, and
Seward, much given to yawning, and Baretti, who slew the man in the
Haymarket, and Paoli, talking broken English, and Langton, taller by the
head than any other member of the club, and Lady Millar, who kept a vase
wherein fools were wont to put bad verses, and Jerningham, who wrote
verses fit to be put into the vase of Lady Millar, and Dr. Franklin--
not, as some have dreamed, the great Pennsylvanian Dr. Franklin, who
could not then have paid his respects to Miss Burney without much risk
of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, but Dr. Franklin the less--

[Greek: _Aias
meion, outi tosos ge osos Telamonios Aias,
alla polu meion._]

It would not have been surprising if such success had turned even a
strong head, and corrupted even a generous and affectionate nature. But,
in the Diary, we can find no trace of any feeling inconsistent with a
truly modest and amiable disposition. There is, indeed, abundant proof
that Frances enjoyed, with an intense, though a troubled, joy, the
honours which her genius had won; but it is equally clear that her
happiness sprang from the happiness of her father, her sister, and her
dear Daddy Crisp. While flattered by the great, the opulent, and the
learned, while followed along the Steyne at Brighton and the Pantiles at
Tunbridge Wells by the gaze of admiring crowds, her heart seems to have
been still with the little domestic circle in St. Martin's Street. If
she recorded with minute diligence all the compliments, delicate and
coarse, which she heard wherever she turned, she recorded them for the
eyes of two or three persons who had loved her from infancy, who had
loved her in obscurity, and to whom her fame gave the purest and most
exquisite delight. Nothing can be more unjust than to confound these
outpourings of a kind heart, sure of perfect sympathy, with the egotism
of a blue-stocking, who prates to all who come near her about her own
novel or her own volume of sonnets.

It was natural that the triumphant issue of Miss Burney's first venture
should tempt her to try a second. Evelina, though it had raised her
fame, had added nothing to her fortune. Some of her friends urged her to
write for the stage. Johnson promised to give her his advice as to the
composition. Murphy, who was supposed to understand the temper of the
pit as well as any man of his time, undertook to instruct her as to
stage-effect. Sheridan declared that he would accept a play from her
without even reading it. Thus encouraged she wrote a comedy named The
Witlings. Fortunately it was never acted or printed. We can, we think,
easily perceive from the little which is said on the subject in the
Diary, that The Witlings would have been damned, and that Murphy and
Sheridan thought so, though they were too polite to say so. Happily
Frances had a friend who was not afraid to give her pain. Crisp, wiser
for her than he had been for himself, read the manuscript in his lonely
retreat, and manfully told her that she had failed, that to remove
blemishes here and there would be useless, that the piece had abundance
of wit but no interest, that it was bad as a whole, that it would remind
every reader of the _Femmes Savantes_, which, strange to say, she had
never read, and that she could not sustain so close a comparison with
Moliere. This opinion, in which Dr. Burney concurred, was sent to
Frances in what she called a "hissing, groaning, cat-calling epistle."
But she had too much sense not to know that it was better to be hissed
and cat-called by her Daddy than by a whole sea of heads in the pit of
Drury-Lane Theatre; and she had too good a heart not to be grateful for
so rare an act of friendship. She returned an answer which shows how
well she deserved to have a judicious, faithful, and affectionate
adviser. "I intend," she wrote, "to console myself for your censure by
this greatest proof I have ever received of the sincerity, candour, and,
let me add, esteem, of my dear daddy. And as I happen to love myself
rather more than my play, this consolation is not a very trifling one.
This, however, seriously I do believe, that when my two daddies put
their heads together to concert that hissing, groaning, cat-calling
epistle they sent me, they felt as sorry for poor little Miss Bayes as
she could possibly do for herself. You see I do not attempt to repay
your frankness with the air of pretended carelessness. But, though
somewhat disconcerted just now, I will promise not to let my vexation
live out another day. Adieu, my dear daddy! I won't be mortified, and I
won't be _downed_; but I will be proud to find I have, out of my own
family, as well as in it, a friend who loves me well enough to speak
plain truth to me."

Frances now turned from her dramatic schemes to an undertaking far
better suited to her talents. She determined to write a new tale, on a
plan excellently contrived for the display of the powers in which her
superiority to other writers lay. It was in truth a grand and various
picture-gallery, which presented to the eye a long series of men and
women, each marked by some strong peculiar feature. There were avarice
and prodigality, the pride of blood and the pride of money, morbid
restlessness and morbid apathy, frivolous garrulity, supercilious
silence, a Democritus to laugh at every thing, and a Heraclitus to
lament over every thing. The work proceeded fast, and in twelve months
was completed. It wanted something of the simplicity which had been
among the most attractive charms of Evelina; but it furnished ample
proof that the four years which had elapsed since Evelina appeared, had
not been unprofitably spent. Those who saw Cecilia in manuscript
pronounced it the best novel of the age. Mrs. Thrale laughed and wept
over it. Crisp was even vehement in applause, and offered to insure the
rapid and complete success of the book for half a crown. What Miss
Burney received for the copyright is not mentioned in the Diary; but we
have observed several expressions from which we infer that the sum was
considerable. That the sale would be great nobody could doubt; and
Frances now had shrewd and experienced advisers, who would not suffer
her to wrong herself. We have been told that the publishers gave her two
thousand pounds, and we have no doubt that they might have given a still
larger sum without being losers.

Cecilia was published in the summer of 1782. The curiosity of the town
was intense. We have been informed by persons who remember those days,
that no romance of Sir Walter Scott was more impatiently awaited, or
more eagerly snatched from the counters of the booksellers. High as
public expectation was, it was amply satisfied; and Cecilia was placed,
by general acclamation, among the classical novels of England.

Miss Burney was now thirty. Her youth had been singularly prosperous;
but clouds soon began to gather over that clear and radiant dawn. Events
deeply painful to a heart so kind as that of Frances, followed each
other in rapid succession. She was first called upon to attend the
death-bed of her best friend, Samuel Crisp. When she returned to St.
Martin's Street, after performing this melancholy duty, she was appalled
by hearing that Johnson had been struck with paralysis; and, not many
months later, she parted from him for the last time with solemn
tenderness. He wished to look on her once more; and on the day before
his death she long remained in tears on the stairs leading to his
bedroom, in the hope that she might be called in to receive his
blessing. But he was then sinking fast, and, though he sent her an
affectionate message, was unable to see her. But this was not the worst.
There are separations far more cruel than those which are made by death.
Frances might weep with proud affection for Crisp and Johnson. She had
to blush as well as to weep for Mrs. Thrale.

Life, however, still smiled upon her. Domestic happiness, friendship,
independence, leisure, letters, all these things were hers; and she
flung them all away.

* * * * *

Then the prison was opened, and Frances was free once more. Johnson, as
Burke observed, might have added a striking page to his poem on the
Vanity of Human Wishes, if he had lived to see his little Burney as she
went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of liberty, of friendship, of domestic
affection, were almost too acute for her shattered frame. But happy days
and tranquil nights soon restored the health which the Queen's toilette
and Madame Schwellenberg's card-table had impaired. Kind and anxious
faces surrounded the invalid. Conversation the most polished and
brilliant revived her spirits. Travelling was recommended to her; and
she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral to cathedral, and from
watering-place to watering-place. She crossed the New Forest, and
visited Stonehenge and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful
valley of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham Castle, and by the
ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, to Bath, and from Bath, when the winter was
approaching, returned well and cheerful to London. There she visited her
old dungeon, and found her successor already far on the way to the
grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till midnight, with a
sprained ankle and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles driven from their
country by the Revolution. A colony of these refugees settled at Juniper
Hall in Surrey, not far from Norbury Park, where Mr. Lock, an intimate
friend of the Burney family, resided. Frances visited Norbury, and was
introduced to the strangers. She had strong prejudices against them; for
her Toryism was far beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt, but that of
Mr. Reeves; and the inmates of Juniper Hall were all attached to the
constitution of 1791, and were therefore more detested by the Royalists
of the first emigration than Petion or Marat. But such a woman as Miss
Burney could no longer resist the fascination of that remarkable
society. She had lived with Johnson and Windham, with Mrs. Montague and
Mrs. Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never heard
conversation before. The most animated eloquence, the keenest
observation, the most sparkling wit, the most courtly grace, were united
to charm her. For Madame de Stael was there, and M. de Talleyrand. There
too was M. de Narbonne, a noble representative of French aristocracy;
and with M. de Narbonne was his friend and follower General D'Arblay, an
honourable and amiable man, with a handsome person, frank soldier-like
manners, and some taste for letters.

The prejudices which Frances had conceived against the constitutional
royalists of France rapidly vanished. She listened with rapture to
Talleyrand and Madame de Stael, joining with M. D'Arblay in execrating
the Jacobins, and in weeping for the unhappy Bourbons, took French
lessons from him, fell in love with him, and married him on no better
provision [Transcriber's note: "pro-provision" in original] than a
precarious annuity of one hundred pounds.

* * * * *

We now turn from the life of Madame D'Arblay to her writings. There can,
we apprehend, be little difference of opinion as to the nature of her
merit, whatever differences may exist as to its degree. She was
emphatically what Johnson called her, a character-monger. It was in the
exhibition of human passions and whims that her strength lay; and in
this department of art she had, we think, very distinguished skill.

Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of
dialogue, stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,
endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity. The characters of which he
has given us an impression, as vivid as that which we receive from the
characters of our own associates, are to be reckoned by scores. Yet in
all these scores hardly one character is to be found which deviates
widely from the common standard, and which we should call very eccentric
if we met it in real life. The silly notion that every man has one
ruling passion, and that this clue, once known, unravels all the
mysteries of his conduct, finds no countenance in the plays of
Shakespeare. There man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions,
which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn. What is
Hamlet's ruling passion? Or Othello's? Or Harry the Fifth's? Or
Wolsey's? Or Lear's? Or Shylock's? Or Benedick's? Or Macbeth's? Or that
of Cassius? Or that of Falconbridge? But we might go on for ever. Take a
single example--Shylock. Is he so eager for money as to be indifferent
to revenge? Or so eager for revenge as to be indifferent to money? Or so
bent on both together as to be indifferent to the honour of his nation
and the law of Moses? All his propensities are mingled with each other;
so that, in trying to apportion to each its proper part, we find the
same difficulty which constantly meets us in real life. A superficial
critic may say, that hatred is Shylock's ruling passion. But how many
passions have amalgamated to form that hatred? It is partly the result
of wounded pride: Antonio has called him dog. It is partly the result of
covetousness: Antonio has hindered him of half a million; and, when
Antonio is gone, there will be no limit to the gains of usury. It is
partly the result of national and religious feeling: Antonio has spit on
the Jewish gaberdine; and the oath of revenge has been sworn by the
Jewish Sabbath. We might go through all the characters which we have
mentioned, and through fifty more in the same way; for it is the
constant manner of Shakespeare to represent the human mind as lying, not
under the absolute dominion of one despotic propensity, but under a
mixed government, in which a hundred powers balance each other.
Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for
this, that, while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits
than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single

Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who,
in the point which we have noticed, have approached nearest to the
manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane
Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a
multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such
as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from
each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. There
are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to
find in any parsonage in the kingdom, Mr. Edward Ferrars, Mr. Henry
Tilney, Mr. Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Elton. They are all specimens of the
upper part of the middle class. They have all been liberally educated.
They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They
are all young. They are all in love. Not one of them has any hobbyhorse,
to use the phrase of Sterne. Not one has a ruling passion, such as we
read of in Pope. Who would not have expected them to be insipid
likenesses of each other? No such thing. Harpagon is not more unlike to
Jourdain, Joseph Surface is not more unlike to Sir Lucius O'Trigger,
than every one of Miss Austen's young divines to all his reverend
brethren. And almost all this is done by touches so delicate, that they
elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we
know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have

A line must be drawn, we conceive, between artists of this class, and
those poets and novelists whose skill lies in the exhibiting of what Ben
Jonson called humours. The words of Ben are so much to the purpose, that
we will quote them--

When some one peculiar quality
Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
In their confluxions all to run one way,
This may be truly said to be a humour.

There are undoubtedly persons, in whom humours such as Ben describes
have attained a complete ascendency. The avarice of Elwes, the insane
desire of Sir Egerton Brydges for a barony to which he had no more right
than to the crown of Spain, the malevolence which long meditation on
imaginary wrongs generated in the gloomy mind of Bellingham, are
instances. The feeling which animated Clarkson and other virtuous men
against the slave-trade and slavery, is an instance of a more honourable

Seeing that such humours exist, we cannot deny that they are proper
subjects for the imitations of art. But we conceive that the imitation
of such humours, however skilful and amusing, is not an achievement of
the highest order; and, as such humours are rare in real life, they
ought, we conceive, to be sparingly introduced into works which profess
to be pictures of real life. Nevertheless, a writer may show so much
genius in the exhibition of these humours, as to be fairly entitled to a
distinguished and permanent rank among classics. The chief seats of all,
however, the places on the dais and under the canopy, are reserved for
the few who have excelled in the difficult art of portraying characters
in which no single feature is extravagantly overcharged.

If we have expounded the law soundly, we can have no difficulty in
applying it to the particular case before us. Madame D'Arblay has left
us scarcely any thing but humours. Almost every one of her men and women
has some one propensity developed to a morbid degree. In Cecilia, for
example, Mr. Delvile never opens his lips without some allusion to his
own birth and station; or Mr. Briggs, without some allusion to the
hoarding of money; or Mr. Hobson, without betraying the self-indulgence
and self-importance of a purse-proud upstart; or Mr. Simkins, without
uttering some sneaking remark for the purpose of currying favour with
his customers; or Mr. Meadows, without expressing apathy and weariness
of life; or Mr. Albany, without declaiming about the vices of the rich
and the misery of the poor; or Mrs. Belfield, without some indelicate
eulogy on her son; or Lady Margaret, without indicating jealousy of her
husband. Morrice is all skipping, officious impertinence, Mr. Gosport
all sarcasm, Lady Honoria all lively prattle, Miss Larolles all silly
prattle. If ever Madame D'Arblay aimed at more, as in the character of
Monckton, we do not think that she succeeded well.

We are, therefore, forced to refuse to Madame D'Arblay a place in the
highest rank of art; but we cannot deny that, in the rank to which she
belonged, she had few equals, and scarcely any superior. The variety of
humours which is to be found in her novels is immense; and though the
talk of each person separately is monotonous, the general effect is not
monotony, but a very lively and agreeable diversity. Her plots are
rudely constructed and improbable, if we consider them in themselves.
But they are admirably framed for the purpose of exhibiting striking
groups of eccentric characters, each governed by his own peculiar whim,
each talking his own peculiar jargon, and each bringing out by
opposition the oddities of all the rest. We will give one example out of
many which occur to us. All probability is violated in order to bring
Mr. Delvile, Mr. Briggs, Mr. Hobson, and Mr. Albany into a room
together. But when we have them there, we soon forget probability in the
exquisitely ludicrous effect which is produced by the conflict of four
old fools, each raging with a monomania of his own, each talking a
dialect of his own, and each inflaming all the others anew every time he
opens his mouth.

Yet one word more. It is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of
Madame D'Arblay's early works that she is entitled to honourable
mention. Her appearance is an important epoch in our literary history.
Evelina was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a
picture of life and manners, that lived or deserved to live. The Female
Quixote is no exception. That work has undoubtedly great merit, when
considered as a wild satirical harlequinade; but, if we consider it as a
picture of life and manners, we must pronounce it more absurd than any
of the romances which it was designed to ridicule.

Indeed, most of the popular novels which preceded Evelina, were such as
no lady would have written; and many of them were such as no lady could
without confusion own that she had read. The very name of novel was held
in horror among religious people. In decent families which did not
profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong feeling against all
such works. Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three years before Evelina
appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of sober fathers and
husbands, when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree
of diabolical knowledge. This feeling, on the part of the grave and
reflecting, increased the evil from which it had sprung. The novelist,
having little character to lose, and having few readers among serious
people, took without scruple liberties which in our generation seem
almost incredible.

Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier did for the
English drama; and she did it in a better way. She first showed that a
tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life
of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic
humour, and which yet should not contain a single line inconsistent with
rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach
which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She
vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble
province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her
track. At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no
small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is
more honourably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate
wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the successors of Madame
D'Arblay have equalled her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the
fact that she has been surpassed, gives her an additional claim to our
respect and gratitude; for in truth we owe to her, not only Evelina,
Cecilia, and Camilla, but also Mansfield Park and the Absentee.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, October, 1807]

_Poems_, in Two Volumes. By W. WORDSWORTH. London, 1807.

This author is known to belong to a certain brotherhood of poets, who
have haunted for some years about the lakes of Cumberland; and is
generally looked upon, we believe, as the purest model of the
excellences and peculiarities of the school which they have been
labouring to establish. Of the general merits of that school, we have
had occasion to express our opinion pretty fully, in more places than
one, and even to make some allusion to the former publications of the
writer now before us. We are glad, however, to have found an opportunity
of attending somewhat more particularly to his pretentions.

The Lyrical Ballads were unquestionably popular; and, we have no
hesitation in saying, deservedly popular: for in spite of their
occasional vulgarity, affectation, and silliness, they were undoubtedly
characterised by a strong spirit of originality, of pathos, and natural
feeling; and recommended to all good minds by the clear impression which
they bore of the amiable disposition and virtuous principles of the
author. By the help of these qualities, they were enabled, not only to
recommend themselves to the indulgence of many judicious readers, but
even to beget among a pretty numerous class of persons, a sort of
admiration of the very defects by which they were attended. It was on
this account chiefly, that we thought it necessary to set ourselves
against the alarming innovation. Childishness, conceit, and affectation,
are not of themselves very popular or attractive; and though mere
novelty has sometimes been found sufficient to give them a temporary
currency, we should have had no fear of their prevailing to any
dangerous extent, if they had been graced with no more seductive
accompaniments. It was precisely because the perverseness and bad taste
of this new school was combined with a great deal of genius and of
laudable feeling, that we were afraid of their spreading and gaining
ground among us, and that we entered into the discussion with a degree
of zeal and animosity which some might think unreasonable towards
authors, to whom so much merit had been conceded. There were times and
moods, indeed, in which we were led to suspect ourselves of
unjustifiable severity, and to doubt, whether a sense of public duty had
not carried us rather too far in reprobation of errors, that seemed to
be atoned for, by excellences of no vulgar description. At other times
the magnitude of these errors--the disgusting absurdities into which
they led their feebler admirers, and the derision and contempt which
they drew from the more fastidious, even upon the merits with which they
were associated, made us wonder more than ever at the perversity by
which they were retained, and regret that we had not declared ourselves
against them with still more formidable and decided hostility.

