Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Famous Reviews by Editor: R. Brimley Johnson

Part 2 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download Famous Reviews pdf
File size: 1.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and had died in consequence of long exposure to heavy rain. The old
chaplain, or, as Mr. Wordsworth is pleased to call him, the Solitary,
tells this dull story at prodigious length; and after giving an inflated
description of an effect of mountain-mists in the evening sun, treats
his visitors with a rustic dinner--and they walk out to the fields at
the close of the second book.

The Third makes no progress in the excursion. It is entirely filled with
moral and religious conversation and debate, and with a more ample
detail of the Solitary's past life, than had been given in the sketch of
his friend. The conversation is exceedingly dull and mystical; and the
Solitary's confessions insufferably diffuse. Yet there is very
considerable force of writing and tenderness of sentiment in this part
of the work.

The Fourth book is also filled with dialogues ethical and theological;
and, with the exception of some brilliant and forcible expressions here
and there, consists of an exposition of truisms, more cloudy, wordy, and
inconceivably prolix, than any thing we ever met with.

In the beginning of the Fifth book, they leave the solitary valley,
taking its pensive inhabitant along with them, and stray on to where the
landscape sinks down into milder features, till they arrive at a church,
which stands on a moderate elevation in the centre of a wide and fertile
vale. Here they meditate for a while among the monuments, till the vicar
comes out and joins them;--and recognizing the pedlar for an old
acquaintance, mixes graciously in the conversation, which proceeds in a
very edifying manner till the close of the book.

The Sixth contains a choice obituary, or characteristic account of
several of the persons who lie buried before this groupe of moralizers;
--an unsuccessful lover, who finds consolation in natural history--a
miner, who worked on for twenty years, in despite of universal ridicule,
and at last found the vein he had expected--two political enemies
reconciled in old age to each other--an old female miser--a seduced
damsel--and two widowers, one who devoted himself to the education of
his daughters, and one who married a prudent middle-aged woman to take
care of them.

In the beginning of the Eighth Book, the worthy vicar expresses, in the
words of Mr. Wordsworth's own epitome, "his apprehensions that he had
detained his auditors too long--invites them to his house--Solitary,
disinclined to comply, rallies the Wanderer, and somewhat playfully
draws a comparison between his itinerant profession and that of a
knight-errant--which leads to the Wanderer giving an account of changes
in the country, from the manufacturing spirit--Its favourable effects--
The other side of the picture," etc., etc. After these very poetical
themes are exhausted, they all go into the house, where they are
introduced to the Vicar's wife and daughter; and while they sit chatting
in the parlour over a family dinner, his son and one of his companions
come in with a fine dish of trouts piled on a blue slate; and, after
being caressed by the company, are sent to dinner in the nursery.--This
ends the eighth book.

The Ninth and last is chiefly occupied with the mystical discourses of
the Pedlar; who maintains, that the whole universe is animated by an
active principle, the noblest seat of which is in the human soul; and
moreover, that the final end of old age is to train and enable us

To hear the mighty stream of _Tendency_
Uttering, for elevation of our thought,
A clear sonorous voice, inaudible
To the vast multitude whose doom it is
To run the giddy round of vain delight--

with other matters as luminous and emphatic. The hostess at length
breaks off the harangue, by proposing that they should all make a little
excursion on the lake,--and they embark accordingly; and, after
navigating for some time along its shores, and drinking tea on a little
island, land at last on a remote promontory, from which they see the sun
go down,--and listen to a solemn and pious, but rather long prayer from
the Vicar. They then walk back to the parsonage door, where the author
and his friend propose to spend the evening;--but the Solitary prefers
walking back in the moonshine to his own valley, after promising to take
another ramble with them--

If time, with free consent, be yours to give,
And season favours.

--And here the publication somewhat abruptly closes.

Our abstract of the story has been so extremely concise, that it is more
than usually necessary for us to lay some specimens of the work itself
before our readers. Its grand staple, as we have already said, consists
of a kind of mystical morality: and the chief characteristics of the
style are, that it is prolix and very frequently unintelligible: and
though we are very sensible that no great gratification is to be
expected from the exhibition of those qualities, yet it is necessary to
give our readers a taste of them, both to justify the sentence we have
passed, and to satisfy them that it was really beyond our power to
present them with any abstract or intelligible account of those long
conversations which we have had so much occasion to notice in our brief
sketch of its contents.

* * * * *

There is no beauty, we think, it must be admitted, in such passages; and
so little either of interest or curiosity in the incidents they
disclose, that we can scarcely conceive that any man to whom they had
actually occurred, should take the trouble to recount them to his wife
and children by his idle fireside--but, that man or child should think
them worth writing down in blank verse, and printing in magnificent
quarto, we should certainly have supposed altogether impossible, had it
not been for the ample proofs which Mr. Wordsworth has afforded to the

Sometimes their silliness is enhanced by a paltry attempt at effect and
emphasis:--as in the following account of that very touching and
extraordinary occurrence of a lamb bleating among the mountains. The
poet would actually persuade us that he thought the mountains themselves
were bleating;--and that nothing could be so grand or impressive.
"List!" cries the old Pedlar, suddenly breaking off in the middle of one
of his daintiest ravings--

--"List!--I heard,
From yon huge breast of rock, a solemn bleat;
Sent forth as if it were the Mountain's voice!
As if the visible Mountain made the cry!
Again!"--The effect upon the soul was such
As he expressed; for, from the Mountain's heart
The solemn bleat appeared to come; there was
No other--and the region all around
Stood silent, empty of all shape of life.
--It was a lamb--left somewhere to itself!

What we have now quoted will give the reader a notion of the taste and
spirit in which this volume is composed; and yet, if it had not
contained something a good deal better, we do not know how we should
have been justified in troubling him with any account of it. But the
truth is, that Mr. Wordsworth, with all his perversities, is a person of
great powers; and has frequently a force in his moral declamations, and
a tenderness in his pathetic narratives, which neither his prolixity nor
his affectation can altogether deprive of their effect.

* * * * *

Besides those more extended passages of interest or beauty, which we
have quoted, and omitted to quote, there are scattered up and down the
book, and in the midst of its most repulsive portions, a very great
number of single lines and images, that sparkle like gems in the desart,
and startle us with an intimation of the great poetic powers that lie
buried in the rubbish that has been heaped around them. It is difficult
to pick up these, after we have once passed them by; but we shall
endeavour to light upon one or two. The beneficial effect of intervals
of relaxation and pastime on youthful minds, is finely expressed, we
think, in a single line, when it is said to be--

Like vernal ground to Sabbath sunshine left.

The following image of the bursting forth of a mountain-spring, seems to
us also to be conceived with great elegance and beauty.

And a few steps may bring us to the spot,
Where haply crown'd with flowrets and green herbs;
The Mountain Infant to the Sun comes forth
Like human life from darkness.--

The ameliorating effects of song and music on the minds which most
delight in them, are likewise very poetically expressed.

--And when the stream
Which overflowed the soul was passed away,
A consciousness remained that it had left,
Deposited upon the silent shore
Of Memory, images and precious thoughts,
That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed.

Nor is any thing more elegant than the representation of the graceful
tranquillity occasionally put on by one of the author's favourites; who,
though gay and airy, in general--

Was graceful, when it pleased him, smooth and still
As the mute Swan that floats adown the stream,
Or on the waters of th' unruffled lake
Anchored her placid beauty. Not a leaf
That flutters on the bough more light than he,
And not a flower that droops in the green shade,
More winningly reserved.--

Nor are there wanting morsels of a sterner and more majestic beauty; as
when, assuming the weightier diction of Cowper, he says, in language
which the hearts of all readers of modern history must have responded--

--Earth is sick,
And Heaven is weary of the hollow words
Which States and Kingdoms utter when they speak
Of Truth and Justice.

These examples, we perceive, are not very well chosen--but we have not
leisure to improve the selection; and, such as they are, they may serve
to give the reader a notion of the sort of merit which we meant to
illustrate by their citation.--When we look back to them, indeed, and to
the other passages which we have now extracted, we feel half inclined to
rescind the severe sentence which we passed on the work at the
beginning:--But when we look into the work itself, we perceive that it
cannot be rescinded. Nobody can be more disposed to do justice to the
great powers of Mr. Wordsworth than we are; and, from the first time
that he came before us, down to the present moment, we have uniformly
testified in their favour, and assigned indeed our high sense of their
value as the chief ground of the bitterness with which we resented their
perversion. That perversion, however, is now far more visible than their
original dignity; and while we collect the fragments, it is impossible
not to lament the ruins from which we are condemned to pick them. If any
one should doubt of the existence of such a perversion, or be disposed
to dispute about the instances we have hastily brought forward, we would
just beg leave to refer him to the general plan and the characters of
the poem now before us.--Why should Mr. Wordsworth have made his hero a
superannuated Pedlar? What but the most wretched and provoking
perversity of taste and judgment, could induce any one to place his
chosen advocate of wisdom and virtue in so absurd and fantastic a
condition? Did Mr. Wordsworth really imagine, that he favourite
doctrines were likely to gain any thing in point of effect or authority
by being put into the mouth of a person accustomed to higgle about tape,
or brass sleeve-buttons? Or is it not plain that, independent of the
ridicule and disgust which such a personification must give to many of
his readers, its adoption exposes his work throughout to the charge of
revolting incongruity, and utter disregard of probability or nature?
For, after he has thus wilfully debased his moral teacher by a low
occupation, is there one word that he puts into his mouth, or one
sentiment of which he makes him the organ, that has the most remote
reference to that occupation? Is there any thing in his learned,
abstracted, and logical harangues, that savours of the calling that is
ascribed to him? Are any of their materials such as a pedlar could
possibly have dealt in? Are the manners, the diction, the sentiments, in
any, the very smallest degree, accommodated to a person in that
condition? or are they not eminently and conspicuously such as could not
by possibility belong to it? A man who went about selling flannel and
pocket-handkerchiefs in this lofty diction, would soon frighten away all
his customers; and would infallibly pass either for a madman, or for
some learned and affected gentleman, who, in a frolic, had taken up a
character which he was peculiarly ill qualified for supporting.

The absurdity in this case, we think, is palpable and glaring; but it is
exactly of the same nature with that which infects the whole substance
of the work--a puerile ambition of singularity engrafted on an unlucky
predilection for truisms; and an affected passion for simplicity and
humble life, most awkwardly combined with a taste for mystical
refinements, and all the gorgeousness of obscure phraseology. His taste
for simplicity is evinced, by sprinkling up and down his interminable
declamations, a few descriptions of baby-houses, and of old hats with
wet brims; and his amiable partiality for humble life, by assuring us,
that a wordy rhetorician, who talks about Thebes, and allegorizes all
the heathen mythology, was once a pedlar--and making him break in upon
his magnificent orations with two or three awkward notices of something
that he had seen when selling winter raiment about the country--or of
the changes in the state of society, which had almost annihilated his
former calling.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, August, 1820]

1. _Endymion: A Poetic Romance_. By JOHN KEATS. 8vo. pp. 207. London,

2. _Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems._ By JOHN
KEATS, Author of _Endymion_. 12mo. pp. 200. London, 1820.

