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For the Monthly Magazine. THE PHILOSOPHY OF CONTEMPORARY CRITICISM. No. XV.
Retrospective Review, No. 7.
aIHE last number of the Retrospec. tive Review, appears by no means inferior, either for the interest or the variety of its contents, to any of its predecessors. In the poetical department it is particularly rich. The splendid papers on the poetical literature of Spain, and on the early English drama, are here continued ; and Leonard Lawrence's Arnalte and Lueeuda, Davenport's King John and Matilda, and Colonel R. Lovelace's Lucasta, fill up the measure of its poetical attractions. Nor are the prosaic contents less varied and inviting. Ascham's Toxophilus has almost persuaded ns to convert our grey goose quill to other than literary purposes. Andrew Fletcher was a man after our own heart; and we have no feeling in common with that individual whose breast does not glow with the fervour of a generous indignation at the recital of the oppressions of the English government, and the not less disgraceful dissentions of the divided Welsh, as depicted in the spirited article on the Gwedir History. Added to these, '■ that most perfect piece of ante-biography,"' the life of Benvenuto Cellini, and the prose works of the immortal Dryden, complete the contents of this most entertaining Miscellany.
Mais commenper au commencement. The first article is in prose; La Vita De Benvenuto Cellini. This distinguished artist, the son of an architect and engineer, and one of the eourtmusieiiins of the Roman Pontiff, was born on All-Saint's Day, in the first year of the 16th century, at a period when the irregularities of the human passions were only partially repressed by law, and the angular projections of individual character were not worn down by the influence of correct manners. Notwithstanding the passionate desire of his father that our hero should become the first flute player in the world, he was, to his great delight, released from musical thraldom, at the age of thirteen, and allowed to learn the trade, or rather, as the business then was considered, the profession* of a goldsmith. We regret that we are un
able to follow him through all the varying scenes of his life—his trouble and his joy. Suffice it that he distinguished himself among his contemporaries, at the same time as an artist, a musician, a poet, and a soldier; and having enjoyed the intimacy of popes, cardinals, and sovereign princes—and having experienced the luxuries of a court, and the privations of a dungeon, he died at Paris on the 13th of February, 1570, in the 70th year of his age. We cannot, however, conclude our notice, without expressing our surprise, that, from the ante-biography of an artist, the friend of Michael Angelo, and Giulio Romano, the writer should have been either unable, or unwilling to extract any anecdotes relative to these, his most illustrious contemporaries.
The next article is a paper on the Poetical Literature Op Spain, equally remarkable for the learning, taste, and facility of versification, which so eminently distinguish its reputed author. A brief analysis, such as we could afford, of a subject so extensive and so interesting as this — omitting, too, as of necessity we should be compelled to do, the beautiful poetical illustrations of the author's opinions, would be worse than useless. Instead of raising the curiosity it would excite the disgust of the reader; and we are compelled, however reluctantly, referirig our readers to the original work, to pass on to the consideration of the next article.
The third article is a review of the prose works and dedications of John Dryden; in which the writer endeavours to elevate his author above the established models of the days of Queen Anne. We do not blame this endeavour, however opposed to the " * idols of our theatre," or in other words to the prejudices of our education. Discussion is the only way by which we can reasonably hope to arrive at truth. A blind admiration of the " deeds of days of old," whether literary, scientific, or purely physical, is—we assert it without fear of contradiction—one of the most formidable obstacles in the way of improvement. Yet, although we admit that vixSre fortes ante Agamenona—and although we are ready with the reviewer, to exclaim against the monopoly which Addison exercises, (to the exclusion of some writers, who deserve, perhaps, almost an equal share of the public attention) we cannot so easily acknowledge ourselves converts to his opinion of Dryden's merit.* However, "quot homines, tot sententi<B;" and as we lay no claim to literary infallibility, (in this respect differing from most contemporary critics) we are willing to confess (bat, forming our judgment, as we have done, from the subjecta materia, from the extracts before us, we are (ceeteris paribus,) far more likely to be in error, than a person with the author's complete works upon his table.
* See the Retrospective Review, Vol. 4, * See Lord Bacon's " Novum Organnm," p. 4. Lib. I. sec. 2.
Monthly Mao. No. 360. 2 P deserve,
Article fourth, presents an account, with a few extracts, from "A small Treatise betwixt Arnalte And LuCENDA;" a little tract, whose principal, if not only merit, is its extreme rarity. It may perhaps be necessary to throw a sop to readers of all classes; and the" wandering vice-president of the Roxburghers"t (a constant reader by the way, and it is not. improbable. si fama credis, a contributor to the Retrospective) from whose singular tome we made such copious extracts in our last supplement, will probably set more value by this, than by the other more entertaining and more popular articles. A few spirited lines occur, and only a few; and these have been transplanted into the pages of the Review.
