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is, however, particularly valuable, and opens to the view a rich and dazzling mine of unexplored genius. That Arabian learning should be extensively cultivated in England is, perhaps, as little to be desired as expected—though we promise ourselves a favourable reception to an attempt to convey to the English reader, an accurate idea of the spirit of the extraordinary writers who flourished in Spain and other countries, at a time when the rest of Europe was immersed in darkness—criticisms upon whom, accompanied by a selection of translated extracts, will occasionally form a part of our future labours.
The Moorish authors in Spain were succeeded by no unworthy descendants. Spanish literature is far from being familiar, to the generality even of the scholars of this country—Cervantes is highly and duly appreciated a few poets also have met their deserved reputation, but thë animated, clear, and spirited Spanish writers in prose, are comparatively unknown. The beautiful ballads in which the Spaniards perhaps excel even the Scotch and English, as well as the higher departments of poetry, with the prose works of fiction, are likely to afford a number of new and interesting articles to our Critical Miscellany. The literature of Germany, Italy, and France, is in a general way well known to the majority of those who devote their attention to literature; though we have the presumption to hope we shall lead some to a more particular acquaintance with many delightful companions, whom it is intended to introduce to their notice. Some whose names have been bruited abroad, but whose qualities have been mistaken or misunderstood — some who though not pleasing in the whole, and undesirable as inmates and partners of the society of our most retired and sacred hours, yet have their bright passages and inspired moments, the spirit of which may be caught and transferred ;-others again whose merits no kind hand has yet unveiled and presented to the public view, but who
like some sequester'd star
MONTGOMERY. The literature, however, of our own country, the most rich, varied, and comprehensive of any in the world, and replete with more interest to the English reader than any other, will have peculiar claims on our attention—and to it will the pages of the “ Retrospective” be zealously devoted ;—not, however, to that portion of it whose sole recommendation is its antiquity, although we shall avail ourselves of such bibliographical information as will in any manner illustrate the history of art, or the grand, though slow and silent, march of mind. We shall not pay exclusive homage to the mighty in intellect—to those of heavenly mould, who, like the giants of old, are the offspring of the gods and the daughters of men-far from it- many others less imposing, whether in philosophy, poetry, or general literature, from which any thing original in design, profound in thought, beautiful in imagination, or delicate in expression, can be extracted, will be considered worthy of a place in this work. There are few of the productions of mind, as well as of nature, which do not possess some useful
or valuable properties-many ponderous volumes, however tedious as a whole, frequently contain something useful or beautiful, but the road to which is as arid and fatiguing as journeying through the desert of Arabia, to the green spots and fresh waters with which it is sprinkled: to those green spots and fresh waters, we shall shorten the way. In our neglected or forgotten poetry in particular, we are often surprised, in the midst of dull passages or quaint conceits, with fine ideas, lofty flights of imagination, or sparkling expressions, which are too good to be lost, and too much encumbered with worthless matter to be sought for by general readers. In other works, in which the good is so diffused amidst the bad as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to separate the different parts, we shall present our readers with an analysis, which is often more agreeable, and as useful as the originals. We shall also, by a careful selection of particular extracts, not only endeavour to give an idea of the mode of thought and style of individual authors, but to furnish a collection of specimens of the greatest part of our writers, so as to exhibit a bird's-eye view of the rise and progress of our literature. The utility of such a work to the student, in abridging his labour, and thereby increasing his gratification, is obvious—whilst to him who reads only for his own amusement, it will have the attraction of a various literary miscellany, without exacting from him a too rigid attention; and as it is our design to mingle the useful with the agreeable in due proportions, it may not be to him even without its value and instruction.
It may be proper, before we conclude this entretien with our readers, in this the vestibule of our edifice, to
say something of the works which have already appeared, of a nature bearing any resemblance to the present attempt. The design, of the execution of which this number is a specimen, is in our opinion an original oneat least, we can say with certainty, that it is unlike any other that has fallen within the limits of our observation-it owed its birth to no imitation of any other previous publication, but from the mere want of such a work-from a constantly recurring feeling of the absence of a review and critical miscellany, which was not precariously fed upon the literature of the day, but should live securely and competently upon the never-failing income derivable from the treasures which men of genius, in all countries, have been long creating and accumulating for our use.
The lovers of old English literature are considerably indebted to the bibliographical works of Sir Egerton Brydges, who combines the two apparently inconsistent characters of a bibliographer and a man of taste and genius, who in a publication, far the greater part of which is mere compilation and transcription, has contrived to interest the reader in his own habits and feelings—and who through the mist of black-letter, dates, title-pages, and colophons, clearly shines an amiable man and elegant writer. His 6 Censura Literaria,” which at first sight might be supposed to bear a near resemblance to the “ Retrospective,” is however essentially different, though many of the articles taken separately are a good deal on the same plan. The “ Censura” was never intended, or at least very ill calculated, to become a favourite with the public had the number of copies printed, which was very limited, been
more extensive, the nature of its contents must have prevented it from ever becoming generally read-it being almost entirely adapted to the purposes of the curious book-collector,or literary antiquary. It has, however, had and always will have, its use—its collection of titlepages, its discussions on the age of the old writers, its bibliographical notices, and its quotations, which though not often selected for their beauty, are frequently introduced, all have their value, and confer important advantages on the student of English literature. Although we should be sorry to lose the original productions of Sir Egerton's own pen, yet we cannot but lament the striking inconsistency of introducing his own literary papers and poetry, together with obituaries and biographies of contemporary writers, into a publication whose avowed object was to recal the taste of the public from modern trash to ancient treasures.*
Of the “ British Librarian" of Oldys, only one volume was published. It appeared monthly, and met, it is said, with a most favourable reception. The plan of this work is more similar to ours, than that of any other, though still very different. The object of the British Librarian was to give an abstract, rather than a critical account, of the work which it notices, while the articles of the “ Retrospective" will consist of both, sometimes jointly and sometimes separately—the books that chiefly attracted his notice, were valuable works in their respective departments, which ought to be read,
* The title of the “ Censura” is as follows–Censura Literaria, containing titles, abstracts, and opinions of old English books, with original disquisitions, articles of biography, and other literary antiquities.