We had never happened to see either of these volumes till very lately--
and have been exceedingly struck with the genius they display, and the
spirit of poetry which breathes through all their extravagance. That
imitation of our older writers, and especially of our older dramatists,
to which we cannot help flattering ourselves that we have somewhat
contributed, has brought on, as it were, a second spring in our poetry;
--and few of its blossoms are either more profuse of sweetness or richer
in promise, than this which is now before us. Mr. Keats, we understand,
is still a very young man; and his whole works, indeed, bear evidence
enough of the fact. They are full of extravagance and irregularity, rash
attempts at originality, interminable wanderings, and excessive
obscurity. They manifestly require, therefore, all the indulgence that
can be claimed for a first attempt:--but we think it no less plain that
they deserve it; for they are flushed all over with the rich lights of
fancy, and so coloured and bestrewn with the flowers of poetry, that
even while perplexed and bewildered in their labyrinths, it is
impossible to resist the intoxication of their sweetness, or to shut our
hearts to the enchantments they so lavishly present. The models upon
which he has formed himself, in the Endymion, the earliest and by much
the most considerable of his poems, are obviously the Faithful
Shepherdess of Fletcher, and the Sad Shepherd of Ben Jonson;--the
exquisite metres and inspired diction of which he has copied with great
boldness and fidelity--and, like his great originals, has also contrived
to impart to the whole piece that true rural and poetical air which
breathes only in them and in Theocritus--which is at once homely and
majestic, luxurious and rude, and sets before us the genuine sights and
sounds and smells of the country, with all the magic and grace of
Elysium. His subject has the disadvantage of being mythological; and in
this respect, as well as on account of the raised and rapturous tone it
consequently assumes, his poetry may be better compared perhaps to the
Comus and the Arcades of Milton, of which, also, there are many traces
of imitation. The great distinction, however, between him and these
divine authors, is, that imagination in them is subordinate to reason
and judgment, while, with him, it is paramount and supreme--that their
ornaments and images are employed to embellish and recommend just
sentiments, engaging incidents, and natural characters, while his are
poured out without measure or restraint, and with no apparent design but
to unburden the breast of the author, and give vent to the overflowing
vein of his fancy. The thin and scanty tissue of his story is merely the
light framework on which his florid wreaths are suspended; and while his
imaginations go rambling and entangling themselves everywhere, like wild
honeysuckles, all idea of sober reason, and plan, and consistency, is
utterly forgotten, and is "strangled in their waste fertility." A great
part of the work, indeed, is written in the strangest and most
fantastical manner that can be imagined. It seems as if the author had
ventured everything that occurred to him in the shape of a glittering
image or striking expression--taken the first word that presented itself
to make up a rhyme, and then made that word the germ of a new cluster of
images--a hint for a new excursion of the fancy--and so wandered on,
equally forgetful whence he came, and heedless whither he was going,
till he had covered his pages with an interminable arabesque of
connected and incongruous figures, that multiplied as they extended, and
were only harmonized by the brightness of their tints, and the graces of
their forms. In this rash and headlong career he has of course many
lapses and failures. There is no work, accordingly, from which a
malicious critic could cull more matter for ridicule, or select more
obscure, unnatural, or absurd passages. But we do not take _that_ to be
our office;--and just beg leave, on the contrary, to say, that any one
who, on this account, would represent the whole poem as despicable, must
either have no notion of poetry, or no regard to truth.

It is, in truth, at least as full of genius as of absurdity; and he who
does not find a great deal in it to admire and to give delight, cannot
in his heart see much beauty in the two exquisite dramas to which we
have already alluded, or find any great pleasure in some of the finest
creations of Milton and Shakespeare. There are very many such persons,
we verily believe, even among the reading and judicious part of the
community--correct scholars we have no doubt many of them, and, it may
be, very classical composers in prose and in verse--but utterly ignorant
of the true genius of English poetry, and incapable of estimating its
appropriate and most exquisite beauties. With that spirit we have no
hesitation in saying that Mr. K. is deeply imbued--and of those beauties
he has presented us with many striking examples. We are very much
inclined indeed to add, that we do not know any book which we would
sooner employ as a test to ascertain whether any one had in him a native
relish for poetry, and a genuine sensibility to its intrinsic charm. The
greater and more distinguished poets of our country have so much else in
them to gratify other tastes and propensities, that they are pretty sure
to captivate and amuse those to whom their poetry is but an hindrance
and obstruction, as well as those to whom it constitutes their chief
attraction. The interest of the stories they tell--the vivacity of the
characters they delineate--the weight and force of the maxims and
sentiments in which they abound--the very pathos and wit and humour they
display, which may all and each of them exist apart from their poetry
and independent of it, are quite sufficient to account for their
popularity, without referring much to that still higher gift, by which
they subdue to their enchantments those whose souls are attuned to the
finer impulses of poetry. It is only where those other recommendations
are wanting, or exist in a weaker degree, that the true force of the
attraction, exercised by the pure poetry with which they are so often
combined, can be fairly appreciated--where, without much incident or
many characters, and with little wit, wisdom, or arrangement, a number
of bright pictures are presented to the imagination, and a fine feeling
expressed of those mysterious relations by which visible external things
are assimilated with inward thoughts and emotions, and become the images
and exponents of all passions and affections. To an unpoetical reader
such passages always appear mere raving and absurdity--and to this
censure a very great part of the volume before us will certainly be
exposed, with this class of readers. Even in the judgment of a fitter
audience, however, it must, we fear, be admitted, that, besides the riot
and extravagance of his fancy, the scope and substance of Mr. K.'s
poetry is rather too dreary and abstracted to excite the strongest
interest, or to sustain the attention through a work of any great
compass or extent. He deals too much with shadowy and incomprehensible
beings, and is too constantly rapt into an extramundane Elysium, to
command a lasting interest with ordinary mortals--and must employ the
agency of more varied and coarser emotions, if he wishes to take rank
with the seducing poets of this or of former generations. There is
something very curious too, we think, in the way in which he, and Mr.
Barry Cornwall also, have dealt with the Pagan mythology, of which they
have made so much use in their poetry. Instead of presenting its
imaginary persons under the trite and vulgar traits that belong to them
in the ordinary systems, little more is borrowed from these than the
general conception of their conditions and relations; and an original
character and distinct individuality is bestowed upon them, which has
all the merit of invention, and all the grace and attraction of the
fictions on which it is engrafted. The antients, though they probably
did not stand in any great awe of their deities, have yet abstained very
much from any minute or dramatic representation of their feelings and
affections. In Hesiod and Homer, they are coarsely delineated by some of
their actions and adventures, and introduced to us merely as the agents
in those particular transactions; while in the Hymns, from those
ascribed to Orpheus and Homer, down to those of Callimachus, we have
little but pompous epithets and invocations, with a flattering
commemoration of their most famous exploits--and are never allowed to
enter into their bosoms, or follow out the train of their feelings, with
the presumption of our human sympathy. Except the love-song of the
Cyclops to his Sea Nymph in Theocritus--the Lamentation of Venus for
Adonis in Moschus--and the more recent Legend of Apuleius, we scarcely
recollect a passage in all the writings of antiquity in which the
passions of an immortal are fairly disclosed to the scrutiny and
observation of men. The author before us, however, and some of his
contemporaries, have dealt differently with the subject;--and,
sheltering the violence of the fiction under the ancient traditionary
fable, have created and imagined an entire new set of characters, and
brought closely and minutely before us the loves and sorrows and
perplexities of beings, with whose names and supernatural attributes we
had long been familiar, without any sense or feeling of their personal
character. We have more than doubts of the fitness of such personages to
maintain a permanent interest with the modern public;--but the way in
which they are here managed, certainly gives them the best chance that
now remains for them; and, at all events, it cannot be denied that the
effect is striking and graceful.

* * * * *

There is a fragment of a projected Epic, entitled "Hyperion," on the
expulsion of Saturn and the Titanian deities by Jupiter and his younger
adherents, of which we cannot advise the completion: For, though there
are passages of some force and grandeur, it is sufficiently obvious,
from the specimen before us, that the subject is too far removed from
all the sources of human interest, to be successfully treated by any
modern author. Mr. Keats has unquestionably a very beautiful
imagination, and a great familiarity with the finest diction of English
poetry; but he must learn not to misuse or misapply these advantages;
and neither to waste the good gifts of nature and study on intractable
themes, nor to luxuriate too recklessly on such as are more suitable.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1808]

_Hours of Idleness: A series of Poems, Original and Translated._ By
GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON, a minor. Newark, 1807.

The poesy of this young lord belongs to the class which neither gods nor
men are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a
quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction from that
exact standard. His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no
more get above or below the level, than if they were so much stagnant
water. As an extenuation of this offence, the noble author is peculiarly
forward in pleading minority. We have it in the title-page, and on the
very back of the volume; it follows his name like a favourite part of
his _style_. Much stress is laid upon it in the preface, and the poems
are connected with this general statement of his case, by particular
dates, substantiating the age at which each was written. Now, the law
upon the point of morality, we hold to be perfectly clear. It is a plea
available only to the defendant; no plaintiff can offer it as a
supplementary ground of action. Thus, if any suit could be brought
against Lord Byron, for the purpose of compelling him to put into court
a certain quantity of poetry; and if judgment were given against him, it
is highly probable that an exception would be taken, were he to deliver
_for poetry_, the contents of this volume. To this he might plead
_minority;_ but as he now makes voluntary tender of the article, he hath
no right to sue, on that ground, for the price is in good current
praise, should the goods be unmarketable. This is our view of the law on
the point, and we dare to say, so will it be ruled. Perhaps, however, in
reality, all that he tells us about his youth, is rather with a view to
increase our wonder, than to soften our censures. He possibly means to
say, "See how a minor can write! This poem was actually composed by a
young man of eighteen, and this by one of only sixteen!" But, alas, we
all remember the poetry of Cowley at ten, and Pope at twelve; and so far
from hearing, with any surprise, that very poor verses were written by a
youth from his leaving school to his leaving college, inclusive, we
really believe this to be the most common of all occurrences; that it
happens in the life of nine men in ten who are educated in England; and
that the tenth man writes better verse than Lord Byron.

His other plea of privilege, our author rather brings forward to wave
it. He certainly, however, does allude frequently to his family and
ancestors--sometimes in poetry, sometimes in notes; and while giving up
his claim on the score of rank, he takes care to remember us of Dr.
Johnson's saying, that when a nobleman appears as an author, his merit
should be handsomely acknowledged. In truth, it is this consideration
only, that induces us to give Lord Byron's poems a place in our review,
besides our desire to counsel him, that he do forthwith abandon poetry,
and turn his talents, which are considerable, and his opportunities,
which are great, to better account.

With this view, we must beg leave seriously to assure him, that the mere
rhyming of the final syllable, even when accompanied by a certain number
of feet; nay, although (which does not always happen) those feet should
scan regularly, and have been all counted accurately upon the fingers--
is not the whole art of poetry. We would entreat him to believe, that a
certain portion of liveliness, somewhat of fancy, is necessary to
constitute a poem; and that a poem in the present day, to be read, must
contain at least one thought, either in a little degree different from
the ideas of former writers, or differently expressed. We put it to his
candour, whether there is anything so deserving the name of poetry in
verses like the following, written in 1806, and whether, if a youth of
eighteen could say anything so uninteresting to his ancestors, a youth
of nineteen should publish it.

Shades of heroes farewell! your descendant, departing
From the seat of his ancestors, bids you, adieu! etc., etc.

Lord Byron should also have a care of attempting what the greatest poets
have done before him, for comparisons (as he must have had occasion to
see at his writing-master's) are odious. Gray's ode on Eton College,
should really have kept out the ten hobbling stanzas "on a distant view
of the village and school of Harrow." ...

