Imatges de pàgina
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might be sung to advantage at a charity dinner when the subscription books were opened, provided a few bumper toasts had previously circulated.

“Let thy cash buy the blessing and pray'r of the poor,
And let them intercede when death comes to thy door;
They perhaps may appease that importunate power,
When thy coffers can't buy the reprieve of an hour.
“ Foolish man, don't you know every grain of your gold
May give food to the hungry and warmth to the cold,
A purchase in this world shall soon pass away,
But a treasure in Heaven will never decay.”_&c. &c.

Of the skill exhibited in conducting the incidents, we cannot speak with much applause. The black and flagitious villany of Owen is without any adequate motive, and is, therefore, inartificial and revolting. Besides, John and he squabble and affront and threaten each other through the whole book, without coming to any personal issue. They are constantly levelling their pistols, and alarming our nerves with the apprehension that they will go off at half-cock. We have, however, in this, as in all Mr Cumberland's novels, the pleasing feeling that virtue goes on from triumph to triumph, and that vice is baffled in its schemes, even by their own baseness and atrocity. There is, we think, no attempt at peculiarity of character, unless in the outline of the grandfather, whose extravagance is neither original nor consistent. Mr Cumberland assures us that he has turned over many volumes to supply Robert de Lancaster with the absurd hobby-horsical erudition diffused through his conversation. No one will dispute Mr Cumberland's learning, but the allusions to the classics might have been taken from any ordinary work on antiquities; and to black letter lore, he makes no pretence, almost all his hero's references being to imaginary authors, and the quotations devised for the nonce by Mr Cumberland himself. This is the more unpardonable, as a display of ancient Welsh manners, and appropriate allusions to the history, legends and traditions of Gyneth, Prestatyn, and Deheubarth, would have given his hero's character the air, if not the substance, of originality. The insertion of vague gibberish is a wretched substitute. Had Ritson been alive he might have rued his rash intrusion on this sacred ground. The invention (even in jest) of suppositious authorities and quotations, would certainly have brought down castigation under some quaint and newly furbished title, which had already served to introduce the satire of Nash, Harvey, or Martin Marprelate, such as “ Pap with a hatchet, or a Fig for my Grannum ;” or, “ A very merrie and pithie Comedie, intituled, The longer thou livest the more Fool thou art."

Mr Cumberland has made an affecting apology for the imperfections of his novel, by calling upon us to consider his long services and advanced age. It is perhaps a harsh answer,

that
every

work must be judged of by its internal merit, whether composed like that of Lipsius, upon the day in which he was born, or, like the last tragedy of Sophocles, upon

the

very verge of human existence. We should, therefore, have listened more favourably to 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 unnatural, 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 itWe 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

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 respect for green 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 cried, 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
Full in the middle of the Scripture :
What wonders there the man grown old did,

Sternhold himself he out-Sternholded." 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 !
Why dost thou lash that whore ?-Strip thine own back ;
Thou hotly. lust'st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp'st her.”

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

age

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 flourish 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 fallacious. Contemporary applause does not once, perhaps, in an hundred times, ensure that of posterity; but few names are handed down to immortality, which have not been distinguished in their own generation;

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