The subject of the fifth article is the "Schole Of Shootinge," a production of that delightful author, Roger Af chain; the tutor of Queen Elizabeth and of Lady Jane Grey, and the friend of Lord Burleigh, Lord Walsingham, and all, or nearly all, the illustrious characters of that interesting period. He was one of the first founders of a true English style of prose composition, and one of the most respectable and useful of our scholars. He was amongst the first to reject the use of foreign words and idioms; a fashion, which in the reign of Henry the Eighth had become very prevalent; so that the authors of that day, by " usinge straunge wordes, as Latine, Frenche, and Italian, did make all the thinges darlce and harde." But Ascham's mind was too patriotic to thiuk that his native tongue could be improved by this unnatural admixture of foreign phrases; for, as he expressed it, "if you put
* His excellence is well and elegantly characterized in a beautiful passage, p. 55,
t Rev. T. F. Dibdin, see his Tour.
malvesye and sacke, redde wyne and white, ale and beere, and al into one pot, you shall make adrinke not easie to be knowen nor yet holsome for the bodye." As a scholar he was acute, learned, and laborious; attached to literature from his earliest years, pursuing it with honour to himself, and with benefit to posterity, to the termi nation of his life.
There are many books, both in prose and poetry, which cannot be considered as worth reprinting, but which yet contain much that is worth preservation, which are not likely to be read, but the reading of which would be very profitable. Of this class—a class in a particular manner deserving (he attention of a Retrospective Reviewer, whom we would have
More modoque Grata carpentem Thyma per laborem Plurimum.
is the Tragedy Op King John And Matilda. This poem is characterized as having its absurdities, and perhaps more than usual share of wildness, and uncouthness; but passages and scenes occur, which the Reviewer has been careful to extract, of great beauty; passages well worthy the attention of the reader. It is stated in the dedication (o have passed the stage with general applause, though, as Andrew Pennycuicke, the publisher, states, it does not appear in its ancient and full glory; a piece of information for which the Reviewer gives him implicit credit, and he deserves it, for in truth the text is exceedingly corrupt. The Reviewer has hazarded a few emendations, and expresses his opinion that several defects observable in the metre, are to be ascribed to the said Andrew, and not to the author.
The seventh, one of the finest articles in the present number, is an account of the political works of Andrew Fletcher. We have heard it attributed to Hazlitt; but we think it, though quite as forcible, yet more moderate and (absit invidia) more scholarlike and gentlemanly, than that popular author's usual style of writing. Be he, however, who he will, it is quite evident, as sturdy old Samuel Johnson used to say, that " the dog is a whig;" or, at all events, that he isnotory. Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun, M.P. for the county of Lothian, was a steady and ardent rather than a discreet patriot. He was a steady assertor of the liber-' ties of the people: and as he believed so he openly asserted that ambition was natural to princes, and that princes should have no power but that of doing good. The same principle led him to oppose king Charles, invade king James, and object to the giving of so much power to king William the third, under whom, though one of those illustrious refugees who concerted the glorious revolution of 168S, he would never serve. Fletcher used to say, with Cromwell and Milton, that the trappings of a monarchy and a great aristocracy would patch up a very clever little republic. Being in company one day with the witty Dr. Fiteairn, the conversation turned upon a person of learning, whose history was not distinctly known. "I know the man well," said Fletcher, "he was hereditary Professor of Divinity at Hamburgh.'" "Hereditary Professor," said Pitcairn, with a laugh of astonishment aud derision; "yes, Doctor," replied Fletcher; "hereditaryprofessor of Divinity; what think you of an hereditary king?" This anecdote exhibits the characterof the man to a hair; a character which he supports through the whole of his works.
We have said so much of the preceding articles,that we have hardly left ourselves room to notice the three remaining papers in this number. The LuCasta of that elegant and accomplished Cavalier, Colonel Richard Lovelace, parts 1. and 2, form the subject of the eighth article. The history of his misfortunes, and of his melancholy end, are well known to every one conversant in the poetical history of the times; but the Reviewer indulges the pleasing hope that the accurate Anthony & Wood, has somewhat exaggerated his misery; or, been in some measure misinformed. For his reasons, which appear to us conclusive, we must refer our readers to the article itself, page IIS in note.