In this temper of mind, we read the _annonce_ of Mr. Wordsworth's
publication with a good deal of interest and expectation, and opened his
volumes with greater anxiety, than he or his admirers will probably give
us credit for. We have been greatly disappointed certainly as to the
quality of the poetry; but we doubt whether the publication has afforded
so much satisfaction to any other of his readers:--it has freed us from
all doubt or hesitation as to the justice of our former censures, and
has brought the matter to a test, which we cannot help hoping may be
convincing to the author himself.

Mr. Wordsworth, we think, has now brought the question, as to the merit
of his new school of poetry, to a very fair and decisive issue. The
volumes before us are much more strongly marked by its peculiarities
than any former publication of the fraternity. In our apprehension, they
are, on this very account, infinitely less interesting or meritorious;
but it belongs to the public, and not to us, to decide upon their merit,
and we will confess, that so strong is our conviction of their obvious
inferiority, and the grounds of it, that we are willing for once to
waive our right of appealing to posterity, and to take the judgment of
the present generation of readers, and even of Mr. Wordsworth's former
admirers, as conclusive on this occasion. If these volumes, which have
all the benefit of the author's former popularity, turn out to be nearly
as popular as the lyrical ballads--if they sell nearly to the same
extent--or are quoted and imitated among half as many individuals, we
shall admit that Mr. Wordsworth has come much nearer the truth in his
judgment of what constitutes the charm of poetry, than we had previously
imagined--and shall institute a more serious and respectful inquiry into
his principles of composition than we have yet thought necessary. On the
other hand,--if this little work, selected from the compositions of five
maturer years, and written avowedly for the purpose of exalting a
system, which has already excited a good deal of attention, should be
generally rejected by those whose prepossessions were in its favour,
there is room to hope, not only that the system itself will meet with no
more encouragement, but even that the author will be persuaded to
abandon a plan of writing, which defrauds his industry and talents of
their natural reward.

Putting ourselves thus upon our country, we certainly look for a verdict
against this publication; and have little doubt indeed of the result,
upon a fair consideration of the evidence contained in these volumes. To
accelerate that result, and to give a general view of the evidence, to
those into whose hands the record may not have already fallen, we must
now make a few observations and extracts.

We shall not resume any of the particular discussions by which we
formerly attempted to ascertain the value of the improvements which this
new school has effected in poetry: but shall lay the grounds of our
opposition, for this time, a little more broadly. The end of poetry, we
take it, is to please--and the same, we think, is strictly applicable to
every metrical composition from which we receive pleasure, without any
laborious exercise of the understanding. Their pleasure may, in general,
be analysed into three parts--that which we receive from the excitement
of Passion or emotion--that which is derived from the play of
Imagination, or the easy exercise of Reason--and that which depends on
the character and qualities of the Diction. The two first are the vital
and primary springs of poetical delight, and can scarcely require
explanation to anyone. The last has been alternately over-rated and
undervalued by the possessors of the poetical art, and is in such low
estimation with the author now before us and his associates, that it is
necessary to say a few words in explanation of it.

One great beauty of diction exists only for those who have some degree
of scholarship or critical skill. This is what depends on the exquisite
_propriety_ of the words employed, and the delicacy with which they are
adapted to the meaning which is to be expressed. Many of the finest
passages in Virgil and Pope derive their principal charm from the fine
propriety of their diction. Another source of beauty, which extends only
to the more instructed class of readers, is that which consists in the
judicious or happy application of expressions which have been sanctified
by the use of famous writers, or which bear the stamp of a simple or
venerable antiquity. There are other beauties of diction, however, which
are perceptible by all--the beauties of sweet sounds and pleasant
associations. The melody of words and verses is indifferent to no reader
of poetry; but the chief recommendation of poetical language is
certainly derived from those general associations, which give it a
character of dignity or elegance, sublimity or tenderness. Everyone
knows that there are low and mean expressions, as well as lofty and
grave ones; and that some words bear the impression of coarseness and
vulgarity, as clearly as others do of refinement and affection. We do
not mean, of course, to say anything in defiance of the hackneyed
commonplace of ordinary versemen. Whatever might have been the original
character of these unlucky phrases, they are now associated with nothing
but ideas of schoolboy imbecility and vulgar affectation. But what we do
maintain is, that much of the most popular poetry in the world owes its
celebrity chiefly to the beauty of its diction; and that no poetry can
be long or generally acceptable, the language of which is coarse,
inelegant, or infantine.

From this great source of pleasure, we think the readers of Mr.
Wordsworth are in great measure cut off. His diction has nowhere any
pretensions to elegance or dignity; and he has scarcely ever
condescended to give the grace of correctness or melody to his
versification. If it were merely slovenly or neglected, however, all
this might be endured. Strong sense and powerful feeling will ennoble
any expressions; or, at least, no one who is capable of estimating these
higher merits, will be disposed to mark these little defects. But, in
good truth, no man, now-a-days, composes verses for publication, with a
slovenly neglect of their language. It is a fine and laborious
manufacture, which can scarcely ever be made in a hurry; and the faults
which it has, may, for the most part, be set down to bad taste or
incapacity, rather than to carelessness or oversight. With Mr.
Wordsworth and his friends it is plain that their peculiarities of
diction are things of choice, and not of accident. They write as they
do, upon principle and system; and it evidently costs them much pains to
keep _down_ to the standard which they have proffered themselves. They
are to the full as much mannerists, too, as the poetasters who ring
changes on the commonplaces of magazine versification; and all the
difference between them is that they borrow their phrases from a
different and a scantier _gradus ad Parnassum_. If they were, indeed, to
discard all imitation and set phraseology, and bring in no words merely
for show or for metre,--as much, perhaps, might be gained in freedom and
originality, as would infallibly be lost in allusion and authority; but,
in point of fact, the new poets are just as much borrowers as the old;
only that, instead of borrowing from the more popular passages of their
illustrious predecessors, they have preferred furnishing themselves from
vulgar ballads and plebian nurseries.

Their peculiarities of diction alone, are enough, perhaps, to render
them ridiculous; but the author before us really seems anxious to court
this literary martyrdom by a device still more infallible,--we mean that
of connecting his most lofty, tender, or impassioned conceptions, with
objects and incidents which the greater part of his readers will
probably persist in thinking low, silly, or uninteresting. Whether this
is done from affectation and conceit alone, or whether it may not arise,
in some measure, from the self-illusion of a mind of extraordinary
sensibility, habituated to solitary meditation, we cannot undertake to
determine. It is possible enough, we allow, that the sights of a
friend's garden-spade, of a sparrow's-nest, or a man gathering leeches,
might really have suggested to such a mind a train of powerful
impressions and interesting reflections; but it is certain, that, to
most minds, such associations will always appear forced, strained, and
unnatural; and that the composition in which it is attempted to exhibit
them, will always have the air of parody, or ludicrous and affected
singularity. All the world laughs at Eligiac stanzas to a sucking pig--a
Hymn on Washing-day, Sonnets to one's grandmother--or Pindarics on
gooseberry-pie; and yet, we are afraid, it will not be quite easy to
persuade Mr. Wordsworth, that the same ridicule must infallibly attach
to most of the pathetic pieces in these volumes. To satisfy our readers,
however, as to the justice of this and our other anticipations, we shall
proceed without further preface, to lay before them a short view of
their contents.

The first is a kind of ode "to the Daisy,--" very flat, feeble, and
affected; and in diction as artificial, and as much encumbered with
heavy expletives as the theme of an unpractised schoolboy....

The scope of the piece is to say, that the flower is found everywhere;
and that it has suggested many pleasant thoughts to the author--some
chime of fancy, "_wrong or right_"--some feeling of devotion _more or
less_--and other elegancies of the same stamp....

The next is called "Louisa," and begins in this dashing and affected

I met Louisa in the shade;
And, having seen that lovely maid,
_Why should I fear to say_
That she is ruddy, fleet and strong;
_And down the rocks can leap along_,
Like rivulets in May? I. 7.

Does Mr. Wordsworth really imagine that this is more natural or engaging
than the ditties of our common song-writers?...

By and by, we have a piece of namby-pamby "to the Small Celandine,"
which we should almost have taken for a professed imitation of one of
Mr. Phillips's prettyisms....

Further on, we find an "Ode to Duty," in which the lofty vein is very
unsuccessfully attempted. This is the concluding stanza.

Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead's most benignant grace;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face;
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
And the most ancient heavens through thee are fresh and strong. I. 73.

The two last lines seem to be utterly without meaning; at least we have
no sort of conception in what sense _Duty_ can be said to keep the old
skies _fresh_, and the stars from wrong.

The next piece, entitled "The Beggars," may be taken, in fancy, as a
touchstone of Mr. Wordsworth's merit. There is something about it that
convinces us it is a favourite of the author's; though to us, we will
confess, it appears to be a very paragon of silliness and
affectation.... "Alice Fell" is a performance of the same order.... If
the printing of such trash as this be not felt as an insult on the
public taste, we are afraid it cannot be insulted.

After this follows the longest and most elaborate poem in the volume,
under the title of "Resolution and Independence." The poet roving about
on a common one fine morning, falls into pensive musings on the fate of
the sons of song, which he sums up in this fine distich.

We poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness. I, p. 92.

In the midst of his meditations--

I saw a man before me unawares,
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs....

The very interesting account, which he is lucky enough at last to
comprehend, fills the poet with comfort and admiration; and, quite glad
to find the old man so cheerful, he resolves to take a lesson of
contentedness from him; and the poem ends with this pious ejaculation--

"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor." I, p. 97.

