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Famous Reviews by Editor: R. Brimley Johnson

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In the execution of this sermon there is little to commend. As a system
of duties for any body of clergy, it is wretchedly deficient:--and
really, when we call to mind the rich, the full, the vigorous, eloquent,
and impassioned manner in which these duties are recommended and
inforced in the writings of our old divines, we are mortified beyond
measure at the absolute poverty, crudeness, and meanness of the present
attempt to mimic them. As a composition, it is very imperfect: it has
nearly the same merits, and rather more than the same defects, which
characterise his former publications. Mr. Smith never writes but in a
loose declamatory way. He is careless of connection, and not very
anxious about argument. His sole object is to produce an effect at the
moment, a strong first impression upon an audience, and if that can be
done he is very indifferent as to what may be the result of examination
and reflection....

If Mr. Smith is not only not a Socinian, but if in his heart he doubts
as to the least important point of the most abstruce and controverted
subject on which our articles have decided, if, in short, he is not one
of the most rigorously orthodox divines that exists, he has been guilty
of the grossest and most disgusting hypocrisy--he has pronounced in the
face of the public to which he appeals, and of the church to which he
belongs, in the most solemn manner, and on the most solemn subject, a
direct, intentional, and scandalous falsehood--he has acted in a way
utterly subversive of all confidence among men; and the greater part of
the wretches who retire from a course of justice degraded for perjury
rank higher in the scale of morality, than an educated man holding a
respectable place in society, who could thus trifle with the most sacred
obligations. He could be induced to this base action only by a base
motive, that of obviating any difficulties which a suspicion of his
holding opinions different from those avowed by the establishment, might
throw in the way of his preferment: and of rendering himself a possible
object of the bounty of "his worthy masters and mistresses," whenever
the golden days arrive, in which they shall again dispense the favours
of the crown. Such must be the case, if Mr. Smith is not sincere. There
is no alternative. Now this is scarcely to be believed of any gentleman
of tolerably fair character, still less of a teacher of morality and
religion, who holds forth in all his writings the most refined
sentiments of honour and disinterestedness.

The style of his profession of faith, however, partakes very much of the
most offensive peculiarities of his manner. It is abrupt and violent to
a degree which not only shocks good taste, but detracts considerably
from the appearance of sincerity. It seems as if he considered his creed
as a sort of nauseous medicine which could only be taken off at a
draught, and he looks round for applause at the heroic effort by which
he has drained the cup to its very dregs.

But the passage about the verse in St. John is yet more extraordinary.
Has Mr. Smith really gone through the controversy upon this subject? And
even if he has, is this the light way in which a man wholly unknown in
the learned world, is entitled to contradict the opinion of some of the
greatest scholars of Europe? We have, however, the mere word of the
facetious rector of Foston, opposite to the authority and the arguments
of a Porson and a Griesbach. It is at his command, unsupported by the
smallest attempt at reasoning, that we are to set aside the opinion of
men whose lives have been spent in the study of the Greek language, and
of biblical criticism, and which has been acquiesced in by many of the
most competent judges both here and abroad. Such audacity (to call it by
no coarser name) is in itself only calculated to excite laughter and
contempt: coupled as it is with a most unprovoked and unwarrantable
mention of the name of the Bishop of Lincoln, it excites indignation. We
feel no morbid sensibility for the character of a mitred divine: but we
cannot see a blow aimed at the head of one of the chiefs of the church,
a pious, learned, and laborious man, by the hand of ignorance and
presumption, without interposing, not to heal the wound, for no wound
has been made, but to chastise the assailant. The Bishop of Lincoln
gives up these verses, not carelessly, and unadvisedly, but doubtless
because he is persuaded that the cause of true Religion can never be so
much injured as by resting its defence upon passages liable to so much
suspicion; and because he knows, that the doctrine of the Trinity by no
means depends upon that particular passage, but may be satisfactorily
deduced from various other expressions, and from the general tenor of
holy writ. Indeed, if we were not prevented from harbouring any such
suspicion by Mr. Smith's flaming profession of the _iotal_ accuracy of
his creed; and if we could doubt the orthodoxy of the divine, without
impugning the honesty of the man, we should be inclined to suspect that
his defence of the verses proceeded from a concealed enemy. We are not
unaware that the question cannot even yet be regarded as finally and
incontrovertibly settled, but we apprehend the truth to be that Mr.
Smith, not having read one syllable upon the subject, but having
accidentally heard that there was a disputed verse in St. John relative
to the doctrine of the Trinity, and that it had been given up by the
Bishop of Lincoln, thought he could not do better than by one dash of
the pen, to show his knowledge of controversy, and the orthodoxy of his
belief, at the expense of that prelate's character for discretion and
zeal....

The next note is mere political, an ebullition of party rage, in which
Mr. Smith abuses the present ministry with great bitterness, talks of
"wickedness," "weakness," "ignorance," "temerity," after the usual
fashion of opposition pamphlets, and clamours loudly against what, with
an obstinacy of misrepresentation hardly to be credited, he persists in
terming the "persecuting laws" against the Roman Catholics.... He is
very anxious that his political friends should not desist from urging
the question--an act of tergiversation and unconsistency which, he
thinks, would ruin them in the estimation of the public. Yet, if we
mistake not, these gentlemen, at least that portion of them with which
Mr. Smith (as we are told) is most closely connected, gave up, without a
blush, India, Reform, and Peace, all of which they taught us to believe
were vital questions in which the honour or the security of the country
was involved. But Catholic emancipation has some peculiar
recommendations. It is odious to the people, and painful to the King,
and therefore it cannot be delayed, without an utter sacrifice of
character....

Now we are by no means so eager on Mr. Smith in what he would term the
cause of _religious freedom_. We belong to that vulgar school of timid
churchmen, to whom the elevation of a vast body of sectaries to a level
with the establishment, is a matter of very grave consideration, if not
of alarm. We think that something is due to the prejudices (supposing
them to be no more than prejudices) of nine-tenths of the people of
England; and we are even so childish (for which we crave Mr. Smith's
pardon) as to pay some regard to the feelings of the King, in whose
personal mortification, we fairly own, we should not take the smallest
pleasure....

We now take leave of the sermon and its notes. But, before we conclude,
we are desirous ... to convey to Mr. Smith a little salutary advice ...
to remind him that unmeasured severity of invective against others, will
naturally produce, at the first favourable opportunity, a retort of
similar harshness upon himself; and that unless he feels himself
completely invulnerable, the conduct which he has hitherto pursued, is
not only uncharitable and violent, but foolish. He should be told that,
although he possesses some talents, they are by no means, as he
supposes, of the first order. He writes in a tone of superiority which
would hardly be justifiable at the close of a long and successful
literary career. His acquirements are very moderate, though he wants
neither boldness nor dexterity in displaying them to the best advantage;
and he is far, very far indeed, from being endowed with that powerful,
disciplined, and comprehensive mind, which should entitle him to decide
authoritatively and at once upon the most difficult parts of subjects so
far removed from one another as biblical criticism and legislation. His
style is rapid and lively, but hasty and inaccurate; and he either
despises or is incapable of regular and finished composition.

Humour, indeed (we speak now generally, of all these performances which
have been ascribed to him by common consent), is his strong point; and
here he is often successful; but even from this praise many deductions
must be made. His jokes are broad and coarse; he is altogether a
mannerist, and never knows where to stop. The [Greek: _Paedenagan_]
seems quite unknown to him. His pleasantry does not proceed from keen
and well-supported irony; just, but unexpected comparisons; but depends,
for effect, chiefly upon strange polysyllabic epithets, and the endless
enumeration of minute circumstances. In this he, no doubt, displays
considerable ingenuity, and a strong sense of what is ludicrous; but his
good things are almost all prepared after one receipt. There is some
talent, but more trick, in their composition. The thing is well done,
but it is of a low order; we meet with nothing graceful, nothing
exquisite, nothing that pleases upon repetition and reflection. In
everything that Mr. Smith attempts, in all his "bravura" passages,
serious or comic, one is always shocked by some affectation or
absurdity; something in direct defiance of all those principles which
have been established by the authority of the best critics, and the
example of the best writers: indeed, bad taste seems to be Mr. Smith's
evil genius, both as to sentiment and expression. It is always hovering
near him, and, like one of the harpies, is sure to pounce down before
the end of the feast, and spoil the banquet, and disgust the guests.

The present publication is by far the worst of all his performances,
avowed or imputed. Literary merit it has none; but in arrogance,
presumption, and absurdity, it far outdoes all his former outdoings.
Indeed, we regard it as one of the most deplorable mistakes that has
ever been committed by a man of supposed talents....

ON MACAULAY

[From _The Quarterly Review_, March, 1849]

_The History of England from the Accession of James II_.
By THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY. 2 vols. 8vo. 1849.

The reading world will not need our testimony, though we willingly give
it, that Mr. Macaulay possesses great talents and extraordinary
acquirements. He unites powers and has achieved successes, not only
various, but different in their character, and seldom indeed conjoined
in one individual. He was while in Parliament, though not quite an
orator, and still less a debater, the most brilliant rhetorician of the
House. His Roman ballads (as we said in an article on their first
appearance) exhibit a novel idea worked out with a rare felicity, so as
to combine the spirit of the ancient minstrels with the regularity of
construction and sweetness of versification which modern taste requires;
and his critical Essays exhibit a wide variety of knowledge with a great
fertility of illustration, and enough of the salt of pleasantry and
sarcasm to flavour and in some degree disguise a somewhat declamatory
and pretentious dogmatism. It may seem too epigrammatic, but it is, in
our serious judgment, strictly true, to say that his History seems to be
a kind of combination and exaggeration of the peculiarities of all his
former efforts. It is as full of political prejudice and partisan
advocacy as any of his parliamentary speeches. It makes the facts of
English History as fabulous as his Lays do those of Roman tradition; and
it is written with as captious, as dogmatical, and as cynical a spirit
as the bitterest of his Reviews. That upon so serious an undertaking he
has lavished uncommon exertion, is not to be doubted; nor can any one
during the first reading escape the _entrainement_ of his picturesque,
vivid, and pregnant execution: but we have fairly stated the impression
left on ourselves by a more calm and leisurely perusal. We have been so
long the opponents of the political party to which Mr. Macaulay belongs
that we welcomed the prospect of again meeting him on the neutral ground
of literature. We are of that class of Tories--Protestant Tories, as
they were called--that have no sympathy with the Jacobites. We are as
strongly convinced as Mr. Macaulay can be of the necessity of the
Revolution of 1688--of the general prudence and expediency of the steps
taken by our Whig and Tory ancestors of the Convention Parliament, and
of the happiness, for a century and a half, of the constitutional
results. We were, therefore, not without hope that at least in these two
volumes, almost entirely occupied with the progress and accomplishment
of that Revolution, we might without any sacrifice of our political
feelings enjoy unalloyed the pleasures reasonably to be expected from
Mr. Macaulay's high powers both of research and illustration. That hope
has been deceived: Mr. Macaulay's historical narrative is poisoned with
a rancour more violent than even the passions of the time; and the
literary qualities of the work, though in some respects very remarkable,
are far from redeeming its substantial defects. There is hardly a page--
we speak literally, hardly a page--that does not contain something
objectionable either in substance or in colour: and the whole of the
brilliant and at first captivating narrative is perceived on examination
to be impregnated to a really marvellous degree with bad taste, bad
feeling, and, we are under the painful necessity of adding--bad faith.

These are grave charges: but we make them in sincerity, and we think
that we shall be able to prove them; and if, here or hereafter, we
should seem to our readers to use harsher terms than good taste might
approve, we beg in excuse to plead that it is impossible to fix one's
attention on, and to transcribe large portions of a work, without being
in some degree infected with its spirit; and Mr. Macaulay's pages,
whatever may be their other characteristics, are as copious a
repertorium of vituperative eloquence as, we believe, our language can
produce, and especially against everything in which he chooses (whether
right or wrong) to recognise the shibboleth of Toryism. We shall
endeavour, however, in the expression of our opinions, to remember the
respect we owe to our readers and to Mr. Macaulay's general character
and standing in the world of letters, rather than the provocations and
examples of the volumes immediately before us.

Mr. Macaulay announces his intention of bringing down the history of
England almost to our own times; but these two volumes are complete in
themselves, and we may fairly consider them as a history of the
Revolution; and in that light the first question that presents itself to
us is why Mr. Macaulay has been induced to re-write what had already
been so often and even so recently written--among others, by Dalrymple,
a strenuous but honest Whig, and by Mr. Macaulay's own oracles, Fox and
Mackintosh? It may be answered that both Fox and Mackintosh left their
works imperfect. Fox got no farther than Monmouth's death; but
Mackintosh came down to the Orange invasion, and covered full nine-tenths
of the period as yet occupied by Mr. Macaulay. Why then did Mr.
Macaulay not content himself with beginning where Mackintosh left off--
that is, with the Revolution? and it would have been the more natural,
because, as our readers know, it is there that Hume's history
terminates.

