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want a proper
and the very French have thought fit to Germanize, and our American brethren have written little but novels and verses, and Sir Humphry Davy has been dividing his time between coal-mines and fairy-land, (no very remote regions ;) and the shop itself and the
Corn Laws have given us a poet, and Mr. Crabbe has been versifying the very Parish Registers; and last, not least, the Utilitarians themselves are poetical ! Dr. Bowring is not satisfied unless we hear of the poetry of the “ Maggyars ;” and if
you Bacchanalian uproar in a song, you must go to the author of “ Headlong Hall,” who will not advance utility itself, unless it be jovial. It is a moot point which he admires most, Bentham or Rossini.
The truth is, that if the literature of the age reminds us in any respect of the mechanical, it is in a certain irregularity and random thinking, and at the same time a want of animal spirits. There is something in it both of the turbulence and the melancholy of the manufactories, and it is traceable to the same causes, mixed with some portion of what is not exactly a passion for truth and simplicity; to wit, those which have made England itself the melancholy bankrupt of the wars of Europe. The poor have a right to complain ; but if others have their collateral grievances, and must complain too, it would be better if they would handsomely merge them into that commoner stock, and thus mourn to some purpose. A man, who enjoys any of the reliefs of literature, and who sees what a beautiful world this is, and how all might enjoy it, if all would try for all, should be ashamed, however distressed or struggling, to mourn openly for himself. General endeavour, animated by particular, is the only thing at last that will do away individual trouble ; and it is a pity that the comic philosopher mentioned at the close of my last paragraph, and the brilliant minstrel of Erin, who are almost the only writers whose animal spirits come out in strong relief from the general sombreness of our literature, cannot strike a little more vivacity into the blood of their countrymen, and help them to feel the value of it in proportion to the necessity for effort. It would enable “us youth,” who mix up something of the jovial with our very melancholy, to come in with a better grace under the shadow of their wing. Let us hope that as effort is unavoidable, cheerfulness will come with it. At present, we have become thinking enough to grow more tolerant, even towards those who hold pleasant teaching to be better than painful; but our determination, nevertheless, to be “all unhappy together,” is remarkable. The loudest and most ostentatious of the lively do but bluster, and even declare it an ostentation ; the most successful betray the most melancholy opinions; the very happiest try hard at a misgiving. Poets, novelists, critics, fine gentlemen, ladies, magazine-writers, annualists—all are in one common story of sorrowfulness, over all sorts of things that have surely been sufficiently sorrowed over, and tell us of little else but the vanity of their hopes and the error of their ways. Rich and poor, old and young, book-writers, and stanza-writers, the necessitous and the easy, all are alike “melancholy and wise," and give us to understand that they shall consider it an impertinence and a proof of a shallow understanding, if we offer to comfort them. The ladies in particular, not having the fear of dullness and calumny before their eyes, make such a point of expatiating on the sad things they have become acquainted with, on the blighting effects of “ guilt,” the lost happiness of their childhood, the peace which they must “never hope for more,” &c., that were it not for the very innocence of the lamentation, we should wonder that the parishofficers had not taken them all up, and brought them before the magistrate. However, out of all this dissatisfaction it is to be hoped there will come advance
meanwhile, for his share of the grievance, is, that these fair mourners are so very clever, and look so well in their black, and afford him so many bewitching glimpses of their taste for felicity, that their refusal to be consoled becomes doubly hard upon his sympathy.
Alas! (to borrow their style of lamentation when it is most used, namely, when there is least ground for it,) even “ gossiping" must have an end. I must terminate this long preface with again reminding the reader of its exordium, and with begging him to construe me, not as arrogating a right to be considered exemplary on any point of authorship of which it has spoken, nor as challenging a comparison with any person alluded to, but only as a writer who is “nothing if not social,” and who would willingly read other men's prefaces, if they were twice as long, and does read them.
I have one thing more, however, to allude to, but it is very fit that I should do it, and will be a still more becoming conclusion to this preface, which would not have been written but on the strength of it. It is to the subscription, by which this volume has been enabled to appear in its present shape. I was thinking of making a selection of my verses, in order to give them a chance of surviving me, at the moment when a kind friend came upon me with the project. There were reasons why I did not dare to say nay to him ; and the mode of publication was reconciled to my self-love by many flattering recollections. To all the persons concerned in bringing it out, my friend in particular, and the publisher who has shewn himself a friend, and the printers who have taken such pains with it, and have indulged me in my “brackets,” and other interferences with the sightliness of their page, I return my best thanks. I dare not say much to the subscribers in general, lest in proportion as I seemed to make my book of no value, I should deprive all parties of a grace. It is impossible not to feel a strong moment of confidence and self-complacency (however it may give way, the next, to a sense of their good-nature,) when a set of names, comprising almost the flower of existing literature, have not hesitated to give my pretensions, as a writer, the ornament of their recognition. Of opinions, I say nothing ; except that it is an additional and delightful proof of the growth of one of the best of all opinions ; namely, the right of their independence. I can truly say, that I have seldom felt greater pleasure, not only on my own account, but on that of my species, when I saw some of the names that came into the list. I will not enter into more particular reasons why, lest