We defy the bitterest enemy of Mr. Wordsworth to produce anything at all
parallel to this from any collection of English poetry, or even from the
specimens of his friend Mr. Southey....

The first poems in the second volume were written during a tour in
Scotland. The first is a very dull one about Rob Roy, but the title that
attracted us most was "An Address to the Sons of Burns," after visiting
their father's grave. Never was anything, however, more miserable....
The next is a very tedious, affected performance, called "The Yarrow
Unvisited." ... After this we come to some ineffable compositions, which
the poet has entitled, "Moods of my own Mind." ... We have then a
rapturous mystical ode to the Cuckoo; in which the author, striving
after force and originality, produces nothing but absurdity ... after
this there is an address to a butterfly.... We come next to a long story
of a "Blind Highland Boy," who lived near an arm of the sea, and had
taken a most unnatural desire to venture on that perilous element. His
mother did all she could to prevent him; but one morning, when the good
woman was out of the way, he got into a vessel of his own, and pushed
out from the shore.

In such a vessel ne'er before
Did human creature leave the shore. II, p. 72.

And then we are told, that if the sea should get rough, "a beehive would
be ship as safe." "But say, what was it?" a poetical interlocutor is
made to exclaim most naturally; and here followeth the answer, upon
which all the pathos and interest of the story depend.

A HOUSEHOLD TUB, like one of those
Which women use to wash their clothes!! II, p. 72.

This, it will be admitted, is carrying the matter as far as it will go;
nor is there anything,--down to the wiping of shoes or the evisceration
of chickens, which may not be introduced in poetry, if this is

Afterwards come some stanzas about an echo repeating a cuckoo's
voice.... Then we have Elegiac stanzas "to the spade of a friend,"

Spade! with which Wilkinson hath till'd his lands.

But too dull to be quoted any further.

After this there is a minstrel's song, on the Restoration of Lord
Clifford the Shepherd, which is in a very different strain of poetry;
and then the volume is wound up with an "Ode," with no other title but
the motto _Paulo majora canamus_. This is, beyond all doubt, the most
illegible and unintelligible part of the publication. We can pretend to
no analysis or explanation of it....

We have thus gone through this publication, with a view to enable our
readers to determine, whether the author of these verses which have now
been exhibited, is entitled to claim the honours of an improver or
restorer of our poetry, and to found a new school to supersede or
new-model all our maxims on the subject. If we were to stop here, we do
not think that Mr. Wordsworth, or his admirers, would have any reason to
complain; for what we have now quoted is undeniably the most peculiar
and characteristic part of his publication, and must be defended and
applauded if the merit or originality of his system is to be seriously
maintained. In our opinion, however, the demerit of that system cannot
be fairly appreciated, until it be shown, that the author of the bad
verses which we have already extracted, can write good verses when he
pleases; and that, in point of fact, he does always write good verses,
when, by any account, he is led to abandon his system, and to transgress
the laws of that school which he would fain establish on the ruin of all
existing authority.

The length to which our extracts and observations have already extended,
necessarily restrains us within more narrow limits in this part of our
citations; but it will not require much labour to find a pretty decided
contrast to some of the passages we have already detailed. The song on
the restoration of Lord Clifford is put into the mouth of an ancient
minstrel of the family; and in composing it, the author was led,
therefore, almost irresistibly to adopt the manner and phraseology that
is understood to be connected with that sort of composition, and to
throw aside his own babyish incidents and fantastical sensibilities....

All English writers of sonnets have imitated Milton; and, in this way,
Mr. Wordsworth, when he writes sonnets, escapes again from the trammels
of his own unfortunate system; and the consequence is, that his sonnets
are as much superior to the greater part of his other poems, as Milton's
sonnets are superior to his....

When we look at these, and many still finer passages, in the writings of
this author, it is impossible not to feel a mixture of indignation and
compassion, at that strange infatuation which has bound him up from the
fair exercise of his talents, and withheld from the public the many
excellent productions that would otherwise have taken the place of the
trash now before us. Even in the worst of these productions, there are,
no doubt, occasional little traits of delicate feeling and original
fancy; but these are quite lost and obscured in the mass of childishness
and insipidity with which they are incorporated, nor can anything give
us a more melancholy view of the debasing effects of this miserable
theory, than that it has given ordinary men a right to wonder at the
folly and presumption of a man gifted like Mr. Wordsworth, and made him
appear, in his second avowed publication, like a bad imitator of the
worst of his former productions.

We venture to hope, that there is now an end of this folly; and that,
like other follies, it will be found to have cured itself by the
extravagances resulting from its unbridled indulgence. In this point of
view, the publication of the volumes before us may ultimately be of
service to the good cause of literature. Many a generous rebel, it is
said, has been reclaimed to his allegiance by the spectacle of lawless
outrage and excess presented in the conduct of the insurgents; and we
think there is every reason to hope, that the lamentable consequences
which have resulted from Mr. Wordsworth's open violation of the
established laws of poetry, will operate as a wholesome warning to those
who might otherwise have been seduced by his example, and be the means
of restoring to that antient and venerable code its due honour and


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, July, 1821]

_Melmoth, the Wanderer_. 4 vols. By the Author of _Bertram_. Constable &
Co. Edinburgh, 1820.

It was said, we remember, of Dr. Darwin's Botanic Garden--that it was
the sacrifice of Genius in the Temple of False Taste; and the remark may
be applied to the work before us, with the qualifying clause, that in
this instance the Genius is less obvious, and the false taste more
glaring. No writer of good judgment would have attempted to revive the
defunct horrors of Mrs. Radcliffe's School of Romance, or the demoniacal
incarnations of Mr. Lewis: But, as if he were determined not to be
arraigned for a single error only, Mr. Maturin has contrived to render
his production almost as objectionable in the manner as it is in the
matter. The construction of his story, which is singularly clumsy and
inartificial, we have no intention to analyze:--many will probably have
perused the work, before our review reaches them; and to those who have
not, it may be sufficient to announce, that the imagination of the
author runs riot, even beyond the usual license of romance;--that his
hero is a modern Faustus, who has bartered his soul with the powers of
darkness for protracted life, and unlimited worldly enjoyment;--his
heroine, a species of insular goddess, a virgin Calypso of the Indian
ocean, who, amid flowers and foliage, lives upon figs and tamarinds;
associates with peacocks, loxias and monkeys; is worshipped by the
occasional visitants of her island; finds her way to Spain, where she is
married to the aforesaid hero by the hand of a dead hermit, the ghost of
a murdered domestic being the witness of their nuptials; and finally
dies in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Madrid!--To complete this
phantasmagoric exhibition, we are presented with sybils and misers;
parricides; maniacs in abundance; monks with scourges pursuing a naked
youth streaming with blood; subterranean Jews surrounded by the
skeletons of their wives and children; lovers blasted by lightning;
Irish hags, Spanish grandees, shipwrecks, caverns, Donna Claras and
Donna Isidoras, all opposed to each other in glaring and violent
contrast, and all their adventures narrated with the same undeviating
display of turgid, vehement, and painfully elaborated language. Such are
the materials, and the style of this expanded nightmare: And as we can
plainly perceive, among a certain class of writers, a disposition to
haunt us with similar apparitions, and to describe them with a
corresponding tumor of words, we conceive it high time to step forward
and abate a nuisance which threatens to become a besetting evil, unless
checked in its outset.

Political changes were not the sole cause of the rapid degeneracy in
letters that followed the Augustan era of Rome. Similar corruptions and
decay have succeeded to the intellectual eminence of other nations; and
we might be almost led to conclude, that mental as well as physical
power, after attaining a certain perfection, became weakened by
expansion, and sunk into a state of comparative imbecility, until time
and circumstance gave it a new progressive impetus. One great cause of
this deterioration is the insatiable thirst for novelty, which, becoming
weary even of excellence, will "sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey
on garbage." In the torpidity produced by an utter exhaustion of sensual
enjoyment, the Arreoi Club of Otaheite is recorded to have found a
miserable excitement, by swallowing the most revolting filth; and the
jaded intellectual appetites of more civilized communities will
sometimes seek a new stimulus in changes almost as startling. Some
adventurous writer, unable to obtain distinction among a host of
competitors, all better qualified than himself to win legitimate
applause, strikes out a fantastic or monstrous innovation; and arrests
the attention of many who would fall asleep over monotonous excellence.
Imitators are soon found;--fashion adopts the new folly;--the old
standard of perfection is deemed stale and obsolete;--and thus, by
degrees, the whole literature of a country becomes changed and
deteriorated. It appears to us, that we are now labouring in a crisis of
this nature. In our last Number, we noticed the revolution in our
poetry; the transition from the lucid terseness and exquisite polish of
Pope and Goldsmith, to the rambling, diffuse, irregular, and imaginative
style of composition by which the present era is characterized; and we
might have added, that a change equally complete, though diametrically
opposite in its tendency, has been silently introduced into our prose.
In this we have oscillated from freedom to restraint;--from the easy,
natural, and colloquial style of Swift, Addison and Steele, to the
perpetually strained, ambitious, and overwrought stiffness, of which the
author we are now considering affords a striking exemplification. "He's
knight o' the shire, and represents them all." There is not the smallest
keeping in his composition:--less solicitous what he shall say, than how
he shall say it, he exhausts himself in a continual struggle to produce
effect by dazzling, terrifying, or surprising. Annibal Caracci was
accused of an affectation of muscularity, and an undue parade of
anatomical knowledge, even upon quiescent figures: But the artist whom
we are now considering has no quiescent figures:--even his repose is a
state of rigid tension, if not extravagant distortion. He is the Fuseli
of novelists. Does he deem it necessary to be energetic, he forthwith
begins foaming at the mouth, and falling into convulsions; and this
orgasm is so often repeated, and upon such inadequate occasions, that we
are perpetually reminded of the tremendous puerilities of the Della
Cruscan versifiers, or the ludicrous grand eloquence of the Spaniard,
who tore a certain portion of his attire, "as if heaven and earth were
coming together." In straining to reach the sublime, he perpetually
takes that single unfortunate step which conducts him to the ridiculous
--a failure which, in a less gifted author, might afford a wicked
amusement to the critic, but which, when united with such undoubted
genius as the present work exhibits, must excite a sincere and painful
regret in every admirer of talent.

