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Famous Reviews by Editor: R. Brimley Johnson

Part 9 out of 10

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of his subscribers. The Watchman, on his second appearance, spoke
blasphemously, and made indecent applications of Scriptural language;
then, instead of abusing Government and Aristocrats, as Mr. Coleridge
had pledged himself to his constituents to do, he attacked his own
Party; so that in seven weeks, before the shoes were old in which he
travelled to Sheffield, the Watchman went the way of all flesh, and his
remains were scattered "through sundry old iron shops," where for one
penny could be purchased each precious relic. To crown all, "his London
Publisher was a ----"; and Mr. Coleridge very narrowly escaped being
thrown into jail for this his heroic attempt to shed over the
manufacturing towns the illumination of knowledge. We refrain from
making any comments on this deplorable story. This Philosopher, and
Theologian, and Patriot, now retired to a village in Somersetshire, and,
after having sought to enlighten the whole world, discovered that he
himself was in utter darkness.

Doubts rushed in, broke upon me from the fountains of the great
deep, and fell from the windows of heaven. The fontal truths of
natural Religion, and the book of Revelation, alike contributed to the
flood; and it was long ere my Ark touched upon Ararat, and rested.
My head was with Spinoza, though my heart was with Paul and John....

We have no room here to expose, as it deserves to be exposed, the
multitudinous political inconsistence of Mr. Coleridge, but we beg leave
to state one single fact: He abhorred, hated, and despised Mr. Pitt,--
and he now loves and reveres his memory. By far the most spirited and
powerful of his poetical writings, is the War Eclogue, Slaughter, Fire,
and Famine; and in that composition he loads the Minister with
imprecations and curses, long, loud, and deep. But afterwards, when he
has thought it prudent to change his Principles, he denies that he ever
felt any indignation towards Mr. Pitt; and with the most unblushing
falsehood declares, that at the very moment his muse was consigning him
to infamy, death, and damnation, he would "have interposed his body
between him and danger." We believe that all good men, of all parties,
regard Mr. Coleridge with pity and contempt.

Of the latter days of his literary life, Mr. Coleridge gives us no
satisfactory account. The whole of the second volume is interspersed
with mysterious inuendoes. He complains of the loss of all his friends,
not by death, but estrangement. He tries to account for the enmity of
the world to him, a harmless and humane man, who wishes well to all
created things, and "of his wondering finds no end." He upbraids himself
with indolence, procrastination, neglect of his worldly concerns, and
all other bad habits,--and then, with incredible inconsistency, vaunts
loudly of his successful efforts in the cause of Literature, Philosophy,
Morality, and Religion. Above all, he weeps and wails over the malignity
of Reviewers, who have persecuted him almost from his very cradle, and
seem resolved to bark him into the grave. He is haunted by the Image of
a Reviewer wherever he goes. They "push him from his stool," and by his
bedside they cry, "Sleep no more." They may abuse whomsoever they think
fit, save himself and Mr. Wordsworth. All others are fair game--and he
chuckles to see them brought down. But his sacred person must be
inviolate, and rudely to touch it, is not high treason, it is impiety.
Yet his "ever-honoured friend, the laurel-honouring Laureate," is a
Reviewer--his friend Mr. Thomas Moore is a Reviewer--his friend Dr.
Middleton, Bishop of Calcutta, was the Editor of a Review--almost every
friend he ever had is a Reviewer;--and to crown all, he himself is a
Reviewer. Every person who laughs at his silly Poems--and his
incomprehensible metaphysics, is malignant--in which case, there can be
little benevolence in this world; and while Mr. Francis Jeffrey is alive
and merry, there can be no happiness here below for Mr. Samuel

And here we come to speak of a matter, which, though somewhat of a
personal and private nature, is well deserving of mention in a Review of
Mr. Coleridge's Literary Life, for sincerity is the first of virtues,
and without it no man can be respectable or useful. He has, in this
Work, accused Mr. Jeffrey of meanness--hypocrisy--falsehood--and breach
of hospitality. That gentleman is able to defend himself--and his
defence is no business of ours. But we now tell Mr. Coleridge, that
instead of humbling his Adversary, he has heaped upon his own head the
ashes of disgrace--and with his own blundering hands, so stained his
character as a man of honour and high principles, that the mark can
never be effaced. All the most offensive attacks on the writings of
Wordsworth and Southey, had been made by Mr. Jeffrey before his visit to
Keswick. Yet, does Coleridge receive him with open arms, according to
his own account--listen, well-pleased, to all his compliments--talk to
him for hours on his Literary Projects--dine with him as his guest at an
Inn--tell him that he knew Mr. Wordsworth would be most happy to see
him--and in all respects behave to him with a politeness bordering on
servility. And after all this, merely because his own vile verses were
crumpled up like so much waste paper, by the grasp of a powerful hand in
the Edinburgh Review, he accuses Mr. Jeffrey of abusing hospitality
which he never received, and forgets, that instead of being the Host, he
himself was the smiling and obsequious Guest of the man he pretends to
have despised. With all this miserable forgetfulness of dignity and
self-respect, he mounts the high horse, from which he instantly is
tumbled into the dirt; and in his angry ravings collects together all
the foul trash of literary gossip to fling at his adversary, but which
is blown stifling back upon himself with odium and infamy. But let him
call to mind his own conduct, and talk not of Mr. Jeffrey. Many
witnesses are yet living of his own egotism and malignity; and often has
he heaped upon his "beloved Friend, the laurel-honouring Laureate,"
epithets of contempt, and pity, and disgust, though now it may suit his
paltry purposes to worship and idolize. Of Mr. Southey we at all times
think, and shall speak, with respect and admiration; but his open
adversaries are, like Mr. Jeffrey, less formidable than his unprincipled
Friends. When Greek and Trojan meet on the plain, there is an interest
in the combat; but it is hateful and painful to think, that a hero
should be wounded behind his back, and by a poisoned stiletto in the
hand of a false Friend.

The concluding chapter of this Biography is perhaps the most pitiful of
the whole, and contains a most surprising mixture of the pathetic and
the ludicrous.

"Strange," says he, "as the delusion may appear, yet it is most
true, that three years ago I did not know or believe that I had an
enemy in the world; and now even my strongest consolations of
gratitude are mingled with fear, and I reproach myself for being too
often disposed to ask,--Have I one friend?"

We are thus prepared for the narration of some grievous cruelty, or
ingratitude, or malice--some violation of his peace, or robbery of his
reputation; but our readers will start when they are informed, that this
melancholy lament is occasioned solely by the cruel treatment which his
poem of Christabel received from the Edinburgh Review and other
periodical Journals! It was, he tells us, universally admired in
manuscript--he recited it many hundred times to men, women, and
children, and always with an electrical effect--it was bepraised by most
of the great Poets of the day--and for twenty years he was urged to give
it to the world. But alas! no sooner had the Lady Christabel "come out,"
than all the rules of good-breeding and politeness were broken through,
and the loud laugh of scorn and ridicule from every quarter assailed the
ears of the fantastic Hoyden. But let Mr. Coleridge be consoled. Mr.
Scott and Lord Byron are good-natured enough to admire Christabel, and
the Public have not forgotten that his Lordship handed her Ladyship upon
the stage. It is indeed most strange, that Mr., Coleridge is not
satisfied with the praise of those he admires,--but pines away for the
commendation of those he contemns.

Having brought down his literary life to the great epoch of the
publication of Christabel, he there stops short; and that the world may
compare him as he appears at that aera to his former self, when "he set
sail from Yarmouth on the morning of the 10th September, 1798, in the
Hamburg Packet," he has republished, from his periodical work the
"Friend," seventy pages of Satyrane's Letters. As a specimen of his wit
in 1798, our readers may take the following:--

We were all on the deck, but in a short time I observed marks of
dismay. The Lady retired to the cabin in some confusion; and many
of the faces round me assumed a very doleful and frog-coloured
appearance; and within an hour the number of those on deck was
lessened by one half. I was giddy, but not sick; and the giddiness
soon went away, but left a feverishness and want of appetite, which I
attributed, in great measure, to the "_saeva mephitis_" of the
bilge-water; and it was certainly not decreased by the _exportations
from the cabin_. However, I was well enough to join the able-bodied
passengers, one of whom observed, not inaptly, that Momus might have
discovered an easier _way to see a man's inside_ than by placing a
window in his breast. He needed only have taken a salt-water trip in a
packet boat. I am inclined to believe, that a packet is far superior
to a stage-coach as a means of making men _open out to each other_!

The importance of his observations during the voyage may be estimated by
this one:--

At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves,_a single
solitary wild duck!_ It is not easy to conceive how interesting a
thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters!

At the house of Klopstock, brother of the Poet, he saw a portrait of
Lessing, which he thus describes to the Public:--"His eyes were
uncommonly _like mine_! if any thing, rather larger and more prominent!
But the lower part of his face I and his nose--O what an exquisite
expression of elegance and sensibility!" He then gives a long account of
his interview with Klopstock the Poet, in which he makes that great man
talk in a very silly, weak, and ignorant manner. Mr. Coleridge not only
sets him right in all his opinions on English literature, but also is
kind enough to correct, in a very authoritative and dictatorial tone,
his erroneous views of the characteristic merits and defects of the most
celebrated German Writers. He has indeed the ball in his own hands
throughout the whole game; and Klopstock, who, he says, "was
seventy-four years old, with legs enormously swollen," is beaten to a
standstill. We are likewise presented with an account of a conversation
which his friend W. held with the German Poet, in which the author of
the Messiah makes a still more paltry figure. We can conceive nothing
more odious and brutal, than two young ignorant lads from Cambridge
forcing themselves upon the retirement of this illustrious old man, and,
instead of listening with love, admiration and reverence, to his
sentiments and opinions, insolently obtruding upon him their own crude
and mistaken fancies,--contradicting imperiously every thing he
advances,--taking leave of him with a consciousness of their own
superiority,--and, finally, talking of him and his genius in terms of
indifference bordering on contempt. This Mr. W. had the folly and the
insolence to say to Klopstock, who was enthusiastically praising the
Oberon of Wieland, that he never could see the smallest beauty in any
part of that Poem.

We must now conclude our account of this "unaccountable" production. It
has not been in our power to enter into any discussion with Mr.
Coleridge on the various subjects of Poetry and Philosophy, which he
has, we think, vainly endeavoured to elucidate. But we shall, on a
future occasion, meet him on his own favourite ground. No less than 182
pages of the second volume are dedicated to the poetry of Mr.
Wordsworth. He has endeavoured to define poetry--to explain the
philosophy of metre--to settle the boundaries of poetic diction--and to
show, finally, "What it is probable Mr. Wordsworth meant to say in his
dissertation prefixed to his Lyrical Ballads." As Mr. Coleridge has not
only studied the laws of poetical composition, but is a Poet of
considerable powers, there are, in this part of his Book, many acute,
ingenious, and even sensible observations and remarks; but he never
knows when to have done,--explains what requires no explanation,--often
leaves untouched the very difficulty he starts,--and when he has poured
before us a glimpse of light upon the shapeless form of some dark
conception, he seems to take a wilful pleasure in its immediate
extinction, and leads "us floundering on, and quite astray," through the
deepening shadows of interminable night.

One instance there is of magnificent promise, and laughable
non-performance, unequalled in the annals of literary History. Mr.
Coleridge informs us, that he and Mr. Wordsworth (he is not certain which
is entitled to the glory of the first discovery) have found out the
difference between Fancy and Imagination. This discovery, it is
prophesied, will have an incalculable influence on the progress of all
the Fine Arts. He has written a long chapter purposely to prepare our
minds for the great discussion. The audience is assembled--the curtain
is drawn up--and there, in his gown, cap, and wig, is sitting Professor
Coleridge. In comes a servant with a letter; the Professor gets up, and,
with a solemn voice, reads to the audience.--It is from an enlightened
Friend; and its object is to shew, in no very courteous terms either to
the Professor or his Spectators, that he may lecture, but that nobody
will understand him. He accordingly makes his bow, and the curtain
falls; but the worst of the joke is, that the Professor pockets the
admittance-money,--for what reason, his outwitted audience are left, the
best way they can, to "fancy or imagine."