However, be this as it may, we fear his translations and imitations are
great favourites with Lord Byron. We have them of all kinds, from
Anacreon to Ossian; and, viewing them as school exercises, they may
pass. Only why print them after they have had their day and served their

It is a sort of privilege of poets to be egotists; but they should "use
it as not abusing it"; and particularly one who piques himself (though
indeed at the ripe age of nineteen) of being "an infant bard"--("The
artless Helicon I boast is youth";)--should either not know, or not seem
to know, so much about his own ancestry. Besides a poem on the family
seat of the Byrons, we have another on the self same subject, introduced
with an apology, "he certainly had no intention of inserting it"; but
really, "the particular request of some friends," etc., etc. It
concludes with five stanzas on himself, "the last and youngest of a
noble line." There is a good deal also about his maternal ancestors, in
a poem on Lachin-y-gair, a mountain where he spent part of his youth,
and might have learnt that a _pibroch_ is not a bagpipe, any more than a
duet means a fiddle....

But whatever judgment may be passed on the poems of this noble junior,
it seems we must take them as we find them, and be content; for they are
the last we shall ever have from him. He is at best, he says, but an
intruder into the groves of Parnassus; he never lived in a garret, like
thorough-bred poets; and "though he once roved a careless mountaineer in
the Highlands of Scotland," he has not of late enjoyed this advantage.
Moreover, he expects no profit from his publication; and whether it
succeeds or not, "it is highly improbable, from his situation and
pursuits hereafter," that he should again condescend to become an
author. Therefore, let us take what we can get and be thankful. What
right have we poor devils to be nice? We are well off to have got so
much from a man of this Lord's station, who does not live in a garret,
but "has the sway" of Newstead Abbey. Again we say, let us be thankful;
and, with honest Sancho, bid God bless the giver, nor look the gift
horse in the mouth.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1809]

_Caelebs in Search of a Wife; comprehending Observations on Domestic
Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals._ 2 vols. London, 1809.

This book is written, or supposed to be written (for we would speak
timidly of the mysteries of superior beings), by the celebrated Mrs.
Hannah Moore! We shall probably give great offence by such indiscretion;
but still we must be excused for treating it as a book merely human,--an
uninspired production,--the result of mortality left to itself, and
depending on its own limited resources. In taking up the subject in this
point of view, we solemnly disclaim the slightest intention of indulging
in any indecorous levity, or of wounding the religious feelings of a
large class of very respectable persons. It is the only method in which
we can possibly make this work a proper object of criticism. We have the
strongest possible doubts of the attributes usually ascribed to this
authoress; and we think it more simple and manly to say so at once, than
to admit nominally superlunary claims, which, in the progress of our
remarks, we should virtually deny.

Caelebs wants a wife; and, after the death of his father, quits his
estate in Northumberland to see the world, and to seek for one of its
best productions, a woman, who may add materially to the happiness of
his future life. His first journey is to London, where, in the midst of
the gay society of the metropolis, of course, he does not find a wife;
and his next journey is to the family of Mr. Stanley, the head of the
Methodists, a serious people, where, of course, he does find a wife. The
exaltation, therefore, of what the authoress deems to be the religious,
and the depretiation of what she considers to be the worldly character,
and the influence of both upon matrimonial happiness, form the subject
of this novel--rather of this _dramatic sermon_.

The machinery upon which the discourse is suspended, is of the slightest
and most inartificial texture, bearing every mark of haste, and
possessing not the slightest claim to merit. Events there are none; and
scarcely a character of any interest. The book is intended to convey
religious advice; and no more labour appears to have been bestowed upon
the story, than was merely sufficient to throw it out of the dry,
didactic form. Lucilla is totally uninteresting; so is Mr. Stanley; Dr.
Barlow still worse; and Caelebs a mere clod or dolt. Sir John and Lady
Belfield are rather more interesting--and for a very obvious reason,
they have some faults;--they put us in mind of men and women;--they seem
to belong to one common nature with ourselves. As we read, we seem to
think we might act as such people act, and therefore we attend; whereas
imitation is hopeless in the more perfect characters which Mrs. Moore
has set before us; and therefore, they inspire us with very little

There are books however of all kinds; and those may not be unwisely
planned which set before us very pure models. They are less probable,
and therefore less amusing than ordinary stories; but they are more
amusing than plain, unfabled precept. Sir Charles Grandison is less
agreeable than Tom Jones; but it is more agreeable than Sherlock and
Tillotson; and teaches religion and morality to many who would not seek
it in the productions of these professional writers.

But, making every allowance for the difficulty of the task which Mrs.
Moore has prescribed to herself, the book abounds with marks of
negligence and want of skill; with representations of life and manners
which are either false or trite.

Temples to friendship and virtue must be totally laid aside, for many
years to come, in novels. Mr. Lane, of the Minerva Press, has given them
up long since; and we were quite surprised to find such a writer as Mrs.
Moore busied in moral brick and mortar. Such an idea, at first, was
merely juvenile; the second time a little nauseous; but the ten
thousandth time, it is quite intolerable. Caelebs, upon his first
arrival in London, dines out,--meets with a bad dinner,--supposes the
cause of that bad dinner to be the erudition of the ladies of the
house,--talks to them upon learned subjects, and finds them as dull and
ignorant as if they had piqued themselves upon all the mysteries of
housewifery. We humbly submit to Mrs. Moore, that this is not humorous,
but strained and unnatural. Philippics against frugivorous children
after dinner, are too common. Lady Melbury has been introduced into
every novel for these four years last past. Peace to her ashes!...

The great object kept in view throughout the whole of this introduction,
is the enforcement of religious principle, and the condemnation of a
life lavished in dissipation and fashionable amusement. In the pursuit
of this object, it appears to us, that Mrs. Moore is much too severe
upon the ordinary amusements of mankind, many of which she does not
object to in this, or that degree; but altogether. Caelebs and Lucilla,
her _optimus_ and _optima_, never dance, and never go to the play. They
not only stay away from the comedies of Congreve and Farquhar, for which
they may easily enough be forgiven; but they never go to see Mrs.
Siddons in the Gamester, or in Jane Shore. The finest exhibition of
talent, and the most beautiful moral lessons, are interdicted, at the
theatre. There is something in the word _Playhouse_, which seems so
closely connected, in the minds of these people, with sin, and Satan,--
that it stands in their vocabulary for every species of abomination. And
yet why? Where is every feeling more roused in favour of virtue, than at
a good play? Where is goodness so feelingly, so enthusiastically learnt?
What so solemn as to see the excellent passions of the human heart
called forth by a great actor, animated by a great poet? To hear Siddons
repeat what Shakespeare wrote! To behold the child, and his mother--the
noble, and the poor artisan,--the monarch, and his subjects--all ages
and all ranks convulsed with one common passion--wrung with one common
anguish, and, with loud sobs and cries, doing involuntary homage to the
God that made their hearts! What wretched infatuation to interdict such
amusements as these! What a blessing that mankind can be allured from
sensual gratification, and find relaxation and pleasure in such
pursuits! But the excellent Mr. Stanley is uniformly paltry and narrow,
--always trembling at the idea of being entertained, and thinking no
Christian safe who is not dull. As to the spectacles of impropriety
which are sometimes witnessed in parts of the theatre; such reasons
apply, in much stronger degree, to not driving along the Strand, or any
of the great public streets of London, after dark; and if the virtue of
well educated young persons is made of such very frail materials, their
best resource is a nunnery at once. It is a very bad rule, however,
never to quit the house for fear of catching cold.

Mrs. Moore practically extends the same doctrine to cards and
assemblies. No cards--because cards are employed in gaming; no
assemblies--because many dissipated persons pass their lives in
assemblies. Carry this but a little further, and we must say,--no wine,
because of drunkenness; no meat, because of gluttony; no use, that there
may be no abuse! The fact is, that Mr. Stanley wants not only to be
religious, but to be at the head of the religious. These little
abstinences are the cockades by which the party are known,--the rallying
points for the evangelical faction. So natural is the love of power,
that it sometimes becomes the influencing motive with the sincere
advocates of that blessed religion, whose very characteristic excellence
is the humility which it inculcates.

We observe that Mrs. Moore, in one part of her work, falls into the
common error about dress. She first blames ladies for exposing their
persons in the present style of dress; and then says, if they knew their
own interest,--if they were aware how much more alluring they were to
men when their charms are less displayed, they would make the desired
alteration from motives merely selfish.

"Oh! if women in general knew what was their real interest! if they
could guess with what a charm even the _appearance_ of modesty
invests its possessor, they would dress decorously from mere
self-love, if not from principle. The designing would assume modesty
as an artifice; the coquet would adopt it as an allurement; the pure
as her appropriate attraction; and the voluptuous as the most
infallible art of seduction." I. 189.

If there is any truth in this passage, nudity becomes a virtue; and no
decent woman, for the future, can be seen in garments.

We have a few more of Mrs. Moore's opinions to notice.--It is not fair
to attack the religion of the times, because, in large and
indiscriminate parties, religion does not become the subject of
conversation. Conversation must and ought to grow out of materials on
which men can agree, not upon subjects which try the passions. But this
good lady wants to see men chatting together upon the Pelagian heresy--
to hear, in the afternoon, the theological rumours of the day--and to
glean polemical tittle-tattle at a tea-table rout. All the disciples of
this school uniformly fall into the same mistake. They are perpetually
calling upon their votaries for religious thoughts and religious
conversation in every thing; inviting them to ride, walk, row, wrestle,
and dine out religiously;--forgetting that the being to whom this
impossible purity is recommended, is a being compelled to scramble for
his existence and support for ten hours out of the sixteen he is awake;
--forgetting that he must dig, beg, read, think, move, pay, receive,
praise, scold, command and obey;--forgetting, also, that if men
conversed as often upon religious subjects as they do upon the ordinary
occurrences of the world, that they would converse upon them with the
same familiarity, and want of respect,--that religion would then produce
feelings not more solemn or exalted than any other topics which
constitute at present the common furniture of human understandings.

We are glad to find in this work, some strong compliments to the
efficacy of works,--some distinct admissions that it is necessary to be
honest and just, before we can be considered as religious. Such sort of
concessions are very gratifying to us; but how will they be received by
the children of the Tabernacle? It is quite clear, indeed, throughout
the whole of the work, that an apologetical explanation of certain
religious opinions is intended; and there is a considerable abatement of
that tone of insolence with which the improved Christians are apt to
treat the bungling specimens of piety to be met with in the more antient

So much for the extravagances of this lady.--With equal sincerity, and
with greater pleasure, we bear testimony to her talents, her good sense,
and her real piety. There occurs every now and then in her productions,
very original, and very profound observations. Her advice is very often
characterised by the most amiable good sense, and conveyed in the most
brilliant and inviting style. If, instead of belonging to a trumpery
gospel faction, she had only watched over those great points of religion
in which the hearts of every sect of Christians are interested, she
would have been one of the most useful and valuable writers of her day.
As it is, every man would wish his wife and his children to read
_Caelebs_;--watching himself its effects;--separating the piety from
the puerility;--and showing that it is very possible to be a good
Christian, without degrading the human understanding to the trash and
folly of Methodism.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1830]


_Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of
Society_. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo.
London, 1829.

It would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey's talents and
acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before us, which
should be wholly destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not
remember to have read with so little satisfaction any equal quantity of
matter, written by any man of real abilities. We have, for some time
past, observed with great regret the strange infatuation which leads the
Poet Laureate to abandon those departments of literature in which he
might excel, and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still
the very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The
subject which he has at last undertaken to treat is one which demands
all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a philosophical
statesman, an understanding at once comprehensive and acute, a heart at
once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two
faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious
to any human being, the faculty of believing without a reason, and the
faculty of hating without a provocation.

It is, indeed, most extraordinary, that a mind like Mr. Southey's, a
mind richly endowed in many respects by nature, and highly cultivated by
study, a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most
enlightened generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed,
should be utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from
falsehood. Yet such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the
fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religion or
a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a
statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of
associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and
what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his tastes....

Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as either
leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to
know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never
troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never
occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account
of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it
is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that
there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour
does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly
foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions
cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to
settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with
something more convincing than "scoundrel" and "blockhead."

It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for political
instruction. The utmost that can be expected from any system promulgated
by him is that it may be splendid and affecting, that it may suggest
sublime and pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is a mere
day-dream, a poetical creation, like the Domdaniel cavern, the Swerga,
or Padalon; and indeed it bears no inconsiderable resemblance to those
gorgeous visions. Like them, it has something of invention, grandeur,
and brilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and extravagant, and
perpetually violates even that conventional probability which is
essential to the effect of works of art.

The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will scarcely, we think, deny that
his success has almost always borne an inverse proportion to the degree
in which his undertakings have required a logical head. His poems, taken
in the mass, stand far higher than his prose works. His official Odes,
indeed, among which the Vision of Judgement must be classed, are, for
the most part, worse than Pye's and as bad as Cibber's; nor do we think
him generally happy in short pieces. But his longer poems, though full
of faults, are nevertheless very extraordinary productions. We doubt
greatly whether they will be read fifty years hence; but that, if they
are read, they will be admired, we have no doubt whatever....

The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey manifests
towards his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attributed
to the manner in which he forms his opinions. Differences of taste, it
has often been remarked, produce greater exasperation than differences
on points of science. But this is not all. A peculiar austerity marks
almost all Mr. Southey's judgments of men and actions. We are far from
blaming him for fixing on a high standard of morals and for applying
that standard to every case. But rigour ought to be accompanied by
discernment; and of discernment Mr. Southey seems to be utterly
destitute. His mode of judging is monkish. It is exactly what we should
expect from a stern old Benedictine, who had been preserved from many
ordinary frailties by the restraints of his situation. No man out of a
cloister ever wrote about love, for example, so coldly and at the same
time so grossly. His descriptions of it are just what we should hear
from a recluse who knew the passion only from the details of the
confessional. Almost all his heroes make love either like Seraphim or
like cattle. He seems to have no notion of any thing between the
Platonic passion of the Glendoveer who gazes with rapture on his
mistress's leprosy, and the brutal appetite of Arvalan and Roderick. In
Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. He is first all clay,
and then all spirit. He goes forth a Tarquin, and comes back too
ethereal to be married. The only love scene, as far as we can recollect,
in Madoc, consists of the delicate attentions which a savage, who has
drunk too much of the Prince's excellent metheglin, offers to Goervyl.
It would be the labour of a week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr.
Southey's poetry, a single passage indicating any sympathy with those
feelings which have consecrated the shades of Vaucluse and the rocks of

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal tenderness
and filial duty, there is scarcely any thing soft or humane in Mr.
Southey's poetry. What theologians call the spiritual sins are his
cardinal virtues, hatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of vengeance.
These passions he disguises under the name of duties; he purifies them
from the alloy of vulgar interests; he ennobles them by uniting them
with energy, fortitude, and a severe sanctity of manners; and he then
holds them up to the admiration of mankind. This is the spirit of
Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Adosinda, of Roderick after his conversion. It
is the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Southey appears to affect.
"I do well to be angry," seems to be the predominant feeling of his
mind. Almost the only mark of charity which he vouchsafes to his
opponents is to pray for their reformation; and this he does in terms
not unlike those in which we can imagine a Portuguese priest interceding
with Heaven for a Jew, delivered over to the secular arm after a

We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey is a very
amiable and humane man; nor do we intend to apply to him personally any
of the remarks which we have made on the spirit of his writings. Such
are the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle Toby troubled himself very
little about the French grenadiers who fell on the glacis of Namur. And
Mr. Southey, when he takes up his pen, changes his nature as much as
Captain Shandy, when he girt on his sword. The only opponents to whom
the Laureate gives quarter are those in whom he finds something of his
own character reflected. He seems to have an instinctive antipathy for
calm, moderate men, for men who shun extremes, and who render reasons.
He treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, for example, with infinitely more respect
than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Lingard; and this for no
reason that we can discover, except that Mr. Owen is more unreasonably
and hopelessly in the wrong than any speculator of our time.

Mr. Southey's political system is just what we might expect from a man
who regards politics, not as matter of science, but as matter of taste
and feeling. All his schemes of government have been inconsistent with
themselves. In his youth he was a republican; yet, as he tells us in his
preface to these Colloquies, he was even then opposed to the Catholic
Claims. He is now a violent Ultra-Tory. Yet, while he maintains, with
vehemence approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and harsher parts of
the Ultra-Tory theory of government, the baser and dirtier part of that
theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution, severe punishments for
libellers and demagogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if
necessary, rather than any concession to a discontented people; these
are the measures which he seems inclined to recommend. A severe and
gloomy tyranny, crushing opposition, silencing remonstrance, drilling
the minds of the people into unreasoning obedience, has in it something
of grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing fine in
the shabby tricks and jobs of office; and Mr. Southey, accordingly, has
no toleration for them. When a Jacobin, he did not perceive that his
system led logically, and would have led practically, to the removal of
religious distinctions. He now commits a similar error. He renounces the
abject and paltry part of the creed of his party, without perceiving
that it is also an essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny
and purity together; though the most superficial observation might have
shown him that there can be no tyranny without corruption.

It is high time, however, that we should proceed to the consideration of
the work which is our more immediate subject, and which, indeed,
illustrates in almost every page our general remarks on Mr. Southey's
writings. In the preface, we are informed that the author,
notwithstanding some statements to the contrary, was always opposed to
the Catholic Claims. We fully believe this; both because we are sure
that Mr. Southey is incapable of publishing a deliberate falsehood, and
because his assertion is in itself probable. We should have expected
that, even in his wildest paroxysms of democratic enthusiasm, Mr.
Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple remedy applied to a
great practical evil. We should have expected that the only measure
which all the great statesmen of two generations have agreed with each
other in supporting would be the only measure which Mr. Southey would
have agreed with himself in opposing. He has passed from one extreme of
political opinion to another, as Satan in Milton went round the globe,
contriving constantly to "ride with darkness." Wherever the thickest
shadow of the night may at any moment chance to fall, there is Mr.
Southey. It is not every body who could have so dexterously avoided
blundering on the daylight in the course of a journey to the antipodes.

* * * * *

It is not by the intermeddling of Mr. Southey's idol, the omniscient and
omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that
England has hitherto been carried forward in civilisation; and it is to
the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and
good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by
strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving
capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price,
industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their
natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by
diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every
department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will
assuredly do the rest.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, September, 1831]

_The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Including a Journal of a Tour to the
Hebrides, by James Boswell, Esq. A new Edition, with numerous Additions
and Notes._ By JOHN WILSON CROKER, LL.D., F.R.S. 5 vols., 8vo. London,

This work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may have been
prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be a valuable
addition to English literature; that it would contain many curious
facts, and many judicious remarks; that the style of the notes would be
neat, clear, and precise; and that the typographical execution would be,
as in new editions of classical works it ought to be, almost faultless.
We are sorry to be obliged to say that the merits of Mr. Croker's
performance are on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton on which
Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and which he,
with characteristic energy, pronounced to be "as bad as bad could be,
ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed." This edition is ill
compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed.

Nothing in the work has astonished us so much as the ignorance or
carelessness of Mr. Croker with respect to facts and dates. Many of his
blunders are such as we should be surprised to hear any well educated
gentleman commit, even in conversation. The notes absolutely swarm with
misstatements, into which the editor never would have fallen, if he had
taken the slightest pains to investigate the truth of his assertions, or
if he had even been well acquainted with the book on which he undertook
to comment.

We will give a few instances--

* * * * *

We will not multiply instances of this scandalous inaccuracy. It is
clear that a writer who, even when warned by the text on which he is
commenting, falls into such mistakes as these, is entitled to no
confidence whatever. Mr. Croker has committed an error of five years
with respect to the publication of Goldsmith's novel, an error of twelve
years with respect to the publication of part of Gibbon's History, an
error of twenty-one years with respect to an event in Johnson's life so
important as the taking of the doctoral degree. Two of these three
errors he has committed, while ostentatiously displaying his own
accuracy, and correcting what he represents as the loose assertions of
others. How can his readers take on trust his statements concerning the
births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of a crowd of people, whose
names are scarcely known to this generation? It is not likely that a
person who is ignorant of what almost everybody knows can know that of
which almost everybody is ignorant. We did not open this book with any
wish to find blemishes in it. We have made no curious researches. The
work itself, and a very common knowledge of literary and political
history, have enabled us to detect the mistakes which we have pointed
out, and many other mistakes of the same kind. We must say, and we say
it with regret, that we do not consider the authority of Mr. Croker,
unsupported by other evidence, as sufficient to justify any writer who
may follow him in relating a single anecdote or in assigning a date to a
single event.

Mr. Croker shows almost as much ignorance and heedlessness in his
criticisms as in his statements concerning facts. Dr. Johnson said, very
reasonably as it appears to us, that some of the satires of Juvenal are
too gross for imitation. Mr. Croker, who, by the way, is angry with
Johnson for defending Prior's tales against the charge of indecency,
resents this aspersion on Juvenal, and indeed refuses to believe that
the doctor can have said anything so absurd. "He probably said--some
_passages_ of them--for there are none of Juvenal's satires to which the
same objection may be made as to one of Horace's, that it is
_altogether_ gross and licentious."[1] Surely Mr. Croker can never have
read the second and ninth satires of Juvenal.

[1] I. 167.

Indeed the decisions of this editor on points of classical learning,
though pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are generally such that,
if a schoolboy under our care were to utter them, our soul assuredly
should not spare for his crying. It is no disgrace to a gentleman who
has been engaged during near thirty years in political life that he has
forgotten his Greek and Latin. But he becomes justly ridiculous if, when
no longer able to construe a plain sentence, he affects to sit in
judgment on the most delicate questions of style and metre. From one
blunder, a blunder which no good scholar would have made, Mr. Croker was
saved, as he informs us, by Sir Robert Peel, who quoted a passage
exactly in point from Horace. We heartily wish that Sir Robert, whose
classical attainments are well known, had been more frequently
consulted. Unhappily he was not always at his friend's elbow; and we
have therefore a rich abundance of the strangest errors. Boswell has
preserved a poor epigram by Johnson, inscribed "Ad Lauram parituram."
Mr. Croker censures the poet for applying the word puella to a lady in
Laura's situation, and for talking of the beauty of Lucina. "Lucina," he
says, "was never famed for her beauty."[1] If Sir Robert Peel had seen
this note, he probably would have again refuted Mr. Croker's criticisms
by an Appeal to Horace. In the secular ode, Lucina is used as one of the
names of Diana, and the beauty of Diana is extolled by all the most
orthodox doctors of the ancient mythology, from Homer in his Odyssey, to
Claudian in his Rape of Proserpine. In another ode, Horace describes
Diana as the goddess who assists the "laborantes utero puellas." But we
are ashamed to detain our readers with this fourth-form learning.

* * * * *

A very large proportion of the two thousand five hundred notes which the
editor boasts of having added to those of Boswell and Malone consists of
the flattest and poorest reflections, reflections such as the least
intelligent reader is quite competent to make for himself, and such as
no intelligent reader would think it worth while to utter aloud. They
remind us of nothing so much as of those profound and interesting
annotations which are penciled by sempstresses and apothecaries' boys on
the dog-eared margins of novels borrowed from circulating libraries;
"How beautiful!" "Cursed Prosy!" "I don't like Sir Reginald Malcolm at
all." "I think Pelham is a sad dandy." Mr. Croker is perpetually
stopping us in our progress through the most delightful narrative in the
language, to observe that really Dr. Johnson was very rude, that he
talked more for victory than for truth, that his taste for port wine
with capillaire in it was very odd, that Boswell was impertinent, that
it was foolish in Mrs. Thrale to marry the music-master; and so forth.