Whatever be the cause, the fact, we think, cannot be disputed, that a
peculiar tendency to this gaudy and ornate style, exists among the
writers of Ireland. Their genius runs riot in the wantonness of its own
uncontrolled exuberance;--their imagination, disdaining the restraint of
judgment, imparts to their literature the characteristics of a nation in
one of the earlier stages of civilization and refinement. The florid
imagery, gorgeous diction, and Oriental hyperboles, which possess a sort
of wild propriety in the vehement sallies of Antar the Bedoween
chieftain of the twelfth century, become cold extravagance and
floundering fustian in the mouth of a barrister of the present age; and
we question whether any but a native of the sister island would have
ventured upon the experiment of their adoption. Even in the productions
of Mr. Moore, the sweetest lyric poet of this or perhaps any age, this
national peculiarity is not infrequently perceptible; and we were
compelled, in our review of his Lalla Rookh, a subject which justified
the introduction of much Eastern splendour and elaboration, to point out
the excessive finery, the incessant sparkle and efflorescence by which
the attention of the reader was fatigued, and his senses overcome. He
rouged his roses, and poured perfume upon his jessamines, until we
fainted under the oppression of beauty and odour, and were ready to "die
of a rose in aromatic pain."

Dryden, in alluding to the metaphysical poets, exclaims "rather than all
things wit, let none be there":--though we would not literally adopt
this dictum, we can safely confirm the truth of the succeeding lines--

Men doubt, because so thick they lie,
If those be stars that paint the Galaxy:--

And we scruple not to avow, whatever contempt may be expressed for our
taste by the advocates of the toiling and turgid style, both in and out
of Ireland, that the prose works which we have lately perused with the
greatest pleasure, so far as their composition was concerned, have been
Belzoni's Travels, and Salame's Account of the Attack upon Algiers.
Unable, from their insufficient mastery of our tongue, to rival the
native manufacture of stiff and laborious verbosity, these foreigners
have contented themselves with the plainest and most colloquial language
that was consistent with a clear exposition of their meaning;--a
practice to which Swift was indebted for the lucid and perspicuous
character of his writings, and which alone has enabled a great living
purveyor of "twopenny trash" to retain a certain portion of popularity,
in spite of his utter abandonment of all consistency and public
principle. If the writers to whom we are alluding will not condescend to
this unstudied and familiar mode of communing with the public, let them
at least have the art to conceal their art, and not obtrude the
conviction that they are more anxious to display themselves than inform
their readers; and let them, above all things, consent to be
intelligible to the plainest capacity; for though speech, according to
the averment of a wily Frenchman, was given to us to conceal our
thoughts, no one has yet ventured to extend the same mystifying
definition to the art of writing ...

After this, let us no longer smile at the furious hyperboles of Della
Crusca upon Mrs. Robinson's eyes. In the same strain we are told of a
convent whose "walls sweat, and its floors quiver," when a contumacious
brother treads them;--and when the parents of the same personage are
torn from his room by the Director of the convent, we are informed that
"the rushing of their robes as he dragged them out, seemed like the
whirlwind that attends the presence of the destroying angel." In a
similar spirit, of pushing every thing to extremes when he means to be
impressive, the author is sometimes offensively minute; as when he makes
the aforesaid persecuted monk declare, that "the cook had learned the
secret of the convent (that of tormenting those whom they had no longer
hopes of commanding), and mixed the fragments he threw to me with ashes,
hair, and dust;"--and sometimes the extravagance of his phrases becomes
simply ludicrous. Two persons are trying to turn a key--"It grated,
resisted; the lock seemed invincible. Again we tried with cranched
teeth, indrawn breath, and fingers stripped almost to the bone--in
vain." And yet, after they had almost stripped their fingers to the
bone, they succeed in turning that which they could not move when their
hands were entire.

We have said that Mr. Maturin had contrived to render his work as
objectionable in the matter as in the manner; and we proceed to the
confirmation of our assertion. We do not arraign him solely for the
occasional indecorousness of his conceptions, or the more offensive tone
of some of his colloquies, attempted to be palliated by the flimsy plea,
that they are, appropriate in the mouths that utter them. Dr. Johnson,
as a proof of the total suppression of the reasoning faculty in dreams,
used to cite one of his own, wherein he imagined himself to be holding
an argument with an adversary, whose superior powers filled him with a
mortification which a moment's reflection would have dissipated, by
reminding him that he himself supplied the repartees of his opponent as
well as his own. In his waking dreams, Mr. Maturin is equally the parent
of all the parties who figure in his Romance; and, though not personally
responsible for their sentiments, he is amenable to the bar of criticism
for every phrase or thought which transgresses the bounds of decorum, or
violates the laws that regulate the habitual intercourse of polished
society. It is no defence to say, that profane or gross language is
natural to the characters whom he embodies. Why does he select such? It
may be proper in them; but what can make it proper to us? There are
wretches who never open their lips but to blaspheme; but would any
author think himself justified in filling his page with their
abominations? It betrays a lamentable deficiency of tact and judgment,
to imagine, as the author of Melmoth appears to do, that he may seize
upon nature in her most unhallowed or disgusting moods, and dangle her
in the eyes of a decorous and civilized community. We shall not stop to
stigmatize, as it deserves, the wild and flagrant calumnies which he
insinuates against three-fourths of his countrymen, by raking in the
long-forgotten rubbish of Popery for extinct enormities, which he
exaggerates as the inevitable result, rather than the casual abuse of
the system, and brands with an intolerant zeal, quite as uncharitable as
that which he condemns. These faults are either so peculiar to the
individual, or in their nature so obviously indefensible, as to repel
rather than invite imitation. But there is another peculiarity in the
productions of this gentleman which claims a more detailed notice,
because it seems likely to have extensive effects in corrupting others:
--we mean his taste for horrible and revolting subjects. We thought we
had supped full of this commodity; but it seems as if the most ghastly
and disgusting portion of the meal was reserved for the present day, and
its most hideous concoction for the writer before us,--who is never so
much in his favourite element as when he can "on horror's head horrors
accumulate." He assimilates the sluggish sympathies of his readers to
those of sailors and vulgar ballad readers, who cannot be excited to an
interest in the battle of the Arethusa, unless they learn that "her
sails smoaked with brains, and her scuppers ran blood;"--a line which
threatens him with formidable competitors from before the mast. Mere
physical horror, unalleviated by an intense mental interest, or
redeeming charities of the heart, may possess a certain air of
originality, not from the want of ability in former writers to delineate
such scenes, but from then-deference to the "_multaque tolles ex
oculis_" of Horace; from the conviction of their utter unfitness for
public exhibition. There is, however, a numerous class of inferior
caterers to the public, ready to minister to any appetite, however foul
and depraved, if they be once furnished with a precedent; and we foresee
an inundation of blood and abomination if they be not awed or ridiculed
into silence. We have quietly submitted to these inflictions from two or
three distinguished writers, whose talents may extenuate, though they
cannot justify, such outrages upon feeling. When regular artists and
professors conduct us into their dissecting room, the skill with which
they anatomise may reconcile us to the offensiveness of the operation;
but if butchers and resurrection-men are to drag us into their shambles,
while they mangle human carcases with their clumsy and unhallowed hands,
the stoutest spectators must turn from the exhibition with sickness and

Were any proof wanting that this Golgotha style of writing is likely to
become contagious, and to be pushed to a more harrowing extravagance at
each successive imitation, Mr. Maturin would himself supply it....

We have omitted this miscreant's flippant allusion to Madame de Sevigne
and his own damnation, uttered in a spirit which (to use the author's
own words upon another occasion), "mingled ridicule with horror, and
seemed like a Harlequin in the infernal regions flirting with the
furies:"--But we must not forget to mention, as little characteristic
touches in this scene of preposterous horrors, that the monster who
describes it was also a parricide, and that the female, on whose dying
agonies he had feasted, was his only sister! After this appalling
extract, we need not pursue our quotations from pages which, as more
than one of the personages say of themselves, seem to swim in blood and
fire; and we shall conclude with the following passage from a dream--

The next moment I was chained to my chair again,--the fires were lit,
the bells rang out, the litanies were sung;--my feet were scorched to
a cinder,--my muscles cracked, my blood and marrow hissed, my flesh
consumed like shrinking leather,--the bones of my leg hung two black
withering and moveless sticks in the ascending blaze;--it ascended,
caught my hair,--I was crowned with fire,--my head was a ball of
molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their sockets:--I opened
my mouth, it drank fire,--I closed it, the fire was within,--and still
the bells rang on, and the crowd shouted, and the king and queen, and
all the nobility and priesthood looked on, and we burned and burned! I
was a cinder, body and soul, in my dream. II. 301.