But the greatest piece of Quackery in the Book is his pretended account
of the Metaphysical System of Kant, of which he knows less than nothing.
He wall not allow that there is a single word of truth in any of the
French Expositions of that celebrated System, nor yet in any of our
British Reviews. We do not wish to speak of what we do not understand,
and therefore say nothing of Mr. Coleridge's Metaphysics....

We have done. We have felt it our duty to speak with severity of this
book and its author--and we have given our readers ample opportunities
to judge of the justice of our strictures. We have not been speaking in
the cause of literature only, but, we conceive, in the cause of Morality
and Religion. For it is not fitting that He should be held up as an
example to the rising generation (but, on the contrary, it is most
fitting that he should be exposed as a most dangerous model), who has
alternately embraced, defended, and thrown aside all systems of
Philosophy--and all creeds of Religion,--who seems to have no power of
retaining an opinion,--no trust in the principles which he defends,--but
who fluctuates from theory to theory, according as he is impelled by
vanity, envy, or diseased desire of change,--and who, while he would
subvert and scatter into dust those structures of knowledge, reared by
the wise men of this and other generations, has nothing to erect in
their room but the baseless and air-built fabrics of a dreaming


No. I

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, October, 1817]

Our talk shall be (a theme we never tire on)
Of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron,
(Our England's Dante)--Wordsworth--HUNT, and KEATS,
The Muses' son of promise; and of what feats
He yet may do.


While the whole critical world is occupied with balancing the merits,
whether in theory or in execution, of what is commonly called THE LAKE
SCHOOL, it is strange that no one seems to think it at all necessary to
say a single word about another new school of poetry which has of late
sprung up among us. This school has not, I believe, as yet received any
name; but if I may be permitted to have the honour of christening it, it
may henceforth be referred to by the designation of THE COCKNEY SCHOOL.
Its chief Doctor and Professor is Mr. Leigh Hunt, a man certainly of
some talents, of extravagant pretensions both in wit, poetry, and
politics, and withal of exquisitely bad taste, and extremely vulgar
modes of thinking and manners in all respects. He is a man of little
education. He knows absolutely nothing of Greek, almost nothing of
Latin, and his knowledge of Italian literature is confined to a few of
the most popular of Petrarch's sonnets, and an imperfect acquaintance
with Ariosto, through the medium of Mr. Hoole. As to the French poets,
he dismisses them in the mass as a set of prim, precise, unnatural
pretenders. The truth is, he is in a state of happy ignorance about them
and all that they have done. He has never read Zaire nor Phedre. To
those great German poets who have illuminated the last fifty years with
a splendour to which this country has, for a long time, seen nothing
comparable, Mr. Hunt is an absolute stranger. Of Spanish books he has
read Don Quixote (in the translation of Motteux), and some poems of Lope
de Vega in the imitations of my Lord Holland. Of all the great critical
writers, either of ancient or of modern times, he is utterly ignorant,
excepting only Mr. Jeffrey among ourselves.

With this stock of knowledge, Mr. Hunt presumes to become the founder of
a new school of poetry, and throws away entirely the chance which he
might have had of gaining some true poetical fame, had he been less
lofty in his pretensions. The story of Rimini is not wholly undeserving
of praise. It possesses some tolerable passages, which are all quoted in
the Edinburgh Reviewer's account of the poem, and not one of which is
quoted in the very illiberal attack upon it in the Quarterly. But such
is the wretched taste in which the greater part of the work is executed,
that most certainly no man who reads it once will ever be able to
prevail upon himself to read it again. One feels the same disgust at the
idea of opening Rimini, that impresses itself on the mind of a man of
fashion, when he is invited to enter, for a second time, the gilded
drawing-room of a little mincing boarding school mistress, who would
fain have an _At Home_ in her house. Every thing is pretence,
affectation, finery, and gaudiness. The beaux are attorneys'
apprentices, with chapeau bras and Limerick gloves--fiddlers, harp
teachers, and clerks of genius: the belles are faded fan-twinkling
spinsters, prurient vulgar misses from school, and enormous citizens'
wives. The company are entertained with lukewarm negus, and the sounds
of a paltry piano forte.

All the great poets of our country have been men of some rank in
society, and there is no vulgarity in any of their writings; But Mr.
Hunt cannot utter a dedication, or even a note, without betraying the
_Shibboleth_ of low birth and low habits. He is the ideal of a Cockney
Poet. He raves perpetually about "greenfields," "jaunty streams," and
"o'er-arching leafiness," exactly as a Cheapside shop-keeper does about
the beauties of his box on the Camberwell road. Mr. Hunt is altogether
unacquainted with the face of nature in her magnificent scenes; he has
never seen any mountain higher than Highgate-hill, nor reclined by any
stream more pastoral than the Serpentine River. But he is determined to
be a poet eminently rural, and he rings the changes--till one is sick of
him, on the beauties of the different "high views" which he has taken of
God and nature, in the course of some Sunday dinner parties, at which he
has assisted in the neighbourhood of London. His books are indeed not
known in the country; his fame as a poet (and I might almost say, as a
politician too) is entirely confined to the young attorneys and
embryo-barristers about town. In the opinion of these competent judges,
London is the world--and Hunt is a Homer.

Mr. Hunt is not disqualified by his ignorance and vulgarity alone, for
being the founder of a respectable sect in poetry. He labours under the
burden of a sin more deadly than either of these. The two great elements
of all dignified poetry, religious feeling, and patriotic feeling, have
no place in his mind. His religion is a poor tame dilution of the
blasphemies of the _Encyclopaedie_--his patriotism a crude, vague,
ineffectual, and sour Jacobinism. He is without reverence either for God
or man; neither altar nor throne have any dignity in his eyes. He speaks
well of nobody but two or three great dead poets, and in so speaking of
them he does well; but, alas! Mr. Hunt is no conjurer [Greek: technae ou
lanthanei]. He pretends, indeed, to be an admirer of Spencer and
Chaucer, but what he praises in them is never what is most deserving of
praise--it is only that which he humbly conceives, bears some
resemblance to the more perfect productions of Mr. Leigh Hunt; and we
can always discover, in the midst of his most violent ravings about the
Court of Elizabeth, and the days of Sir Philip Sidney, and the Fairy
Queen--that the real objects of his admiration are the Coterie of
Hampstead and the Editor of the Examiner. When he talks about chivalry
and King Arthur, he is always thinking of himself, and "_a small party
of friends, who meet once a-week at a Round Table, to discuss the merits
of a leg of mutton, and of the subjects upon which we are to write._"--
Mr. Leigh Hunt's ideas concerning the sublime, and concerning his own
powers, bear a considerable resemblance to those of his friend Bottom,
the weaver, on the same subjects; "I will roar, that it shall do any
man's heart good to hear me."--"I will roar you an 'twere any

The poetry of Mr. Hunt is such as might be expected from the personal
character and habits of its author. As a vulgar man is perpetually
labouring to be genteel--in like manner, the poetry of this man is
always on the stretch to be grand. He has been allowed to look for a
moment from the anti-chamber into the saloon, and mistaken the waving of
feathers and the painted floor for the _sine qua non's_ of elegant
society. He would fain be always tripping and waltzing, and is sorry
that he cannot be allowed to walk about in the morning with yellow
breeches and flesh-coloured silk stockings. He sticks an artificial
rose-bud into his button hole in the midst of winter. He wears no
neckcloth, and cuts his hair in imitation of the Prints of Petrarch. In
his verses also he is always desirous of being airy, graceful, easy,
courtly, and ITALIAN. If he had the smallest acquaintance with the great
demigods of Italian poetry, he could never fancy that the style in which
he writes, bears any, even the most remote resemblance to the severe and
simple manner of Dante--the tender stillness of the lover of Laura--or
the sprightly and good-natured unconscious elegance of the inimitable
Ariosto. He has gone into a strange delusion about himself, and is just
as absurd in supposing that he resembles the Italian Poets as a greater
Quack still (Mr. Coleridge) is, in imagining that he is a Philosopher
after the manner of Kant or Mendelshon--and that "the eye of Lessing
bears a remarkable likeness to MINE," i.e., the eye of Mr. Samuel

[1] Mr. Wordsworth (meaning, we presume, to pay Mr. Coleridge a
compliment), makes him look very absurdly,

"A noticeable man, with _large grey eyes_."

The extreme moral depravity of the Cockney School is another thing which
is for ever thrusting itself upon the public attention, and convincing
every man of sense who looks into their productions, that they who sport
such sentiments can never be great poets. How could any man of high
original genius ever stoop publicly, at the present day, to dip his
fingers in the least of those glittering and rancid obscenities which
float on the surface of Mr. Hunt's Hippocrene? His poetry is that of a
man who has kept company with kept-mistresses. He talks indelicately
like a tea-sipping milliner girl. Some excuse for him there might have
been, had he been hurried away by imagination or passion. But with him
indecency is a disease, and he speaks unclean things from perfect
inanition. The very concubine of so impure a wretch as Leigh Hunt would
be to be pitied, but alas! for the wife of such a husband! For him there
is no charm in simple seduction; and he gloats over it only when
accompanied with adultery and incest.

The unhealthy and jaundiced medium through which the Founder of the
Cockney School views every thing like moral truth, is apparent, not only
from his obscenity, but also from his want of respect for all that
numerous class of plain upright men, and unpretending women, in which
the real worth and excellence of human society consists. Every man is,
according to Mr. Hunt, a dull potato-eating blockhead--of no greater
value to God or man than any ox or dray-horse--who is not an admirer of
Voltaire's _romans_, a worshipper of Lord Holland and Mr. Haydon and a
quoter of John Buncle and Chaucer's Flower and Leaf. Every woman is
useful only as a breeding machine, unless she is fond of reading
Launcelot of the Lake, in an antique summer-house.

How such a profligate creature as Mr. Hunt can pretend to be an admirer
of Mr. Wordsworth, is to us a thing altogether inexplicable. One great
charm of Wordsworth's noble compositions consists in the dignified
purity of thought, and the patriarchal simplicity of feeling, with which
they are throughout penetrated and imbued. We can conceive a vicious man
admiring with distant awe and spectacle of virtue and purity; but if he
does so sincerely, he must also do so with the profoundest feeling of
the error of his own ways, and the resolution to amend them. His
admiration must be humble and silent, not pert and loquacious. Mr. Hunt
praises the purity of Wordsworth as if he himself were pure, his dignity
as if he also were dignified. He is always like the ball of Dung in the
fable, pleasing himself, and amusing by-standers with his "nos poma
natamus." For the person who writes _Rimini_, to admire the Excursion,
is just as impossible as it would be for a Chinese polisher of
cherry-stones, or gilder of tea-cups, to burst into tears at the sight
of the Theseus or the Torso.

The Founder of the Cockney School would fain claim poetical kindred with
Lord Byron and Thomas Moore. Such a connexion would be as unsuitable for
them as for William Wordsworth. The days of Mr. Moore's follies are long
since over; and, as he is a thorough gentleman, he must necessarily
entertain the greatest contempt for such an under-bred person as Leigh
Hunt. But Lord Byron! How must the haughty spirit of Lara and Harold
contemn the subaltern sneaking of our modern tuft-hunter. The insult
which he offered to Lord Byron in the dedication of Rimini,--in which
he, a paltry cockney newspaper scribbler, had the assurance to address
one of the most nobly-born of English Patricians, and one of the first
geniuses whom the world ever produced, as "My dear Byron," although it
may have been forgotten and despised by the illustrious person whom it
most nearly concerned,--excited a feeling of utter loathing and disgust
in the public mind, which will always be remembered whenever the name of
Leigh Hunt is mentioned. We dare say Mr. Hunt has some fine dreams about
the true nobility being the nobility of talent, and flatters himself,
that with those who acknowledge only that sort of rank, he himself
passes for being the _peer_ of Byron. He is sadly mistaken. He is as
completely a Plebeian in his mind as he is in his rank and station in
society. To that highest and unalienated nobility which the great Roman
satirist styles "sola atque unica," we fear his pretensions would be
equally unavailing.