We cannot speak more favourably of the manner in which the notes are
written than of the matter of which they consist. We find in every page
words used in wrong senses, and constructions which violate the plainest
rules of grammar. We have the vulgarism of "mutual friend," for "common
friend." We have "fallacy" used as synonymous with "falsehood." We have
many such inextricable labyrinths of pronouns as that which follows:
"Lord Erskine was fond of this anecdote; he told it to the editor the
first time that he had the honour of being in his company." Lastly, we
have a plentiful supply of sentences resembling those which we subjoin.
"Markland, _who_, with Jortin and Thirlby, Johnson calls three
contemporaries of great eminence."[2] "Warburton himself did not feel,
as Mr. Boswell was disposed to think he did, kindly or gratefully _of_
Johnson."[3] "It was _him_ that Horace Walpole called a man who never
made a bad figure but as an author."[4] One or two of these solecisms
should perhaps be attributed to the printer, who has certainly done his
best to fill both the text and the notes with all sorts of blunders. In
truth, he and the editor have between them made the book so bad, that we
do not well see how it could have been worse.

[2] IV. 377.
[3] IV. 415.
[4] II. 461.

When we turn from the commentary of Mr. Croker to the work of our old
friend Boswell, we find it not only worse printed than in any other
edition with which we are acquainted, but mangled in the most wanton
manner. Much that Boswell inserted in his narrative is, without the
shadow of a reason, degraded to the appendix. The editor has also taken
upon himself to alter or omit passages which he considers as indecorous.
This prudery is quite unintelligible to us. There is nothing immoral in
Boswell's book, nothing which tends to inflame the passions. He
sometimes uses plain words. But if this be a taint which requires
expurgation, it would be desirable to begin by expurgating the morning
and evening lessons. The delicate office which Mr. Croker has undertaken
he has performed in the most capricious manner. One strong, old-fashioned,
English word, familiar to all who read their Bibles, is
changed for a softer synonyme in some passages, and suffered to stand
unaltered in others. In one place a faint allusion made by Johnson to an
indelicate subject, an allusion so faint that, till Mr. Croker's note
pointed it out to us, we had never noticed it, and of which we are quite
sure that the meaning would never be discovered by any of those for
whose sake books are expurgated, is altogether omitted. In another
place, a coarse and stupid jest of Dr. Taylor on the subject, expressed
in the broadest language, almost the only passage, as far as we
remember, in all Boswell's book, which we should have been inclined to
leave out, is suffered to remain.

We complain, however, much more of the additions than of the omissions.
We have half of Mrs. Thrale's book, scraps of Mr. Tyers, scraps of Mr.
Murphy, scraps of Mr. Cradock, long prosings of Sir John Hawkins, and
connecting observations by Mr. Croker himself, inserted into the midst
of Boswell's text.

* * * * *

The _Life of Johnson_ is assuredly a great, a very great work. Homer is
not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakspeare is not more
decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the
first of orators than Boswell is the first of biographers. He has no
second. He has distanced all his competitors so decidedly that it is not
worth while to place them. Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere.

We are not sure that there is in the whole history of the human
intellect so strange a phenomenon as this book. Many of the greatest men
that ever lived have written biography. Boswell was one of the smallest
men that ever lived, and he has beaten them all. He was, if we are to
give any credit to his own account or to the united testimony of all who
knew him, a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect. Johnson described
him as a fellow who had missed his only chance of immortality by not
having been alive when the _Dunciad_ was written. Beauclerk used his
name as a proverbial expression for a bore. He was the laughing-stock of
the whole of that brilliant society which has owed to him the greater
part of its fame. He was always laying himself at the feet of some
eminent man, and begging to be spit upon and trampled upon. He was
always earning some ridiculous nickname, and then "binding it as a crown
unto him," not merely in metaphor, but literally. He exhibited himself,
at the Shakespeare Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled
Stratford-on-Avon, with a placard round his hat bearing the inscription
Corsica Boswell. In his Tour, he proclaimed to all the world that at
Edinburgh he was known by the appellation of Paoli Boswell. Servile and
impertinent, shallow and pedantic, a bigot and a sot, bloated with
family pride, and eternally blustering about the dignity of a born
gentleman, yet stooping to be a talebearer, an eavesdropper, a common
butt in the taverns of London, so curious to know everybody who was
talked about, that, Tory and High Churchman as he was, he manoeuvred, we
have been told, for an introduction to _Tom Paine_, so vain of the most
childish distinctions, that when he had been to court he drove to the
office where his book was printing without changing his clothes, and
summoned all the printer's devils to admire his new ruffles and sword;
such was this man, and such he was content and proud to be. Everything
which another man would have hidden, everything the publication of which
would have made another man hang himself, was matter of gay and
clamorous exultation to his weak and diseased mind. What silly things he
said, what bitter retorts he provoked, how at one place he was troubled
with evil presentiments which came to nothing, how at another place, on
waking from a drunken doze, he read the prayerbook and took a hair of
the dog that had bitten him, how he went to see men hanged and came away
maudlin, how he added five hundred pounds to the fortune of one of his
babies because she was not scared at Johnson's ugly face, how he was
frightened out of his wits at sea, and how the sailors quieted him as
they would have quieted a child, how tipsy he was at Lady Cork's one
evening and how much his merriment annoyed the ladies, how impertinent
he was to the Duchess of Argyle and with what stately contempt she put
down his impertinence, how Colonel Macleod sneered to his face at his
impudent obtrusiveness, how his father and the very wife of his bosom
laughed and fretted at his fooleries; all these things he proclaimed to
all the world, as if they had been subjects for pride and ostentatious
rejoicing. All the caprices of his temper, all the illusions of his
vanity, all his hypochondriac whimsies, all his castles in the air, he
displayed with a cool self-complacency, a perfect unconsciousness that
he was making a fool of himself, to which it is impossible to find a
parallel in the whole history of mankind. He has used many people ill;
but assuredly he has used nobody so ill as himself.

That such a man should have written one of the best books in the world
is strange enough. But this is not all. Many persons who have conducted
themselves foolishly in active life, and whose conversation has
indicated no superior powers of mind, have left us valuable works.
Goldsmith was very justly described by one of his contemporaries as an
inspired idiot, and by another as a being

Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.

La Fontaine was in society a mere simpleton. His blunders
would not come in amiss among the stories of Hierocles. But
these men attained literary eminence in spite of their weaknesses.
Boswell attained it by reason of his weaknesses. If he had not been a
great fool, he would never have been a great writer. Without all the
qualities which made him the jest and the torment of those among whom he
lived, without the officiousness, the inquisitiveness, the effrontery,
the toad-eating, the insensibility to all reproof, he never could have
produced so excellent a book. He was a slave, proud of his servitude, a
Paul Pry, convinced that his own curiosity and garrulity were virtues,
an unsafe companion who never scrupled to repay the most liberal
hospitality by the basest violation of confidence, a man without
delicacy, without shame, without sense enough to know when he was
hurting the feelings of others or when he was exposing himself to
derision; and because he was all this, he has, in an important
department of literature, immeasurably surpassed such writers as
Tacitus, Clarendon, Alfieri, and his own idol Johnson.

Of the talents which ordinarily raise men to eminence as writers,
Boswell had absolutely none. There is not in all his books a single
remark of his own on literature, politics, religion, or society, which
is not either common-place or absurd. His dissertations on hereditary
gentility, on the slave-trade, and on the entailing of landed estates,
may serve as examples. To say that these passages are sophistical would
be to pay them an extravagant compliment. They have no pretence to
argument, or even to meaning. He has reported innumerable observations
made by himself in the course of conversation.

Of those observations we do not remember one which is above the
intellectual capacity of a boy of fifteen. He has printed many of his
own letters, and in these letters he is always ranting or twaddling.
Logic, eloquence, wit, taste, all those things which are generally
considered as making a book valuable, were utterly wanting to him. He
had, indeed, a quick observation and a retentive memory. These
qualities, if he had been a man of sense and virtue, would scarcely of
themselves have sufficed to make him conspicuous; but because he was a
dunce, a parasite, and a coxcomb, they have made him immortal.

Those parts of his book which, considered abstractedly, are most utterly
worthless, are delightful when we read them as illustrations of the
character of the writer. Bad in themselves, they are good dramatically,
like the nonsense of Justice Shallow, the clipped English of Dr. Caius,
or the misplaced consonants of Fluellen. Of all confessors, Boswell is
the most candid.

* * * * *

Johnson came among [the distinguished writers of his age] the solitary
specimen of a past age, the last survivor of the genuine race of Grub
Street hacks; the last of that generation of authors whose abject misery
and whose dissolute manners had furnished inexhaustible matter to the
satirical genius of Pope. From nature he had received an uncouth figure,
a diseased constitution, and an irritable temper. The manner in which
the earlier years of his manhood had been passed had given to his
demeanour, and even to his moral character, some peculiarities appalling
to the civilised beings who were the companions of his old age. The
perverse irregularity of his hours, the slovenliness of his person, his
fits of strenuous exertion, interrupted by long intervals of
sluggishness, his strange abstinence, and his equally strange voracity,
his active benevolence, contrasted with the constant rudeness and the
occasional ferocity of his manners in society, made him, in the opinion
of those with whom he lived during the last twenty years of his life, a
complete original. An original he was, undoubtedly, in some respects.
But if we possessed full information concerning those who shared his
early hardships, we should probably find that what we call his
singularities of manner were, for the most part, failings which he had
in common with the class to which he belonged. He ate at Streatham Park
as he had been used to eat behind the screen at St. John's Gate, when he
was ashamed to show his ragged clothes. He ate as it was natural that a
man should eat, who, during a great part of his life, had passed the
morning in doubt whether he should have food for the afternoon. The
habits of his early life had accustomed him to bear privation with
fortitude, but not to taste pleasure with moderation. He could fast;
but, when he did not fast, he tore his dinner like a famished wolf, with
the veins swelling on his forehead, and the perspiration running down
his cheeks. He scarcely ever took wine. But when he drank it, he drank
it greedily and in large tumblers. These were, in fact, mitigated
symptoms of that same moral disease which raged with such deadly
malignity in his friends Savage and Boyse. The roughness and violence
which he showed in society were to be expected from a man whose temper,
not naturally gentle, had been long tried by the bitterest calamities,
by the want of meat, of fire, and of clothes, by the importunity of
creditors, by the insolence of booksellers, by the derision of fools, by
the insincerity of patrons, by that bread which is the bitterest of all
food, by those stairs which are the most toilsome of all paths, by that
deferred hope which makes the heart sick. Through all these things the
ill-dressed, coarse, ungainly pedant had struggled manfully up to
eminence and command. It was natural that, in the exercise of his power,
he should be "eo immitior, quia toleraverat," that, though his heart was
undoubtedly generous and humane, his demeanour in society should be
harsh and despotic. For severe distress he had sympathy, and not only
sympathy, but munificent relief. But for the suffering which a harsh
word inflicts upon a delicate mind he had no pity; for it was a kind of
suffering which he could scarcely conceive. He would carry home on his
shoulders a sick and starving girl from the streets. He turned his house
into a place of refuge for a crowd of wretched old creatures who could
find no other asylum; nor could all their peevishness and ingratitude
weary out his benevolence. But the pangs of wounded vanity seemed to him
ridiculous; and he scarcely felt sufficient compassion even for the
pangs of wounded affection. He had seen and felt so much of sharp
misery, that he was not affected by paltry vexations; and he seemed to
think that everybody ought to be as much hardened to those vexations as
himself. He was angry with Boswell for complaining of a
head-ache, with Mrs. Thrale for grumbling about the dust on the road, or
the smell of the kitchen. These were, in his phrase, "foppish
lamentations," which people ought to be ashamed to utter in a world so
full of sin and sorrow. Goldsmith crying because the Good-natured Man
had failed, inspired him with no pity. Though his own health was not
good, he detested and despised valetudinarians. Pecuniary losses, unless
they reduced the loser absolutely to beggary, moved him very little.
People whose hearts had been softened by prosperity might weep, he said,
for such events; but all that could be expected of a plain man was not
to laugh. He was not much moved even by the spectacle of Lady Tavistock
dying of a broken heart for the loss of her lord. Such grief he
considered as a luxury reserved for the idle and the wealthy. A
washer-woman, left a widow with nine small children, would not have
sobbed herself to death.