These, and other scenes equally wild and abominable, luckily counteract
themselves;--they present such a Fee-fa-fum for grown up people, such a
burlesque upon tragic horrors, that a sense of the ludicrous
irresistibly predominates over the terrific; and, to avoid disgust, our
feelings gladly take refuge in contemptuous laughter. Pathos like this
may affect women, and people of weak nerves, with sickness at the
stomach;--it may move those of stouter fibre to scornful derision; but
we doubt whether, in the whole extensive circle of novel readers, it has
ever drawn a single tear. The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity
has fortunately cleared our streets of the offensive vagrants who used
to thrust their mangled limbs and putrid sores into our faces to extort
from our disgust what they could not wring from our compassion:--Be it
_our_ care to suppress those greater nuisances who, infesting the high
ways of literature, would attempt, by a still more revolting exhibition,
to terrify or nauseate us out of those sympathies which they might not
have the power to awaken by any legitimate appeal.

Let it not be imagined, from any thing we have now said, that we think
meanly of Mr. Maturin's genius and abilities. It is precisely because we
hold both in respect that we are sincerely anxious to point out their
misapplication; and we have extended our observations to a greater
length than we contemplated, partly because we fear that his strong
though unregulated imagination, and unlimited command of glowing
language, may inflict upon us a herd of imitators who, "possessing the
contortions of the Sybil without her inspiration," will deluge us with
dull, turgid, and disgusting enormities;--and partly because we are not
without hopes that our animadversions, offered in a spirit of sincerity,
may induce the Author himself to abandon this new Apotheosis of the old
Raw-head-and-bloody-bones, and assume a station in literature more
consonant to his high endowments, and to that sacred profession to
which, we understand, he does honour by the virtues of his private life.


If Macaulay represents a new _Edinburgh_ from the days of Jeffrey,
Brougham, and Sydney Smith, the variety of criticism embraced by the
_Quarterly_ is even more startling. There was more malice, and far
coarser personalities in the early days, and almost continuously while
Gifford, Croker, and Lockhart held the reins: it is--almost certainly--
among these three that the responsibility for our "anonymous" group of
onslaughts may be distributed. The two earliest appreciations of Jane
Austen (from Scott and Whately) offer an interlude--actually in the same
period--which positively startles us by the honesty of its attempt at
fair criticism and the entire freedom from personality.

Gladstone's interesting recognition of Tennyson, and the "Church in
Arms" against Darwin (so ably pleaded by Wilberforce), belong to yet
another school of criticism which comes much nearer to our day, though
retaining the solemnity, the prolixity, and the _ex cathedra_ assumption
of authority with which all the Reviews began their career; and is
singularly cautious in its independence.



Gifford was the editor of the _Quarterly_ from its foundation in
February, 1809, until September, 1824, and undoubtedly established its
reputation for scurrility. It is probable that more reviews were
written, or directly inspired, by him than have been actually traced to
his pen; and, in any case, as Leigh Hunt puts it, he made it his
business to

See that others
Misdeem and miscontrue, like miscreant brothers;
Misquote, and misplace, and mislead, and misstate,
Misapply, misinterpret, misreckon, misdate,
Missinform, misconjecture, misargue, in short
Miss all that is good, that ye miss not the court.

Gifford was hated even more than his associates; not only, we fear, for
his venal sycophancy, but because he had been apprenticed to a shoemaker
and never concealed the lowness of his origin. Moreover, "the little
man, dumpled up together and so ill-made as to seem almost deformed,"
received from Fortune--

One eye not overgood,
Two sides that to their cost have stood
A ten years' hectic cough,
Aches, stitches, all the various ills
That swell the devilish doctor's bills,
And sweep poor mortals off.

Scott is almost alone in his generosity towards the learning and
industry of an editor who helped to make infamous the title of critic.
His original poems (_The Baviad_ and _The Moeviad_) have a certain
sledge-hammer merit; and he did yeoman service by suppressing the _Della

It was Gifford also "who did the butchering business in the
Anti-Jacobin." He was far heavier, in bludgeoning, than Jeffrey; while
Hazlitt epitomized his principles of criticism with his accustomed
vigour:--"He believes that modern literature should wear the fetters of
classical antiquity; that truth is to be weighed in the scales of
opinion and prejudice; that power is equivalent to right; that genius is
dependent on rules; that taste and refinement of language consist in

* * * * *

Gifford's review of _Ford's Weber_ is, perhaps, no more than can be
expected of the man who had edited _Massinger_ six years before he wrote
it; and produced a _Ben Jonson_ in 1816 and a _Ford_ in 1827. Of these
works Thomas Moore exclaimed "What a canker'd carle it is! Strange that
a man should be able to lash himself up into such a spiteful fury, not
only against the living but the dead, with whom he engages in a sort of
_sciomachy_ in every page. Poor dull and dead Malone is the shadow at
which he thrusts his 'Jonson,' as he did at poor Monck Mason, still
duller and deader, in his _Massinger_." Mr. A.H. Bullen, again, remarks
of his Ford, "Gifford was so intent on denouncing the inaccuracy of
others that he frequently failed to secure accuracy himself.... In
reading the old dramatists we do not want to be distracted by editorial
invectives and diatribes."

The review of _Endymion_ called forth Byron's famous apostrophe to--

John Keats, who was killed off by one critique
Just as he really promised something great,
If not intelligible, without Greek
Contrived to talk about the gods of late
Much as they might have been supposed to speak.
Poor fellow! his was an untoward fate;
'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuff'd out by one article.

It is but just to say, however, that the _Blackwood_ review of the same
poem, printed below, was scarcely less virulent; and later critics have
scouted the notion of the poet not having more strength of mind than he
is credited with by Byron. It is strange to notice that De Quincey found
in _Endymion_ "the very midsummer madness of affectation, of false
vapoury sentiment, and of fantastic effeminacy"; while one is ashamed
for the timidity of the publisher who chose to return all unsold copies
to George Keats because of "the ridicule which has, time after time,
been showered upon it."



Croker was certainly unfortunate in his enemies, though they have given
him immortality. The contemptible Rigby in Disraeli's _Coningsby_
(admittedly drawn from him) is scarcely more damaging to his reputation
than the sound, if prejudiced, onslaught of Macaulay's review, of which
we find echoes, after twelve years, in the same essayist's Madame
D'Arblay. Dr. Hill tells us that he "added considerably to our knowledge
of Johnson," yet he was a thoroughly bad editor and had no real sympathy
with either the subject or the author of that incomparable "Life":
through his essentially low mind. He was not a scholar, and he was

Croker was intimately associated with the _Quarterly_ from its
foundation until 1857, retaining his bitterness and spite to the year of
his death. But he was a born fighter, and never happier than in the heat
of controversy. That he secured the friendship of Scott, Peel, and
Wellington must go to prove that his political, and literary prejudices,
had not destroyed altogether his private character. He is credited with
being the first writer to use the word "conservatives" in the
_Quarterly_, January, 1830. He was a member of the Irish Bar, M.P. for
Dublin, Acting Chief Secretary for Ireland, Secretary of the Admiralty
(where his best work was accomplished), and a Privy Councillor.

* * * * *

The veiled sarcasm of his attack on _Sydney Smith_ was only to be
expected from a Tory reviewer, and was probably inflamed by that heated
loyalty to the Church which characterised his paper.

_Macaulay_ had certainly provoked his retaliation, and we
may notice here the same eager partisanship of Church and
State, pervading even his personal malice.



It is to be regretted that Lockhart, who is so honourably remembered by
his great _Life of Scott_, his "fine and animated translation" of
Spanish Ballads, and his neglected--but powerful--_Adam Blair_, should
be so intimately associated with the black record of the _Quarterly_. He
was also a contributor to _Blackwood_ from October, 1817, succeeding
Gifford in the editorial chair of Mr. Murray's Review in 1825 until

But Lockhart was "more than a satirist and a snarler." His polished
jibes were more mischievous than brutal. "This reticent, sensitive,
attractive, yet dangerous youth ... slew his victims mostly by the
midnight oil, not by any blaze of gaiety, or in the accumulative fervour
of social sarcasm. From him came most of those sharp things which the
victims could not forget.... Lockhart put in his sting in a moment,
inveterate, instantaneous, with the effect of a barbed dart, yet almost,
as it seemed, with the mere intention of giving point to his sentences,
and no particular feeling at all."

Carlyle describes him as "a precise, brief, active person of
considerable faculty, which however, had shaped itself _gigmanically_
only. Fond of quizzing, yet not _very_ maliciously. Has a broad, black
brow, indicating force and penetration, but the lower half of the face
diminishing into the character at best of distinctness, almost of

* * * * *

There is certainly a good deal of perversity about the _abuse_ of
Vathek, so startlingly combined with almost immoderate eulogy: to which
the discriminating enthusiasm of his Coleridge affords a pleasing

It should be noticed that Lockhart has also been credited with the
bitter critical part of the _Jane Eyre_ review, printed below--of which
any man ought to have been ashamed--as Miss Rigby (afterwards Lady
Eastlake) is believed to have written "the part about the governess." He
probably had a hand in the Blackwood series on "The Cockney School of
Poetry" (see below); and, in some ways, those reviews are more



It would be out of place here to enter upon any biography or criticism
of the author of _Waverley_, or for that matter of Jane Austen. It is
sufficient to notice that Scott has found something generous to say (in
diaries, letters, or formal criticism) on every writer he had occasion
to mention, and that in his somewhat neglected, but frequently quoted,
_Lives of the Novelists_, a striking pre-eminence was given to women;
particularly Mrs. Radcliffe and Clara Reeve. Indeed, the essay on Mrs.
Radcliffe, a "very novel and rather heretical revelation" is "probably
the best in the whole set."