The ninth article is an account of the celebrated History of the Gwedir Family by Sir John Wynn, (and not Wynne, as erroneously spelt;) "a gentleman," says the Reviewer, adopting some of his own words, "to whom his country is much beholden; preferring nothing more than the honour thereof, which he carefully raketh out of the ashes of oblivion in searching, quoting, and coppying, to his great chardge, all the ancient records he can come by." This is, indeed, one of the best written, and most interesting articles in the present
number; and, unless we greatly mistake, we recognize in it the classic hand of a favourite contributor. If our conjecture be right, its greatest praise will be to say, that it is little, if at all, inferior to his admired Excursion in the Monthly Magazine. We abstain from any analysis of its soul-stirring contents, not only on account of the great length to which this notice has already been extended, but because the paper before us should be read as a whole, and any abridgement, or the omission of any part of it, would be an injury to the author.
The only remaining article, is, as we have already noticed, a contmuation of the series of Essays upon the English Drama. The author under consideration in this number, is that "pure, elemental wit," the wild and eccentric Christopher Marlow. The Reviewer has successfully vindicated his memory from the charges of atheism and blashemy; but it cannot be denied that e was, at the least, an immoral and a vicious man. But it is of his literary character alone, that we wish here to speak; and without doubt, his was the greatest name on the theatrical roll, before Shakespeare. The extracts from his dramatic works fully justify this encomium; and perhaps were we to select any two scenes as more poetical and more beautiful than the rest, our choice would fall upon that from Edward the Second, at p. 162, and that from Faustus, at p. 169.
Iu conclusion, we have to repeat our sincere commendation, both of the design and execution of this work, and with great confidence recommend it to our readers.
To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine. SIR,
AN article selected from the North American Review, inserted in your last number, and entitled, " Observations on English Universities," is calculated to mislead your readers: you will therefore have the goodness to make use of the following observations in any way you think proper.
It cannot be denied that some of its strictures apply themselves to the university of Oxford; for there men are elected to fellowships and scholarships, solely because they are natives of certain counties, and have been educated at certain schools. The writer of this wishes it therefore particularly to be undertood that the University of Cam
bridge is here alluded to: of the University of Oxford, more than what has been said, he knows not, and he professes to know not any thing. Perhaps it is not wonderful that some of the representations of the N. A. Review, are incorrect: for they preface their offensive (if they may be termed so) remarks, by saying, " if with a limited acquaintance we have a right to judge of the subject" Without questioning their attainments it will be allowed that in the present instance they have been mistaken: and doubtless they would be the first when opportunity might offer to correct their mistakes. Now first, with respect to King's College, Cambridge; it is said if boys can be put on the foundation at one of the great schools at Eton, &c. he becomes a scholar and fellow of certain colleges. Now at Eton, it is the head boy, as he is called, of the first form, who is elected: and let it be asked, is there no difficulty to attain that proud distinction amongst such an assemblage as the scholars of Eton? The youth who thus distinguishes himself gives a positive proof of the strength of his mind and. the stability of his habits: his attainments at the present are of the superior order, and there can be no doubt but the buds of promise will expand and ripen into maturity. It may, therefore, be asserted, in direct opposition to the ingenious author of Espriella's letters, that in every step of his progress he enjoys patronage because he deserves or because he has deserved it. In America, from unavoidable causes, classical literature has not been much attended to: the specimens transmitted to the mother country evince that vigour of intellect (unaccompanied however, by ease or elegance) the certain forerunner of future excellence. The difficulties which successful candidates have experienced, may not therefore be appreciated: it is still to be hoped that these considerations, connected with the expenses which every student necessarily incurs, will shew that the advantages derived are only an equitable recompense. In most of the colleges of Cambridge, the fellowships are restricted to certain counties: but it is to be recollected that no man can be chosen unless his attainments be at least of respectable standard: and should a clever man be unavoidably shut out, he meets with no disappointment, his very education will procure for him a respectable subsistence, both
in the University and out of it. There are many at the present moment who move in the higher circles of life, and who possess a powerful claim upon the public from their having received a regular scholastic education. The university statutes permit none except professional men to derive benefit from fellowships: they are therefore actively engaged in the sublimest and most useful duties of life: the fact of their possessing fellowships, generally (as it ought to do) gives a fresh stimulus to their exertions. The last particular which will be noticed is the eomplaint made, that " as soon as a few years experience have well qualified an individual as an instructor, be is likely to be called away to a living." This observation has certainly been made through ignorance of the scope and intention ofuniversity instruction. Neither of our universities is a school in which the experience (which is here meant) of the lecturer is wanted. He has not to contend with the different dispositions and abilities of his pupils, and laboriously to instil into their minds the elementary branches of science. The patient and laborious occupation of the unfortunate pedagogue, who breathes dry rules into heedless ears, is never expected in a college tutor. College lectures are, generally speaking, examinations: examinations too, of the most rigorous kind: the tutor proposes to his pupils what is to be read: at a subsequent period he pronounces the enunciation; the steps of the profession, and the demonstration are then written or repeated from memory. The minds of his pupils have been already formed; it is true that very seldom some of the more difficult steps may have baffled their skill: the lecturer of course, after the others have retired, is happy to explain it.
