Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

noble Edgar; he is a hypocrite to his father, a hypocrite to his brother, and by his hypocrisy towards Gonerill and Regan outwits them both.

We are almost weary of Mr. Hazlitt, and, in truth, he seems to be somewbat tired himself; he has run through his set of phrases, such as, Shakspeare'is caught in the web of his own imagination ;' Northumberland is caught in the web of bis own dilatory policy;' Hamlet • is the prince of philosophical speculators ; Jaques the prince of philosophical idlers:' and is completely at a stand. In what remains he is simply dull. In the Merchant of Venice indeed we have a laboured paradox in defence of the character of Shylock, who, he says, is a half favourite with the philosophical part of the audience ;' but his kindness for the Jew is balanced by his dislike to other persons in the drama. Portia is ' no great favourite' with him; he is not in love with her maid Nerissa ;' and he objects entirely' to a personage of whom we never heard before, the black prince Marocchias. With this piece of blundering ignorance which, with a thousand similar instances of his intimate acquaintance with the poet, clearly prove that his enthusiasm for Shakspeare is all affected, we conclude what we have to say of his folly: it remains to say a few words of his mischief. When he quotes the description of Imogen,

• On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted like the crimson drops

l' the bottom of a cowslip;' he observes there is a moral sense in the proud beauty of this last image. We were at first disposed to think there was something whimsical in this cboice of an epithet, but as we came to know him better we found that he never uses the word moral' in its usual acceptation, but adapts it to his own way of thinking, in which he endeavours to make Shakspeare coincide.

• Shakespear was in one sense the least moral of all writers; for morality (commonly so called) is made up of antipathies; and his talent consisted in sympathy with buman nature, in all its shapes, degrees, depressions, and elevations. The object of the pedantic moralist is to find out the bad in every thing: his was to shew that “there is some soul of goodness in things evil.”—In one sense, Shakespear was no moralist at all : in another, he was the greatest of all moralists. He was a moralist in the same sense in which nature is one.

He taught what he had learnt from her. He shewed the greatest knowledge of humanity with the greatest fellow-feeling for it.'-pp. 322, 323. Mr. Hazlitt's notions of natural morality may be gathered from a passage immediately preceding. We do not see why the philosophical German writer Schlegel should be so severe on those pleasant persons Lucius Pompey and Master Froth as to call them wretches. They appear all mighty comfortable in their occupations, and determined to pursue them “ as the flesh and fortune should serve;"' and, in the same spirit, he praises Pandarus for his • disinterested willingness to serve his friend.'

In one respect Mr. Hazlitt is on very bad terms with our great poet, whose genuine English sentiments are extremely repulsive to his feelings. Shakspeare was a patriot in the old and genuine sense of the word; Mr. Hazlitt is one according to the new nomenclature, in which it signifies one who is not a friend to his country. The speech of John of Gaunt, in praise of England, he allows to be eloquent, but' we should perhaps hardly be disposed to feed the pampered egotism of our countrymen by quoting his description, were it not' (adds this poor cankered creature) that the conclusion of it, wbich looks prophetic, may qualify any improper degree of exultation. The mention of a king or court always throws him into a fit of raving.

It has been said of Shakespear-“ No maid could live near such a man.” It might with as good reason be said—“ No king could live near such a man.” His eye would have penetrated through the ponip of circumstance and the veil of opinion. As it is, he has represented such persons to the life-his plays are in this respect the glass of history -he has done them the same justice as if he had been a privy counsellor all his life, and in each successive reign. Kings ought never to be seen upon the stage. In the abstract, they are very disagreeable characters: it is only while living that they are “ the best of kings.” It is their power, their splendour, it is the apprehension of the personal consequences of their favour or their hatred, that dazzles the imagina-. tion and suspends the judgment of their favourites or their vassals ; but death cancels the bond of allegiance and of interest; and seen as they were, their power and their pretensions look monstrous and ridiculous. 'The charge brought against modern philosophy as inimical to loyalty is unjust, because it might as well be brought against other things. No reader of history can be a lover of kings. We have often wondered. that Henry VIII. as he is drawn by Shakespear, and as we have seen him represented in all the bloated deformity of mind and person, is not hooted from the English stage.'—pp. 241, 242. We need not answer this gabble; Mr. Hazlitt has done it himself. In his remarks upon Coriolanus, which contain the concentrated venom of his malignity, he has libelled our great poet as a friend of arbitrary power, in order that he may introduce an invective against human nature.