What reason does he give for this work of supererogation? None. He does
not (as we shall see more fully by and by) take the slightest notice of
Mackintosh's history, no more than if it had never existed. Has he
produced a new fact? Not one. Has he discovered any new materials? None,
as far as we can judge, but the collections of Fox and Mackintosh,
confided to him by their families.[1] It seems to us a novelty in
literary practice that a writer raised far by fame and fortune above the
vulgar temptations of the craft should undertake to tell a story already
frequently and recently told by masters of the highest authority and
most extensive information, without having, or even professing to have,
any additional means or special motive to account for the attempt.

[1] It appears from two notes of acknowledgments to M. Guizot and the
keepers of the archives at The Hague, that Mr. Macaulay obtained
some additions to the copies which Mackintosh already had of the
letters of Ronquillo the Spanish and Citters the Dutch minister at
the court of James. We may conjecture that these additions were
insignificant, since Mr. Macaulay has nowhere, that we have
observed, specially noticed them; but except these, whatever they
may be, we find no trace of anything that Fox and Mackintosh had not
already examined and classed.

We suspect, however, that we can trace Mr. Macaulay's design to its true
source--the example and success of the author of Waverley. The
historical novel, if not invented, at least first developed and
illustrated by the happy genius of Scott, took a sudden and extensive
hold of the public taste; he himself, in most of his subsequent novels,
availed himself largely of the historical element which had contributed
so much to the popularity of Waverley. The press has since that time
groaned with his imitators. We have had historical novels of all classes
and grades. We have had served up in this form the Norman Conquest and
the Wars of the Roses, the Gunpowder Plot and the Fire of London,
Darnley and Richelieu--and almost at the same moment with Mr. Macaulay's
appeared a professed romance of Mr. Ainsworth's on the same subject--
James II. Nay, on a novelist of this popular order has been conferred
the office of _Historiographer_ to the Queen.

Mr. Macaulay, too mature not to have well measured his own peculiar
capacities, not rich in invention but ingenious in application, saw the
use that might be made of this principle, and that history itself would
be much more popular with a large embroidery of personal, social, and
even topographical anecdote and illustration, instead of the sober garb
in which we had been in the habit of seeing it. Few histories indeed
ever were or could be written without some admixture of this sort. The
father of the art himself, old Herodotus, vivified his text with a
greater share of what we may call personal anecdote than any of his
classical followers. Modern historians, as they happened to have more or
less of what we may call _artistic_ feeling, admitted more or less of
this decoration into their text, but always with an eye (which Mr.
Macaulay never exercises) to the appropriateness and value of the
illustration. Generally, however, such matters have been thrown into
notes, or, in a few instances--as by Dr. Henry and in Mr. Knight's
interesting and instructive "Pictorial History"--into separate chapters.
The large class of memoir-writers may also be fairly considered as
anecdotical historians--and they are in fact the sources from which the
novelists of the new school extract their principal characters and main
incidents.

Mr. Macaulay deals with history, evidently, as we think, in imitation of
the novelists--his first object being always picturesque effect--his
constant endeavour to give from all the repositories of gossip that have
reached us a kind of circumstantial reality to his incidents, and a sort
of dramatic life to his personages. For this purpose he would not be
very solicitous about contributing any substantial addition to history,
strictly so called; on the contrary, indeed, he seems to have willingly
taken it as he found it, adding to it such lace and trimmings as he
could collect from the Monmouth-street of literature, seldom it may be
safely presumed of very delicate quality. It is, as Johnson drolly said,
"an old coat with a new facing--the old dog in a new doublet." The
conception was bold, and--so far as availing himself, like other
novelists, of the fashion of the day to produce a popular and profitable
effect--the experiment has been eminently successful.

But besides the obvious incentives just noticed, Mr. Macaulay had also
the stimulus of what we may compendiously call a strong party spirit.
One would have thought that the Whigs might have been satisfied with
their share in the historical library of the Revolution:--besides Rapin,
Echard, and Jones, who, though of moderate politics in general, were
stout friends to the Revolution, they have had of professed and zealous
Whigs, Burnet, the foundation of all, Kennett, Oldmixon, Dalrymple,
Laing, Brodie, Fox, and finally Mackintosh and his continuator, besides
innumerable writers of less note, who naturally adopted the successful
side; and we should not have supposed that the reader of any of those
historians, and particularly the later ones, could complain that they
had been too sparing of imputation, or even vituperation, to the
opposite party. But not so Mr. Macaulay. The most distinctive feature on
the face of his pages is personal virulence--if he has at all succeeded
in throwing an air of fresh life into his characters, it is mainly due,
as any impartial and collected reader will soon discover, to the simple
circumstance of his hating the individuals of the opposite party as
bitterly, as passionately, as if they were his own personal enemies--
more so, indeed, we hope than he would a mere political antagonist of
his own day. When some one suggested to the angry O'Neil that one of the
Anglo-Irish families whom he was reviling as strangers had been four
hundred years settled in Ireland, the Milesian replied, "_I hate the
churls as if they had come but yesterday_." Mr. Macaulay seems largely
endowed with this (as with a more enviable) species of memory, and he
hates, for example, King Charles I as if he had been murdered only
yesterday. Let us not be understood as wishing to abridge an historian's
full liberty of censure--but he should not be a satirist, still less a
libeller. We do not say nor think that Mr. Macaulay's censures were
always unmerited--far from it--but they are always, we think without
exception, immoderate. Nay, it would scarcely be too much to say that
this massacre of character is the point on which Mr. Macaulay must
chiefly rest any claims he can advance to the praise of impartiality,
for while he paints everything that looks like a Tory in the blackest
colours, he does not altogether spare any of the Whigs against whom he
takes a spite, though he always visits them with a gentler correction.
In fact, except Oliver Cromwell, King William, a few gentlemen who had
the misfortune to be executed or exiled for high treason, and every
dissenting minister that he has or can find occasion to notice, there
are hardly any persons mentioned who are not stigmatized as knaves or
fools, differing only in degrees of "turpitude" and "imbecility". Mr.
Macaulay has almost realized the work that Alexander Chalmers's playful
imagination had fancied, a _Biographia Flagitiosa_, or _The Lives of
Eminent Scoundrels_. This is also an imitation of the Historical Novel,
though rather in the track of Eugene Aram and Jack Sheppard than of
Waverley or Woodstock; but what would you have? To attain the
picturesque--the chief object of our artist--he adopts the ready process
of dark colours and a rough brush. Nature, even at the worst, is never
gloomy enough for a Spagnoletto, and Judge Jeffries himself, for the
first time, excites a kind of pity when we find him (like one to whom he
was nearly akin) not so black as he is painted.

From this first general view of Mr. Macaulay's Historical Novel, we now
proceed to exhibit in detail some grounds for the opinion which we have
ventured to express.

We premise that we are about to enter into details, because there is in
fact little to question or debate about but details. We have already
hinted that there is absolutely no new fact of any consequence, and, we
think we can safely add, hardly a new view of any historical fact, in
the whole book. Whatever there may remain questionable or debatable in
the history of the period, we should have to argue with Burnet,
Dalrymple, or Mackintosh, and not with Mr. Macaulay. It would, we know,
have a grander air if we were to make his book the occasion of
disquisitions on the rise and progress of the constitution--on the
causes by which the monarchy of the Tudors passed, through the murder of
Charles, to the despotism of Cromwell--how again that produced a
restoration which settled none of the great moral or political questions
which had generated all those agitations, and which, in return, those
agitations had complicated and inflamed--and how, at last, the
undefined, discordant, and antagonistic pretensions of the royal and
democratical elements were reconciled by the Revolution and the Bill of
Rights--and finally, whether with too much or too little violence to the
principles of the ancient constitution--all these topics, we say, would,
if we were so inclined, supply us, as they have supplied Mr. Macaulay,
with abundant opportunities of grave tautology and commonplace; but we
decline to raise sham debates on points where there is no contest. We
can have little historic difference, properly so called, with one who
has no historical difference on the main facts with anybody else:
instead, then, of pretending to treat any great questions, either of
constitutional learning or political philosophy, we shall confine
ourselves to the humbler but more practical and more useful task above
stated.

Our first complaint is of a comparatively small and almost mechanical,
and yet very real, defect--the paucity and irregularity of his dates,
and the mode in which the few that he does give are overlaid, as it
were, by the text. This, though it may be very convenient to the writer,
and quite indifferent to the reader, of an historical romance, is
perplexing to any one who might wish to read and weigh the book as a
serious history, of which dates are the guides and landmarks; and when
they are visibly neglected we cannot but suspect that the historian will
be found not very solicitous about strict accuracy. This negligence is
carried to such an extent that, in what looks like a very copious table
of contents, one of the most important events of the whole history--
that, indeed, on which the Revolution finally turned--the marriage of
Princess Mary to the Prince of Orange, is not noticed; nor is any date
affixed to the very cursory mention of it in the text. It is rather hard
to force the reader who buys this last new model history, in general so
profuse of details, to recur to one of the old-fashioned ones to
discover that this important event happened in the year 1675, and on the
4th of November--a day thrice over remarkable in William's history--for
his birth, his marriage, and his arrival with his invading army on the
coast of Devon.

Our second complaint is of one of the least important, perhaps, but most
prominent defects of Mr. Macaulay's book--his Style--not merely the
choice and order of words, commonly called style, but the turn of mind
which prompts the choice of expressions as well as of topics. We need
not repeat that Mr. Macaulay has a great facility of language, a
prodigal _copia verborum_--that he narrates rapidly and clearly--that he
paints very forcibly,--and that his readers throughout the tale are
carried on, or away, by something of the sorcery which a brilliant
orator exercises over his auditory. But he has also in a great degree
the faults of the oratorical style. He deals much too largely in
epithets--a habit exceedingly dangerous to historical truth. He
habitually constructs a piece of what should be calm, dispassionate
narrative, upon the model of the most passionate peroration--adhering in
numberless instances to precisely the same specific formula of artifice.
His diction is often inflated into fustian, and he indulges in
exaggeration till it sometimes, unconsciously no doubt, amounts to
falsehood. It is a common fault of those who strive at producing
oratorical effects, to oscillate between commonplace and extravagance;
and while studying Mr. Macaulay, one feels as if vibrating between facts
that every one knows and consequences which nobody can believe. We are
satisfied that whoever will take, as we have been obliged to do, the
pains of sifting what Mr. Macaulay has produced from his own mind with
what he has borrowed from others, will be entirely of our opinion. In
truth, when, after reading a page or two of this book, we have occasion
to turn to the same transaction in Burnet, Dalrymple, or Hume, we feel
as if we were exchanging the glittering agility of a rope-dancer for
gentlemen in the attire and attitude of society. And we must say that
there is not one of those writers that does not give a clearer and more
trustworthy account of all that is really historical in the period than
can be collected from Mr. Macaulay's more decorated pages. We invite our
readers to try Mr. Macaulay's merits as an historian by the test of
comparison with his predecessors.

* * * * *

Every great painter is supposed to make a larger use of one particular
colour. What a monstrous bladderful of _infamy_ Mr. Macaulay must have
squeezed on his palette when he took to portrait-painting! We have no
concern, except as friends to historical justice, for the characters of
any of the parties thus stigmatized, nor have we room or time to discuss
these, or the hundred other somewhat similar cases which the volumes
present; but we have looked at the authorities cited by Mr. Macaulay,
and we do not hesitate to say that, "as is his wont," he has, with the
exception of Jeffries, outrageously exaggerated them.

We must next notice the way in which Mr. Macaulay refers to and uses his
authorities--no trivial points in the execution of a historical work--
though we shall begin with comparatively small matters. In his chapter
on manners, which we may call the most remarkable in his book, one of
his most frequent references is to "Chamberlayne's State of England,
1684." It is referred to at least a dozen or fourteen times in that
chapter alone; but we really have some doubt whether Mr. Macaulay knew
the nature of the book he so frequently quoted. Chamberlayne's work, of
which the real title is "_Angliae_ [or, after the Scotch Union, _Magnae
Britanniae_] _Notitia, or the Present State of England_" [or _Great
Britain_], was a kind of periodical publication, half history and half
court-calendar. It was first published in 1669, and new editions or
reprints, with new dates, were issued, not annually, we believe, but so
frequently that there are between thirty and forty of them in the
Museum, ending with 1755. From the way and for the purposes for which
Mr. Macaulay quotes Chamberlayne, we should almost suspect that he had
lighted on the volume for 1684, and, knowing of no other, considered it
as a substantive work published in that year. _Once_ indeed he cites the
date of 1686, but there was, it seems, no edition of that year, and this
may be an accidental error; but however that may be, our readers will
smile when they hear that the two first and several following passages
which Mr. Macaulay cites from Chamberlayne (i. 290 and 291), as
_characteristic_ of the _days of Charles II_, distinctively from more
modern times, are to be found _literatim_ in every succeeding
"Chamberlayne" down to 1755--the last we have seen--were thus
continually reproduced because the proprietors and editors of the table
book knew they were _not_ particularly characteristical of one year or
reign more than another--and now, in 1849, might be as well quoted as
characteristics of the reign of George II as of Charles II. We must add
that there are references to Chamberlayne and to several weightier books
(some of which we shall notice more particularly hereafter), as
justifying assertions for which, on examining the said books with our
best diligence, we have not been able to find a shadow of authority.