We remember, too, the famous passage in his _General Preface to the
Waverley Novels_:--"without being so presumptuous as to hope to emulate
the rich humour, pathetic tenderness and admirable tact of my
accomplished friend, I felt that something might be attempted for my own
country, of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately
achieved for Ireland";--an ambition of which the modesty only equals the
success achieved.

In "appreciating" Jane Austen, indeed, Scott is far more cautious, if
not apologetic, than any critic of to-day would dream of being; but,
when we remember the prejudices then existing against women writers
(despite the popularity of Madame D'Arblay) and the well-nigh universal
neglect accorded the author of _Pride and Prejudice_, we should perhaps
rather marvel at the independent sincerity of his pronounced praise. The
article, at any rate, has historic significance, as the first serious
recognition of her immortal work.



The "dogmatical and crotchety" Archbishop of Dublin was looked at
askance by the extreme Evangelicals of his day (though Thomas Arnold has
eulogised his holiness), and there is no doubt that his theology,
however able and sincere, was mainly inspired by the "daylight of
ordinary reason and of historical fact," opposed to the dogmas of
tradition. He combated sceptical criticism by an ingenious parody
entitled "Historical Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte," and his
epigram on the majority of preachers--that "they aim at nothing and they
hit it," proves his freedom from any touch of sacerdotalism. His
"Rhetoric," his "Logic," and his "Political Economy" were praised by so
eminent a judge as John Stuart Mill, though criticised by Hamilton; and
Lecky remarks on the "admirable lucidity of his style."

His work, however, was as a whole too fragmentary to become standard,
and he regarded it himself as "the mission of his life to make up
cartridges for others to fire."

* * * * *

We may notice that in writing of _Jane Austen_, only six years after
Scott, though still measured and judicial, he permits himself a much
more assured attitude of applause; and the article affords most valuable
indication of the steady progress by which her masterpieces achieved the
supremacy now acknowledged by all.



It would be no less impertinent, and unnecessary, to dwell in these
pages upon the political, or literary, work of the greatest of modern
premiers. It is sufficient to recall the certainty which used to follow
a notice by Gladstone of a large and immediate rise in sales. Mr. John
Morley remarking that Gladstone's "place is not in literary or critical
history, but elsewhere," reminds us that his style was sometimes called
Johnsonian, though without good ground.... Some critics charged him in
1840 with "prolix clearness." "The old charge," says Mr. Gladstone upon
this, was obscure compression. I do not doubt that both may be true, and
the former may have been the result of a well-meant effort to escape
from the latter.

* * * * *

Mr. Morley, again, selects the essay on Tennyson for especial praise.
Though one is apt to forget it, the Laureate did not meet with anything
like immediate recognition; and, though coming twenty-eight years after
the appreciation by J.S. Mill, this article does not assume the
supremacy afterwards accorded the poet by common consent.



"One of the most conspicuous and remarkable figures" of his generation
the versatile Bishop of Oxford is said to have come "next to Gladstone
as a man of inexhaustible powers of work." Known from his Oxford days as
Soapy Sam, he was involved through no fault of his own, in some of the
odium attached to the "Essays and Reviews" and "Colenso" cases: his
private life was embittered by the secession to Rome of his two
brothers, his brother-in-law, his only daughter, and his son-in-law. "He
was an unwearied ecclesiastical politician, always involved in
discussions and controversies, sometimes, it was thought, in intrigues;
without whom nothing was done in convocation, nor, where Church
interests were involved, in the House of Lords." The energy with which
he governed his diocese for twenty-four years earned for him the title
of "Romodeller [Transcriber's note: sic] of the Episcopate."

* * * * *

The attempt, by a man whose "relaxations" were botany and ornithology,
but who had no claims to be called an expert, to defeat Darwin on his
own ground--and the dignified horror of a Churchman at some deductions
from evolution--is eminently characteristic of the period.

The earnest criticism of Newman's conversion to Rome concerns one of the
most striking events of his generation, and illustrates the "church"
attitude on such questions.


We have hinted already that the responsibility for this group of
ill-mannered recriminations may probably be distributed between Gifford,
Croker, and Lockhart. It is curious to notice that the second attack on
Scott appeared after his admission to the ranks of contributors; and the
author of _Waverley_ is perhaps the one man said to have friends both on
the _Edinburgh_ and the _Quarterly_. That on Leigh Hunt, always the pet
topic of Toryism, from whom he certainly provoked some retaliation, is
only paralleled in _Blackwood_. We have included the _Shakespeare_ and
the _Moxon_ as attractively brief samples on the approved model of
savage banter, and the _Jane Eyre_ as perhaps the most flagrant example
of bad taste to be found in these merciless pages. It was George Henry
Lewis, by the way, who so much offended Charlotte Bronte by the
greeting, "There ought to be a bond between us, for we have both written
naughty books."

It is interesting to find Thackeray among those it was permitted to
praise: though the "moral" objection to his "realism" reveals a strange

We may notice, with some surprise, that the attitude towards George
Eliot is nearly as hostile as towards Charlotte Bronte.


[From _The Quarterly Review_, December, 1811]

... When it is determined to reprint the writings of an ancient author,
it is usual, we believe, to bestow a little labour in gratifying the
natural desire of the reader to know something of his domestic
circumstances. Ford had declared in the title-pages of his several
plays, that he was of the Inner Temple; and, from his entry there, Mr.
Malone, following up the inquiry, discovered that he was the second son
of Thomas Ford, Esq., and that he was baptized at Ilsington, in
Devonshire, the 17th of April, 1586. To this information Mr. Weber has
added nothing; and he hopes that the meagreness of his biographical
account will be readily excused by the reader who has examined the lives
of his (Ford's) dramatical contemporaries, in which we are continually
"led to lament that our knowledge respecting them amounts to little
better than nothing." It would surely be unjust to appear dissatisfied
at the imperfect account of an ancient author, when all the sources of
information have been industriously explored. But, in the present case,
we doubt whether Mr. Weber can safely "lay this flattering unction to
his soul"; and we shall therefore give such a sketch of the poet's life,
as an attentive examination of his writings has enabled us to

Reversing the observation of Dryden on Shakespeare, it may be said of
Ford that "he wrote laboriously, not luckily": always elegant, often
elevated, never sublime, he accomplished by patient and careful industry
what Shakespeare and Fletcher produced by the spontaneous exuberance of
native genius. He seems to have acquired early in life, and to have
retained to the last a softness of versification peculiar to himself.
Without the majestic march of verse which distinguishes the poetry of
Massinger, and with none of that playful gaiety which characterises the
dialogue of Fletcher, he is still easy and harmonious. There is,
however, a monotony in his poetry, which those who have perused his
scenes long together must have inevitably perceived. His dialogue is
declamatory and formal, and wants that quick chace of replication and
rejoinder so necessary to effect in representation. If we could put out
of our remembrance the singular merits of "The Lady's Trial," we should
consider the genius of Ford as altogether inclined to tragedy; and even
there so large a proportion of the pathetic pervades the drama, that it
requires the "humours" of Guzman and Fulgoso, in addition to a happy
catastrophe, to warrant the name of comedy. In the plots of his
tragedies Ford is far from judicious; they are for the most part too
full of the horrible, and he seems to have had recourse to an
accumulation of terrific incidents, to obtain that effect which he
despairs of producing by pathos of language. Another defect in Ford's
poetry, proceeding from the same source, is the alloy of pedantry which
pervades his scenes, at one time exhibited in the composition of uncouth
phrases, at another in perplexity of language; and he frequently labours
with a remote idea, which, rather than throw it away, he obtrudes upon
his reader, involved in inextricable obscurity. We cannot agree with the
editor in praising his delineation of the female character: less than
women in their passions, they are more than masculine in their exploits
and sufferings; but, excepting Spinella in "The Lady's Trial," and
perhaps Penthea, we do not remember in Ford's plays, any example of that
meekness and modesty which compose the charm of the female character....

Mr. Weber is known to the admirers of our antient literature by two
publications which, although they may not be deemed of great importance
in themselves, have yet a fair claim to notice. We speak of the battle
of Flodden Field, and the Romances of the fourteenth century: which, as
far as we have looked into them, appear very creditable to his industry
and accuracy: his good genius, we sincerely regret to say, appears in a
great measure to have forsaken him from the moment that he entered upon
the task of editing a dramatic poet.

In the mechanical construction of his work Mr. Weber has followed the
last edition of Massinger, with a servility which appears, in his mind,
to have obviated all necessity of acknowledging the obligation: we will
not stop to enquire whether he might not have found a better model; but
proceed to the body of the work. As we feel a warm interest in
everything which regards our ancient literature, on the sober
cultivation of which the purity, copiousness, and even harmony of the
English language must, in no small degree, depend, we shall notice some
of the peculiarities of the volumes before us, in the earnest hope that
while we relieve Ford from a few of the errors and misrepresentations
with which he is here encumbered, we may convince Mr. Weber that
something more is necessary to a faithful editor than the copying of
printers' blunders, and to a judicious commentator, than a blind
confidence in the notes of every collection of old plays.