A person who troubled himself so little about small or sentimental
grievances was not likely to be very attentive to the feelings of others
in the ordinary intercourse of society. He could not understand how a
sarcasm or a reprimand could make any man really unhappy. "My dear
doctor," said he to Goldsmith, "what harm does it do to a man to call
him Holofernes?" "Pooh, ma'am," he exclaimed to Mrs. Carter, "who is the
worse for being talked of uncharitably?" Politeness has been well
defined as benevolence in small things. Johnson was impolite, not
because he wanted benevolence, but because small things appeared smaller
to him than to people who had never known what it was to live for
fourpence halfpenny a day.

The characteristic peculiarity of his intellect was the union of great
powers with low prejudices. If we judged of him by the best parts of his
mind, we should place him almost as high as he was placed by the
idolatry of Boswell; if by the worst parts of his mind, we should place
him even below Boswell himself. Where he was not under the influence of
some strange scruple, or some domineering passion, which prevented him
from boldly and fairly investigating a subject, he was a wary and acute
reasoner, a little too much inclined to scepticism, and a little too
fond of paradox. No man was less likely to be imposed upon by fallacies
in argument, or by exaggerated statements of facts. But, if while he was
beating down sophisms and exposing false testimony, some childish
prejudices, such as would excite laughter in a well managed nursery,
came across him, he was smitten as if by enchantment. His mind dwindled
away under the spell from gigantic elevation to dwarfish littleness.
Those who had lately been admiring its amplitude and its force were now
as much astonished at its strange narrowness and feebleness as the
fisherman in the Arabian tale, when he saw the Genie, whose stature had
overshadowed the whole sea-coast, and whose might seemed equal to a
contest with armies, contract himself to the dimensions of his small
prison, and lie there the helpless slave of the charm of Solomon.

* * * * *

The characteristic faults of his style are so familiar to all our
readers, and have been so often burlesqued, that it is almost
superfluous to point them out. It is well-known that he made less use
than any other eminent writer of those strong plain words, Anglo-Saxon
or Norman-French, of which the roots lie in the inmost depths of our
language; and that he felt a vicious partiality for terms which, long
after our own speech had been fixed, were borrowed from the Greek and
Latin, and which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalised must be
considered as born aliens, not entitled to rank with the king's English.
His constant practice of padding out a sentence with useless epithets,
till it became as stiff as the best of an exquisite, his antithetical
forms of expression, constantly employed even where there is no
opposition in the ideas expressed, his big words wasted on little
things, his harsh inversions, so widely different from those graceful
and easy inversions which give variety, spirit, and sweetness to the
expression of our great old writers, all these peculiarities have been
imitated by his admirers and parodied by his assailants, till the public
has become sick of the subject.

Goldsmith said to him, very wittily, and very justly, "If you were to
write a fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little
fishes talk like whales." No man surely ever had so little talent for
personation as Johnson. Whether he wrote in the character of a
disappointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or
a flippant coquette, he wrote in the same pompous and unbending style.
His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton's Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him
under every disguise. Euphelia and Rhodoclea talk as finely as Imlac the
poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia. The gay Cornelia describes her
reception at the country-house of her relations, in such terms as these:
"I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find,
instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always
promises, and, if well conducted, might always afford, a confused
wildness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every
face was clouded, and every motion agitated." The gentle Tranquilla
informs us, that she "had not passed the earlier part of life without
the flattery of courtship, and the joys of triumph; but had danced the
round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of envy and the gratulations of
applause, had been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the great, the
sprightly, and the vain, and had seen her regard solicited by the
obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of
love." Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with
a worse grace. The reader may well cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans,
"I like not when a 'oman has a great peard: I spy a great peard under
her muffler."[5]

[5] It is proper to observe that this passage bears a very close
resemblance to a passage in the _Rambler_ (No. 20). The resemblance
may possibly be the effect of unconscious plagiarism.

We had something more to say. But our article is already too long; and
we must close it. We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from
the biographer, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has performed
his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced
us to read Boswell's book again. As we close it, the club-room is before
us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons
for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live for ever on the
canvas of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke and the tall thin
form of Langton, the courtly sneer of Beauclerk and the beaming smile of
Garrick, Gibbon tapping his snuff-box and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in
his ear. In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar
to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up, the
gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease,
the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the grey wig with the
scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and paired to the
quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see
the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the "Why,
sir!" and the "What then, sir?" and the "No, Sir!" and the "You don't
see your way through the question, sir!"

What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be
regarded in his own age as a classic, and in ours as a companion. To
receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius
have in general received from posterity! To be more intimately known to
posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries! That kind of
fame which is commonly the most transient is, in his case, the most
durable. The reputation of those writings, which he probably expected to
be immortal, is every day fading; while those peculiarities of manner
and that careless table-talk the memory of which, he probably thought,
would die with him, are likely to be remembered as long as the English
language is spoken in any quarter of the globe.


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1839]

_The State in its Relations with the Church_. By W. E. GLADSTONE, Esq.,
Student of Christ Church, and M.P. for Newark. 8vo. Second Edition.
London, 1839.

The author of this volume is a young man of unblemished character, and
of distinguished parliamentary talents, the rising hope of those stern
and unbending Tories who follow, reluctantly and mutinously, a leader
whose experience and eloquence are indispensable to them, but whose
cautious temper and moderate opinions they abhor. It would not be at all
strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most unpopular men in England.
But we believe that we do him no more than justice when we say that his
abilities and his demeanour have obtained for him the respect and good
will of all parties. His first appearance in the character of an author
is therefore an interesting event; and it is natural that the gentle
wishes of the public should go with him to his trial.

We are much pleased, without any reference to the soundness or
unsoundness of Mr. Gladstone's theories, to see a grave and elaborate
treatise on an important part of the Philosophy of Government proceed
from the pen of a young man who is rising to eminence in the House of
Commons. There is little danger that people engaged in the conflicts of
active life will be too much addicted to general speculation. The
opposite vice is that which most easily besets them. The times and tides
of business and debate tarry for no man. A politician must often talk
and act before he has thought and read. He may be very ill informed
respecting a question; all his notions about it may be vague and
inaccurate; but speak he must; and if he is a man of ability, of tact,
and of intrepidity, he soon finds that, even under such circumstances,
it is possible to speak successfully. He finds that there is a great
difference between the effect of written words, which are perused and
reperused in the stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken words
which, set off by the graces of utterance and gesture, vibrate for a
single moment on the ear. He finds that he may blunder without much
chance of being detected, that he may reason sophistically, and escape
unrefuted. He finds that, even on knotty questions of trade and
legislation, he can, without reading ten pages, or thinking ten minutes,
draw forth loud plaudits, and sit down with the credit of having made an
excellent speech.... The tendency of institutions like those of England
is to encourage readiness in public men, at the expense both of fulness
and of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous minds of every
generation, minds often admirably fitted for the investigation of truth,
are habitually employed in producing arguments such as no man of sense
would ever put into a treatise intended for publication, arguments which
are just good enough to be used once, when aided by fluent delivery and
pointed language. The habit of discussing questions in this way
necessarily reacts on the intellects of our ablest men, particularly of
those who are introduced into parliament at a very early age, before
their minds have expanded to full maturity. The talent for debate is
developed in such men to a degree which, to the multitude, seems as
marvellous as the performance of an Italian _Improvisatore._

But they are fortunate indeed if they retain unimpaired the faculties
which are required for close reasoning or for enlarged speculation.
Indeed we should sooner expect a great original work on political
science, such a work, for example, as the Wealth of Nations, from an
apothecary in a country town, or from a minister in the Hebrides, than
from a statesman who, ever since he was one-and-twenty, had been a
distinguished debater in the House of Commons.

We therefore hail with pleasure, though assuredly not with unmixed
pleasure, the appearance of this work. That a young politician should,
in the intervals afforded by his parliamentary avocations, have
constructed and propounded, with much study and mental toil, an original
theory on a great problem in politics, is a circumstance which,
abstracted from all consideration of the soundness or unsoundness of his
opinions, must be considered as highly creditable to him. We certainly
cannot wish that Mr. Gladstone's doctrines may become fashionable among
public men. But we heartily wish that his laudable desire to penetrate
beneath the surface of questions, and to arrive, by long and intent
meditation, at the knowledge of great general laws, were much more
fashionable than we at all expect it to become.

Mr. Gladstone seems to us to be, in many respects, exceedingly well
qualified for philosophical investigation. His mind is of large grasp;
nor is he deficient in dialectical skill. But he does not give his
intellect fair play. There is no want of light, but a great want of what
Bacon would have called dry light. Whatever Mr. Gladstone sees is
refracted and distorted by a false medium of passions and prejudices.
His style bears a remarkable analogy to his mode of thinking, and indeed
exercises great influence on his mode of thinking. His rhetoric, though
often good of its kind, darkens and perplexes the logic which it should
illustrate. Half his acuteness and diligence, with a barren imagination
and a scanty vocabulary, would have saved him from almost all his
mistakes. He has one gift most dangerous to a speculator, a vast command
of a kind of language, grave and majestic, but of vague and uncertain
import; of a kind of language which affects us much in the same way in
which the lofty diction of the Chorus of Clouds affected the
simple-hearted Athenian.

[Greek: o gae tou phthegmatos, os hieron, kai semnon, kai teratodes.]

When propositions have been established, and nothing remains but to
amplify and decorate them, this dim magnificence may be in place. But if
it is admitted into a demonstration, it is very much worse than absolute
nonsense; just as that transparent haze, through which the sailor sees
capes and mountains of false sizes and in false bearings, is more
dangerous than utter darkness. Now, Mr. Gladstone is fond of employing
the phraseology of which we speak in those parts of his works which
require the utmost perspicuity and precision of which human language is
capable; and in this way he deludes first himself, and then his readers.
The foundations of his theory which ought to be buttresses of adamant,
are made out of the flimsy materials which are fit only for perorations.
This fault is one which no subsequent care or industry can correct. The
more strictly Mr. Gladstone reasons on his premises, the more absurd are
the conclusions which he brings out; and, when at last his good sense
and good nature recoil from the horrible practical inferences to which
this theory leads, he is reduced sometimes to take refuge in arguments
inconsistent with his fundamental doctrines, and sometimes to escape
from the legitimate consequences of his false principles, under cover of
equally false history.