Our readers know that there was a Dr. John Eachard who wrote a
celebrated work on the "Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the
Clergy." They also know that there was a Dr. Lawrence Echard who wrote
both a History of England, and a History of the Revolution. Both of
these were remarkable men; but we almost doubt whether Mr. Macaulay, who
quotes the works of each, does not confound their persons, for he refers
to them both by the common (as it may once have been) name of _Each_ard,
and at least twenty times by the wrong name. This, we admit, is a small
matter; but what will some Edinburgh Reviewer (_temp_. Albert V) say if
he finds a writer confounding _Catherine_ and _Thomas_ Macaulay as "the
celebrated author of the great Whig History of England"--a confusion
hardly worse than that of the two Eachards--for Catherine, though now
forgotten by an ungrateful public, made quite as much noise in her day
as Thomas does in ours.

But we are sorry to say we have a heavier complaint against Mr.
Macaulay. We accuse him of a habitual and really injurious perversion of
his authorities. This unfortunate indulgence, in whatever juvenile
levity it may have originated, and through whatever steps it may have
grown into an unconscious habit, seems to us to pervade the whole work--
from Alpha to Omega--from Procopius to Mackintosh--and it is on that
very account the more difficult to bring to the distinct conception of
our readers. Individual instances can be, and shall be, produced; but
how can we extract and exhibit the minute particles that colour every
thread of the texture?--how extract the impalpable atoms that have
fermented the whole brewing? We must do as Dr. Faraday does at the
Institution when he exhibits in miniature the larger processes of
Nature. We will suppose, then--taking a simple phrase as the fairest for
the experiment--that Mr. Macaulay found Barillon saying in French, "_le
drole m'a fait peur_," or Burnet saying in English, "_the fellow
frightened me_." We should be pretty sure not to find the same words in
Mr. Macaulay. He would pause--he would first consider whether "the
fellow" spoken of was a _Whig_ or a _Tory_. If a Whig, the thing would
be treated as a joke, and Mr. Macaulay would transmute it playfully into
"_the rogue startled me_"; but if a _Tory_, it would take a deeper dye,
and we should find "_the villain assaulted me_"; and in either case we
should have a grave reference to

Jan. 31,
"Barillon,-------- 1686"; or, "Burnet, i. 907."
Feb. 1,

If our reader will keep this formula in his mind, he will find it a fair
exponent of Mr. Macaulay's _modus operandi_....

We shall now proceed to more general topics. We decline, as we set out
by saying, to treat this "New Atalantis" as a serious history, and
therefore we shall not trouble our readers with matters of such remote
interest as the errors and anachronisms with which the chapter that
affects to tell our earlier history abounds. Our readers would take no
great interest in a discussion whether Hengist was as fabulous as
Hercules, Alaric a Christian born, and "the fair chapels of New College
and St. George" at Windsor of the same date. But there is one subject in
that chapter on which we cannot refrain from saying a few words--THE
CHURCH.

We decline to draw any inferences from this work as to Mr. Macaulay's
own religious opinions; but it is our duty to say--and we trust we may
do so without offence--that Mr. Macaulay's mode of dealing with the
general principle of Church government, and the doctrine, discipline,
and influence of the Church of England, cannot fail to give serious
pain, and sometimes to excite a stronger feeling than pain, in the mind
of every friend to that Church, whether in its spiritual or corporate
character.

He starts with a notion that the fittest engine to redeem England from
the mischiefs and mistakes of oligarchical feudalism was to be found in
the imposing machinery and deception of the Roman Church; overlooking
the great truth that it was not the Romish Church, but the genius of
Christianity, working its vast but silent change, which was really
guiding on the chariot of civilization; but in this broad principle
there was not enough of the picturesqueness of detail to captivate his
mind. It would not suit him to distinguish between the Church of Christ
and the web of corruptions that had grown about her, but could not
effectually arrest the benignant influence inherent in her mainspring.
He therefore leads his readers to infer that Christianity came first to
Britain with St. Austin, and for aught that Mr. Macaulay condescends to
inform us, the existence of a prior Anglo-Saxon Church was a monkish
fiction. The many unhappy circumstances of the position taken up by the
Romish Church in its struggles for power--some of them unavoidable, it
may be, if such a battle were to be fought--are actually displayed as so
many blessings, attainable only by a system which the historian himself
condemns elsewhere as baneful and untrue. He maintains these strange
paradoxes and contradictions with a pertinacity quite surprising. He
doubts whether a true form of Christianity would have answered the
purposes of liberty and civilization half so well as the acknowledged
duplicities of the Church of Rome.

It may perhaps be doubted whether a purer religion might not have been
found a less efficient agent.--i. 23.

There is a point in the life both of an individual and a society at
which submission and faith, such as at a later period would be justly
called servility and credulity, are useful qualities.--i. 47.

These are specimens of the often exposed fallacies in which he delights
to indulge. Place right and wrong in a state of uncertainty by reflected
lights, and you may fill up your picture as you like. And such for ever
is Mr. Macaulay's principle of art. It is not the elimination of error
that he seeks for, but an artistic balance of conflicting forces. And
this he pursues throughout: deposing the dignity of the historian for
the clever antithesis of the pamphleteer. At last, on this great and
important point of religious history--a point which more than any other
influences every epoch of English progress, he arrives at this pregnant
and illustrative conclusion--

It is difficult to say whether England owes more to the Roman Catholic
religion or to the Reformation.--i. 49.

England owes nothing to "the Roman Catholic religion." She owes
everything to CHRISTIANITY, which Romanism injured and hampered but
could not destroy, and which the Reformation freed at least from the
worst of those impure and impeding excrescences.

With regard to his treatment of the Reformation, and especially of the
Church of England, it is very difficult to give our readers an adequate
idea. Throughout a system of depreciation--we had almost said insult--is
carried on: sneers, sarcasms, injurious comparisons, sly
misrepresentations, are all adroitly mingled throughout the narrative,
so as to produce an unfavourable impression, which the author has not
the frankness to attempt directly. Even when obliged to approach the
subject openly, it is curious to observe how, under a slight veil of
impartiality, imputations are raised and calumnies accredited. For
instance, early in the first volume he gives us his view of the English
Reformation, as a kind of middle term, emerging out of the antagonist
struggles of the Catholics and Calvinists: and it is impossible not to
see that, between the three parties, he awards to the Catholics the
merit of unity and consistency; to the Calvinists, of reason and
independence; to the Anglicans, the lowest motives of expediency and
compromise. To enforce this last topic he relies on the inconsistencies,
some real and some imaginary, imputed to Cranmer, whose notions of
worldly expedience he chooses to represent as the source of the Anglican
Church....

Every one of the circumstances on which we may presume that Mr. Macaulay
would rely as justifying these charges has been long since, to more
candid judgments, either disproved, explained, or excused, and in truth
whatever blame can be justly attributed to any of them, belongs mainly,
if not exclusively, to those whose violence and injustice drove a
naturally upright and most conscientious man into the shifts and
stratagems of self-defence. With the greatest fault and the only crime
that Charles in his whole life committed Mr. Macaulay does not reproach
him--the consent to the execution of Lord Strafford--that indeed, as he
himself penitentially confessed, was a deadly weight on his conscience,
and is an indelible stain on his character; but even that guilt and
shame belongs in a still greater degree to Mr. Macaulay's patriot
heroes.

This leads us to the conclusive plea which we enter to Mr. Macaulay's
indictment, namely--that all those acts alleged as the excuses of
rebellion and regicide occurred after the rebellion had broken out, and
were at worst only devices of the unhappy King to escape from the
regicide which he early foresaw. It was really the old story of the wolf
and the lamb. It was far down the stream of rebellion that these acts of
supposed perfidy on the part of Charles could be said to have troubled
it.

But while he thus deals with the lamb, let us see how he treats the
wolf. We have neither space nor taste for groping through the long and
dark labyrinth of Cromwell's proverbial duplicity and audacious
apostacy: we shall content ourselves with two facts, which, though
stated in the gentlest way by Mr. Macaulay, will abundantly justify the
opinion which all mankind, except a few republican zealots, hold of that
man's sincerity, of whose abilities, wonderful as they were, the most
remarkable, and perhaps the most serviceable to his fortunes, was his
hypocrisy; so much so, that South--a most acute observer of mankind, and
who had been educated under the Commonwealth and Protectorate--in his
sermon on "Worldly Wisdom," adduces Cromwell as an instance of "habitual
dissimulation and imposture." Oliver, Mr. Macaulay tells us, modelled
his army on the principle of composing it of men fearing God, and
zealous for _public liberty_, and in the very next page he is forced to
confess that

thirteen years followed in which for the first and the last time the
civil power of our country was subjected to military dictation.--i.
120.

Again,

Oliver had made his choice. He had kept the hearts of his soldiers,
but he had _broken_ with every other class of his fellow citizens.--i.
129.

That is, he had broken through all the promises, pledges, and specious
pretences by which he had deceived and enslaved the nation, which Mr.
Macaulay calls with such opportune _naivete, his fellow citizens_! Then
follows, not a censure of this faithless usurpation, but many laboured
apologies, and even defences of it, and a long series of laudatory
epithets, some of which are worth collecting as a rare contrast to Mr.
Macaulay's usual style, and particularly to the abuse of Charles, which
we have just exhibited.

His _genius and resolution_ made him more _absolute master of his
country_ than any of her legitimate Kings had been.--i. 129.

He having cut off the legitimate King's head on a pretence that Charles
had wished to make himself _absolutely master of the country_.

Everything yielded to the _vigour and ability_ of Cromwell.--i. 130.

The Government, though in the form of a Republic, was in truth a
despotism, moderated only by the _wisdom, the sober-mindedness, and
the magnanimity_ of the despot.--i. 137.

With a vast deal more of the same tone.

But Mr. Macaulay particularly expatiates on the influence that Cromwell
exercised over foreign states: and there is hardly any topic to which he
recurs with more pleasure, or, as we think, with less sagacity, than the
terror with which Cromwell and the contempt with which the Stuarts
inspired the nations of Europe. He somewhat exaggerates the extent of
this feeling, and greatly misstates or mistakes the cause; and as this
subject is in the present state of the world of more importance than any
others in the work, we hope we may be excused for some observations
tending to a sounder opinion on that subject.

It was not, as Mr. Macaulay everywhere insists, the personal abilities
and genius of Cromwell that exclusively, or even in the first degree,
carried his foreign influence higher than that of the Stuarts. The
internal struggles that distracted and consumed the strength of these
islands throughout their reigns necessarily rendered us little
formidable to our neighbours; and it is with no good grace that a Whig
historian stigmatises that result as shameful; for, without discussing
whether it was justifiable or not, the fact is certain, that it was
opposition of the Whigs--often in rebellion and always in faction
against the Government--which disturbed all progress at home and
paralysed every effort abroad. We are not, we say, now discussing
whether that opposition was not justifiable and may not have been
ultimately advantageous in several constitutional points; we think it
decidedly was: but at present all we mean to do is to show that it had a
great share in producing on our foreign influence the lowering effects
of which Mr. Macaulay complains.