The shallow and impotent pretensions, tenets, and attempts, of this
man,--and the success with which his influence seems to be extending
itself among a pretty numerous, though certainly a very paltry and
pitiful, set of readers,--have for the last two or three years been
considered by us with the most sickening aversion. The very culpable
manner in which his chief poem was reviewed in the Edinburgh Review (we
believe it is no secret, at his own impatient and feverish request, by
his partner in the Round Table), was matter of concern to more readers
than ourselves. The masterly pen which inflicted such signal
chastisement on the early licentiousness of Moore, should not have been
idle on that occasion. Mr. Jeffrey does ill when he delegates his
important functions into such hands as Mr. Hazlitt. It was chiefly in
consequence of that gentleman's allowing Leigh Hunt to pass unpunished
through a scene of slaughter, which his execution might so highly have
graced that we came to the resolution of laying before our readers a
series of essays on _the Cockney School_--of which here terminates the
first. _Z_.



[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, July, 1818]

Our hatred and contempt of Leigh Hunt as a writer, is not so much owing
to his shameless irreverence to his aged and afflicted king--to his
profligate attacks on the character of the king's sons--to his low-born
insolence to that aristocracy with whom he would in vain claim the
alliance of one illustrious friendship--to his paid panderism to the
vilest passions of that mob of which he is himself a firebrand--to the
leprous crust of self-conceit with which his whole moral being is
indurated--to that loathsome vulgarity which constantly clings round him
like a vermined garment from St. Giles'--to that irritable temper which
keeps the unhappy man, in spite even of his vanity, in a perpetual fret
with himself and all the world beside, and that shews itself equally in
his deadly enmities and capricious friendships,--our hatred and contempt
of Leigh Hunt, we say, is not so much owing to these and other causes,
as to the odious and unnatural harlotry of his polluted muse. We were
the first to brand with a burning iron the false face of this
kept-mistress of a demoralizing incendiary. We tore off her gaudy veil and
transparent drapery, and exhibited the painted cheeks and writhing limbs
of the prostitute. We denounced to the execration of the people of
England, the man who had dared to write in the solitude of a cell, whose
walls ought to have heard only the sighs of contrition and repentance, a
lewd tale of incest, adultery, and murder, in which the violation of
Nature herself was wept over, palliated, justified, and held up to
imitation, and the violators themselves worshipped as holy martyrs. The
story of Rimini had begun to have its admirers; but their deluded minds
were startled at our charges,--and on reflecting upon the character of
the poem, which they had read with a dangerous sympathy, not on account
of its poetical merit, which is small indeed, but on account of those
voluptuous scenes, so dangerous even to a pure imagination, when
insidiously painted with the seeming colours of virtue,--they were
astounded at their own folly and their own danger, and consigned the
wretched volume to that ignominious oblivion, which, in a land of
religion and morality, must soon be the doom of all obscene and
licentious productions.

The story of Rimini is heard of no more. But Leigh Hunt will not be
quiet. His hebdomadal hand [**Pointing hand symbol] is held up, even on
the Sabbath, against every man of virtue and genius in the land; but the
great defamer claims to himself an immunity from that disgrace which he
knows his own wickedness has incurred,--the Cockney calumniator would
fain hold his own disgraced head sacred from the iron fingers of
retribution. But that head shall be brought low--aye--low "as heaped up
justice" ever sunk that of an offending scribbler against the laws of
Nature and of God.

Leigh Hunt dared not, Hazlitt dared not, to defend the character of the
"Story of Rimini." A man may venture to say that in verse which it is
perilous to utter in plain prose. Even they dared not to affirm to the
people of England, that a wife who had committed incest with her
husband's brother, ought on her death to be buried in the same tomb with
her fraticidal [Transcriber's note: sic] paramour, and that tomb to be
annually worshipped by the youths and virgins of their country. And
therefore Leigh Hunt flew into a savage passion against the critic who
had chastised his crime, pretended that he himself was insidiously
charged with the offences which he had applauded and celebrated in
others, and tried to awaken the indignation of the public against his
castigator, as if he had been the secret assassin of private character,
who was but the open foe of public enormity. The attempt was hopeless,--
the public voice has lifted up against Hunt,--and sentence of
excommunication from the poets of England has been pronounced, enrolled,
and ratified.

There can be no radical distinction allowed between the private and
public character of a poet. If a poet sympathizes with and justifies
wickedness in his poetry, he is a wicked man. It matters not that his
private life may be free from wicked actions. Corrupt his moral
principles must be,--and if his conduct has not been flagrantly immoral,
the cause must be looked for in constitution, &c., but not in
conscience. It is therefore of little or no importance, whether Leigh
Hunt be or be not a bad private character. He maintains, that he is a
most excellent private character, and that he would blush to tell the
world how highly he is thought of by an host of respectable friends. Be
it so,--and that his vanity does not delude him. But this is most sure,
that, in such a case, the world will never be brought to believe even
the truth. The world is not fond of ingenious distinctions between the
theory and the practice of morals. The public are justified in refusing
to hear a man plead in favour of his character, when they hold in their
hands a work of his in which all respect to character is forgotten. We
must reap the fruit of what we sow; and if evil and unjust reports have
arisen against Leigh Hunt as a man, and unluckily for him it is so, he
ought not to attribute the rise of such reports to the political
animosities which his virulence has excited, but to the real and obvious
cause--his voluptuous defence of crimes revolting to Nature.

The publication of the voluptuous story of Rimini was followed, it would
appear, by mysterious charges against Leigh Hunt in his domestic
relations. The world could not understand the nature of his poetical
love of incest; and instead of at once forgetting both the poem and the
poet, many people set themselves to speculate, and talk, and ask
questions, and pry into secrets with which they had nothing to do, till
at last there was something like an identification of Leigh Hunt himself
with Paolo, the incestuous hero of Leigh Hunt's chief Cockney poem. This
was wrong, and, we believe, wholly unjust; but it was by no means
unnatural; and precisely what Leigh Hunt is himself in the weekly
practice of doing to other people without the same excuse. Leigh Hunt
has now spoken out so freely to the public on the subject, that there
can be no indelicacy in talking of it, in as far as it respects him, at

There is no need for us to sink down this unhappy man into deeper
humiliation. Never before did the abuse and prostitution of talents
bring with them such prompt and memorable punishment. The pestilential
air which Leigh Hunt breathed forth into the world to poison and
corrupt, has been driven stiflingly back upon himself, and he who strove
to spread the infection of loathsome licentiousness among the tender
moral constitutions of the young, has been at length rewarded, as it was
fitting he should be, by the accusation of being himself guilty of those
crimes which it was the object of "The Story of Rimini" to encourage and
justify in others. The world knew nothing of him but from his works; and
were they blameable (even though they erred) in believing him capable of
any enormities in his own person, whose imagination feasted and gloated
on the disgusting details of adultery and incest? They were repelled and
sickened by such odious and unnatural wickedness--he was attracted and
delighted. What to them was the foulness of pollution, seemed to him the
beauty of innocence. What to them was the blast from hell, to him was
the air from heaven. They read and they condemned. They asked each other
"What manner of man is this?" The charitable were silent. It would
perhaps be hard to call them uncharitable who spoke aloud. Thoughts were
associated with his name which shall be nameless by us; and at last the
wretched scribbler himself has had the gross and unfeeling folly to
punish them all to the world, and that too in a tone of levity that
could have been becoming only on our former comparatively trivial
charges against him of wearing yellow breeches, and dispensing with the
luxury of a neckcloth. He shakes his shoulders, according to his rather
iniquitous custom, at being told that he is suspected of adultery and
incest! A pleasant subject of merriment, no doubt, it is--though
somewhat embittered by the intrusive remembrance of that unsparing
castigator of vice, Mr. Gifford, and clouded over by the melancholy
breathed from the shin-bone of his own poor old deceased grandmother.
What a mixture of the horrible and absurd! And the man who thus writes
is--not a Christian, for that he denies--but, forsooth, a poet! one of

Great spirits who on earth are sojourning!

But Leigh Hunt is not guilty, in the above paragraph, of shocking levity
alone,--he is guilty of falsehood. It is not true, that he learns for
the first time, from that anonymous letter (so vulgar, that we could
almost suspect him of having written it himself) what charges were in
circulation against him. He knew it all before. Has he forgotten to whom
he applied for explanation when Z.'s sharp essay on the Cockney Poetry
cut him to the heart? He knows what he said upon those occasions, and
let him ponder upon it. But what could induce him to suspect the amiable
Bill Hazlitt, "him, the immaculate," of being Z.? It was this,--he
imagined that none but that foundered artist could know the fact of his
feverish importunities to be reviewed by him in the Edinburgh Review.
And therefore, having almost "as fine an intellectual touch" as "Bill
the painter" himself, he thought he saw Z. lurking beneath the elegant
exterior of that highly accomplished man.

Dear Hazlitt, whose tact intellectual is such,
That it seems to feel truth as one's fingers do touch.

But, for the present, we have nothing more to add. Leigh Hunt is
delivered into our hands to do with him as we will. Our eyes shall be
upon him, and unless he amend his ways, to wither and to blast him. The
pages of the Edinburgh Review, we are confident, are henceforth shut
against him. One wicked Cockney will not again be permitted to praise
another in that journal, which, up to the moment when incest and
adultery were defended in its pages, had, however openly at war with
religion, kept at least upon decent terms with the cause of morality. It
was indeed a fatal day for Mr. Jeffrey, when he degraded both himself
and his original coadjutors, by taking into pay such an unprincipled
blunderer as Hazlitt. He is not a coadjutor, he is an accomplice. The
day is perhaps not far distant, when the Charlatan shall be stripped to
the naked skin, and made to swallow his own vile prescriptions. He and
Leigh Hunt are

Arcades ambo
Et cantare pares--

Shall we add,

et respondere parati?


[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, August, 1818]


No. IV

---- OF KEATS,


Of all the manias of this mad age, the most incurable, as well as the
most common, seems to be no other than the _Metromanie_. The just
celebrity of Robert Burns and Miss Baillie has had the melancholy effect
of turning the heads of we know not how many farm-servants and unmarried
ladies; our very footmen compose tragedies, and there is scarcely a
superannuated governess in the island that does not leave a roll of
lyrics behind her in her band-box. To witness the disease of any human
understanding, however feeble, is distressing; but the spectacle of an
able mind reduced to a state of insanity is of course ten times more
afflicting. It is with such sorrow as this that we have contemplated the
case of Mr. John Keats. This young man appears to have received from
nature talents of an excellent, perhaps even of a superior order--
talents which, devoted to the purposes of any useful profession, must
have rendered him a respectable, if not an eminent citizen. His friends,
we understand, destined him to the career of medicine, and he was bound
apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in town. But all has
been undone by a sudden attack of the malady to which we have alluded.
Whether Mr. John had been sent home with a diuretic or composing draught
to some patient far gone in the poetical mania, we have not heard. This
much is certain, that he has caught the infection, and that thoroughly.
For some time we were in hopes, that he might get off with a violent fit
or two; but of late the symptoms are terrible. The phrenzy of the
"Poems" was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so
seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of
"Endymion." We hope, however, that in so young a person, and with a
constitution originally so good, even now the disease is not utterly
incurable. Time, firm treatment, and rational restraint, do much for
many apparently hopeless invalids; and if Mr. Keats should happen, at
some interval of reason, to cast his eye upon our pages, he may perhaps
be convinced of the existence of his malady, which, in such cases, is
often all that is necessary to put the patient in a fair way of being

The readers of the Examiner newspaper were informed, some time ago, by a
solemn paragraph, in Mr. Hunt's best style, of the appearance of two new
stars of glorious magnitude and splendour in the poetical horizon of the
land of Cockaigne. One of these turned out, by and by, to be no other
than Mr. John Keats. This precocious adulation confirmed the wavering
apprentice in his desire to quit the gallipots, and at the same time
excited in his too susceptible mind a fatal admiration for the character
and talents of the most worthless and affected of all the versifiers of
our time. One of his first productions was the following sonnet,
"_written on the day when Mr. Leigh Hunt left prison._" It will be
recollected, that the cause of Hunt's confinement was a series of libels
against his sovereign, and that its fruit was the odious and incestuous
"Story of Rimini."