It would be unjust not to say that this book, though not a good book,
shows more talent than many good books. It abounds with eloquent and
ingenious passages. It bears the signs of much patient thought. It is
written throughout with excellent taste and excellent temper; nor does
it, so far as we have observed, contain one expression unworthy of a
gentleman, a scholar, or a Christian. But the doctrines which are put
forth in it appear to us, after full and calm consideration, to be
false, to be in the highest degree pernicious, and to be such as, if
followed out in practice to their legitimate consequences, would
inevitably produce the dissolution of society; and for this opinion we
shall proceed to give our reasons with that freedom which the importance
of the subject requires, and which Mr. Gladstone, both by precept and by
example, invites us to use, but, we hope, without rudeness, and, we are
sure, without malevolence.

Before we enter on an examination of this theory, we wish to guard
ourselves against one misconception. It is possible that some persons
who have read Mr. Gladstone's book carelessly, and others who have
merely heard in conversation, or seen in a newspaper, that the member
for Newark has written in defence of the Church of England against the
supporters of the voluntary system, may imagine that we are writing in
defence of the voluntary system, and that we desire the abolition of the
Established Church. This is not the case. It would be as unjust to
accuse us of attacking the Church, because we attack Mr. Gladstone's
doctrines, as it would be to accuse Locke of wishing for anarchy,
because he refuted Filmer's patriarchal theory of government, or to
accuse Blackstone of recommending the confiscation of ecclesiastical
property, because he denied that the right of the rector to tithe was
derived from the Levitical law. It is to be observed, that Mr. Gladstone
rests his case on entirely new grounds, and does not differ more widely
from us than from some of those who have hitherto been considered as the
most illustrious champions of the Church. He is not content with the
Ecclesiastical Polity, and rejoices that the latter part of that
celebrated work "does not carry with it the weight of Hooker's plenary
authority." He is not content with Bishop Warburton's Alliance of Church
and State. "The propositions of that work generally," he says, "are to
be received with qualification"; and he agrees with Bolingbroke in
thinking that Warburton's whole theory rests on a fiction. He is still
less satisfied with Paley's defence of the Church, which he pronounces
to be "tainted by the original vice of false ethical principles," and
"full of the seeds of evil." He conceives that Dr. Chalmers has taken a
partial view of the subject, and "put forth much questionable matter."
In truth, on almost every point on which we are opposed to Mr.
Gladstone, we have on our side the authority of some divine, eminent as
a defender of existing establishments.

Mr. Gladstone's whole theory rests on this great fundamental
proposition, that the propagation of religious truth is one of the
principal ends of government, as government. If Mr. Gladstone has not
proved this proposition, his system vanishes at once.

We are desirous, before we enter on the discussion of this important
question, to point out clearly a distinction which, though very obvious,
seems to be overlooked by many excellent people. In their opinion, to
say that the ends of government are temporal and not spiritual is
tantamount to saying that the temporal welfare of man is of more
importance than his spiritual welfare. But this is an entire mistake.
The question is not whether spiritual interests be or be not superior in
importance to temporal interests; but whether the machinery which
happens at any moment to be employed for the purpose of protecting
certain temporal interests of a society be necessarily such a machinery
as is fitted to promote the spiritual interests of that society. Without
a division of labour the world could not go on. It is of very much more
importance that men should have food than that they should have
pianofortes. Yet it by no means follows that every pianoforte-maker
ought to add the business of a baker to his own; for, if he did so, we
should have both much worse music and much worse bread. It is of much
more importance that the knowledge of religious truth should be wisely
diffused than that the art of sculpture should flourish among us. Yet it
by no means follows that the Royal Academy ought to unite with its
present functions those of the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, to distribute theological tracts, to send forth missionaries,
to turn out Nollekens for being a Catholic, Bacon for being a methodist,
and Flaxman for being a Swedenborgian. For the effect of such folly
would be that we should have the worst possible Academy of Arts, and the
worst possible Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The
community, it is plain, would be thrown into universal confusion, if it
were supposed to be the duty of every association which is formed for
one good object to promote every other good object.

As to some of the ends of civil government, all people are agreed. That
it is designed to protect our persons and our property; that it is
designed to compel us to satisfy our wants, not by rapine, but by
industry; that it is designed to compel us to decide our differences,
not by the strong hand, but by arbitration; that it is designed to
direct our whole force, as that of one man, against any other society
which may offer us injury; these are propositions which will hardly be

Now these are matters in which man, without any reference to any higher
being, or to any future state, is very deeply interested. Every human
being, be he idolater, Mahometan, Jew, Papist, Socinian, Deist, or
Atheist, naturally loves life, shrinks from pain, desires comforts which
can be enjoyed only in communities where property is secure. To be
murdered, to be tortured, to be robbed, to be sold into slavery, these
are evidently evils from which men of every religion, and men of no
religion, wish to be protected; and therefore it will hardly be disputed
that men of every religion, and of no religion, have thus far a common
interest in being well governed.

But the hopes and fears of man are not limited to this short life and to
this visible world. He finds himself surrounded by the signs of a power
and wisdom higher than his own; and, in all ages and nations, men of all
orders of intellect, from Bacon and Newton, down to the rudest tribes of
cannibals, have believed in the existence of some superior mind. Thus
far the voice of mankind is almost unanimous. But whether there be one
God, or many, what may be God's natural and what His mortal attributes,
in what relation His creatures stand to Him, whether He have ever
disclosed Himself to us by any other revelation than that which is
written in all the parts of the glorious and well ordered world which He
has made, whether His revelation be contained in any permanent record,
how that record should be interpreted, and whether it have pleased Him
to appoint any unerring interpreter on earth, these are questions
respecting which there exists the widest diversity of opinion, and
respecting some of which a large part of our race has, ever since the
dawn of regular history, been deplorably in error.

Now here are two great objects: one is the protection of the persons and
estates of citizens from injury; the other is the propagation of
religious truth. No two objects more entirely distinct can well be
imagined. The former belongs wholly to the visible and tangible world in
which we live; the latter belongs to that higher world which is beyond
the reach of our senses. The former belongs to this life; the latter to
that which is to come. Men who are perfectly agreed as to the importance
of the former object, and as to the way of obtaining it, differ as
widely as possible respecting the latter object. We must, therefore,
pause before we admit that the persons, be they who they may, who are
trusted with power for promotion of the former object, ought always to
use that power for the promotion of the latter object.

* * * * *

The truth is, that Mr. Gladstone has fallen into an error very common
among men of less talents than his own. It is not unusual for a person
who is eager to prove a particular proposition to assume a _major_ of
huge extent, which includes that particular proposition, without ever
reflecting that it includes a great deal more. The fatal facility with
which Mr. Gladstone multiplies expressions stately and sonorous, but of
indeterminate meaning, eminently qualifies him to practise this sleight
on himself and on his readers. He lays down broad general doctrines
about power, when the only power of which he is thinking is the power of
governments, and about conjoint action when the only conjoint action of
which he is thinking is the conjoint action of citizens in a state. He
first resolves on his conclusion. He then makes a _major_ of most
comprehensive dimensions, and having satisfied himself that it contains
his conclusion, never troubles himself about what else it may contain:
and as soon as we examine it we find that it contains an infinite number
of conclusions, every one of which is a monstrous absurdity.

It is perfectly true that it would be a very good thing if all the
members of all the associations in the world were men of sound religious
views. We have no doubt that a good Christian will be under the guidance
of Christian principles, in his conduct as director of a canal company
or steward of a charity dinner. If he were, to recur to a case which we
have before put, a member of a stage-coach company, he would, in that
capacity, remember that "a righteous man regardeth the life of his
beast." But it does not follow that every association of men must,
therefore, as such association, profess a religion. It is evident that
many great and useful objects can be attained in this world only by
co-operation. It is equally evident that there cannot be efficient
co-operation, if men proceed on the principle that they must not
co-operate for one object unless they agree about other objects. Nothing
seems to us more beautiful or admirable in our social system than the
facility with which thousands of people, who perhaps agree only on a
single point, can combine their energies for the purpose of carrying that
single point. We see daily instances of this. Two men, one of them
obstinately prejudiced against missions, the other president of a
missionary society, sit together at the board of a hospital, and
heartily concur in measures for the health and comfort of the patients.
Two men, one of whom is a zealous supporter and the other a zealous
opponent of the system pursued in Lancaster's schools, meet at the
Mendicity Society, and act together with the utmost cordiality. The
general rule we take to be undoubtedly this, that it is lawful and
expedient for men to unite in an association for the promotion of a good
object, though they may differ with respect to other objects of still
higher importance.

* * * * *

If, indeed, the magistrate would content himself with laying his
opinions and reasons before the people, and would leave the people,
uncorrupted by hope or fear, to judge for themselves, we should see
little reason to apprehend that his interference in favour of error
would be seriously prejudicial to the interests of truth. Nor do we, as
will hereafter be seen, object to his taking this course, when it is
compatible with the efficient discharge of his more especial duties. But
this will not satisfy Mr. Gladstone. He would have the magistrate resort
to means which have a great tendency to make malcontents, to make
hypocrites, to make careless nominal conformists, but no tendency
whatever to produce honest and rational conviction. It seems to us quite
clear that an inquirer who has no wish except to know the truth is more
likely to arrive at the truth than an inquirer who knows that, if he
decides one way, he shall be rewarded, and that, if he decides the other
way, he shall be punished. Now, Mr. Gladstone would have governments
propagate their opinions by excluding all dissenters from all civil
offices. That is to say, he would have governments propagate their
opinions by a process which has no reference whatever to the truth or
falsehood of those opinions, by arbitrarily uniting certain worldly
advantages with one set of doctrines, and certain worldly inconveniences
with another set. It is of the very nature of argument to serve the
interests of truth; but if rewards and punishments serve the interests
of truth, it is by mere accident. It is very much easier to find
arguments for the divine authority of the Gospel than for the divine
authority of the Koran. But it is just as easy to bribe or rack a Jew
into Mahometanism as into Christianity.

From racks, indeed, and from all penalties directed against the persons,
the property, and the liberty of heretics, the humane spirit of Mr.
Gladstone shrinks with horror. He only maintains that conformity to the
religion of the state ought to be an indispensable qualification for
office; and he would, unless we have greatly misunderstood him, think it
his duty, if he had the power, to revive the Test Act, to enforce it
rigorously, and to extend it to important classes who were formerly
exempt from its operation.

This is indeed a legitimate consequence of his principles. But why stop
here? Why not roast dissenters at slow fires? All the general reasonings
on which this theory rests evidently leads to sanguinary persecution. If
the propagation of religious truth be a principal end of government, as
government; if it be the duty of government to employ for that end its
constitutional power; if the constitutional power of governments
extends, as it most unquestionably does, to the making of laws for the
burning of heretics; if burning be, as it most assuredly is, in many
cases, a most effectual mode of suppressing opinions; why should we not
burn? If the relation in which government ought to stand to the people
be, as Mr. Gladstone tells us, a paternal relation, we are irresistibly
led to the conclusion that persecution is justifiable. For the right of
propagating opinions by punishment is one which belongs to parents as
clearly as the right to give instruction. A boy is compelled to attend
family worship: he is forbidden to read irreligious books: if he will
not learn his catechism, he is sent to bed without his supper: if he
plays truant at church-time a task is set him. If he should display the
precocity of his talents by expressing impious opinions before his
brothers and sisters, we should not much blame his father for cutting
short the controversy with a horse-whip. All the reasons which lead us
to think that parents are peculiarly fitted to conduct the education of
their children, and that education is the principal end of a parental
relation, lead us also to think that parents ought to be allowed to use
punishment, if necessary, for the purpose of forcing children, who are
incapable of judging for themselves, to receive religious instruction
and to attend religious worship. Why, then, is this prerogative of
punishment, so eminently paternal, to be withheld from a paternal
government? It seems to us, also, to be the height of absurdity to
employ civil disabilities for the propagation of an opinion, and then to
shrink from employing other punishments for the same purpose. For
nothing can be clearer than that, if you punish at all, you ought to
punish enough. The pain caused by punishment is pure unmixed evil, and
never ought to be inflicted, except for the sake of some good. It is
mere foolish cruelty to provide penalties which torment the criminal
without preventing the crime. Now it is possible, by sanguinary
persecution unrelentingly inflicted, to suppress opinions. In this way
the Albigenses were put down. In this way the Lollards were put down. In
this way the fair promise of the Reformation was blighted in Italy and
Spain. But we may safely defy Mr. Gladstone to point out a single
instance in which the system which he recommends has succeeded.