And there is still another consideration which escapes Mr. Macaulay in
his estimate of such usurpers as Cromwell and Buonaparte. A usurper is
always more terrible both at home and abroad than a legitimate
sovereign: first, the usurper is likely to be (and in these two cases
was) a man of superior genius and military glory, wielding the
irresistible power of the sword; but there is still stronger contrast--
legitimate Governments are bound--at home by laws--abroad by treaties,
family ties, and international interests; they acknowledge the law of
nations, and are limited, even in hostilities, by many restraints and
bounds. The despotic usurpers had no fetters of either sort--they had no
opposition at home, and no scruples abroad. Law, treaties, rights, and
the like, had been already broken through like cobwebs, and kings
naturally humbled themselves before a vigour that had dethroned and
murdered kings, and foreign nations trembled at a power that had subdued
in their own fields and cities the pride of England and the gallantry of
France! To contrast Cromwell and Charles II, Napoleon and Louis XVIII,
is sheer nonsense and mere verbiage--it is as if one should compare the
house-dog and the wolf, and argue that the terror inspired by the latter
was very much to his honour. All this is such a mystery to Mr. Macaulay
that he wanders into two theories so whimsical, that we hesitate between
passing them by as absurdities, or producing them for amusement; we
adopt the latter. One is that Cromwell could have no interest and
therefore no personal share in the death of Charles. "Whatever Cromwell
was," says Mr. Macaulay, "he was no fool; and he must have known that
Charles I was obviously a less difficulty in his way than Charles II."
Cromwell, we retain the phrase, "was no fool," and he thought and
_found_ that Charles II, was, as far as he was concerned, no difficulty
at all. The real truth was, that the revolutionary party in England in
1648, like that in France in 1792, was but a rope of sand which nothing
could cement and consolidate but the _blood of the Kings--that_ was a
common crime and a common and indissoluble tie which gave all their
consistency and force to both revolutions--a stroke of original sagacity
in Cromwell and of imitative dexterity in Robespierre. If Mr. Macaulay
admits, as he subsequently does (i. 129), that the regicide was "a
sacrament of blood," by which the party became irrevocably bound to each
other and separated from the rest of the nation, how can he pretend that
Cromwell derived no advantage from it? In fact, his admiration--we had
almost said fanaticism--for Cromwell betrays him throughout into the
blindest inconsistencies.

The second vision of Mr. Macaulay is, if possible, still more absurd. He
imagines a Cromwell dynasty! If it had not been for Monk and his army,
the rest of the nation would have been loyal to the son of the
illustrious Oliver.

Had the Protector and the Parliament been suffered to proceed
undisturbed, there can be little doubt that an order of things similar
to that which was afterwards established under the House of Hanover,
would have been established under the house of Cromwell.--i. 142.

And yet in a page or two Mr. Macaulay is found making an admission--
made, indeed, with the object of disparaging Monk and the royalists--but
which gives to his theory of a Cromwellian dynasty the most conclusive
refutation.

It was probably not till Monk had been some days in the capital that
he made up his mind. The cry of the whole people was for a free
parliament; and there could _be no doubt that a parliament really free
would instantly restore the exiled family_.--i. 147.

All this hypothesis of a Cromwellian dynasty _looks_ like sheer
nonsense; but we have no doubt it has a meaning, and we request our
readers not to be diverted by the almost ludicrous partiality and
absurdity of Mr. Macaulay's speculations from an appreciation of the
deep hostility to the monarchy from which they arise. They are like
bubbles on the surface of a dark pool, which indicate there is something
rotten below.

We should if we had time have many other complaints to make of the
details of this chapter, which are deeply coloured with all Mr.
Macaulay's prejudices and passions. He is, we may almost say of course,
violent and unjust against Strafford and Clarendon; and the most
prominent touch of candour that we can find in this period of his
history is, that he slurs over the murder of Laud in an abscure
half-line (i. 119) as if he were--as we hope he really is--ashamed of
it.

We now arrive at what we have heard called the celebrated third chapter
--celebrated it deserves to be, and we hope our humble observations may
add something to its celebrity. There is no feature of Mr. Macaulay's
book on which, we believe, he more prides himself, and which has been in
truth more popular with his readers, than the descriptions which he
introduces of the residences, habits, and manners of our ancestors. They
are, provided you do not look below the surface, as entertaining as
Pepys or Pennant, or any of the many scrap-book histories which have
been recently fabricated from those old materials; but when we come to
examine them, we find that in these cases, as everywhere else, Mr.
Macaulay's propensity to caricature and exaggerate leads him not merely
to disfigure circumstances, but totally to forget the principle on which
such episodes are admissible into regular history--namely, the
illustration of the story. They should be, as it were, woven into the
narrative, and not, as Mr. Macaulay generally treats them, stitched on
like patches. This latter observation does not of course apply to the
collecting a body of miscellaneous facts into a separate chapter, as
Hume and others have done; but Mr. Macaulay's chapter, besides, as we
shall show, the prevailing inaccuracy of its details, has one general
and essential defect specially its own.

The moment Mr. Macaulay has selected for suspending his narrative to
take a view of the surface and society of England is the death of
Charles II. Now we think no worse point of time could have been chosen
for tracing the obscure but very certain connection between political
events and the manners of a people. The restoration, for instance, was
an era in manners as well as in politics--so was in a fainter degree the
Revolution--either, or both, of those periods would have afforded a
natural position for contemplating a going and a coming order of things;
but we believe that there are no two periods in our annals which were so
identical in morals and politics--so undistinguishable, in short, in any
national view--as the latter years of Charles and the earlier years of
James. Here then is an objection _in limine_ to this famous chapter--and
not _in limine_ only, but in substance; for in fact the period he has
chosen would not have furnished out the chapter, four-fifths of which
belong to a date later than that which he professes to treat of. In
short, the chapter is like an old curiosity-shop, into which--no matter
whether it happens to stand in Charles Street, William Street, or George
Street--the knick-knacks of a couple of centuries are promiscuously
jumbled. What does it signify, in a history of the reign of Charles II,
that a writer, "_sixty years after the Revolution_" (i. 347), says that
in the lodging-houses at Bath "the hearth-slabs" were "freestone, not
marble"--that "the best apartments were hung with coarse woollen stuff,
and furnished with rush-bottomed chairs"?--nay, that he should have the
personal good taste to lament that in those Boeotian days "_not a
wainscot was painted_" (348); and yet this twaddle of the reign of
George II, patched into the times of Charles II, is the appropriate
occasion which he takes to panegyrise this new mode of elucidating
history?--...

It is a curious and, to persons of our opinions, not unsatisfactory
circumstance, that, though Mr. Macaulay almost invariably applies the
term _Tory_ in an opprobrious or contemptuous sense, yet so great is the
power of truth in surmounting the fantastical forms and colours laid
over it by this brilliant _badigeonneur_, that on the whole no one, we
believe, can rise from the work without a conviction that the Tories
(whatever may be said of their prejudices) were the honestest and most
conscientious of the whole _dramatis personae_; and it is this fact that
in several instances and circumstances imprints, as it were by force,
upon Mr. Macaulay's pages an air of impartiality and candour very
discordant from their general spirit.

We are now arrived at the fourth chapter--really the first, strictly
speaking, of Mr. Macaulay's history--the accession of James II, where
also Sir James Mackintosh's history commences. And here we have to open
to our readers the most extraordinary instance of _parallelism_ between
two writers, unacknowledged by the later one, which we have ever seen.
Sir James Mackintosh left behind him a history of the Revolution, which
was published in 1834, three years after his death, in quarto: it comes
down to the Orange invasion, and, though it apparently had not received
the author's last corrections, and was clumsily edited, and tagged with
a continuation by a less able hand, the work is altogether (bating not a
little ultra-Whiggery) very creditable to Mackintosh's diligence, taste,
and power of writing; it is indeed, we think, his best and most
important work, and that by which he will be most favourably known to
posterity. From that work Mr. Macaulay has borrowed largely--prodigally--
helped himself with both hands--not merely without acknowledging his
obligation, but without so much as alluding to the existence of any such
work. Nay--though this we are sure was never designed--he inserts a note
full of kindness and respect to Sir James Mackintosh, which would
naturally lead an uninformed reader to conclude that Sir James
Mackintosh, though he had _meditated_ such a work, had never even begun
writing it. On the 391st page of Mr. Macaulay's first volume, at the
mention of the old news-letters which preceded our modern newspapers,
Mr. Macaulay says, that "they form a valuable part of the literary
treasures collected by the late Sir James Mackintosh"; and to this he
adds the following foot-note:

I take this opportunity of expressing my warm gratitude to the family
of my dear and honoured friend Sir James Mackintosh, for confiding to
me the materials collected by him _at a time when he meditated a work
similar to that which I have undertaken._ I have never seen, and I do
not believe that there anywhere exists, within the same compass, so
noble a _collection of extracts_ from public and private archives. The
judgment with which Sir James, in great masses of the rudest ore of
history, selected what was valuable and rejected what was worthless,
can be fully appreciated only by one who has toiled after him in the
same mine.--i. 391.

Could any one imagine from this that Mackintosh had not only _meditated_
a work, but actually written, and that his friends had published, a
large closely printed quarto volume, on the same subject, from the same
materials, and sometimes in the very same words as Mr. Macaulay's?

The coincidence--the identity, we might almost say--of the two works is
so great, that, while we have been comparing them, we have often been
hardly able to distinguish which was which. We rest little on the
similiarity of facts, for the facts were ready made for both; and Mr.
Macaulay tells us that he worked from Mackintosh's materials; there
would, therefore, even if he had never seen Mackintosh's work, be a
community of topics and authorities; but, seeing as we do in every page
that he was writing with Mackintosh's volume before his eyes, we cannot
account for his utter silence about it....

Having thus shown Mr. Macaulay's mode of dealing with what forms the
chief and most characteristic feature of his book--its anecdotical
gossip--we shall now endeavour to exhibit the deceptive style in which
he treats the larger historical facts: in truth the style is the same--a
general and unhesitating sacrifice of accuracy and reality to
picturesque effect and party prejudices. He treats historical personages
as the painter does his _layman_--a supple figure which he models into
what he thinks the most striking attitude, and dresses up with the
gaudiest colours and most fantastical draperies.

It is very difficult to condense into any manageable space the proofs of
a general system of accumulating and aggravating all that was ever,
whether truly or falsely, reproached to the Tories, and alleviating
towards the Whigs the charges which he cannot venture to deny or even to
question. The mode in which this is managed so as to keep up some show
of impartiality is very dexterous. The reproach, well or ill founded,
which he thinks most likely to damage the character of any one he
dislikes, is repeated over and over again in hope that the iteration
will at last be taken for proof, such as the perfidy of Charles I, the
profligacy and selfishness of Charles II, the cold and cruel stupidity
of James, the baseness of Churchill, the indecent violence of Rochester,
the contemptible subserviency of his brother, Clarendon, and so on
through a whole dictionary of abuse on every one whom he takes or
mistakes for a Tory, and on a few Whigs whom for some special reasons of
his own he treats like Tories. On the other hand, when he finds himself
reluctantly forced to acknowledge even the greatest enormity of the
Whigs--corruption--treason--murder he finds much gentler terms for the
facts; selects a scapegoat, some subaltern villain, or some one whom
history has already gibbeted, "to bear upon him all their iniquities,"
and that painful sacrifice once made, he avoids with tender care a
recurrence to so disagreeable a subject....

After so much political detail it will be some kind of diversion to our
readers to examine Mr. Macaulay's most elaborate strategic and
topographical effort, worked up with all the combined zeal and skill of
an ex-Secretary-at-War and a pictorial historian--a copious description
of the battle of Sedgemoor. Mr. Macaulay seems to have visited
Bridgwater with a zeal worthy of a better result: for it has produced a
description of the surrounding country as pompous and detailed as if it
had been the scene of some grand strategic operations--a parade not
merely unnecessary, but absurd, for the so-called battle was but a
bungling skirmish. Monmouth had intended to surprise the King's troops
in their quarters by a midnight attack, but was stopped by a wide and
deep trench, of which he was not apprised, called Bussex Rhine, behind
which the King's army lay. "The trenches which drain the moor are," Mr.
Macaulay adds, "in that country called _rhines_." On each side of this
ditch the parties stood firing at each other in the dark. Lord Grey and
the cavalry ran away without striking a blow; Monmouth followed them,
too, soon; for some time the foot stood with a degree of courage and
steadiness surprising in such raw and half-armed levies; at last the
King's cavalry got round their flank, and they too ran: the King's foot
then crossed the ditch with little or no resistance, and slaughtered,
with small loss on their own side, a considerable number of the
fugitives, the rest escaping back to Bridgwater. Our readers will judge
whether such a skirmish required a long preliminary description of the
surrounding country. Mr. Macaulay might just as usefully have described
the plain of Troy. Indeed at the close of his long topographical and
etymological narrative Mr. Macaulay has the tardy candour to confess
that--

little is now to be learned by visiting the field of battle, for the
face of the country has been greatly changed, and the old _Bussex
Rhine_, on the banks of which the great struggle took place, has long
disappeared.

This is droll. After spending a deal of space and fine writing in
describing the present prospect, he concludes by telling us candidly it
is all of no use, for the whole scene has changed. This is like
Walpole's story of the French lady who asked for her lover's picture;
and when he demurred observing that, if her husband were to see it, it
might betray their secret--"O dear, no," she said--just like Mr.
Macaulay--"I _will have the picture_, but it _need not be like_!"

But even as to the change, we again doubt Mr. Macaulay's accuracy. The
word _Rhine_ in Somersetshire, as perhaps--_parva componere magnis_--in
the great German river, means _running_ water, and we therefore think it
very unlikely that a running stream should have disappeared; but we also
find in the Ordnance Survey of Somersetshire, made in our own time, the
course and name of _Bussck's Rhine_ distinctly laid down in front of
Weston, where it probably ran in Monmouth's day; and we are further
informed, in return to some inquiries that we have caused to be made,
that the _Rhine_ is now, in 1849, as visible and well known as ever it
was.

But this grand piece of the military topography of a battlefield where
there was no battle must have its picturesque and pathetic episode, and
Mr. Macaulay finds one well suited to such a novel. When Monmouth had
made up his mind to attempt to _surprise_ the royal army, Mr. Macaulay
is willing (for a purpose which we shall see presently) to persuade
himself that the Duke let the whole town into his secret:--

That an attack was to be made under cover of the night was no secret
in Bridgwater. The town was full of women, who had repaired thither by
hundreds from the surrounding region to see their husbands, sons,
lovers, and brothers once more. There were many sad partings that day;
and many parted never to meet again. The report of the intended attack
came to the ears of a young girl who was zealous for the king. Though
of modest character, she had the courage to resolve that she would
herself bear the intelligence to Feversham. She stole out of
Bridgwater, and made her way to the royal camp. But that camp was not
a place where female innocence could be safe. Even the officers,
despising alike the irregular force to which they were opposed, and
the negligent general who commanded them, had indulged largely in
wine, and were ready for any excess of licentiousness and cruelty. One
of them seized the unhappy maiden, refused to listen to her errand,
and brutally outraged her. She fled in agonies of rage and shame,
leaving the wicked army to its doom.--i. 606, 7.

--the _doom of the wicked army_, be it noted _en passant_, being a
complete victory. Mr. Macaulay cites Kennett for this story, and adds
that he is "_forced_ to believe the story to be true, because Kennett
declares that it was communicated to him in the year 1718 by a brave
officer who had fought at Sedgemoor, and had himself seen the poor girl
depart in an agony of distress,"--_ib_.

We shall not dwell on the value of an anonymous story told
_three-and-thirty years_ after the Battle of Sedgemoor. The tale is
sufficiently refuted by notorious facts and dates, and indeed by its
internal absurdity. We know from the clear and indisputable evidence of
Wade, who commanded Monmouth's infantry, all the proceedings of that day.
Monmouth no doubt intended to move that night, and made open preparation
for it, and the partings so pathetically described may have, therefore,
taken place, and the rather because the intended movement was to leave
that part of the country altogether--_not_ to meet the King's troops, but
to endeavour to escape them by a forced march across the Avon and into
Gloucestershire. So far might have been known. But about _three_ o'clock
that afternoon Monmouth received intelligence by a spy that the King's
troops had advanced to Sedgemoor, but had taken their positions so
injudiciously, that there seemed a possibility of surprising them in a
night attack. On this Monmouth assembled a council of war, which agreed
that, instead of retreating that night towards the Avon as they had
intended, they should advance and attack, provided the spy, who was to
be sent out to a new reconnoissance, should report that the troops were
not intrenched. We may be sure that--as the news only arrived at three
in the afternoon--the assembling the council of war--the deliberation--
the sending back the spy--his return and another deliberation--must have
protracted the final decision to so late an hour that evening, that it
is utterly impossible that the change of the design of a march northward
to that of an "_attack to be made under cover of the night_," could have
been that _morning_ no secret in Bridgwater. But our readers see it was
necessary for Mr. Macaulay to raise this fable, in order to account for
the poor girl's knowing so important a secret. So far we have argued the
case on Mr. Macaulay's own showing, which, we confess, was very
incautious on our part; but on turning to his authority we find, as
usual, a story essentially different. Kennett says--

A brave Captain in the Horse Guards, now living (1718), was in the
action at Sedgemoor, and gave me the account of it:--That on _Sunday
morning, July 5_, a young woman came from Monmouth's quarters to give
notice of his design to surprise the King's camp _that night_; but
this young woman being carried to a chief officer in a neighbouring
village, she was led upstairs and debauched by him, and, coming down
in a great fright and disorder (as he himself saw her), she went back,
and her message was not told.--_Kennett_, in. 432.

This knocks the whole story on the head. Kennett was not aware (Wade's
narrative not being published when he wrote) that the King's troops did
not come in sight of Sedgemoor till about three o'clock P.M. of that
Sunday on the early morning of which he places the girl's visit to the
camp, and it was not till late that same evening that Monmouth changed
his original determination, and formed the sudden resolution with which,
to support Kennett's story, the whole town must have been acquainted at
least twelve hours before. These are considerations which ought not to
have escaped a philosophical historian who had the advantage, which
Kennett had not, of knowing the exact time when these details
occurred....

We must here conclude. We have exhausted our time and our space, but not
our topics. We have selected such of the more prominent defects and
errors of Mr. Macaulay as were manageable within our limits; but
numerous as they are, we beg that they may be considered as specimens
only of the infinitely larger assortment that the volumes would afford,
and be read not merely as individual instances, but as indications of
the general style of the work, and the prevailing _animus_ of the
writer. We have chiefly directed our attention to points of mere
historical inaccuracy and infidelity; but they are combined with a
greater admixture of other--we know not whether to call them literary or
moral--defects, than the insulated passages sufficiently exhibit. These
faults, as we think them, but which may to some readers be the prime
fascinations of the work, abound on its surface. And their very number
and their superficial prominence constitute a main charge against the
author, and prove, we think, his mind to be unfitted for the severity of
historical inquiry. He takes much pains to parade--perhaps he really
believes in--his impartiality, with what justice we appeal to the
foregoing pages; but he is guilty of a prejudice as injurious in its
consequences to truth as any political bias. He abhors whatever is not
in itself picturesque, while he clings with the tenacity of a Novelist
to the _piquant_ and the startling. Whether it be the boudoir of a
strumpet or the death-bed of a monarch--the strong character of a
statesman-warrior abounding in contrasts and rich in mystery, or the
personal history of a judge trained in the Old Bailey to vulgarize and
ensanguine the King's Bench--he luxuriates with a vigour and variety of
language and illustration which renders his "History" an attractive and
absorbing story-book. And so spontaneously redundant are these errors--
so inwoven in the very texture of Mr. Macaulay's mind--that he seems
never able to escape from them. Even after the reader is led to believe
that all that can be said either of praise or vituperation as to
character, of voluptuous description and minute delineation as to fact
and circumstance, has been passed in review before him--when a new
subject, indeed, seems to have been started--all at once the old theme
is renewed, and the old ideas are redressed in all the affluent imagery
and profuse eloquence of which Mr. Macaulay is so eminent a master. Now
of the fancy and fashion of this we should not complain--quite the
contrary--in a professed novel: there is a theatre in which it would be
exquisitely appropriate and attractive; but the Temple of History is not
the floor for a morris-dance--the Muse Clio is not to be worshipped in
the halls of Terpsichore. We protest against this species of _carnival_
history; no more like the reality than the Eglintoun Tournament or the
Costume Quadrilles of Buckingham Palace; and we deplore the squandering
of so much melodramatic talent on a subject which we have hitherto
reverenced as the figure of Truth arrayed in the simple argments
[Transcriber's note: sic] of Philosophy. We are ready to admit an
hundred times over Mr. Macaulay's literary powers--brilliant even under
the affectation with which he too frequently disfigures them. He is a
great painter, but a suspicious narrator; a grand proficient in the
picturesque, but a very poor professor of the historic. These volumes
have been, and his future volumes as they appear will be, devoured with
the same eagerness that _Oliver Twist_ or _Vanity Fair_ excite--with the
same quality of zest, though perhaps with a higher degree of it;--but
his pages will seldom, we think, receive a second perusal--and the work,
we apprehend, will hardly find a permanent place on the historic shelf--
nor ever assuredly, if continued in the spirit of the first two volumes,
be quoted as authority on any question or point of the History of
England.

LOCKHART ON THE AUTHOR OF "VATHEK"[1]

[From _The Quarterly Review_, June, 1834]

[1] "Italy: with sketches of Spain and Portugal. In a series of letters
written during a residence in these Countries." By William Beckford,
Esq., author of _Vathek_. London, 1834.

Vathek is, indeed, without reference to the time of life [before he had
closed his twentieth year] when the author penned it, a very remarkable
performance; but, like most of the works of the great poet (Byron) who
has eloquently praised it, it is stained with poison-spots--its
inspiration is too often such as might have been inhaled in the "Hall of
Eblis." We do not allude so much to its audacious licentiousness, as to
the diabolical levity of its contempt for mankind. The boy-author
appears to have already rubbed all the bloom off his heart; and, in the
midst of his dazzling genius, one trembles to think that a stripling of
years so tender should have attained the cool cynicism of a _Candide_.
How different is the effect of that Eastern tale of our own days, which
Lord Byron ought not to have forgotten when he was criticising his
favourite romance. How perfectly does _Thalaba_ realize the ideal
demanded in the Welsh Triad, of "fulness of erudition, simplicity of
language, and purity of manners." But the critic was repelled by the
purity of that delicious creation, more than attracted by the erudition
which he must have respected, and the diction which he could not but
admire--

The low sweet voice so musical,
That with such deep and undefined delight
Fills the surrender'd soul.

It has long been known that Mr. Beckford prepared, shortly after the
publication of his _Vathek_, some other tales in the same vein--the
histories, it is supposed, of the princes in his "Hall of Eblis." A
rumour had also prevailed, that the author drew up, early in life, some
account of his travels in various parts of the world; nay, that he had
printed a few copies of this account, and that its private perusal had
been eminently serviceable to more than one of the most popular poets of
the present age. But these were only vague reports; and Mr. Beckford,
after achieving, on the verge of manhood, a literary reputation, which,
however brilliant, could not satisfy the natural ambition of such an
intellect--seemed, for more than fifty years, to have wholly withdrawn
himself from the only field of his permanent distinction. The world
heard enough of his gorgeous palace at Cintra (described in _Childe
Harold_), afterwards of the unsubstantial pageant of his splendour at
Fonthill, and latterly of his architectural caprices at Bath. But his
literary name seemed to have belonged to another age; and, perhaps, in
this point of view, it may not have been unnatural for Lord Byron, when
comparing _Vathek_ with other Eastern tales, to think rather of _Zadig_
and _Rasselas_, than

Of Thalaba--the wild and wondrous song.

The preface to the present volumes informs us that they include a
reprint of the book of travels, of which a small private edition passed
through the press forty years ago, and of the existence of which--though
many of our readers must have heard some hints--few could have had any
_knowledge_. Mr. Beckford has at length been induced to publish his
letters, in order to vindicate his own original claim to certain
thoughts, images, and expressions, which had been adopted by other
authors whom he had from time to time received beneath his roof, and
indulged with a perusal of his secret lucubrations. The mere fact that
such a work has lain for near half-a-century, printed but unpublished,
would be enough to stamp the author's personal character as not less
extraordinary than his genius. It is, indeed, sufficiently obvious that
Mr. Rogers had read it before he wrote his "Italy "--a poem, however,
which possesses so many exquisite beauties entirely its own, that it may
easily afford to drop the honour of some, perhaps unconsciously,
appropriated ones; and we are also satisfied that this book had passed
through Mr. Moore's hands before he gave us his light and graceful
"Rhymes on the Road," though the traces of his imitation are rarer than
those which must strike everyone who is familiar with the "Italy." We
are not so sure as to Lord Byron; but, although we have not been able to
lay our finger on any one passage in which he has evidently followed Mr.
Beckford's vein, it will certainly rather surprise us should it
hereafter be made manifest that he had not seen, or at least heard an
account of, this performance, before he conceived the general plan of
his "Childe Harold." Mr. Beckford's book is entirely unlike any book of
travel _in prose_ that exists in any European language; and if we could
fancy Lord Byron to have written the "Harold" in the measure of "Don
Juan," and to have availed himself of the facilities which the _ottima
rima_ affords for intermingling high poetry with merriment of all sorts,
and especially with sarcastic sketches of living manners, we believe the
result would have been a work more nearly akin to that now before us
than any other in the library.

Mr. Beckford, like "Harold," passes through various regions of the
world, and, disdaining to follow the guide-book, presents his reader
with a series of detached, or very slenderly connected sketches of _the
scenes that had made the deepest impression upon himself_. He, when it
suits him, puts the passage of the Alps into a parenthesis. On one
occasion, he really treats Rome as if it had been nothing more than a
post station on the road from Florence to Naples; but, again, if the
scenery and people take his fancy, "he has a royal reluctance to move
on, as his own hero showed when his eye glanced on the grands caracteres
rouges, traces par la main de Carathis?... _Qui me donnera des loix_?--
s'ecria le Caliphe."

"England's wealthiest son" performs his travels, of course, in a style
of great external splendour.

Conspictuus longe cunctisque notabilis intrat--

Courts and palaces, as well as convents and churches, and galleries of
all sorts, fly open at his approach: he is caressed in every capital--he
is _fete_ in every chateau. But though he appears amidst such
accompaniments with all the airiness of a Juan, he has a thread of the
blackest of Harold in his texture; and every now and then seems willing
to draw a veil between him and the world of vanities. He is a poet, and
a great one too, though we know not that he ever wrote a line of verse.
His rapture amidst the sublime scenery of mountains and forests--in the
Tyrol especially, and in Spain--is that of a spirit cast originally in
one of nature's finest moulds; and he fixes it in language which can
scarcely be praised beyond its deserts--simple, massive, nervous,
apparently little laboured, yet revealing, in its effect, the perfection
of art. Some immortal passages in Gray's letters and Byron's diaries,
are the only things, in our tongue, that seem to us to come near the
profound melancholy, blended with a picturesqueness of description at
once true and startling, of many of these extraordinary pages. Nor is
his sense for the _highest_ beauty of art less exquisite. He seems to
describe classical architecture, and the pictures of the great Italian
schools, with a most passionate feeling of the grand, and with an
inimitable grace of expression. On the other hand, he betrays, in a
thousand places, a settled voluptuousness of temperament, and a
capricious recklessness of self-indulgence, which will lead the world to
identify him henceforth with his _Vathek_, as inextricably as it has
long since connected Harold with the poet that drew him; and then, that
there may be no limit to the inconsistencies of such a strange genius,
this spirit, at once so capable of the noblest enthusiasm, and so dashed
with the gloom of over-pampered luxury, can stoop to chairs and china,
ever and anon, with the zeal of an auctioneer--revel in the design of a
clock or a candlestick, and be as ecstatic about a fiddler or a soprano
as the fools in Hogarth's _concert_. On such occasions he reminds us,
and will, we think, remind everyone, of the Lord of Strawberry Hill. But
even here all we have is on a grander scale. The oriental prodigality of
his magnificence shines out even in trifles. He buys a library where the
other would have cheapened a missal. He is at least a male Horace
Walpole; as superior to the "silken Baron," as Fonthill, with its
York-like tower embosomed among hoary forests, was to that silly band-box
which may still be admired on the road to Twickenham ...

We have no discussions of any consequence in these volumes: even the
ultra-aristocratical opinions and feelings of the author--who is, we
presume, a Whig--are rather hinted than avowed. From a thousand passing
sneers, we may doubt whether he has any religion at all; but still he
_may_ be only thinking of the outward and visible absurdities of
popery--therefore we have hardly a pretext for treating these matters
seriously. In short, this is meant to be, as he says in his preface,
nothing but a "book of light reading"; and though no one can read it
without having many grave enough feelings roused and agitated within
him, there are really no passages to provoke or justify any detailed
criticism either as to morals or politics ...

We risk nothing in predicting that Mr. Beckford's _Travels_ will
henceforth be classed among the most elegant productions of modern
literature: they will be forthwith translated into every language of the
Continent--and will keep his name alive, centuries after all the brass
and marble he ever piled together have ceased to vibrate with the echoes
of _Modenhas_.

ON COLERIDGE

[From _The Quarterly Review_, August, 1834]

_The Poetical Works of S.T. Coleridge_. 3 vols. 12mo. London, 1834.

Let us be indulged, in the mean time, in this opportunity of making a
few remarks on the genius of the extraordinary man whose poems, now for
the first time completely collected, are named at the head of this
article. The larger part of this publication is, of course, of old date,
and the author still lives; yet, besides the considerable amount of new
matter in this edition, which might of itself, in the present dearth of
anything eminently original in verse, justify our notice, we think the
great, and yet somewhat hazy, celebrity of Coleridge, and the
ill-understood character of his poetry, will be, in the opinion of a
majority of our readers, more than an excuse for a few elucidatory
remarks upon the subject. Idolized by many, and used without scruple by
more, the poet of "Christabel" and the "Ancient Mariner" is but little
truly known in that common literary world, which, without the
prerogative of conferring fame hereafter, can most surely give or
prevent popularity for the present. In that circle he commonly passes
for a man of genius, who has written some very beautiful verses, but
whose original powers, whatever they were, have been long since lost or
confounded in the pursuit of metaphysic dreams. We ourselves venture to
think very differently of Mr. Coleridge, both as a poet and a
philosopher, although we are well enough aware that nothing which we can
say will, as matters now stand, much advance his chance of becoming a
fashionable author. Indeed, as we rather believe, we should earn small
thanks from him for our happiest exertions in such a cause; for
certainly, of all the men of letters whom it has been our fortune to
know, we never met any one who was so utterly regardless of the
reputation of the mere author as Mr. Coleridge--one so lavish and
indiscriminate in the exhibition of his own intellectual wealth before
any and every person, no matter who--one so reckless who might reap
where he had most prodigally sown and watered. "God knows,"--as we once
heard him exclaim upon the subject of his unpublished system of
philosophy,--"God knows, I have no author's vanity about it. I should be
absolutely glad if I could hear that the _thing_ had been done before
me." It is somewhere told of Virgil, that he took more pleasure in the
good verses of Varius and Horace than in his own. We would not answer
for that; but the story has always occurred to us, when we have seen Mr.
Coleridge criticising and amending the work of a contemporary author
with much more zeal and hilarity than we ever perceived him to display
about anything of his own.

Perhaps our readers may have heard repeated a saying of Mr. Wordsworth,
that many men of this age had done wonderful _things_, as Davy, Scott,
Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the only wonderful _man_ he ever
knew. Something, of course, must be allowed in this as in all other such
cases for the antithesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that the
greater part of those who have occasionally visited Mr. Coleridge have
left him with a feeling akin to the judgment indicated in the above
remark. They admire the man more than his works, or they forget the
works in the absorbing impression made by the living author. And no
wonder. Those who remember him in his more vigorous days can bear
witness to the peculiarity and transcendant power of his conversational
eloquence. It was unlike anything that could be heard elsewhere; the
kind was different, the degree was different, the manner was different.
The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and
exquisite nicety of illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the
strangeness and immensity of bookish lore--were not all; the dramatic
story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added--and with these
the clerical-looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the
youthful-coloured cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet
steady and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous
enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones,--all went to make
up
the image and constitute the living presence of the man. He is now no
longer young, and bodily infirmities, we regret to know, have pressed
heavily upon him. His natural force is indeed abated; but his eye is not
dim, neither is his mind yet enfeebled. "O youth!" he says in one of the
most exquisitely finished of his later poems--

O youth! for years so many and sweet,
'Tis known that thou and I were one,
I'll think it but a fond conceit--
It cannot be that thou art gone!
Thy vesper bell hath not yet tolled:--
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe that thou art gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size;--
But springtide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Mr. Coleridge's conversation, it is true, has not now all the brilliant
versatility of his former years; yet we know not whether the contrast
between his bodily weakness and his mental power does not leave a deeper
and more solemnly affecting impression, than his most triumphant
displays in youth could ever have done. To see the pain-stricken
countenance relax, and the contracted frame dilate under the kindling of
intellectual fire alone--to watch the infirmities of the flesh shrinking
out of sight, or glorified and transfigured in the brightness of the
awakening spirit--is an awful object of contemplation; and in no other
person did we ever witness such a distinction,--nay, alienation of mind
from body,--such a mastery of the purely intellectual over the purely
corporeal, as in the instance of this remarkable man. Even now his
conversation is characterized by all the essentials of its former
excellence; there is the same individuality, the same _unexpectedness_,
the same universal grasp; nothing is too high, nothing too low for it:
it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and
a splendour, an ease and a power, which almost seem inspired: yet its
universality is not of the same kind with the superficial ranging of the
clever talkers whose criticism and whose information are called forth
by, and spent upon, the particular topics in hand. No; in this more,
perhaps, than in anything else is Mr. Coleridge's discourse
distinguished: that it springs from an inner centre, and illustrates by
light from the soul. His thoughts are, if we may so say, as the radii of
a circle, the centre of which may be in the petals of a rose, and the
circumference as wide as the boundary of things visible and invisible.
In this it was that we always thought another eminent light of our time,
recently lost to us, an exact contrast to Mr. Coleridge as to quality
and style of conversation. You could not in all London or England hear a
more fluent, a more brilliant, a more exquisitely elegant converser than
Sir James Mackintosh; nor could you ever find him unprovided. But,
somehow or other, it always seemed as if all the sharp and brilliant
things he said were poured out of so many vials filled and labelled for
the particular occasion; it struck us, to use a figure, as if his mind
were an ample and well-arranged _hortus siccus_, from which you might
have specimens of every kind of plant, but all of them cut and dried for
store. You rarely saw nature working at the very moment in him. With
Coleridge it was and still is otherwise. He may be slower, more
rambling, less pertinent; he may not strike at the instant as so
eloquent; but then, what he brings forth is fresh coined; his flowers
are newly gathered, they are wet with dew, and, if you please, you may
almost see them growing in the rich garden of his mind. The projection
is visible; the enchantment is done before your eyes. To listen to
Mackintosh was to inhale perfume; it pleased, but did not satisfy. The
effect of an hour with Coleridge is to set you thinking; his words haunt
you for a week afterwards; they are spells, brightenings, revelations.
In short, it is, if we may venture to draw so bold a line, the whole
difference between talent and genius.

A very experienced short-hand writer was employed to take down Mr.
Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare, but the manuscript was almost
entirely unintelligible. Yet the lecturer was, as he always is, slow and
measured. The writer--we have some notion it was no worse an artist than
Mr. Gurney himself--gave this account of the difficulty: that with
regard to every other speaker whom he had ever heard, however rapid or
involved, he could almost always, by long experience in his art, guess
the form of the latter part, or apodosis, of the sentence by the form of
the beginning; but that the conclusion of every one of Coleridge's
sentences was a _surprise_ upon him. He was obliged to listen to the
last word. Yet this unexpectedness, as we termed it before, is not the
effect of quaintness or confusion of construction; so far from it, that
we believe foreigners of different nations, especially Germans and
Italians, have often borne very remarkable testimony to the grammatical
purity and simplicity of his language, and have declared that they
generally understood what he said much better than the sustained
conversation of any other Englishman whom they had met. It is the
uncommonness of the thoughts or the image which prevents your
anticipating the end.

We owe, perhaps, an apology to our readers for the length of the
preceding remarks; but the fact is, so very much of the intellectual
life and influence of Mr. Coleridge has consisted in the oral
communication of his opinions, that no sketch could be reasonably
complete without a distinct notice of the peculiar character of his
powers in this particular. We believe it has not been the lot of any
other literary man in England, since Dr. Johnson, to command the devoted
admiration and steady zeal of so many and such widely differing
disciples--some of them having become, and others being likely to
become, fresh and independent sources of light and moral action in
themselves upon the principles of their common master. One half of these
affectionate disciples have learned their lessons of philosophy from the
teacher's mouth. He has been to them as an old oracle of the Academy or
Lyceum. The fulness, the inwardness, the ultimate scope of his doctrines
has never yet been published in print, and if disclosed, it has been
from time to time in the higher moments of conversation, when occasion,
and mood, and person begot an exalted crisis. More than once has Mr.
Coleridge said, that with pen in hand, he felt a thousand checks and
difficulties in the expression of his meaning; but that--authorship
aside--he never found the smallest hitch or impediment in the fullest
utterance of his most subtle fancies by word of mouth. His abstrusest
thoughts became rhythmical and clear when chaunted to their own music.
But let us proceed now to the publication before us.

This is the first complete collection of the poems of Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. The addition to the last edition is not less than a fourth of
the whole, and the greatest part of this matter has never been printed
before. It consists of many juvenile pieces, a few of the productions of
the poet's middle life, and more of his later years. With regard to the
additions of the first class, we should not be surprised to hear
friendly doubts expressed as to the judgment shown in their publication.
We ourselves think otherwise; and we are very glad to have had an
opportunity of perusing them. There may be nothing in these earlier
pieces upon which a poet's reputation could be built; yet they are
interesting now as measuring the boyish powers of a great author. We
never read any juvenile poems that so distinctly foretokened the
character of all that the poet has since done; in particular, the very
earliest and loosest of these little pieces indicate that unintermitting
thoughtfulness, and that fine ear for verbal harmony in which we must
venture to think that not one of our modern poets approaches to
Coleridge.