Mr. Weber's attempts at explanation (for explanations it seems, there
must be) are sometimes sufficiently humble. "Carriage," he tells us, "is
behaviour." It is so; we remember it in our spelling-book, among the
words of three syllables, we have therefore no doubt of it. But you must
have, rejoins the editor; and accordingly, in every third or fourth
page, he persists in affirming that "carriage is behaviour." In the same
strain of thankless kindness, he assures us that "fond is foolish,"
"but, except," "content, contentment," and _vice versa_, "period
[Transcriber's note: 'peroid' in original], end," "demur, delay," "ever,
always," "sudden, quickly," "quick, suddenly," and so on through a long
vocabulary of words of which a girl of six years old would blush to ask
the meaning....

The confidence which Mr. Weber reposes in Steevens, not only on one but
on every occasion, is quite exemplary: the name alone operates as a
charm, and supersedes all necessity of examining into the truth of his
assertions; and he gently reminds those who occasionally venture to
question it, that "they are ignorant and superficial critics." Vol. ii,
p. 256.--"I have seen Summer go up and down with _hot codlings!_ Mr.
Steevens observes that a codling _antiently_ meant an immature apple,
and the present passage _plainly_ proves it, as none but immature apples
could be had in summer," all this wisdom is thrown away. We can assure
Mr. Weber, on the authority of Ford himself, that "hot codlings" are
_not_ apples, either mature or immature. Steevens is a dangerous guide
for such as do not look well about them. His errors are specious: for he
was a man of ingenuity: but he was often wantonly mischievous, and
delighted to stumble for the mere gratification of dragging unsuspecting
innocents into the mire with him. He was, in short, the very Puck of

No writer, in our remembrance, meets with so many "singular words" as
the present editor. He conjectures, however, that _unvamp'd_ means
_disclosed_. It means not stale, not patched up. We should have supposed
it impossible to miss the sense of so trite an expression.... Mr.
Weber's acquaintance with our dramatic writers extends, as the reader
must have observed, very little beyond the indexes of Steevens and Reed.
If he cannot find the word of which he is in quest, in them, he sets it
down as an uncommon expression, or a coinage of his author....

These inadvertences, and many others which might be noticed, being
chiefly confined to the notes, do not, perhaps, detract much from the
value of the text: we now turn to some of a different kind, which bear
hard on the editor, and prove that his want of knowledge is not
compensated by any extraordinary degree of attention. It is not
sufficient for Mr. Weber to say that many of the errors which we shall
point out are found in the old copy. It was his duty to reform them. A
facsimile of blunders no one requires. Modern editions of our old poets
are purchased upon the faith of a corrected text: this is their only
claim to notice; and, if defective here, they become at once little
better than waste-paper....

There is something extremely capricious in Mr. Weber's mode of
proceeding: words are tampered with which are necessary to the right
understanding of the text, while others, which reduce it to absolute
jargon, are left unmolested....

We might carry this part of our examination to an immense extent; but we
forbear. Enough, and more than enough, is done to show that a strict
revision of the text is indispensible; and, if it should fall to the lot
of the present editor to undertake it, we trust that he will evince
somewhat more care than he manifests in the conclusion of the work
before us. It will scarcely be credited that Mr. Weber should travel
through such a volume as we have just passed, in quest of errata, and
find only one. "Vol. ii (he says), p. 321, line 12, for satiromastrix
read satiromastix!"

We could be well content to rest here; but we have a more serious charge
to bring against the editor, than the omission of points, or the
misapprehension of words. He has polluted his pages with the blasphemies
of a poor maniac, who, it seems, once published some detached scenes of
the "Broken Heart." For this unfortunate creature, every feeling mind
will find an apology in his calamitous situation; but--for Mr. Weber, we
know not where the warmest of his friends will seek either palliation or


[From _The Quarterly Review_, April, 1818]

Reviewers have sometimes been accused of not reading the works which
they affected to criticise. On the present occasion we shall anticipate
the author's complaint, and honestly confess that we have not read his
work. Not that we have been wanting in our duty--far from it--indeed, we
have made efforts almost as superhuman as the story itself appears to
be, to get through it; but with the fullest stretch of our perseverence,
we are forced to confess that we have not been able to struggle beyond
the first of the four books[1] of which this Poetic Romance consists. We
should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it may be, on
our parts, were it not for one consolation--namely, that we are no
better acquainted with the meaning of that book through which we have so
painfully toiled than we are with that of the three which we have not
looked into.

[1] _Endymion: A Poetic Romance_. By John Keats. London, 1818.

It is not that Mr. Keats (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt
that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody)
it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of
fancy, and gleams of genius--he has all these; but he is unhappily a
disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney
poetry; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in
the most uncouth language.

Of this school Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former number,
aspires to be the hierophant. Our readers will recollect the pleasant
recipes for harmonious and sublime poetry which he gave us in his
preface to _Rimini_, and the still more facetious instances of his
harmony and sublimity in the verses themselves; and they will recollect
above all the contempt of Pope, Johnson, and such like poetasters and
pseudo-critics, which so forcibly contrasted itself with Mr. Leigh
Hunt's approbation of

--All the things itself had wrote,
Of special merit though of little note.

The author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt, but he is more unintelligible,
almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and
absurd than his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat
himself in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his
own standard, yet generally had a meaning. But Mr. Keats had advanced no
dogmas which he was bound to support by examples, his nonsense therefore
is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and being bitten by
Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his

Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar

The two first books, and indeed the two last, are not of such
completion as to warrant their passing the press. p. vii.

Thus, "the two first books" are, even in his own judgment, unfit to
appear, and "the two last" are, it seems, in the same condition--and as
two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we have
a clear and, we believe, a very just estimate of the entire work.

Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this "immature and feverish"
work in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we confess
that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of the
tortures of the "_fierce hell_" of criticism, which terrify his
imagination, if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might
write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent
which deserves to be put in the right way, or which, at least, ought to
be warned of the wrong; and if, finally, he had not told us that he is
of an age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.

Of the story we have been able to make out but little; it seems to be
mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion;
but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we
cannot speak with any degree of certainty: and must therefore content
ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and versification.--
And here again we are perplexed and puzzled.--At first it appeared to
us, that Mr. Keats had been amusing himself and wearying his readers
with an immeasurable game at _bouts rimes_; but, if we recollect
rightly, it is an indispensable condition at this play, that the rhymes
when filled up shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have already
hinted, has no meaning. He seems to us to write a line at random, and
then he follows not the thought excited by this line, but that suggested
by the _rhyme_ with which it concludes. There is hardly a complete
couplet inclosing a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one
subject to another, from the association, not of ideas, but of sounds,
and the work is composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have
forced themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on
which they turn....

Be still the unimaginable lodge
For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth. p. 17.

_Lodge, dodge--heaven, leaven--earth, birth_; such, in six words, is the
sum and substance of six lines.

We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot indeed
write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line. Let us see.
The following are specimens of his prosodial notions of our English
heroic metre.

Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite, p. 4.

So plenteously all weed-hidden roots, p. 6.

... By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the
meaning of his sentences and the structures of his lines: we now present
them with some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr. Leigh
Hunt, he adorns our language.

We are told that "turtles _passion_ their voices" (p. 15); that "an
arbour was _nested_" (p. 23); and a lady's locks "_gordian'd_" up (p.
32); and to supply the place of nouns thus verbalised Mr. Keats, with
great fecundity, spawns new ones; such as "men-slugs and human
_serpentry_" (p. 14); "_honey-feel_ of bliss" (p. 45); "wives prepare
_needments_" (p. 13)--and so forth.

Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their tails,
the adverbs, and affixing them to their foreheads; thus "the wine
out-sparkled" (p. 10); the "multitude up-follow'd" (p. 11); and "night
up-took" (p. 29). "The wind up-blows" (p. 32); and the "hours are
down-sunken" (p. 36).

But if he sinks some adverbs in the verbs he compensates the language
with adverbs and adjectives which he separates from the parent stock.
Thus, a lady "whispers _pantingly_ and close," makes "_hushing_ signs,"
and steers her skiff into a "_ripply_ cove" (p. 23); a shower falls
"_refreshfully_" (p. 45); and a vulture has a "_spreaded_ tail" (p. 44).

But enough of Mr. Leigh Hunt and his simple neophite.--If anyone should
be bold enough to purchase this "Poetic Romance," and so much more
patient than ourselves, as to get beyond the first book, and so much
more fortunate as to find a meaning, we entreat him to make us
acquainted with his success; we shall then return to the task which we
now abandon in despair, and endeavour to make all due amends to Mr.
Keats and to our readers.


[From _The Quarterly Review_, February, 1810]

This sermon[1] is written on the characters and duties of the clergy.
Perhaps it would have produced more effect upon the Yorkshire divines
had it come from one who had lived longer among them, and of the
correspondence of whose life with his doctrines, they had better
opportunities of judging; one whom, from long experience, they knew to
be neither sullied by the little "affectations," nor "agitated by the
little vanities of the world," whose strict observance of "those
decencies and proprieties," which persons in their profession "owe to
their situation in society," they had remarked through a long course of
years. Whether the life of Mr. Smith would form an illustration of his
own precepts remains to be proved. But, if we rightly recollect dates,
he is still to his neighbours a sort of unknown person, and hardly yet
tried in his new situation of a parish priest. We therefore think, in
spite of all the apologies with which he has prefaced his advice, that a
more judicious topic might easily have been selected.

[1] A sermon preached before His Grace the Archbishop of York, and the
clergy, at Malton, at the Visitation, Aug., 1809. By the Rev. Sydney
Smith, A.M., Rector of Foston, in Yorkshire, and late Fellow of New
College, Oxford. Carpenter, 1809.

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