* * * * *

But we must proceed in our examination of his theory. Having, as he
conceives, proved that it is the duty of every government to profess
some religion or other, right or wrong, and to establish that religion,
he then comes to the question what religion a government ought to
prefer; and he decides this question in favour of the form of
Christianity established in England. The Church of England is, according
to him, the pure Catholic Church of Christ, which possesses the
apostolical succession of ministers, and within whose pale is to be
found that unity which is essential to truth. For her decisions he
claims a degree of reverence far beyond what she has ever, in any of her
formularies, claimed for herself; far beyond what the moderate school of
Bossuet demands for the Pope; and scarcely short of what that school
would ascribe to Pope and General Council together. To separate from her
communion is schism. To reject her traditions or interpretations of
Scripture is sinful presumption.

Mr. Gladstone pronounces the right of private judgment, as it is
generally understood throughout Protestant Europe, to be a monstrous
abuse. He declares himself favourable, indeed, to the exercise of
private judgment, after a fashion of his own. We have, according to him,
a right to judge all the doctrines of the Church of England to be sound,
but not to judge any of them to be unsound. He has no objection, he
assures us, to active inquiry into religious questions. On the contrary,
he thinks such inquiry highly desirable, as long as it does not lead to
diversity of opinion; which is much the same thing as if he were to
recommend the use of fire that will not burn down houses, or of brandy
that will not make men drunk. He conceives it to be perfectly possible
for mankind to exercise their intellects vigorously and freely on
theological subjects, and yet to come to exactly the same conclusions
with each other and with the Church of England. And for this opinion he
gives, as far as we have been able to discover, no reason whatever,
except that everybody who vigorously and freely exercises his
understanding on Euclid's Theorems assents to them. "The activity of
private judgment," he truly observes, "and the unity and strength of
conviction in mathematics vary directly as each other." On this
unquestionable fact he constructs a somewhat questionable argument.
Everybody who freely inquires agrees, he says, with Euclid. But the
Church is as much in the right as Euclid. Why, then, should not every
free inquirer agree with the Church? We could put many similar
questions. Either the affirmative or the negative of the proposition
that King Charles wrote the _Icon Basilike_ is as true as that two sides
of a triangle are greater than the third side. Why, then, do Dr.
Wordsworth and Mr. Hallam agree in thinking two sides of a triangle
greater than the third side, and yet differ about the genuineness of the
_Icon Basilike?_ The state of the exact sciences proves, says Mr.
Gladstone, that, as respects religion, "the association of these two
ideas, activity of inquiry, and variety of conclusion, is a fallacious
one." We might just as well turn the argument the other way, and infer
from the variety of religious opinions that there must necessarily be
hostile mathematical sects, some affirming, and some denying, that the
square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the sides. But we
do not think either the one analogy or the other of the smallest value.
Our way of ascertaining the tendency of free inquiry is simply to open
our eyes and look at the world in which we live; and there we see that
free inquiry on mathematical subjects produces unity, and that free
inquiry on moral subjects produces discrepancy. There would undoubtedly
be less discrepancy if inquirers were more diligent and candid. But
discrepancy there will be among the most diligent and candid, as long as
the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of moral evidence,
continue unchanged. That we have not freedom and unity together is a
very sad thing; and so it is that we have not wings. But we are just as
likely to see the one defect removed as the other. It is not only in
religion that this discrepancy is found. It is the same with all matters
which depend on moral evidence, with judicial questions, for example,
and with political questions. All the judges will work a sum in the rule
of three on the same principle, and bring out the same conclusion. But
it does not follow that, however honest and laborious they may be, they
will all be of one mind on the Douglas case. So it is vain to hope that
there may be a free constitution under which every representative will
be unanimously elected, and every law unanimously passed; and it would
be ridiculous for a statesman to stand wondering and bemoaning himself
because people who agree in thinking that two and two make four cannot
agree about the new poor law, or the administration of Canada.

There are two intelligible and consistent courses which may be followed
with respect to the exercise of private judgment; the course of the
Romanist, who interdicts private judgment because of its inevitable
inconveniences; and the course of the Protestant, who permits private
judgment in spite of its inevitable inconveniences. Both are more
reasonable than Mr. Gladstone, who would have private judgment without
its inevitable inconveniences. The Romanist produces repose by means of
stupefaction. The Protestant encourages activity, though he knows that
where there is much activity there will be some aberration. Mr.
Gladstone wishes for the unity of the fifteenth century with the active
and searching spirit of the sixteenth. He might as well wish to be in
two places at once.

* * * * *

We have done; and nothing remains but that we part from Mr. Gladstone
with the courtesy of antagonists who bear no malice. We dissent from his
opinions, but we admire his talents; we respect his integrity and
benevolence; and we hope that he will not suffer political avocations so
entirely to engross him, as to leave him no leisure for literature and


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1843]

ART. IX.--_Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay_. 5 vols. 8vo. London,

Though the world saw and heard little of Madame D'Arblay during the last
forty years of her life, and though that little did not add to her fame,
there were thousands, we believe, who felt a singular emotion when they
learned that she was no longer among us. The news of her death carried
the minds of men back at one leap, clear over two generations, to the
time when her first literary triumphs were won. All those whom we have
been accustomed to revere as intellectual patriarchs, seemed children
when compared with her; for Burke had sate up all night to read her
writings, and Johnson had pronounced her superior to Fielding, when
Rogers was still a schoolboy, and Southey still in petticoats. Yet more
strange did it seem that we should just have lost one whose name had
been widely celebrated before any body had heard of some illustrious men
who, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, were, after a long and splendid
career, borne with honour to the grave. Yet so it was. Frances Burney
was at the height of fame and popularity before Cowper had published his
first volume, before Person had gone up to college, before Pitt had
taken his seat in the House of Commons, before the voice of Erskine had
been once heard in Westminster Hall. Since the appearance of her first
work, sixty-two years had passed; and this interval had been crowded,
not only with political, but also with intellectual revolutions.
Thousands of reputations had, during that period, sprung up, bloomed,
withered, and disappeared. New kinds of composition had come into
fashion, had gone out of fashion, had been derided, had been forgotten.
The fooleries of Della Crusca, and the fooleries of Kotzebue, had for a
time bewitched the multitude, but had left no trace behind them; nor had
misdirected genius been able to save from decay the once flourishing
school of Godwin, of Darwin, and of Radcliffe. Many books, written for
temporary effect, had run through six or seven editions, and had then
been gathered to the novels of Afra Behn, and the epic poems of Sir
Richard Blackmore. Yet the early works of Madame D'Arblay, in spite of
the lapse of years, in spite of the change of manners, in spite of the
popularity deservedly obtained by some of her rivals, continued to hold
a high place in the public esteem. She lived to be a classic. Time set
on her fame, before she went hence, that seal which is seldom set except
on the fame of the departed. Like Sir Condy Rackrent in the tale, she
survived her own wake, and overheard the judgment of posterity.

Having always felt a warm and sincere, though not a blind admiration for
her talents, we rejoiced to learn that her Diary was about to be made
public. Our hopes, it is true, were not unmixed with fears. We could not
forget the fate of the Memoirs of Dr. Burney, which were published ten
years ago. The unfortunate book contained much that was curious and
interesting. Yet it was received with a cry of disgust, and was speedily
consigned to oblivion. The truth is, that it deserved its doom. It was
written in Madame D'Arblay's later style--the worst style that has ever
been known among men. No genius, no information, could have saved from
proscription a book so written. We, therefore, open the Diary with no
small anxiety, trembling lest we should light upon some of that peculiar
rhetoric which deforms almost every page of the Memoirs, and which it is
impossible to read without a sensation made up of mirth, shame and
loathing. We soon, however, discovered to our great delight that this
Diary was kept before Madame D'Arblay became eloquent. It is, for the
most part, written in her earliest and best manner; in true woman's
English, clear, natural, and lively. The two works are lying side by
side before us, and we never turn from the Memoirs to the Diary without
a sense of relief. The difference is as great as the difference between
the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop, fetid with lavender water and
jasmine soap, and the air of a heath on a fine morning in May. Both
works ought to be consulted by every person who wishes to be well
acquainted with the history of our literature and our manners. But to
read the Diary is a pleasure; to read the Memoirs will always be a task.

* * * * *

The progress of the mind of Frances Burney, from her ninth to her
twenty-fifth year, well deserves to be recorded. When her education had
proceeded no further than the horn-book, she lost her mother, and
thenceforward she educated herself. Her father appears to have been as
bad a father as a very honest, affectionate, and sweet-tempered man can
well be. He loved his daughter dearly; but it never seems to have
occurred to him that a parent has other duties to perform to children
than that of fondling them. It would indeed have been impossible for him
to superintend their education himself. His professional engagements
occupied him all day. At seven in the morning he began to attend his
pupils, and, when London was full, was sometimes employed in teaching
till eleven at night. He was often forced to carry in his pocket a tin
box of sandwiches, and a bottle of wine and water, on which he dined in
a hackney-coach while hurrying from one scholar to another. Two of his
daughters he sent to a seminary at Paris; but he imagined that Frances
would run some risk of being perverted from the Protestant faith if she
were educated in a Catholic country, and he therefore kept her at home.
No governess, no teacher of any art or of any language, was provided for
her. But one of her sisters showed her how to write; and, before she was
fourteen, she began to find pleasure in reading.

It was not, however, by reading that her intellect was formed. Indeed,
when her best novels were produced, her knowledge of books was very
small. When at the height of her fame, she was unacquainted with the
most celebrated works of Voltaire and Moliere; and, what seems still
more extraordinary, had never heard or seen a line of Churchill, who,
when she was a girl, was the most popular of living poets. It is
particularly deserving of observation, that she appears to have been by
no means a novel-reader. Her father's library was large; and he had
admitted into it so many books which rigid moralists generally exclude,
that he felt uneasy, as he afterwards owned, when Johnson began to
examine the shelves. But in the whole collection there was only a single
novel, Fielding's Amelia.

An education, however, which to most girls would have been useless, but
which suited Fanny's mind better than elaborate culture, was in constant
progress during her passage from childhood to womanhood. The great book
of human nature was turned over before her. Her father's social position
was very peculiar. He belonged in fortune and station to the middle
class. His daughters seem to have been suffered to mix freely with those
whom butlers and waiting-maids call vulgar. We are told that they were
in the habit of playing with the children of a wig-maker who lived in
the adjoining house. Yet few nobles could assemble in the most stately
mansions of Grosvenor Square or St. James's Square, a society so various
and so brilliant as was sometimes to be found in Dr. Burney's cabin. His
mind, though not very powerful or capacious, was restlessly active; and,
in the intervals of his professional pursuits, he had contrived to lay
up much miscellaneous information. His attainments, the suavity of his
temper, and the gentle simplicity of his manners, had obtained for him

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest