Imatges de pÓgina
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ART. X.-Contributions to the Edinburgh Review. By FRANCIS JEFFREY, now one of the Judges of the Court of Session in Scotland. 4 vols. London. 1844.

THE name prefixed to these volumes would, at any time within the last forty years, have ensured for them the attention and interest of the public. The author's early celebrity and long-sustained reputation, must have rendered any effort from his pen an event in the republic of letters which a faithful historian would hasten to record. To us, who are just commencing our career of criticism, the present work comes laden with peculiar lessons and recollections; and on these we may be allowed to dwell shortly without apology to our readers. It is a service of honour and duty, as well as of gratification, to introduce our efforts in the cause of sound literature by some notice of this remarkable collection, and to consider what instruction we may derive in our self-imposed labours from the writings of the greatest living master of our art.

Other eminent writers in the Edinburgh Review have already published separately the most celebrated of their contributions. A comparison of those now before us with the essays of contemporary critics, naturally suggests itself as the most appropriate test we could use, for estimating accurately their peculiar merits in the school of composition to which they belong. But however high we may be disposed to rate them in such a contrast, it occurs to us, that it is not in that way, or under a process of discrimination so conducted, that their qualities-their best and highest qualities can be rightly appreciated. They were not written for publication in such a shape; neither were they intended as popular writings, simply suited to catch the taste or excite the enthusiasm of the day. They were all parts of a a great and gradually matured system of criticism; and the object aimed at in by far the greater proportion of the essays before us, was not so much to produce a pleasing, or attractive, or interesting piece of writing, as to enforce great principles of thought-to scourge error, and bigotry, and dulness-to instil into the public mind a just sense of the essential requisites of taste and truth in literature and to disperse and wear away, by constant energy, that crust of false sentiment which obscured and nearly extinguished the genius of this country, at the commencement of the present century.

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