Shakespear himself seems to have had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question, perhaps from some feeling of contempt for his own origin; and to have spared no occasion of baiting the rabble.'—p. 69.

Shall we not be dishonouring the gentle Shakspeare by answering such calumny, when every page of his works supplies its refutation? Who has painted with more cordial feelings the tranquil innocence of humble life? Who has furnished more instructive lessons to

the

she great upon the insolence of office'--the oppressors wrong'or the abuses of : brief authority ;' or who has more severely stigmatised those who crook the pregnant hinges of the knee, where thrift may follow fawning.' It is crue he was not actuated by an envious hatred of greatness; he was uot at all likely, had he lived in our time, to be an orator in Spa-fields, or the editor of a seditious Sunday rewspaper; he knew what discord would follow if degree were taken away; and therefore, with the wise and good of every age, he pointed out the injuries that must arise to society from a turbulent rabble instigated to mischief by men not much more enlightened, aud intinitely more worthless than themselves.

But it was not Shakspeare alone that was disposed to favour arbitrary power; it is the general tendency of poetry to encourage such feelings. . The principle of poetry is a very anti-levelling principle.--It shews its head turreited, crownel, and crested. Its front is gilt and bloodstained. Before it “it carries noise, and behind it tears." It has its altars and its victims, sacrifices, human sacrifices. Kings, priests, nobles, are its train-bearers, tyrants and slaves its executioners.-"Caruage is its daughter.”—Poetry is right royal. It puts the individual for the species, the one above the iufiuite many, might before right. A lion hunting a dock of sheep or a herd of wild asses is a more poetical object than they; and we even take part with the lordly beast, because our vanity or some other feeling makes us disposed to place ourselves iu the situation of the strongest party.'-Pp. 70, 71. Nor is this the case with works of fiction only.

• The history of mankind is a romance, a mask, a tragedy, coustructed upon the principles of poetical justice; it is a noble or royal bunt, in which what is sport to the few, is death to the many, and in which the spectators hallow and encourage the strong to set upon the weak, and cry havoc in the chase, though they do not share in the spoil. We may depend upon it that what men delight to read in books, they will put in practice in reality.'--p. 75.

That a lion is considered as a nobler animal than an ass we will readily admit; and if we were to describe a hero routing his foes, we should rather illustrate it by a lion hunting a herd of wild asses than a herd of wild asses hunting a lion. But are these the only topics that afford delight in poetry? Do we read with more pleasure of the ravages of a beast of prey than of the shepherd's pipe upon the mountain? If we look to the history of mankind we shall learn from this new theory of the pleasures of the imagination, that it is not natural for us to sympathise in the distresses of suffering virtue, but that whatever we may pretend, we are, in truth, gratified by the cruelties of Domitiau or Nero. The crimes of revolutionary France were of a still blacker dye; but we cannot recollect that they were heard of with much satisfaction in this country, nor had we the misfortune to know any individual (though we will not take upon us to deny that Mr. Hazlitt may have been of that description) who cried havoc, and enjoyed the atrocities of Robespierre and Carnot.

country,

We should not have condescended to notice the senseless and wicked sophistry of this writer, or to point out to the contempt of the reader his didactic forms' and logical diagrams,' bad we not considered him as one of the representatives of a class of men by whoin literature is more than at any former period disgraced, who are labouring to effect their mischievous purposes non ci sed sæpe cadendo; and therefore conceived that it might not be unprofitable to show how very small a portion of talent and literature was necessary for carrying on the trade of sedition. The few specimens which we have selected of bis ethics and his criticisni are more than sufficient to prove that Mr. Hazliu's knowledge of Shakspeare and the English language is exactly on a par with the purity of his morals and the depth of his understanding.

i

Art. X.-Origin of the Pindaries; preceded by Historical No

tices on the Rise of the different Mahratta States. By an
Officer in the Service of the Honourable East India Company.