* * * * *

We, of course, cite these lines for little besides their luxurious
smoothness; and it is very observable, that although the indications of
the more strictly intellectual qualities of a great poet are very often
extremely faint, as in Byron's case, in early youth,--it is universally
otherwise with regard to high excellence in _versification_ considered
apart and by itself. Like the ear for music, the sense of metrical
melody is always a natural gift; both indeed are evidently connected
with the physical arrangement of the organs, and never to be acquired by
any effort of art. When possessed, they by no means necessarily lead on
to the achievement of consummate harmony in music or in verse; and yet
consummate harmony in either has never been found where the natural gift
has not made itself conspicuous long before. Spenser's Hymns, and
Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis," and "Rape of Lucrece," are striking
instances of the overbalance of mere sweetness of sound. Even "Comus" is
what we should, in this sense, call luxurious; and all four gratify the
outward ear much more than that inner and severer sense which is
associated with the reason, and requires a meaning even in the very
music for its full satisfaction. Compare the versification of the
youthful pieces mentioned above with that of the maturer works of those
great poets, and you will recognize how possible it is for verses to be
exquisitely melodious, and yet to fall far short of that exalted
excellence of numbers of which language is in itself capable. You will
feel the simple truth, that melody is a part only of harmony. Those
early flashes were indeed auspicious tokens of the coming glory, and
involved some of the conditions and elements of its existence; but the
rhythm of the "Faerie Queene" and of "Paradise Lost" was also the fruit
of a distinct effort of uncommon care and skill. The endless variety of
the pauses in the versification of these poems could not have been the
work of chance, and the adaptation of words with reference to their
asperity, or smoothness, or strength, is equally refined and scientific.
Unless we make a partial exception of the "Castle of Indolence," we do
not remember a single instance of the reproduction of the exact rhythm
of the Spenserian stanza, especially of the concluding line. The precise
Miltonic movement in blank verse has never, to our knowledge, been
caught by any later poet. It is Mr. Coleridge's own strong remark, that
you might as well think of pushing a brick out of a wall with your
forefinger, as attempt to remove a word out of the finished passages in
Shakespeare or Milton. The motion or transposition will alter the
thought, or the feeling, or at least the tone. They are as pieces of
Mosaic work, from which you cannot strike the smallest block without
making a hole in the picture.

And so it is--in due proportion--with Coleridge's best poems. They are
distinguished in a remarkable degree by the perfection of their rhythm
and metrical arrangement. The labour bestowed upon this point must have
been very great; the tone and quantity of words seem weighed in scales
of gold. It will, no doubt, be considered ridiculous by the Fannii and
Fanniae of our day to talk of varying the trochee with the iambus, or of
resolving either into the tribrach. Yet it is evident to us that these,
and even minuter points of accentual scansion, have been regarded by Mr.
Coleridge as worthy of study and observation. We do not, of course, mean
that rules of this kind were always in his mind while composing, any
more than that an expert disputant is always thinking of the
distinctions of mood and figure, whilst arguing; but we certainly
believe that Mr. Coleridge has almost from the commencement of his
poetic life looked upon versification as constituting in and by itself a
much more important branch of the art poetic than most of his eminent
contemporaries appear to have done. And this more careful study shows
itself in him in no technical peculiarities or fantastic whims, against
which the genius of our language revolts; but in a more exact adaptation
of the movement to the feeling, and in a finer selection of particular
words with reference to their local fitness for sense and sound. Some of
his poems are complete models of versification, exquisitely easy to all
appearance, and subservient to the meaning, and yet so subtle in the
links and transitions of the parts as to make it impossible to produce
the same effect merely by imitating the syllabic metre as it stands on
the surface. The secret of the sweetness lies within, and is involved in
the feeling. It is this remarkable power of making his verse musical
that gives a peculiar character to Mr. Coleridge's lyric poems. In some
of the smaller pieces, as the conclusion of the "Kubla Khan," for
example, not only the lines by themselves are musical, but the whole
passage sounds all at once as an outburst or crash of harps in the still
air of autumn. The verses seem as if _played_ to the ear upon some
unseen instrument. And the poet's manner of reciting verse is similar.
It is not rhetorical, but musical: so very near recitative, that for any
one else to attempt it would be ridiculous; and yet it is perfectly
miraculous with what exquisite searching he elicits and makes sensible
every particle of the meaning, not leaving a shadow of a shade of the
feeling, the mood, the degree, untouched. We doubt if a finer rhapsode
ever recited at the Panathenaic festival; and the yet unforgotten Doric
of his native Devon is not altogether without a mellowing effect in his
utterance of Greek. He would repeat the

[Greek: autar Achilleus dakrusas, etaron aphar ezeto. k. t. l.]

with such an interpreting accompaniment of look, and tone and gesture,
that we believe any commonly-educated person might understand the import
of the passage without knowing alpha from omega. A chapter of Isaiah
from his mouth involves the listener in an act of exalted devotion. We
have mentioned this, to show how the whole man is made up of music; and
yet Mr. Coleridge has no _ear_ for music, as it is technically called.
Master as he is of the intellectual recitative, he could not _sing_ an
air to save his life. But his delight in music is intense and
unweariable, and he can detect good from bad with unerring
discrimination. Poor Naldi, whom most of us remember, and all who
remember must respect, said to our poet once at a concert--"That he did
not seem much interested with a piece of Rossini's which had just been
performed." Coleridge answered, "It sounded to me exactly like _nonsense
verses_. But this thing of Beethoven's that they have begun--stop, let
us listen to this, I beg!" ...

The minute study of the laws and properties of metre is observable in
almost every piece in these volumes. Every kind of lyric measure, rhymed
and unrhymed, is attempted with success; and we doubt whether, upon the
whole, there are many specimens of the heroic couplet or blank verse
superior in construction to what Mr. Coleridge has given us. We mention
this the rather, because it was at one time, although that time is past,
the fashion to say that the Lake school--as two or three poets,
essentially unlike to each other, were foolishly called--had abandoned
the old and established measures of the English poetry for new conceits
of their own. There was no truth in that charge; but we will say this,
that, notwithstanding the prevalent opinion to the contrary, we are not
sure, after perusing _some passages_ in Mr. Southey's "Vision of
Judgment," and the entire "Hymn to the Earth," in hexameters, in the
second of the volumes now before us, that the question of the total
inadmissibility of that measure in English verse can be considered as
finally settled; the true point not being whether such lines are as good
as, or even like, the Homeric or Virgilian models, but whether they are
not in themselves a pleasing variety, and on that account alone, if for
nothing else, not to be rejected as wholly barbarous ...

We should not have dwelt so long upon this point of versification,
unless we had conceived it to be one distinguishing excellence of Mr.
Coleridge's poetry, and very closely connected with another, namely,
fulness and individuality of thought. It seems to be a fact, although we
do not pretend to explain it, that condensation of meaning is generally
found in poetry of a high import in proportion to perfection in metrical
harmony. Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton are obvious
instances. Goethe and Coleridge are almost equally so. Indeed, whether
in verse, or prose, or conversation, Mr. Coleridge's mind may be fitly
characterized as an energetic mind--a mind always at work, always in a
course of reasoning. He cares little for anything, merely because it was
or is; it must be referred, or be capable of being referred, to some law
or principle, in order to attract his attention. This is not from
ignorance of the facts of natural history or science. His written and
published works alone sufficiently show how constantly and accurately he
has been in the habit of noting all the phenomena of the material world
around us; and the great philosophical system now at length in
preparation for the press demonstrates, we are told, his masterly
acquaintance with almost all the sciences, and with not a few of the
higher and more genial of the arts. Yet his vast acquirements of this
sort are never put forward by or for themselves; it is in his apt and
novel illustrations, his indications of analogies, his explanation of
anomalies, that he enables the hearer or reader to get a glimpse of the
extent of his practical knowledge. He is always reasoning out from an
inner point, and it is the inner point, the principle, the law which he
labours to bring forward into light. If he can convince you or himself
of the principle _a priori_, he generally leaves the facts to take care
of themselves. He leads us into the laboratories of art or nature as a
showman guides you through a caravan crusted with spar and stalactites,
all cold, and dim, and motionless, till he lifts his torch aloft, and on
a sudden you gaze in admiration on walls and roof of flaming crystals
and stars of eternal diamond.

All this, whether for praise or for blame, is perceptible enough in Mr.
Coleridge's verse, but perceptible, of course, in such degree and mode
as the law of poetry in general, and the nature of the specific poem in
particular, may require. But the main result from this frame and habit
of his mind is very distinctly traceable in the uniform subjectivity of
almost all his works. He does not belong to that grand division of
poetry and poets which corresponds with painting and painters; or which
Pindar and Dante are the chief;--those masters of the picturesque, who,
by a felicity inborn, view and present everything in the completeness of
actual objectivity--and who have a class derived from and congenial
with them, presenting few pictures indeed, but always full of
picturesque matter; of which secondary class Spenser and Southey may be
mentioned as eminent instances. To neither of these does Mr. Coleridge
belong; in his "Christabel," there certainly are several _distinct
pictures_ of great beauty; but he, as a poet, clearly comes within the
other division which answers to music and the musician, in which you
have a magnificent mirage of words with the subjective associations of
the poet curling, and twisting, and creeping round, and through, and
above every part of it. This is the class to which Milton belongs, in
whose poems we have heard Mr. Coleridge say that he remembered but two
proper pictures--Adam bending over the sleeping Eve at the beginning of
the fifth book of the "Paradise Lost," and Delilah approaching Samson
towards the end of the "Agonistes." But when we point out the intense
personal feeling, the self-projection, as it were, which characterizes
Mr. Coleridge's poems, we mean that such feeling is the soul and spirit,
not the whole body and form, of his poetry. For surely no one has ever
more earnestly and constantly borne in mind the maxim of Milton, that
poetry ought to be _simple, sensuous, and impassioned_. The poems in
these volumes are no authority for that dreamy, half-swooning style of
verse which was criticized by Lord Byron (in language too strong for
print) as the fatal sin of Mr. John Keats, and which, unless abjured
betimes, must prove fatal to several younger aspirants--male and female--
who for the moment enjoy some popularity. The poetry before us is
distinct and clear, and accurate in its imagery; but the imagery is
rarely or never exhibited for description's sake alone; it is rarely or
never exclusively objective; that is to say, put forward as a spectacle,
a picture on which the mind's eye is to rest and terminate. You may if
your sight is short, or your imagination cold, regard the imagery in
itself and go no farther; but the poet's intention is that you should
feel and imagine a great deal more than you see. His aim is to awaken in
the reader the same mood of mind, the same cast of imagination and fancy
whence issued the associations which animate and enlighten his pictures.
You must think with him, must sympathize with him, must suffer yourself
to be lifted out of your own school of opinion or faith, and fall back
upon your own consciousness, an unsophisticated man. If you decline
this, _non tibi spirat_. From his earliest youth to this day, Mr.
Coleridge's poetry has been a faithful mirror reflecting the images of
his mind. Hence he is so original, so individual. With a little trouble,
the zealous reader of the "Biographia Literaria" may trace in these
volumes the whole course of mental struggle and self-evolvement narrated
in that odd but interesting work; but he will see the track marked in
light; the notions become images, the images glorified, and not
unfrequently the abstruse position stamped clearer by the poet than by
the psychologist. No student of Coleridge's philosophy can fully
understand it without a perusal of the illumining, and if we may so say,
_popularizing_ commentary of his poetry. It is the Greek put into the
vulgar tongue. And we must say, it is somewhat strange to hear any one
condemn those philosophical principles as altogether unintelligible,
which are inextricably interwoven in every page of a volume of poetry
which he professes to admire....

To this habit of intellectual introversion we are very much inclined to
attribute Mr. Coleridge's never having seriously undertaken a great
heroic poem. The "Paradise Lost" may be thought to stand in the way of
our laying down any general rule on the subject; yet that poem is as
peculiar as Milton himself, and does not materially affect our opinion,
that the pure epic can hardly be achieved by the poet in whose mind the
reflecting turn _greatly_ predominates. The extent of the action in such
a poem requires a free and fluent stream of narrative verse;
description, purely objective, must fill a large space in it, and its
permanent success depends on a rapidity, or at least a liveliness, of
movement which is scarcely compatible with much of what Bacon calls
_inwardness_ of meaning. The reader's attention could not be preserved;
his journey being long, he expects his road to be smooth and
unembarrassed. The condensed passion of the ode is out of place in
heroic song. Few persons will dispute that the two great Homeric poems
are the most delightful of epics; they may not have the sublimity of the
"Paradise Lost," nor the picturesqueness of the "Divine Comedy," nor the
etherial brilliancy of the "Orlando"; but, dead as they are in language,
metre, accent,--obsolete in religion, manners, costume, and country,--
they nevertheless even now _please_ all those who can read them beyond
all other narrative poems. There is a salt in them which keeps them
sweet and incorruptible throughout every change. They are the most
popular of all the remains of ancient genius, and translations of them
for the twentieth time are amongst the very latest productions of our
contemporary literature. From beginning to end, these marvellous poems
are exclusively objective; everything is in them, except the poet
himself. It is not to Vico or Wolfe that we refer, when we say that
_Homer_ is _vox et praeterea nihil_; as musical as the nightingale, and
as invisible....