What though, for shewing truth to flattered state,
_Kind Hunt_ was shut in prison, yet has he,
In his immortal spirit been as free
As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
Think you he nought but prison walls did see,
Till, so unwilling, thou unturn'dst the key?
Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
_In Spenser's halls_! he strayed, and bowers fair,
Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
_With daring Milton_! through the fields of air;
To regions of his own his genius true
Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?

The absurdity of the thought in this sonnet is, however, if possible,
surpassed in another, "_addressed to Haydon_" the painter, that clever,
but most affected artist, who as little resembles Raphael in genius as
he does in person, notwithstanding the foppery of having his hair curled
over his shoulders in the old Italian fashion. In this exquisite piece
it will be observed, that Mr. Keats classes together WORDSWORTH, HUNT,
and HAYDON, as the three greatest spirits of the age, and that he
alludes to himself, and some others of the rising brood of Cockneys, as
likely to attain hereafter an equally honourable elevation. Wordsworth
and Hunt! what a juxta-position! The purest, the loftiest, and, we do
not fear to say it, the most classical of living English poets, joined
together in the same compliment with the meanest, the filthiest, and the
most vulgar of Cockney poetasters. No wonder that he who could be guilty
of this should class Haydon with Raphael, and himself with Spenser.

Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
Who on Helvellyn's summit, wide awake,
Catches his freshness from Archangel's wing:
_He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom's sake_:
And lo!--whose steadfastness would never take
A meaner sound than Raphael's whispering.
And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart,
And other pulses. _Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings_?--
_Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb_.

The nations are to listen and be dumb! and why, good Johnny Keats?
because Leigh Hunt is editor of the Examiner, and Haydon has painted the
judgment of Solomon, and you and Cornelius Webb, and a few more city
sparks, are pleased to look upon yourselves as so many future
Shakespeares and Miltons! The world has really some reason to look to
its foundations! Here is a _tempestas in matula_ with a vengeance. At
the period when these sonnets were published, Mr. Keats had no
hesitation in saying, that he looked on himself as "_not yet_ a glorious
denizen of the wide heaven of poetry," but he had many fine soothing
visions of coming greatness, and many rare plans of study to prepare him
for it....

Having cooled a little from this "fine passion," our youthful poet
passes very naturally into a long strain of foaming abuse against a
certain class of English Poets, whom, with Pope at their head, it is
much the fashion with the ignorant unsettled pretenders of the present
time to undervalue. Begging these gentlemen's pardon, although Pope was
not a poet of the same high order with some who are now living, yet, to
deny his genius, it is just about as absurd as to dispute that of
Wordsworth, or to believe in that of Hunt. Above all things, it is most
pitiably ridiculous to hear men, of whom their country will always have
reason to be proud, reviled by uneducated and flimsy striplings, who are
not capable of understanding either their merits, or those of any other
_men of power_--fanciful dreaming tea-drinkers, who, without logic
enough to analyse a single idea, or imagination enough to form one
original image, or learning enough to distinguish between the written
language of Englishmen and the spoken jargon of Cockneys, presume to
talk with contempt of some of the most exquisite spirits the world ever
produced, merely because they did not happen to exert their faculties in
laborious affected descriptions of flowers seen in window-pots, or
cascades heard at Vauxhall; in short, because they chose to be wits,
philosophers, patriots, and poets, rather than to found the Cockney
school of versification, morality, and politics, a century before its
time. After blaspheming himself into a fury against Boileau, &c., Mr.
Keats comforts himself and his readers with a view of the present more
promising aspect of affairs; above all, with the ripened glories of the
poet of Rimini. Addressing the names of the departed chiefs of English
poetry, he informs them, in the following clear and touching manner, of
the existence of "him of the Rose," &c.

From a thick brake,
Nested and quiet in a valley mild,
Bubbles a pipe; fine sounds are floating wild
About the earth. Happy are ye and glad....

From some verses addressed to various individuals of the other sex, it
appears, notwithstanding all this gossamer-work, that Johnny's
affectations are not entirely confined to objects purely etherial. Take,
by way of specimen, the following prurient and vulgar lines, evidently
meant for some young lady east of Temple-bar.

Add too, the sweetness
Of thy honied voice; the neatness
Of thine ankle lightly turn'd:
With those beauties, scarce discerned,
Kept with such sweet privacy,
That they seldom meet the eye
Of the little loves that fly
Round about with eager pry.
Saving when, with freshening lave,
Thou dipp'st them in the taintless wave;
Like twin water lilies, born
In the coolness of the morn.
O, if thou hadst breathed then,
Now the Muses had been ten.
Couldst thou wish for lineage _higher_
Than twin sister of _Thalia_?
At last for ever, evermore,
Will I call the Graces four.

Who will dispute that our poet, to use his own phrase (and rhyme),

Can mingle music fit for the soft _ear_
Of Lady _Cytherea_.

So much for the opening bud; now for the expanded flower. It is time to
pass from the juvenile "Poems," to the mature and elaborate "Endymion, a
Poetic Romance." The old story of the moon falling in love with a
shepherd, so prettily told by a Roman Classic, and so exquisitely
enlarged and adorned by one of the most elegant of German poets, has
been seized upon by Mr. John Keats, to be done with as might seem good
unto the sickly fancy of one who never read a single line either of Ovid
or of Wieland. If the quantity, not the quality, of the verses dedicated
to the story is to be taken into account, there can be no doubt that Mr.
Keats may now claim Endymion entirely to himself. To say the truth, we
do not suppose either the Latin or the German poet would be very anxious
to dispute about the property of the hero of the "Poetic Romance." Mr.
Keats has thoroughly appropriated the character, if not the name. His
Endymion is not a Greek shepherd, love of a Grecian goddess; he is
merely a young Cockney rhymster, dreaming a phantastic dream at the full
of the moon. Costume, were it worth while to notice such a trifle, is
violated in every page of this goodly octavo. From his prototype Hunt,
John Keats has acquired a sort of vague idea, that the Greeks were a
most tasteful people, and that no mythology can be so finely adapted for
the purposes of poetry as theirs. It is amusing to see what a hand the
two Cockneys make of this mythology; the one confesses that he never
read the Greek Tragedians, and the other knows Homer only from Chapman,
and both of them write about Apollo, Pan, Nymphs, Muses, and Mysteries,
as might be expected from persons of their education. We shall not,
however, enlarge at present upon this subject, as we mean to dedicate an
entire paper to the classical attainments and attempts of the Cockney
poets. As for Mr. Keats's "Endymion," it has just as much to do with
Greece as it has with "old Tartary the fierce"; no man, whose mind has
ever been imbued with the smallest knowledge or feeling of classical
poetry or classical history, could have stooped to profane and vulgarise
every association in the manner which has been adopted by this "son of
promise." Before giving any extracts, we must inform our readers, that
this romance is meant to be written in English heroic rhyme. To those
who have read any of Hunt's poems, this hint might indeed be needless.
Mr. Keats has adopted the loose, nerveless versification, and Cockney
rhymes of the poet of Rimini; but in fairness to that gentleman, we must
add, that the defects of the system are tenfold more conspicuous in his
disciples' work than in his own. Mr. Hunt is a small poet, but he is a
clever man. Mr. Keats is a still smaller poet, and he is only a boy of
pretty abilities, which he has done every thing in his power to

After all this, however, the "modesty," as Mr. Keats expresses it, of
the Lady Diana prevented her from owning in Olympus her passion for
Endymion. Venus, as the most knowing in such matters, is the first to
discover the change that has taken place in the temperament of the
goddess. "An idle tale," says the laughter-loving dame,

A humid eye, and steps luxurious,
When these are new and strange, are ominous.

The inamorata, to vary the intrigue, carries on a romantic intercourse
with Endymion, under the disguise of an Indian damsel. At last, however,
her scruples, for some reason or other, are all overcome, and the Queen
of Heaven owns her attachment.

She gave her fair hands to him, and behold,
Before three swiftest kisses he had told,
They vanish far away!--Peona went
Home through the gloomy wood in wonderment.

And so, like many other romances, terminates the "Poetic Romance" of
Johnny Keats, in a patched-up wedding.

We had almost forgotten to mention, that Keats belongs to the Cockney
School of Politics, as well as the Cockney School of Poetry.

It is fit that he who holds Rimini to be the first poem, should believe
the Examiner to be the first politician of the day. We admire
consistency, even in folly. Hear how their bantling has already learned
to lisp sedition.

There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack'd
Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
Our gold and ripe-ear'd hopes. With not one tinge
Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
Able to face an owl's, they still are dight
By the blue-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,
Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones--
Amid the fierce intoxicating tones.
Of trumpets, shoutings, and belaboured drums,
And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone--
Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks.--
Are then regalities all gilded masks?

And now, good-morrow to "the Muses' son of Promise"; as for "the feats
he yet may do," as we do not pretend to say, like himself, "Muse of my
native land am I inspired," we shall adhere to the safe old rule of
_pauca verba_. We venture to make one small prophecy, that his
bookseller will not a second time venture L50 upon any thing he can
write. It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starving apothecary than
a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr. John, back to plasters, pills,
and ointment boxes, &c. But, for Heaven's sake, young Sangrado, be a
little more sparing of extenuatives and soporifics in your practice than
you have been in your poetry.



[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, September, 1820]


Whatever may be the difference of men's opinions concerning the measure
of Mr. Shelley's poetical power, there is one point in regard to which
all must be agreed, and that is his Audacity. In the old days of the
exulting genius of Greece, Aeschylus dared two things which astonished
all men, and which still astonish them--to exalt contemporary men into
the personages of majestic tragedies--and to call down and embody into
tragedy, without degradation, the elemental spirits of nature and the
deeper essences of Divinity. We scarcely know whether to consider the
_Persians_ or the _Prometheus Bound_ as the most extraordinary display
of what has always been esteemed the most audacious spirit that ever
expressed its workings in poetry. But what shall we say of the young
English poet who has now attempted, not only a flight as high as the
highest of Aeschylus, but the very flight of that father of tragedy--who
has dared once more to dramatise Prometheus--and, most wonderful of all,
to dramatise the _deliverance_ of Prometheus--which is known to have
formed the subject of a lost tragedy of Aeschylus no ways inferior in
mystic elevation to that of the [Greek: Desmotaes].

Although a fragment of that perished master-piece be still extant in the
Latin version of Attius--it is quite impossible to conjecture what were
the personages introduced in the tragedy of Aeschylus, or by what train
of passions and events he was able to sustain himself on the height of
that awful scene with which his surviving _Prometheus_ terminates. It is
impossible, however, after reading what is left of that famous
trilogy,[1] to suspect that the Greek poet symbolized any thing whatever
by the person of Prometheus, except the native strength of human
intellect itself--its strength of endurance above all others--its
sublime power of patience. STRENGTH and FORCE are the two agents who
appear on this darkened theatre to bind the too benevolent Titan--_Wit_
and _Treachery_, under the forms of Mercury and Oceanus, endeavour to
prevail upon him to make himself free by giving up his dreadful secret;--
but _Strength_ and _Force_, and _Wit_ and _Treason_, are all alike
powerless to overcome the resolution of that suffering divinity, or to
win from him any acknowledgment of the new tyrant of the skies. Such was
this simple and sublime allegory in the hands of Aeschylus. As to what
had been the original purpose of the framers of the allegory, that is a
very different question, and would carry us back into the most hidden
places of the history of mythology. No one, however, who compares the
mythological systems of different races and countries, can fail to
observe the frequent occurrence of certain great leading Ideas and
leading Symbolisations of ideas too--which Christians are taught to
contemplate with a knowledge that is the knowledge of reverence. Such,
among others, are unquestionably the ideas of an Incarnate Divinity
suffering on account of mankind--conferring benefits on mankind at the
expense of his own suffering;--the general idea of vicarious atonement
itself--and the idea of the dignity of suffering as an exertion of
intellectual might--all of which may be found, more or less obscurely
shadowed forth, in the original [Greek: Mythos] of Prometheus the Titan,
the enemy of the successful rebel and usurper Jove. We might have also
mentioned the idea of a _deliverer_, waited for patiently through ages
of darkness, and at least arriving in the person of the child of Io--
but, in truth, there is no pleasure, and would be little propriety, in
seeking to explain all this at greater length, considering, what we
cannot consider without deepest pain, the very different views which
have been taken of the original allegory by Mr. Percy Bysshe Shelley.

[1] There was another and an earlier play of Aeschylus, Prometheus the
Fire-Stealer, which is commonly supposed to have made part of the
series; but the best critics, we think, are of opinion, that that
was entirely a satirical piece.

It would be highly absurd to deny, that this gentleman has manifested
very extraordinary powers of language and imagination in his treatment
of the allegory, however grossly and miserably he may have tried to
pervert its purpose and meaning. But of this more anon. In the meantime,
what can be more deserving of reprobation than the course which he is
allowing his intellect to take, and that too at the very time when he
ought to be laying the foundations of a lasting and honourable name.
There is no occasion for going round about the bush to hint what the
poet himself has so unblushingly and sinfully blazoned forth in every
part of his production. With him, it is quite evident that the Jupiter
whose downfall has been predicted by Prometheus, means nothing more than
Religion in general, that is, every human system of religious belief;
and that, with the fall of this, he considers it perfectly necessary (as
indeed we also believe, though with far different feelings) that every
system of human government also should give way and perish. The patience
of the contemplative spirit in Prometheus is to be followed by the
daring of the active demagorgon, at whose touch all "old thrones" are at
once and for ever to be cast down into the dust. It appears too plainly,
from the luscious pictures with which his play terminates, that Mr.
Shelley looks forward to an unusual relaxation of all moral _rules_--or
rather, indeed, to the extinction of all moral feelings, except that of
a certain mysterious indefinable _kindliness_, as the natural and
necessary result of the overthrow of all civil government and religious
belief. It appears, still more wonderfully, that he contemplates this
state of things as the ideal SUMMUM BONUM. In short, it is quite
impossible that there should exist a more pestiferous mixture of
blasphemy, sedition, and sensuality, than is visible in the whole
structure and strain of this poem--which, nevertheless, and
notwithstanding all the detestation its principles excite, must and will
be considered by all that read it attentively, as abounding in poetical
beauties of the highest order--as presenting many specimens not easily
to be surpassed, of the moral sublime of eloquence--as overflowing with
pathos, and most magnificent in description. Where can be found a
spectacle more worthy of sorrow than such a man performing and glorying
in the performance of such things? His evil ambition,--from all he has
yet written, but most of all, from what he has last and best written,
his _Prometheus_,--appears to be no other, than that of attaining the
highest place among those poets,--enemies, not friends, of their
species, who, as a great and virtuous poet has well said (putting evil
consequence close after evil cause).

Profane the God-given strength, and _mar the lofty line._

We should hold ourselves very ill employed, however, were we to enter at
any length into the reprehensible parts of this remarkable production.
It is sufficient to shew, that we have not been misrepresenting the
purpose of the poet's mind, when we mention, that the whole tragedy ends
with a mysterious sort of dance, and chorus of elemental spirits, and
other indefinable beings, and that the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR, one of the
most singular of these choral personages, tells us:

I wandering went
Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind,
And first was disappointed not to see
Such mighty change as I had felt within
Expressed in other things; but soon I looked,
And behold! THRONES WERE KINGLESS, and men walked
One with the other, even as spirits do, etc.

* * * * *

We cannot conclude without saying a word or two in regard to an
accusation which we have lately seen brought against ourselves in some
one of the London Magazines; we forget which at this moment. We are
pretty sure we know who the author of that most false accusation is--of
which more hereafter. He has the audacious insolence to say, that we
praise Mr. Shelley, although we dislike his principles, just because we
know that he is not in a situation of life to be in any danger of
suffering pecuniary inconvenience from being run down by critics, and,
_vice versa_, abuse Hunt, Keats, and Hazlitt, and so forth, because we
know that they are poor men; a fouler imputation could not be thrown on
any writer than this creature has dared to throw on us; nor a more
utterly false one; we repeat the word again--than this is when thrown
upon us.

We have no personal acquaintance with any of these men, and no personal
feelings in regard to any one of them, good or bad. We never even saw
any one of their faces. As for Mr. Keats, we are informed that he is in
a very bad state of health, and that his friends attribute a great deal
of it to the pain he has suffered from the critical castigation his
Endymion drew down on him in this magazine. If it be so, we are most
heartily sorry for it, and have no hesitation in saying, that had we
suspected that young author, of being so delicately nerved, we should
have administered our reproof in a much more lenient shape and style.
The truth is, we from the beginning saw marks of feeling and power in
Mr. Keats's verses, which made us think it very likely, he might become
a real poet of England, provided he could be persuaded to give up all
the tricks of Cockneyism, and forswear for ever the thin potations of
Mr. Leigh Hunt. We, therefore, rated him as roundly as we decently could
do, for the flagrant affectations of those early productions of his. In
the last volume he has published, we find more beauties than in the
former, both of language and of thought, but we are sorry to say, we
find abundance of the same absurd affectations also, and superficial
conceits, which first displeased us in his writings;--and which we are
again very sorry to say, must in our opinion, if persisted in, utterly
and entirely prevent Mr. Keats from ever taking his place among the pure
and classical poets of his mother tongue. It is quite ridiculous to see
how the vanity of these Cockneys makes them overrate their own
importance, even in the eyes of us, that have always expressed such
plain unvarnished contempt for them, and who do feel for them all, a
contempt too calm and profound, to admit of any admixture of any thing
like anger or personal spleen. We should just as soon think of being
wroth with vermin, independently of their coming into our apartment, as
we should of having any feelings at all about any of these people, other
than what are excited by seeing them in the shape of authors. Many of
them, considered in any other character than that of authors are, we
have no doubt, entitled to be considered as very worthy people in their
own way. Mr. Hunt is said to be a very amiable man in his own sphere,
and we believe him to be so willingly. Mr. Keats we have often heard
spoken of in terms of great kindness, and we have no doubt his manners
and feelings are calculated to make his friends love him. But what has
all this to do with our opinion of their poetry? What, in the name of
wonder, does it concern us, whether these men sit among themselves, with
mild or with sulky faces, eating their mutton steaks, and drinking their
porter at Highgate, Hampstead, or Lisson Green? What is there that
should prevent us, or any other person, that happens not to have been
educated in the University of Little Britain, from expressing a simple,
undisguised, and impartial opinion, concerning the merits or demerits of
men that we never saw, nor thought of for one moment, otherwise than as
in their capacity of authors? What should hinder us from saying, since
we think so, that Mr. Leigh Hunt is a clever wrong-headed man, whose
vanities have got inwoven so deeply into him, that he has no chance of
ever writing one line of classical English, or thinking one genuine
English thought, either about poetry or politics? What is the spell that
must seal our lips, from uttering an opinion equally plain and
perspicuous concerning Mr. John Keats, viz., that nature possibly meant
him to be a much better poet than Mr. Leigh Hunt ever could have been,
but that, if he persists in imitating the faults of that writer, he must
be contented to share his fate, and be like him forgotten? Last of all,
what should forbid us to announce our opinion, that Mr. Shelley, as a
man of genius, is not merely superior, either to Mr. Hunt, or to Mr.
Keats, but altogether out of their sphere, and totally incapable of ever
being brought into the most distant comparison with either of them. It
is very possible, that Mr. Shelley himself might not be inclined to
place himself so high above these men as we do, but that is his affair,
not ours. We are afraid that he shares, (at least with one of them) in
an abominable system of belief, concerning Man and the World, the
sympathy arising out of which common belief, may probably sway more than
it ought to do on both sides. But the truth of the matter is this, and
it is impossible to conceal it were we willing to do so, that Mr.
Shelley is destined to leave a great name behind him, and that we, as
lovers of true genius, are most anxious that this name should ultimately
be pure as well as great.

As for the principles and purposes of Mr. Shelley's poetry, since we
must again recur to that dark part of the subject; we think they are on
the whole, more undisguisedly pernicious in this volume, than even in
his Revolt of Islam. There is an Ode to Liberty at the end of the
volume, which contains passages of the most splendid beauty, but which,
in point of meaning, is just as wicked as any thing that ever reached
the world under the name of Mr. Hunt himself. It is not difficult to
fill up the blank which has been left by the prudent bookseller, in one
of the stanzas beginning:

O that the free would stamp the impious name,
Of ----- into the dust! Or write it there
So that this blot upon the page of fame,
Were as a serpent's path, which the light air
Erases, etc., etc.

but the next speaks still more plainly:

O that the WISE from their bright minds would kindle
Such lamps within the dome of this wide world,
That the pale name of PRIEST might shrink and dwindle
Into the HELL from which it first was hurled!

This is exactly a versification of the foulest sentence that ever issued
from the lips of Voltaire. Let us hope that Percy Bysshe Shelley is not
destined to leave behind him, like that great genius, a name for ever
detestable to the truly FREE and the truly WISE. He talks in his preface
about MILTON, as a "Republican," and a "bold inquirer into Morals and
religion." Could any thing make us despise Mr. Shelley's understanding,
it would be such an instance of voluntary blindness as this! Let us
hope, that ere long a lamp of genuine truth may be kindled within his
"bright mind"; and that he may walk in its light the path of the true
demigods of English genius, having, like them, learned to "fear God and
Honour the king."


Started in 1824 to represent Radical opinions, the _Westminster_ was
associated, in its palmy days, with such "persons of importance" as
George Eliot, George Henry Lewes, and J.S. Mill, retaining to the
present moment an isolated preference for the expression of
unconventional, and often _outre_ opinions. It has always been somewhat
fanatical and, now that really distinguished writers seldom enter its
pages, has become associated, in the general view, with the promotion of



Though Mill's principle work was of a highly expert and technical
nature, he had the rare power of conveying accurate expressions of sound
thoughts in popular language; and he was conspicuous for the moral
fervour of his opinions in practical politics. His fascinating
autobiography is absolutely sincere, and very copious, in its
revelations. It has been said, moreover, that he was "more at pains to
conceal his originality" than "most writers are to set forth" this
quality: and it was this characteristic which inspired his broad-minded
conduct of the _London Review_, soon incorporated with the
_Westminster_, which, after ten years as a contributor, he edited from
1834, and owned from 1837 until 1840. Here he made "a noble experiment
to endeavour to combine opposites, and to maintain a perpetual attitude
of sympathy with hostile opinions." It was officially, the organ of
Utilitarianism; but articles were frequently inserted requiring the
editorial _caveat_. It was the friend of liberty in every shape and

In a philosophic writer whose style was admittedly always literary, it
is of special interest to notice that he so frequently chose a volume of
poetry to review himself: and no better example of this work can be
found than the following critique of Tennyson, which, again, may be most
profitably compared with Gladstone's. It proves that he loved poetry for
its own sake.

The notice of Macaulay's Lays further illustrates his interesting
_theories_ of poetry.



It is the remarkable fate of Sterling, leaving behind him no work of
permanent distinction--to have been the subject of two biographies by
persons of far greater importance than his--Archdeacon Hare and Thomas
Carlyle. The editorial foot-note affixed to the following review, in
which Mill describes him as "one of our most valued contributors"
provides further evidence of what his contemporaries expected of "Poor
Sterling." "A loose, careless looking, thin figure," says Carlyle, "in
careless dim costume, sat, in a lounging posture, carelessly and
copiously talking. I was struck with the kindly but restless
swift-glancing eyes, which looked as if the spirits were all out coursing
like a pack of merry eager beagles, beating every bush.... A smile, half
of kindly impatience, half of real mirth, often sat on his face."

Sterling wrote poetry, essays, and stories, largely inspired by
capricious enthusiasms. The son of an editor of _The Times_, he was, for
a short time owner of _The Athenaeum_, and also a curate under Hare.

Since Carlyle's "extraordinary elegy, apology, eulogium" is itself a
classic, particular interest attaches itself to Sterling's generous
estimate of the man destined to make him immortal.


[From _The Westminster Review_, January, 1831]

_Poems, chiefly Lyrical._ By ALFRED TENNYSON. Wilson, 12 mo. 1830.

It would be a pity that poetry should be an exception to the great law
of progression that obtains in human affairs; and it is not. The
machinery of a poem is not less susceptible of improvement than the
machinery of a cotton mill; nor is there any better reason why the one
should retrograde from the days of Milton, than the other from those of

The old epics will probably never be surpassed, any more than the old
coats of mail; and for the same reason; nobody wants the article; its
object is accomplished by other means; they are become mere

Poetry, like charity, begins at home. Poetry, like morality, is founded
in the precept, know thyself. Poetry, like happiness, is in the human
heart. Its inspiration is of that which is in man, and it will never
fail because there are changes in costume and grouping. What is the
vitality of the Iliad? Character; nothing else. All the rest is only
read out of antiquarianism or of affectation. Why is Shakespeare the
greatest of poets? Because he was one of the greatest of philosophers.
We reason on the conduct of his characters with as little hesitation as
if they were real living human beings. Extent of observation, accuracy
of thought, and depth of reflection, were the qualities which won the
prize of sovereignty for his imagination, and the effect of these
qualities was practically to anticipate, so far as was needful for his
purposes, the mental philosophy of a future age. Metaphysics must be the
stem of poetry for the plant to thrive; but if the stem flourishes we
are not likely to be at a loss for leaves, flowers, and fruit. Now,
whatever theories may have come into fashion and gone out of fashion,
the real science of mind advances with the progress of society like all
other sciences. The poetry of the last forty years already shows
symptoms of life in exact proportion as it is imbued with this science.
There is least of it in the exotic legends of Southey, and the feudal
romances of Scott. More of it, though in different ways, in Byron and
Campbell. In Shelley there would have been more still, had he not
devoted himself to unsound and mystical theories. Most of all in
Coleridge and Wordsworth. They are all going or gone; but here is a
little book as thoroughly and unitedly metaphysical and poetical in its
spirit as any of them; and sorely shall we be disappointed in its author
if it be not the precursor of a series of productions which shall
beautifully illustrate our speculations, and convincingly prove their

Do not let our readers be alarmed. These poems are anything but heavy;
anything but stiff and pedantic, except in one particular, which shall
be noticed before we conclude; anything but cold and logical. They are
graceful, very graceful; they are animated, touching, and impassioned.
And they are so, precisely because they are philosophical; because they
are not made up of metrical cant and conventional phraseology; because
there is sincerity where the author writes from experience, and accuracy
whether he writes from experience or observation; and he only writes
from experience and observation, because he has felt and thought, and
learned to analyse thought and feeling; because his own mind is rich in
poetical associations, and he has wisely been content with its riches;
and because, in his composition, he has not sought to construct an
elaborate and artificial harmony, but only to pour forth his thoughts in
those expressive and simple melodies whose meaning, truth, and power,
are the soonest recognised, and the quickest felt....

Mr. Tennyson seems to obtain entrance into a mind as he would make his
way into a landscape; he climbs the pineal gland as if it were a hill in
the centre of the scene; looks around on all objects with their
varieties of form, their movements, their shades of colour, and their
mutual relations and influences, and forthwith produces as graphic a
delineation in the one case as Wilson or Gainsborough could have done in
the other, to the great enrichment of our gallery of intellectual

Our author has the secret of the transmigration of the soul. He can cast
his own spirit into any living thing, real or imaginary....

"Mariana" is, we are disposed to think, although there are several poems
which rise up reproachfully in our recollection as we say so,
altogether, the most perfect composition in the volume. The whole of
this poem, of eighty-four lines, is generated by the legitimate process
of poetical creation, as that process is conducted in a philosophical
mind, from a half sentence in Shakespeare. There is no mere
samplification; it is all production, and production from that single
germ. That must be a rich intellect, in which thoughts thus take root
and grow....

A considerable number of the poems are amatory; they are the expression
not of heathen sensuality, nor of sickly refinement, nor of fantastic
devotion, but of manly love; and they illustrate the philosophy of the
passion while they exhibit the various phases of its existence and
embody its power....

Mr. Tennyson sketches females as well as ever did Sir Thomas Lawrence.
His portraits are delicate, his likenesses (we will answer for them),
perfect, and they have life, character, and individuality. They are
nicely assorted also to all the different gradations of emotion and
passion which are expressed in common with the descriptions of them.
There is an appropriate object for every shade of feeling, from the
light touch of a passing admiration, to the triumphant madness of soul
and sense, or the deep and everlasting anguish of survivorship....

That these poems will have a rapid and extensive popularity
we do not anticipate. Their very originality will prevent their being
appreciated for a time. But that time will come, we hope, to a not far
distant end. They demonstrate the possession of powers, to the future
direction of which we look with some anxiety. A genuine poet has deep
responsibilities to his country and the world, to the present and future
generations, to earth and heaven. He, of all men, should have distinct
and worthy objects before him, and consecrate himself to their
promotion. It is then he best consults the glory of his art, and his own
lasting fame. Mr. Tennyson has a dangerous quality in that facility of
impersonation on which we have remarked, and by which he enters so
thoroughly into the most strange and wayward idiosyncracies of other
men. It must not degrade him into a poetical harlequin. He has higher
work to do than that of disporting himself among "mystics" and "flowing
philosophers." He knows that "the poet's mind is holy ground"; He knows
that the poet's portion is to be

Dower'd with the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn,
The love of love;

he has shown, in the lines from which we quote, his own just conception
of the grandeur of the poet's destiny; and we look to him for its
fulfilment. It is not for such men to sink into mere verse-makers for
the amusement of themselves or others. They can influence the
associations of unnumbered minds; they can command the sympathies of
unnumbered hearts; they can disseminate principles; they can give those
principles power over men's imaginations; they can excite in a good
cause the sustained enthusiasm that is sure to conquer; they can blast
the laurels of tyrants, and hallow the memories of the martyrs'
patriotism; they can act with a force, the extent of which it is
difficult to estimate, upon national feelings and character, and
consequently upon national happiness.


[From _The Westminster Review_. February, 1843]

It is with the two great masters of modern ballad poetry (Campbell and
Scott) that Mr. Macaulay's performances are really to be compared, and
not with the real ballads or epics of an early age. The "Lays," in point
of form, are not in the least like the genuine productions of a
primitive age or people, and it is no blame to Mr. Macaulay that they
are not. He professes imitation of Homer, but we really see no
resemblance, except in the nature of some of the incidents, and the
animation and vigour of the narrative; and the "Iliad," after all, is
not the original ballads of the Trojan War, but these ballads moulded
together, and wrought into the forms of a more civilised and cultivated
age. It is difficult to conjecture what the form of the old Roman ballad
may have been, and certain, that whatever they were, they could no more
satisfy the aesthetic requirements of modern culture, than an ear
accustomed to the great organs of Freyburg or Harlem could relish
Orpheus's hurdy-gurdy, although the airs which Orpheus played, if they
could be recovered, might perhaps be executed with great effect on the
more perfect instrument.

The former of Mr. Macaulay's ballad poetry are essentially modern: they
are those of the romantic and chivalrous, not the classical ages, and
even in those they are a reproduction, not of the originals, but of the
imitations of Scott. In this we think he has done well, for Scott's
style is as near to that of the ancient ballad as we conceive to be at
all compatible with real popular effect on the modern mind. The
difference between the two may be seen by the most cursory comparison of
any real old ballad, "Chevy Chase," for instance, with last canto of
Marmion, or with any of these "Lays." Conciseness is the characteristic
of the real ballad, diffuseness of the modern adaptation. The old bard
did everything by single touches; Scott and Mr. Macaulay by repetition
and accumulation of particulars. They produce all their effect by what
they _say_; he by what he _suggested_; by what he stimulated the
imagination to paint for itself. But then the old ballads were not
written for the light reading of tired readers. To do the work in
_their_ way, they required to be brooded over, or had at least the aid
of tune and of impassioned recitation. Stories which are to be told to
children in the age of eagerness and excitability, or sung in banquet
halls to assembled warriors, whose daily ideas and feelings supply a
flood of comment ready to gush forth on the slightest hint of the poet,
cannot fly too swift and straight to the mark. But Mr. Macaulay wrote to
be only read, and by readers for whom it was necessary to do all.

These poems, therefore, are not the worse for being un-Roman in their
form; and in their substance they are Roman to a degree which deserves
great admiration. Mr. Macaulay's prose writings had not prepared us for
the power which he has here manifested of identifying himself easily and
completely, with states of feeling and modes of life alien to modern
experience. Nobody could have previously doubted that he possessed
fancy, but he has added to it the higher faculty of Imagination. We have
not been able to detect, in the four poems, one idea or feeling which
was not, or might not have been Roman; while the externals of Roman
life, and the feelings characteristic of Rome and of that particular
age, are reproduced with great felicity, and without being made unduly
predominant over the universal features of human nature and human life.

Independently therefore of their value as poems, these compositions are
a real service rendered to historical literature; and the author has
made this service greater by his prefaces, which will do more than the
work of a hundred dissertations in rendering that true conception of
early Roman history, the irrefragable establishment of which has made
Niebuhr illustrious, familiar to the minds of general readers. This is
no trifling matter, even in relation to present interests, for there is
no estimating the injury which the cause of popular institutions has
suffered, and still suffers from misrepresentations of the early
condition of the Roman and Plebs, and its noble struggles against its
taskmasters. And the study of the manner in which the heroic legends of
early Rome grew up as poetry and gradually became history, has important
bearings on the general laws of historical evidence, and on the many
things which, as philosophy advances, are more and more seen to be
therewith connected. On this subject Mr. Macaulay has not only
presented, in an agreeable form, the results of previous speculation,
but has, though in an entirely unpretending manner, thrown additional
light upon it by his own remarks: as where he shows, by incontestible
instances, that a similar transformation of poetic fiction into history
has taken place on various occasions in modern and sceptical times....

We are more disposed to break a lance with our author on the general
merits of Roman literature, which, by a heresy not new with him, he
sacrifices, in what appears to us a most unfair degree, on the score of
its inferior originality to the Grecian. It is true the Romans had no
Aeschylus nor Sophocles, and but a secondhand Homer, though this last
was not only the most finished but even the most original of imitators.
But where was the Greek model of the noble poem of Lucretius? What,
except the mere idea, did the Georgics borrow from Hesiod? and whoever
thinks of comparing the two poems? Where, in Homer or the Euripides,
will be found the original of the tender and pathetic passages in the
Aeneid, especially the exquisitely told story of Dido? There is no
extraordinary merit in the "Carmen Secculare" as we have it, the only
production of Horace which challenges comparison with Pindar; although
we are not among those who deem Pindar one of the brightest stars in the
Greek heaven. But from whom are the greater part of Horace's _Carmina_
borrowed (they should never be termed Odes), any more than those of
Burns or Beranger, the analogous authors in modern times? and by what
Greek minor poems are they surpassed? We say nothing of Catullus, whom
some competent judges prefer to Horace. Does the lyric, then, or even
the epic poetry of the Romans, deserve no better title than that of "a
hot-house plant, which, in return for assiduous and skilful culture,
yielded only scanty and sickly fruits?" The complete originality and
eminent merit of their satiric poetry, Mr. Macaulay himself
acknowledges. As for prose, we give up Cicero as compared with
Demosthenes, but with no one else; and is Livy less original, or less
admirable, than Herodotus? Tacitus may have imitated, even to
affectation, the condensation of Thucydides, as Milton imitated the
Greek and Hebrew poets; but was the mind of the one as essentially
original as that of the other? Is the Roman less an unapprochable
master, in his peculiar line, that of sentimental history, than the
Grecian in his? and what Greek historian has written anything similar or
comparable to the sublime peroration of the _Life of Agricola_? The
Latin genius lay not in speculation, and the Romans did undoubtedly
borrow all their philosophical principles from the Greeks. Their
originality _there_, as is well said by a remarkable writer in the most
remarkable of his works,[1] consisted in taking these principles _au
serieux_. They _did_ what the others talked about. Zeno, indeed, was not
a Roman; but Poetus Thrasea and Marcus Antoninus were.

[1] Mr. Maurice, in the essay on the history of moral speculation and
culture, which forms the article "Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy"
in the _Encyclopaedia Metropolitana._


[From _London and Westminster Review_ October, 1839]

All countries at all times require, and England perhaps at the present
not less than others, men having a faith at once distinct and large, the
expression of what is best in their times, and having also the courage
to proclaim it, and take their stand upon it....

But in our day such visionaries are less and less possible. The spread
of shallow but clear knowledge, like the cold snow-water issuing from
the glaciers, daily chills and disenchants the hearts of millions once
credulous. Daily, therefore, does it become more probable that millions
will follow in the track of those who are called their betters. Thus
will they find in the world nothing but an epicurean stye, to be
managed, with less dirt and better food, by patent steam-machinery; but
still a place for swine, though the swine may be washed, and their
victuals more equally divided.

Is it not then strange that in such a world, in such a country, and
among those light-hearted Edinburgh Reviewers, a man should rise and
proclaim a creed; not a new and more ingenious form of words, but a
truth to be embraced with the whole heart, and in which the heart shall
find as he has found, strength for all combats, and consolation, though
stern not festal, under all sorrows? Amid the masses of English printing
sent forth every day, part designed for the most trivial entertainment,
part black with the narrowest and most lifeless sectarian dogmatism,
part, and perhaps the best, exhibiting only facts and theories in
physical science, and part filled with the vulgarest economical projects
and details, which would turn all life into a process of cookery,
culinary, political, or sentimental--how few writings are there that
contain like these a distinct doctrine as to the position and calling of
man, capable of affording nourishment to the heart, and support to the
will, and in harmony at the same time with the social state of the
world, and with the most enlarged and brightened insight which human
wisdom has yet attained to?

We have been so little prepared to look for such an appearance that it
is difficult for us to realize the conception of a genuine coherent view
of life thus presented to us in a book of our day, which shall be
neither a slight compendium of a few moral truisms, flavoured with a few
immoral refinements and paradoxes, such as constitute the floating
ethics and religion of the time; nor a fierce and gloomy distortion of
some eternal idea torn from its pure sphere of celestial light to be
raved about by the ignorant whom it has half-enlightened, and half made
frantic. But here, in our judgment--that is, in the judgment of one man
who speaks considerately what he fixedly believes--we have the thought
of a wide, and above all, of a deep soul, which has expressed in fitting
words, the fruits of patient reflection, of piercing observation, of
knowledge many-sided and conscientious, of devoutest awe and
faithfullest love....

The clearness of the eye to see whatever is permanent and substantial,
and the fervour and strength of heart to love it as the sole good of
life, are, in our view, Mr. Carlyle's pre-eminent characteristics, as
those of every man entitled to the fame of the most generous order of
greatness. Not to paint the good which he sees and loves, or see it
painted, and enjoy the sight; not to understand it, and exult in the
knowledge of it; but to take his position upon it, and for it alone to
breathe, to move, to fight, to mourn, and die--this is the destination
which he has chosen for himself. His avowal of it and exhortation to do
the like is the object of all his writings. And, reasonably considered,
it is no small service to which he is thus bound. For the real, the
germinal truth of nature, is not a dead series of physical phenomena
into the like of which all phenomena are cunningly to be explained away.
This pulseless, rigid iron frame-work, on which the soft soil of human
life is placed, and above which its aerial flowers and foliage rise,
does not pass with him for the essential and innermost principle of all.
It is rather that which, being itself poorest, the poorest of faculties
can apprehend. As physical mechanism, it is that which is most palpable,
and undeniable by any, because it is that which lies nearest the
nothingness whence it has been hardly rescued, and is therefore, most
akin to minds in whose meanness of structure or culture, even human
existence might seem scarce better than nothingness. He knows, few in
our nation so well, that of a world of new machinery, the highest king
and priest would be the neatest clockwork figure. And in such a world, a
being feeling ever towards or somewhat beyond what he can weigh and
measure, and looking up to find above himself that which is too high for
him to understand, would be an anomaly as lawless and incredible as the
wildest fabled monster, the Minotaur or the Chimera, the Titan--the
Sphynx itself--nay a more delirious riddle than any that in dreams it
proposes to us.

On the other hand, neither is for him the solid, abiding, inexhaustible,
that merely which is received as such by the popular acquiescence. It
must needs be a truth which the spirit, cleared and strengthened by
manifold knowledge and experience, and above all by steadfast endeavour,
can rest in and say: This I mean; not because it is told me, were my
informants all the schools of Rabbins or a hierarchy of angels; but
because I have looked into it, tried it, found it healthful and
sufficient, and thus know that it will stand the stress of life. We may
be right or wrong in our estimate of Mr. Carlyle, but we cannot be
mistaken in supposing that on this kind of anvil have all truly great
men been fashioned, and of metal thus honest and enduring.

Further it must be said that, true as is his devotion to the truth, so
flaming and cordial is his hatred of the false, in whatever shapes and
names delusions may show themselves. Affectations, quackeries, tricks,
frauds, swindlings, commercial or literary, baseless speculations, loud
ear-catching rhetoric, melodramatic sentiment, moral drawlings and
hyperboles, religious cant, clever political shifts, and conscious or
half-conscious fallacies, all in his view, come under the same hangman's
rubric,--proceed from the same offal heart. However plausible, popular,
and successful, however dignified by golden and purple names, they are
lies against ourselves, against whatever in us is not altogether
reprobate and infernal. His great argument, theme of his song, spirit of
his language, lies in this, that there is a work for man worth doing,
which is to be done with the whole of his heart, not the half or any
other fraction. Therefore, if any reserve be made, any corner kept for
something unconnected with this true work and sincere purpose, the whole
is thereby vitiated and accurst. So far as his arm reaches he is undoing
whatever in nature is holy: ruining whatever is the real creation of the
great worker of all. This truth of purpose is to the soul what life is
to the body of man; that which unites and organises the mass, keeping
all the parts in due proportion and concord, and restraining them from
sudden corruption into worthless dust....

Anyone who should take up the writings themselves with no other
preconception than that which we have attempted to give him, would
doubtless be startled at the strangeness of the style which prevails
more or less throughout them. They are not careless, headstrong,
passionate, confused; but they bear a constant look of oddity which
seems at first mere wilful wantonness, and which we only afterwards find
to be the discriminating stamp of original and strong feeling. This--
this feeling, rooted in profound susceptibility and matured into a
central vivifying power--is, we should say, the author's most
extraordinary distinction. For it is not the ostentatious, impetuous
sentiment, which calls, a sufficient audience being by, on heaven and
earth for sympathy, and would wish for that of Tartarus too, as an
additional acknowledgment of its sublime sincerity. Here, on the
contrary, the feeling is not that which the man is proud of, and would
fain exhibit. He shrinks from the profession, nay from the sense of it;
even painfully labours to trifle, and be at ease, that he may hide from
others, and may for himself forget, the thorny fagot load of his own
emotions. Yet make them known he must; for they are not those of some
private personal grief or passion, from which he may escape into
literature or science, and leave his pains and longings behind him; but
his sensibilities are burning with a slow, immense fire, kindled by the
very theme on which he writes, and compelling him to write. The
greatness and weakness, the infinite hopes and unquenchable reality of
human life; the aching pressure of the body and its wants on the myriads
of millions in whom celestial force sleeps and dreams of hell; the sight
of follies, frauds, cruelties, and lascivious luxury in the midst of a
race then endowed and thus suffering; and the unconquerable will and
thought with which the few work out the highest calling of all men;
these it is, and not self-indulging distresses and theatrical
aspirations of his own, which boil and storm within. Therefore does he
speak with the solid strength and energy, which gives so serious and
rugged an aspect to his sentences; while, perpetually checking himself,
from a wise man's shame at excessive emotion, and from the knowledge
that others will but half sympathise with him, he adds to his most
weighty utterances a turn of irony which relieves the excessive
strain.... Add to this, that Mr. Carlyle's resolution to convey his
meaning at all hazards, makes him seize the most effectual and sudden
words in spite of usage and fashionable taste; and that, therefore, when
he can get a brighter tint, a more expressive form, by means of some
strange--we must call it--Carlylism; English, Scotch, German, Greek,
Latin, French, Technical, Slang, American, or Lunar, or altogether
superlunar, transcendental, and drawn from the eternal nowhere--he uses
it with a courage which might blast an academy of lexicographers into a
Hades, void even of vocables....

Here must end our remarks on the admirable writings of a great man.
Could it be hoped, that by what has been said, any readers, and
especially any thinkers, will be led to give them the attention they
require, but also deserve, in this there would be ample repayment, even
were there not at all events a higher reward, for the labour, which is
not a slight one, of forming and assorting distinct opinions on a matter
so singular and so complex. For few bonds that unite human beings are
purer or happier than a common understanding and reverence of what is
truly wise and beautiful. This also is religion. Standing at the
threshold of these works, we may imitate the saying of the old
philosopher to the friends who visited him on their return from the
temples--Let us enter, for here too are gods.




There can be no occasion to enlarge upon this generous tribute of one of
the greatest of our Victorian novelists to another. Considering how
inevitably the critic is driven to compare these two, if not to set one
up against the other, we can experience no feeling but pleasure and
pride in humanity, before the evidence of their mutual appreciation.
_The Cornhill_ "In Memoriam" article of Charles Dickens may well stand
beside this burst of glowing enthusiasm.

We have retained, by way of illustrating our general subject, a
paragraph from the earlier part of the article, in which Thackeray falls
foul of reviewers in general, for characteristics from which he himself
was singularly free.



The brilliant versatility of Kingsley's work will prepare us, in some
measure, for his virile impatience, here revealed, with elements in the
romantic revival of poetry among his contemporaries, which were an
offence to his "muscular" morality. "There are certain qualities which
may be called moral in all his work, evincing a literary faculty of the
highest kind. Always instructive without being exactly instructed,
always argumentative without being very guarded in argument, he yet
displays a marvellously contagious enthusiasm for his own creeds, and
surrounds his own ideals with an atmosphere of passionate nobility. We
forgive the partisanship for the sincerity of the partisan."

* * * * *

Alexander Smith (1830-1867) was a poet and essayist of some distinction;
though A. H. Clough also criticises his exclusive devotion to the
"writers of his own immediate time"; and calls him "the latest disciple
of the school of Keats." The volume of essays entitled _Dreamthorp_
"entitles him to a place among the best writers of English prose."


There is a similarity, and a difference, between this summary of
Christmas literature and Thackeray's. The personal criticism lacks his
special geniality, revealing rather a tone which would have perfectly
suited Blackwood or the _Quarterly_. Lytton was a favourite subject of
abuse to his contemporaries.


[From "A Box of Novels," _Fraser's Magazine_, February, 1844]

MR. TITMARSH, in Switzerland, to MR. YORKE

...This introduction, then, will have prepared you for an exceedingly
humane and laudatory notice of the packet of works which you were good
enough to send me, and which, though they doubtless contain a great deal
that the critic would not write (from the extreme delicacy of his taste
and the vast range of his learning) also contain, between ourselves, a
great deal that the critic _could_ not write if he would ever so; and
this is a truth which critics are sometimes apt to forget in their
judgments of works of fiction. As a rustical boy, hired at twopence a
week, may fling stones at the blackbirds and drive them off and possibly
hit one or two, yet if he get into the hedge and begin to sing, he will
make a wretched business of the music, and Labin and Colin and the
dullest swains of the village will laugh egregiously at his folly; so
the critic employed to assault the poet.... But the rest of the simile
is obvious, and will be apprehended at once by a person of your

The fact is, that the blackbirds of letters--the harmless, kind singing
creatures who line the hedge-sides and chirp and twitter as nature bade
them (they can no more help singing, these poets, than a flower can help
smelling sweet), have been treated much too ruthlessly by the watch-boys
of the press, who have a love for flinging stones at the little
innocents, and pretend that it is their duty, and that every wren or
sparrow is likely to destroy a whole field of wheat, or to turn out a
monstrous bird of prey. Leave we these vain sports and savage pastimes
of youth, and turn we to the benevolent philosophy of maturer age.

* * * * *

And now there is but one book left in the box, the smallest one, but oh!
how much the best of all. It is the work of the master of all the
English humourists now alive; the young man who came and took his place
calmly at the head of the whole tribe, and who has kept it. Think of all
we owe Mr. Dickens since these half-dozen years, the store of happy
hours that he has made us pass, the kindly and pleasant companions whom
he has introduced to us, the harmless laughter, the generous wit, the
frank, manly, human love which he has taught us to feel! Every month of
these years has brought us some kind token from this delightful genius.
His books may have lost in art, perhaps, but could we afford to wait?
Since the days when the _Spectator_ was produced by a man of kindred
mind and temper, what books have appeared that have taken so
affectionate a hold of the English public as these? They have made
millions of rich and poor happy; they might have been locked up for nine
years, doubtless, and pruned here and there, and improved (which I
doubt) but where would have been the reader's benefit all this time,
while the author was elaborating his performance? Would the
communication between the writer and the public have been what it is
now--something continual, confidential, something like personal
affection? I do not know whether these stories are written for future
ages; many sage critics doubt on this head. There are always such
conjurors to tell literary fortunes; and, to my certain knowledge, Boz,
according to them, has been sinking regularly these six years. I doubt
about that mysterious writing for futurity which certain big wigs
prescribe. Snarl has a chance, certainly. His works, which have not been
read in this age, _may_ be read in future; but the receipt for that sort
of writing has never as yet been clearly ascertained. Shakespeare did
not write for futurity, he wrote his plays for the same purpose which
inspires the pen of Alfred Bunn, Esquire, viz., to fill his Theatre
Royal. And yet we read Shakespeare now. Le Sage and Fielding wrote for
their public; and through the great Dr. Johnson put his peevish protest
against the fame of the latter, and voted him "a dull dog, sir,--a low
fellow," yet somehow Harry Fielding has survived in spite of the critic,
and Parson Adams is at this minute as real a character, as much loved by
us as the old doctor himself. What a noble, divine power of genius this
is, which, passing from the poet into his reader's soul, mingles with
it, and there engenders, as it were, real creatures; which is as strong
as history, which creates beings that take their place besides nature's
own. All that we know of Don Quixote or Louis XIV we got to know in the
same way--out of a book. I declare I love Sir Roger de Coverley quite as
much as Izaak Walton, and have just as clear a consciousness of the
looks, voice, habit, and manner of being of the one as of the other.

And so with regard to this question of futurity; if any benevolent being
of the present age is imbued with a desire to know what his
great-great-grandchild will think of this or that author--of Mr. Dickens
especially, whose claims to fame have raised the question--the only way to
settle it is by the ordinary historic method. Did not your
great-great-grandfather love and delight in Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?
Have they lost their vitality by their age? Don't they move laughter and
awaken affection now as three hundred years ago? And so with Don Pickwick
and Sancho Weller, if their gentle humours and kindly wit, and hearty
benevolent natures, touch us and convince us, as it were, now, why should
they not exist for our children as well as for us, and make the
twenty-fifth century happy, as they have the nineteenth? Let Snarl console
himself, then, as to the future.

As for the _Christmas Carol_, or any other book of a like nature which
the public takes upon itself to criticise, the individual critic had
quite best hold his peace. One remembers what Buonaparte replied to some
Austrian critics, of much correctness and acumen, who doubted about
acknowledging the French republic. I do not mean that the _Christmas
Carol_ is quite as brilliant or self-evident as the sun at noonday; but
it is so spread over England by this time, that no sceptic, no _Fraser's
Magazine_,--no, not even the godlike and ancient _Quarterly_ itself
(venerable, Saturnian, big-wigged dynasty!) could review it down.
"Unhappy people! deluded race!" One hears the cauliflowered god exclaim,
mournfully shaking the powder out of his ambrosial curls, "What strange
new folly is this? What new deity do you worship? Know ye what ye do?
Know ye that your new idol hath little Latin and less Greek? Know ye
that he has never tasted the birch at Eton, nor trodden the flags of
Carfax, nor paced the academic flats of Trumpington? Know ye that in
mathematics, or logic, this wretched ignoramus is not fit to hold a
candle to a wooden spoon? See ye not how, from describing law humours,
he now, forsooth, will attempt the sublime? Discern ye not his faults of
taste, his deplorable propensity to write blank verse? Come back to your
ancient, venerable, and natural instructors. Leave this new, low and
intoxicating draught at which ye rush, and let us lead you back to the
old wells of classic lore. Come and repose with us there. We are your
gods; we are the ancient oracles, and no mistake. Come listen to us once
more, and we will sing to you the mystic numbers of _as in presenti_
under the arches of the _Pons asinorum_." But the children of the
present generation hear not; for they reply, "Rush to the Strand, and
purchase five thousand more copies of the _Christmas Carol_."

In fact, one might as well detail the plot of the _Merry Wives of
Windsor_ or _Robinson Crusoe_, as recapitulate here the adventures of
Scrooge the miser, and his Christmas conversion. I am not sure that the
allegory is a very complete one, and protest, with the classics, against
the use of blank verse in prose; but here all objections stop. Who can
listen to objections regarding such a book as this? It seems to me a
national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it a personal
kindness. The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither
knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, "God
bless him!" A Scotch philosopher, who nationally does not keep
Christmas, on reading the book, sent out for a turkey, and asked two
friends to dine--this is a fact! Many men were known to sit down after
perusing it, and write off letters to their friends, not about business,
but out of their fulness of heart, and to wish old acquaintances a happy
Christmas. Had the book appeared a fortnight earlier, all the prize
cattle would have been gobbled up in pure love and friendship, Epping
denuded of sausages, and not a turkey left in Norfolk. His royal
highness's fat stock would have fetched unheard of prices, and Alderman
Bannister would have been tired of slaying. But there is a Christmas for
1844 too; the book will be as early then as now, and so let speculators
look out.

As for TINY TIM, there is a certain passage in the book regarding that
young gentleman, about which a man should hardly venture to speak in
print or in public, any more than he would of any other affections of
his private heart. There is not a reader in England but that little
creature will be a bond of union between the author and him; and he will
say of Charles Dickens, as the woman just now, "GOD BLESS HIM!" What a
feeling is this for a writer to be able to inspire, and what a reward to

M. A. T.


[From _Fraser's Magazine_, October, 1853]

_Poems_, by ALEXANDER SMITH. London, Bogue. 1853

On reading this little book, and considering all the exaggerated praise
and exaggerated blame which have been lavished on it, we could not help
falling into many thoughts about the history of English poetry for the
last forty years, and about its future destiny. Great poets, even true
poets, are becoming more and more rare among us. There are those even
who say that we have none; an assertion which, as long as Mr. Tennyson
lives, we shall take the liberty of denying. But, were he, which Heaven
forbid, taken from us, whom have we to succeed him? And he, too, is
rather a poet of the sunset than of the dawn--of the autumn than of the
spring. His gorgeousness is that of the solemn and fading year; not of
its youth, full of hope, freshness, gay and unconscious life. Like some
stately hollyhock or dahlia of this month's gardens, he endures while
all other flowers are dying; but all around is winter--a mild one,
perhaps, wherein a few annuals or pretty field weeds still linger on;
but, like all mild winters, especially prolific in fungi, which, too,
are not without their gaudiness, even their beauty, although bred only
from the decay of higher organisms, the plagiarists of the vegetable

"What matter, after all?" one says to oneself in despair, re-echoing Mr.
Carlyle. "Man was not sent into this world to write poetry. What we want
is truth--what we want is activity. Of the latter we have enough in all
conscience just now. Let the former need be provided for by honest and
righteous history, and as for poets, let the dead bury their dead." ...
And yet, after all, man will write poetry, in spite of Mr. Carlyle: nay,
beings who are not men, but mere forked radishes, will write it. Man is
a poetry-writing animal. Perhaps he was meant to be one. At all events,
he can no more be kept from it than from eating. It is better, with Mr.
Carlyle's leave, to believe that the existence of poetry indicates some
universal human hunger, whether after "the beautiful," or after "fame,"
or after the means of paying butchers' bills, and accepting it as a
necessary evil which must be committed, to see that it be committed as
well, or at least a little ill, as possible. In excuse of which we may
quote Mr. Carlyle against himself, reminding him of a saying in Goethe
once bepraised by him in print,--"we must take care of the beautiful for
the useful will take care of itself."

And never, certainly, since Pope wrote his _Dunciad_, did the beautiful
require more taking care of, or evince less capacity for taking care of
itself, and never, we must add, was less capacity for taking care of it
evinced by its accredited guardians of the press than at this present
time, if the reception given to Mr. Smith's poem is to be taken as a
fair expression of "the public taste."

Now, let it be fairly understood, Mr. Alexander Smith is not the object
of our reproaches: but Mr. Smith's models and flatterers. Against him we
have nothing whatever to say; for him, very much indeed....

What if he has often copied.... He does not more than all schools have
done, copy their own masters.... We by no means agree in the modern
outcry for "originality." ...

As for manner, he does sometimes, in imitating his models, out-Herod
Herod. But why not? If Herod be a worthy king, let him be by all means
out-Heroded, if any man can do it. One cannot have too much of a good
thing. If it be right to bedizen verses with metaphors and similes which
have no reference, either in tone or in subject, to the matter in hand,
let there be as many of them as possible. If a saddle is a proper place
for jewels, then let the seat be paved with diamonds and emeralds, and
Runjeet Singh's harness maker be considered as a lofty artist, for whose
barbaric splendour Mr. Peat and his Melton customers are to forswear
pigskin and severe simplicity--not to say utility, and comfort. If
poetic diction be different in species from plain English, then let us
have it as poetical as possible, as unlike English: as ungrammatical,
abrupt, insolved, transposed, as the clumsiness, carelessness, or
caprice of man can make it. If it be correct to express human thought by

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