London. 1818. 8vo. pp. 172.
THE
THE rise and progress of the Mahratta States have been fully

detailed by us in the course of our critical labour from more elaborate works than the little volume before us, which, though compiled with praiseworthy diligence and accuracy, possesses not sufficient noveliy of research to induce us to resume their history. We pass therefore to a topic of nearly equal importance, of much greater originality, and, perhaps, under existing circumstances, of no secondary consequence either in the struggle afoot or in the future fate of Hindostan.

The Pindaries, or rather Pindarries, are a singular race; singular in their formation, in their habits, in their physical qualities, in their moral attributes, and in their social system. Chance made them a people; plunder and robbery constitute the bands of their mion; cunning and courage are their patents of nobility, and superior talent for intrigue and military skill the sole title to command.

The name of Pindarrie occurs as early as the beginning of the last century in the Indian annals; several bands of these freebooters are mentioned by Ferishta as having followed the Mahrattas in their early wars in Hindostan, and fought against Zoolfeccar Khan, and the other generals of Aurengzebe. One of their chiefs, Hool Sewar, commanded 15,0 0 horse in the battle of Paniput, and under him they assumed a more regular organization. They were divided

[ocr errors]

into dhurrahs, or tribes, commanded by sirdars; natives of every country were promiscuously enrolled in their community, and he was welcomed as a worthy citizen who to a stout heart added a horse to carry him on his foray, and a sword to levy contributions. They are, however, all of the Moslem persuasion, and the other castes whom they admit to their association are distinguished by the name of Ogirru, or strangers, while they address each other by the appellation of Soru ey,'(brother.) At first, probably, they were less national; but as they acquired wealth and renown in the Mahratta contests, the vanity, natural to man, induced even these banditti to pride theinselves on being what they were, and therefore to draw a line between themselves, plunderers by descent through several generations, and their accessaries, who could only boast of circumstance, and not of lineage, to entitle them to the latrociniary honour. In their history we find the names of Heeroo and Burran mentioned as leaders of considerable note, and also Dost Mahummud and Ryan Khan the sons of the former. Their dignities are generally ephemeral, and genius and enterprize, often in a very few years, raise a person from obscurity to the highest consideration.

In the rapidity of their movements, their endurance of fatigue, their attachment to their horses, their want of discipline, and their predatory mode of warfare, the Pindarries strikingly resemble the least civilized of the Cossacks. Their number is stated to amount to between thirty and forty thousand; but in a community liable to such fluctuations it is not easy to form any very accurate idea of their real strength. A year of plenty reconciles many to peaceful habits, and a season of scarcity multiplies the horde of freebooters beyoud the powers of common calculation. But whatever may be their force they chiefly inhabit the country north of the Nerbuddah, round Ninibawar; Kantapore, Goonass, Beresha, and part of the Bilsa and Bopaul territory. Unless when united on an incursion, they live together in societies of one or two hundred, which, as is the case in most irregular combinations, are governed by him who possesses tbe greatest personal influence. These chiefs are called . Mhorludar' or Thokdar,' from 'mhorla' or 'thok,' the name of the party, and when several of these are united the aggregate body is called toll; all detached parties are called .buzzucks; the main body.lubbur,' and the leader or principal commander, lubbreca.'

The lubbreea has no hereditary claim to pre-eminence, but owes his power entirely to popular opinion; military talent is the only passport to this station. Thus raised, the obedience of the subject is not much to be relied upon. Men wild and independent are not to be restrained within bounds by voluntary submission; and as the chief can neither punish disobedience, nor compel a due regard to VOL. XVIII. NO, XXXVI.

liis

GG

« AnteriorContinua »