I cannot conclude these observations without expressing the gratification I have felt in the perusal of the paper in question; it is the production of a liberal and manly mind; and although some of its notions are untenable, it breathes that candour of disposition ever accompanying genuine talent. Cantabrigiensis.
To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.
I sin, N the valuable table on canal levels in your Number for August, I see that the height of the Avon at Bristol,
is is given exactly the same as that for high water in the Mersey at Runcorn. I should feel particularly obliged to Mr. Galton, if he would state whether those heights are made out from the actual rise and fall of the canals that connect those rivers, or are they only assumed to be the same.
The Arun and Wey Canal appears to offer the means of connecting the canal levels with the sea on the southern coast; but I have not been able to find any information on the rises and falls on that line of canal, except that the Wey at Guildford Bridge is 86$ * feet above the Thames at Ham Haw. Are any of your readers in possession of the rise and fall from Guildford to the sea in Arundel Bay? W. Watson.
Dorset Street, Sept. 1821.
To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine.
IN Professor Buckland's eloquent inaugural lecture, read at Oxford, in May, 1819, on the connection of geology with our religious principles, and which only lately came into my hands, I find a passage that, with all due difference to such high authority, I cannot give my assent to, especially as to me it appears that the expression militates against thetraditions of Moses, without sufficient grounds or any necessity whatever.
It is as follows: "We find the primitive rocks on the greater portion of the earth's surface (that is rocks which contain no remains of animal or vegetable life, or fragments of other rocks) covered by an accumulation of derivative or secondary strata, the great perpendicular thickness of which cannot be estimated at less than two miles.
"These strata do not appear to have been deposited hastily and suddenly; on the contrary the phenomena attendant on them are such as prove that their formation was slotv and gradual; going on during successive periods of tranquillity and great disturbance, and being in some cases entirely produced ftom the destruction of more ancient rocks, which had been consolidated and again broken up by violent convulsions, antecedent to the deposition of these more modern and secondary strata, which are sometimes in great measure derived from their exuviae."
And this opinion is afterwards endeavoured to be supported on the authority
* Rees's Cyclopedia, article canal.
of the hypothesis of Bishop Horsley, who chooses to suppose that the days of the Mosaic creation are not to be strictly construed as employing the same length of time which is at present occupied by a single rotation of our globe, but periods of much longer extent; and also on another hypothesis, which supposes the word beginning, as applied by Moses in the first book of Genesis, to express an undefined period of time, which was antecedent to the last great change that affected the surface of the earth, and to the creation of its present animal and vegetable inhabitants ; during which period, a long series of operations and revolutions may have been going oil.
Now," it appears to me, that neither of these hypotheses is necessary to account for what is related by Moses, and still within the reach of discovery.
It will be recollected, perhaps, that in my Essay on the undoubted marks, of the Noatic flood having been universal, published in the Monthly Magazine for the months of August, September, and October, 1815, I founded my observations on the very evident traces of that destructive inundation which every where at this day present themselves to our enquiring eyes, notwithstanding the veil which vegetation has extended over the bounds of the earth's surface; and that I rested my conviction of the event not only on the present appearance of the surface, and the internal as well as external alteration which must have been effected by the action and re-action of the tides: but on the exactly similar consequences which would ensue were this planet to be again submerged by his decree who created the original material out of which it was formed. Now, as I firmly believe that the whole of the universe, both dense and fluid, composed of matter, owes its origin to chemical laws which the great architect has thought fit to impose on it for his own wise and inscrutable purposes, so I can see nothing improbable in his having produced by his irresistible fiat in Any given space of time, (such as he has allowed us to measure our short existence by) any number of worlds: much less that he should have recomposed ouv globe by that word, which was God, even instantaneously—for the measurement of periods could only be necessary to make us comprehend its duration, not to its primordial existence; and I trust, I shall be justified in saying we