The "Remorse" and "Zapolya" strikingly illustrate the predominance of
the meditative, pausing habit of Mr. Coleridge's mind. The first of
these beautiful dramas was acted with success, although worse acting was
never seen. Indeed, Kelly's sweet music was the only part of the
theatrical apparatus in any respect worthy of the play. The late Mr.
Kean made some progress in the study of Ordonio, with a view of
reproducing the piece; and we think that Mr. Macready, either as Ordonio
or Alvar, might, with some attention to music, costume, and scenery,
make the representation attractive even in the present day. But in
truth, taken absolutely and in itself, the "Remorse" is more fitted for
the study than the stage; its character is romantic and pastoral in a
high degree, and there is a profusion of poetry in the minor parts, the
effect of which could never be preserved in the common routine of
representation. What this play wants is dramatic movement; there is
energetic dialogue and a crisis of great interest, but the action does
not sufficiently grow on the stage itself. Perhaps, also, the purpose of
Alvar to waken remorse in Ordonio's mind is put forward too prominently,
and has too much the look of a mere moral experiment to be probable
under the circumstances in which the brothers stand to each other.
Nevertheless, there is a calmness as well as superiority of intellect in
Alvar which seem to justify, in some measure, the sort of attempt on his
part, which, in fact, constitutes the theme of the play; and it must be
admitted that the whole underplot of Isidore and Alhadra is lively and
affecting in the highest degree. We particularly refer to the last scene
between Ordonio and Isidore in the cavern, which we think genuine
Shakespeare; and Alhadra's narrative of her discovery of her husband's
murder is not surpassed in truth and force by anything of the kind that
we know....

We have not yet referred to the "Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," the
"Odes on France," and the "Departing Year," or the "Love Poems." All
these are well known by those who know no other parts of Coleridge's
poetry, and the length of our preceding remarks compels us to be brief
in our notice. Mrs. Barbauld, meaning to be complimentary, told our
poet, that she thought the "Ancient Mariner" very beautiful, but that it
had the fault of containing no moral. "Nay, madam," replied the poet,
"if I may be permitted to say so, the only fault in the poem is that
there is _too much_ In a work of such pure imagination I ought not to
have stopped to give reasons for things, or inculcate humanity to
beasts. 'The Arabian Nights' might have taught me better." They might--
the tale of the merchant's son who puts out the eyes of a genii by
flinging his date-shells down a well, and is therefore ordered to
prepare for death--might have taught this law of imagination; but the
fault is small indeed; and the "Ancient Mariner" is, and will ever be,
one of the most perfect pieces of imaginative poetry, not only in our
language, but in the literature of all Europe. We have, certainly,
sometimes doubted whether the miraculous destruction of the vessel in
the presence of the pilot and hermit, was not an error, in respect of
its bringing the purely preternatural into too close contact with the
actual frame-work of the poem. The only link between those scenes of
out-of-the-world wonders, and the wedding guest, should, we rather
suspect, have been the blasted, unknown being himself who described
them. There should have been no other witnesses of the truth of any part
of the tale, but the "Ancient Mariner" himself. This is by the way: but
take the work altogether, there is nothing else like it; it is a poem by
itself; between it and other compositions, in _pari materia_, there is a
chasm which you cannot overpass; the sensitive reader feels himself
insulated, and a sea of wonder and mystery flows round him as round the
spell-stricken ship itself. It was a sad mistake in the ablest artist--
Mr. Scott, we believe--who in his engravings has made the ancient
mariner an old decrepit man. That is not the true image; no! he should
have been a growthless, decayless being, impassive to time or season, a
silent cloud--the wandering Jew. The curse of the dead men's eyes should
not have passed away. But this was, perhaps, too much for any pencil,
even if the artist had fully entered into the poet's idea. Indeed, it is
no subject for painting. The "Ancient Mariner" displays Mr. Coleridge's
peculiar mastery over the wild and preternatural in a brilliant manner;
but in his next poem, "Christabel," the exercise of his power in this
line is still more skilful and singular. The thing attempted in
"Christabel" is the most difficult of execution in the whole field of
romance--witchery by daylight; and the success is complete. Geraldine,
so far as she goes, is perfect. She is _sui generis_. The reader feels
the same terror and perplexity that Christabel in vain struggles to
express, and the same spell that fascinates her eyes. Who and what is
Geraldine--whence come, whither going, and what designing? What did the
poet mean to make of her? What could he have made of her? Could he have
gone on much farther without having had recourse to some of the ordinary
shifts of witch tales? Was she really the daughter of Roland de Vaux,
and would the friends have met again and embraced?...

We are not amongst those who wish to have "Christabel" finished. It
cannot be finished. The poet has spun all he could without snapping. The
theme is too fine and subtle to bear much extension. It is better as it
is, imperfect as a story, but complete as an exquisite production of the
imagination, differing in form and colour from the "Ancient Mariner,"
yet differing in effect from it only so as the same powerful faculty is
directed to the feudal or the mundane phases of the preternatural....

It has been impossible to express, in the few pages to which we are
necessarily limited, even a brief opinion upon all those pieces which
might seem to call for notice in an estimate of this author's poetical
genius. We know no writer of modern times whom it would not be easier to
characterize in one page than Coleridge in two. The volumes before us
contain so many integral efforts of imagination, that a distinct notice
of each is indispensable, if we would form a just conclusion upon the
total powers of the man. Wordsworth, Scott, Moore, Byron, Southey, are
incomparably more uniform in the direction of their poetic mind. But if
you look over these volumes for indications of their author's poetic
powers, you find him appearing in at least half a dozen shapes, so
different from each other, that it is in vain to attempt to mass them
together. It cannot indeed be said, that he has ever composed what is
popularly termed a _great_ poem; but he is great in several lines, and
the union of such powers is an essential term in a fair estimate of his
genius. The romantic witchery of the "Christabel," and "Ancient
Mariner," the subtle passion of the love-strains, the lyrical splendour
of the three great odes, the affectionate dignity, thoughtfulness, and
delicacy of the blank verse poems--especially the "Lover's Resolution,"
"Frost at Midnight," and that most noble and interesting "Address to Mr.
Wordsworth"--the dramas, the satires, the epigrams--these are so
distinct and so whole in themselves, that they might seem to proceed
from different authors, were it not for that same individualizing power,
that "shaping spirit of imagination" which more or less sensibly runs
through them all. It is the _predominance_ of this power, which, in our
judgment, constitutes the essential difference between Coleridge and any
other of his great contemporaries. He is the most imaginative of the
English poets since Milton. Whatever he writes, be it on the most
trivial subject, be it in the most simple strain, his imagination, _in
spite of himself_, affects it. There never was a better illustrator of
the dogma of the Schoolmen--_in omnem actum intellectualem imaginatio
influit_. We believe we might affirm, that throughout all the mature
original poems in these volumes, there is not one image, the
_expression_ of which does not, in a greater or less degree,
individualize it and appropriate it to the poet's feelings. Tear the
passage out of its place, and nail it down at the head of a chapter of a
modern novel, and it will be like hanging up in a London exhibition-room
a picture painted for the dim light of a cathedral. Sometimes a single
word--an epithet--has the effect to the reader of a Claude Lorraine
glass; it tints without obscuring or disguising the object. The poet has
the same power in conversation. We remember him once settling an
elaborate discussion carried on in his presence, upon the respective
sublimity of Shakespeare and Schiller in Othello and the Robbers, by
saying, "Both are sublime; only Schiller's is the _material_ sublime--
that's all!" _All_ to be sure; but more than enough to show the whole
difference. And upon another occasion, where the doctrine of the
Sacramentaries and the Roman Catholics on the subject of the Eucharist
was in question, the poet said, "They are both equally wrong; the first
have volatilized the Eucharist into a metaphor--the last have condensed
it into an idol." Such utterance as this flashes light; it supersedes
all argument--it abolishes proof by proving itself.

We speak of Coleridge, then, as the poet of imagination; and we add,
that he is likewise the poet of thought and verbal harmony. That his
thoughts are sometimes hard and sometimes even obscure, we think must be
admitted; it is an obscurity of which all very subtle thinkers are
occasionally guilty, either by attempting to express evanescent feelings
for which human language is an inadequate vehicle, or by expressing,
however adequately, thoughts and distinctions to which the common reader
is unused. As to the first kind of obscurity, the words serving only as
hieroglyphics to denote a once existing state of mind in the poet, but
not logically inferring what that state was, the reader can only guess
for himself by the context, whether he ever has or not experienced in
himself a corresponding feeling; and, therefore, undoubtedly this is an
obscurity which strict criticism cannot but condemn. But, if an author
be obscure, merely because this or that reader is unaccustomed to the
mode or direction of thinking in which such author's genius makes him
take delight--such a writer must indeed bear the consequence as to
immediate popularity; but he cannot help the consequence, and if he be
worth anything for posterity, he will disregard it. In this sense almost
every great writer, whose natural bent has been to turn the mind upon
itself, is--must be--obscure; for no writer, with such a direction of
intellect, will be great, unless he is individual and original; and if
he is individual and original, then he must, in most cases, himself make
the readers who shall be competent to sympathize with him.

The English flatter themselves by a pretence that Shakespeare and Milton
are popular in England. It is good taste, indeed, to wish to have it
believed that those poets are popular. Their names are so; but if it be
said that the works of Shakespeare and Milton are popular--that is,
liked and studied--amongst the wide circle whom it is now the fashion to
talk of as enlightened, we are obliged to express our doubts whether a
grosser delusion was ever promulgated. Not a play of Shakespeare's can
be ventured on the London stage without mutilation--and without the most
revolting balderdash foisted into the rents made by managers in his
divine dramas; nay, it is only some three or four of his pieces that can
be borne at all by our all-intelligent public, unless the burthen be
lightened by dancing, singing, or processioning. This for the stage. But
is it otherwise with "the _reading_ public"? We believe it is worse; we
think, verily, that the apprentice or his master who sits out Othello or
Richard at the theatres, does get a sort of glimpse, a touch, an
atmosphere of intellectual grandeur; but he could not keep himself awake
during the perusal of that which he admires--or fancies he admires--in
scenic representation. As to understanding Shakespeare--as to entering
into all Shakespeare's thoughts and feelings--as to seeing the idea of
Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, as Shakespeare saw it--this we believe
falls, and can only fall, to the lot of the really cultivated few, and
of those who may have so much of the temperament of genius in
themselves, as to comprehend and sympathize with the criticism of men of
genius. Shakespeare is now popular by name, because, in the first place,
great men, more on a level with the rest of mankind, have said that he
is admirable, and also because, in the absolute universality of his
genius, he has presented points to all. Every man, woman, and child, may
pick at least one flower from his garden, the name and scent of which
are familiar. To all which must of course be added, the effect of
theatrical representation, be that representation what it may. There are
tens of thousands of persons in this country whose only acquaintance
with Shakespeare, such as it is, is through the stage.

We have been talking of the contemporary mass; but this is not all; a
great original writer _of a philosophic turn_--especially a poet--will
almost always have the fashionable world also against him at first,
because he does not give the sort of pleasure expected of him at the
time, and because, not contented with that, he is sure, by precept or
example, to show a contempt for the taste and judgment of the
expectants. He is always, and by the law of his being, an idoloclast. By
and by, after years of abuse or neglect, the aggregate of the single
minds who think for themselves, and have seen the truth and force of his
genius, becomes important; the merits of the poet by degrees constitute
a question for discussion; his works are one by one read; men recognize
a superiority in the abstract, and learn to be modest where before they
had been scornful; the coterie becomes a sect; the sect dilates into a
party; and lo! after a season, no one knows how, the poet's fame is
universal. All this, to the very life, has taken place in this country
within the last twenty years. The noblest philosophical poem since the
time of Lucretius was, within time of short memory, declared to be
intolerable, by one of the most brilliant writers in one of the most
brilliant publications of the day. It always puts us in mind of Waller--
no mean parallel--who, upon the coming out of the "Paradise Lost," wrote
to the duke of Buckingham, amongst other pretty things, as follows:--
"Milton, the old blind schoolmaster, has lately written a poem on the
Fall of Man--_remarkable for nothing but its extreme length!_" Our
divine poet asked a fit audience, although it should be but few. His
prayer was heard; a fit audience for the "Paradise Lost" has ever been,
and at this moment must be, a small one, and we cannot affect to believe
that it is destined to be much increased by what is called the march of
intellect.

Can we lay down the pen without remembering that Coleridge the poet is
but half the name of Coleridge? This, however, is not the place, nor the

Book of the day: