« AnteriorContinua »
this personal plea, had we not been provoked by a strain of querulous discontent, neither worthy of the author's years, of his philosophy, nor of his real goodness of heart. We have, for example, the following doleful lamentation over the praise and the pudding, which, he alleges, have been gobbled up by his contemporaries.
“ If, in the course of my literary labours, I had been less studious to adhere to nature and simplicity, I am perfectly convinced I should have stood higher in estimation with the purchasers of copyrights, and probably been read and patronised by my contemporaries in the proportion of ten to one. To acquire a popularity of name, which might set the speculating publishers upon out-bidding one another for an embryo work (perhaps in meditation only) seems to be as proud and enviable a pre-eminence as human genius can arrive at: but if that pre-eminence has been acquired by a fashion of writing, that luckily falls in with the prevailing taste for the romantic and undatural, that writer, whoever he may be, has only made his advantage of the present hour, and forfeited his claim upon the time to come : having paid this tribute to popularity, he certainly may enjoy the profits of deception, and take his chance for being marked out by posterity (whenever a true taste for nature shall revive) as the misleader and impostor of the age he lived in.
“ The circulation of a work is propagated by the cry of the many; its perpetuity is established by the fiat of the few. If we have no concern for our good name after we have left this world, how do we greatly differ from the robber and the assassin ?
-But this is nothing but an old man's prattle. Nobody regards it-We will return to our history.”— Vol. ii. p. 176.
By our troth, Mr Cumberland, these be very bitter words. We are no defenders of ghost-seeing and diablerie.---That mode of exciting interest ought to be despised as too obvious and too much in vulgar use; but, when the appeal is made to nature, we must recollect that there are incredibilities in the moral, as well as physical, world. Whole nations respect for
have believed in demons and witches ; but who can believe that such a caricatura as Robert de Lancaster ever existed out of the precincts of Bedlam ?- There is no one that has not, at some period of his life, felt interested in a ghost-story: but it is impossible to sympathize with a character who pins his faith to figments as gross as if in his
cheese he had conceived the moon to be composed of that savoury edible. Mr Cumberland's assumed contempt of public applause we cannot but consider as an unworthy affectation. In fact, few men have shown more eagerness to engross the public favour, of which he now grudges his contemporaries their slight and transitory share. His papers have come flying abroad on the wings of the hawkers. He has written comedies at which we have oried, and tragedies at which we have laughed: he has composed indecent novels and religious epics. He has pandered to the public lust for personal anecdote, by writing his own life, and the private history of his acquaintances.
“ At length he took his muse and dipt her
Sternhold himself he out-Sternbolded." Popularity we own to be a frail nymph, and far too free of her favours; but we cannot see her lashed by an author, who has strained every nerve to gain a share of them, without recollecting the exclamation of Lear:
" Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand !
Neither can we offer Mr Cumberland much consolation on the other topic of his complaint. He seems to think of this predilection of the public as Trinculo did of losing his bottle in the pool, and grows doubly indignant at the pipe and tabor of the deluding Demonologist-" There is not only dishonour in it, but an infinite loss-yet this is your innocent goblin!” The gentlemen of Paternosterrow we are afraid, notwithstanding Mr Cumberland's diatribe, will continue obstinately to prefer discounting drafts on the present generation, payable at sight, to long-dated bills on posterity, which cannot be accepted till both the drawer and holder have become immortal in every sense of the word.
Upon the whole, we rejoice that an old and valued friend has, at the advanced
of seventysix, strength and spirits to amuse himself and the public with his compositions; and we think it will conduce greatly to both, if he will cease to fret himself because of the success of ballad-singers, ghost-seers, and the young Roscius. If they fourish at present, let him console himself with the transitory quality of their prosperity. We dare not soothe him too much by assenting to the counter-part of his prophecy: for although the hopes of future glory have been the consolation of every bard under immediate neglect, yet experience compels us to confess that they are usually fallacions . Contemporary applanse does not once, perhaps, in an hundred times, ensure that of posterity; but few nues are handed down to immortality, which have not been distinguished in their own generation; and least of all do we anticipate any splendid accession to the posthumous fame of an author, whose talents do not, in the present day, rank him above a dignified and respectable mediocrity.
MATURIN'S FATAL REVENGE.
(Fatal Revenge ; or, the Family of Montorio : a Romance.
By DENNIS JASPER MURPAY.' 3 vols. 8vo. London. 1807.- Quarterly Review, 1810.)
J'APPRENDS d'être vif. Such was the noted answer of a German baron who had alarmed a whole Parisian hotel by leaping over joint-stools in his solitary apartment. This mode of qualifying himself for the lively conversation of the French was probably attended with some fatigne to the worthy Frei-herr's person, and perhaps some damage to his shins; with which we the more readily sympathize, as, in compliance with the hint of several well-meaning friends, we are just taking the
'[Afterwards avowed of the Rev. C. R. Maturio.]
pen after some desperate efforts pour apprendre à étre vif. It was whispered to us, in no unfriendly voice, that we were respectable classical scholars, divines at least as serious as was necessary, tolerable politicians, considering the old-fashioned nature of our principles, and as good philosophers as could be expected of persons obviously trammelled by belief in the tenets which, in compliance with ancient custom, are still delivered once in seven days to those who choose to hear them. It seemed further to be allowed, that we were indifferent good hands at a sarcasm, and displayed some taste for poetry; but still we were not lively—that is, we had none of those light and airy articles which a young lady might read while her hair was papering. To sum up all in one dismal syllable, it was insinuated that we were dull. To prove the futility of the charge, we resolved to extend the sphere of our enquiries; and to review not only the grave and weighty, but the flitting and evanescent productions of the times; for the purpose of giving full scope to our ingenuity, and evincing the vivacity of our talents, so wantonly called in question. The want of proper subjects for the exercise of our powers was the first dilemma. We had no friendly correspondent at the court of Paris who, with a sentimental flourish on the peace which ought to subsist in the republic of letters, though war raged between the respective countries of the sages, might forward, through some kind neutral, the last new novel or the latest philosophical discovery of the Institute, and only expect us, in