Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

task-love. And here we must find space for a specimen of merits of a very different order from those in the extract we have first quoted :

“ I doubt whether this morning twilight of the affections has the same extent of duration and influence in man that it has in woman : the necessity of exertion for attainment has been early inculcated upon him. He knows, that if he would win, he must woo; and his imagination acts chiefly as a stimulus. But a woman's is of a more passive kind : she has no motive for analysing feelings whose future rests not with herself: more imaginative from early sedentary habits, she is content to dream on, and some chance reveals to herself the secret she would never have learnt from self-investigation. Imbued with all the timidity, exalted by all the romance of a first attachment, never did a girl yet calculate on making what is called a conquest of the man she loves. A conquest is the resource of weariness-the consolation of disappointment—a second world of vanity and ambition, sighed for like Alexander's, but not till we have wasted and destroyed the heart's first sweet world of early love.

“ Let Lord Byron say what he will of bread and butter, girlhood is a beautiful season, and its love—its warm, uncalculating, devoted love-so exaggerating in its simplicity—so keen from its freshness—is the very poetry of attachment: after-years have nothing like it. To know that the love which once seemed eternal can have an end, destroys its immortality; and, thus brought to a level with the beginnings and endings—the chances and changes of life's commonplace employments and pleasures-and, alas ! from the sublime to the ridiculous there is but a step-our divinity turns out an idol-we are grown too wise, too worldly, for our former faith—and we laugh at what we wept before; such laughter is more bitter-a thousand times more bitter-than tears !"

It is impossible to read this extract without being struck with the grace of the style—the tenderness and the truth of the thought. Few are the persons who could be successful in two classes of composition so wholly distinct from each other as the extracts we have quoted. The talent to delineate character, and the talent to deduce observation from the portrait, are wholly distinct. In the one lies Scott's genius ; in the other, Godwin's. In the latter faculty, Miss Landon is the more especially felicitous. The whole work abounds with passages of equal eloquence and truth—in aphorisms of pointed originality, in descriptions adorned by a singular richness and of diction. Yet in the reflexions there is sometimes an affectation of imagery, or of novelty, which we do not like, and which we entreat our Author to avoid for the future. For instance :-“ Youth is the French Count, who akes the ck of Sterne for that of Shakspeare; it combines better than it calculates ; its wishes are prophecies of their own fulfilment." Now the discerning reader will perceive at once that the above image is too strained, “ too peregrinate," as Master Holofernes would say; and he will also perceive that the fault is one which no stupid person could commit. It is the fault of youth and fancy—a fault of an order to which true criticism is always lenient. "Another fault to which we should be disposed to be less indulgent, were it not of very unfrequent occurrence, is, that instead of aspiring from the level road of genius, our Author sometimes stoops below it, and sullies her wings among the flippancies of a class of writers so immeasurably beneath her, that she ought only to know them in order to avoid.' We allude to passages against such harmless vulgarities as “ blue coats and brass buttons." All those toilet seve

rities do very well for the “ funkies," as “ Blackwood” expresses himself, but not for the Poetess of “ Erinna.”

The story continues through romance and reality, through love, reflection, criticism, ambition, travel, and death. We will not

abridge it. The reader must fly to the book itself; and if he read it once for the story, he must read it twice for the wit and the eloquence, for the style, the reflections, and the moral. Miss Landon's prose contains the witness of some faculties not visible in her poetry—acute liveliness, and playful, yet deep observation. It contains also the same one fault, which we shall call the want of art, and on which we shall add a word or two of explanation and advice. When an actor first begins to speak in public, let his voice be ever so full and musical, it is ten to one but that it seems weak and overstrained. Why? Because he has not learnt to manage it. The voices that seem the strongest and the richest, are often the least so by nature. Practice and management are the secrets by which the orator or the actor obtains his effects. Exactly so in fictitious composition: it is not the power only, but the knowledge of those places in which the power should be cast, that makes the novelist or the poet thrill and command his readers at his will. For instance:-Godwin is a writer of extraordinary genius; Miss Jane Porter is a writer of mediocre talent: but Miss Porter constantly produces effects which, with all his metaphysical knowledge of the passions, Godwin rarely does. And this is because Miss Porter knows those parts of her story from which a stirring scene can be created. She throws all her powers into that scene, and it becomes at once full of animation and interest. Godwin, on the contrary, passes over such scenes with a moral, or a discussion, and selects the most uninteresting passages wherein to lavish his eloquence. His voice is good, but is pitched in the wrong places. He reasons where he should describe, and when he comes to describe, it would often be better if he had reasoned. Common-place critics would cry, this was the fault of the Author's natural temperament. Not at all so: it is the want of art. He has the power to describe, but he misapplies it. Whenever we moralise where we should paint, we may be equally clever-nay, cleverer in a higher order of merit, but we are not equally successful in gaining our end, and enforcing our moral. Thus the Author of the book before us often prefers to tell us the character of a person than to throw the person into scenes in which the character would be far more instantaneously and vividly bodied forth. This, since she has the two faculties chiefly requisite for creating dramatic effect—a ready power to enter into various character, and a great command and variety of language, is a deficiency, not of nature, but of art. How is that deficiency alone to be remedied? By a deep and earnest study of the Drama! Many of the fine old plays that enrich our literature are shut out from a female library. But Shakspeare is open to all-a library in himself. The more we study Shakspeare, the more we are astonished at his art. Art in him was even more wonderfully displayed than genius. The reflections of Macbeth, beginning with “ Seyton, I'm sick at heart," a great genius only could have written : but it was the deep and learned Art which introduced them exactly in that part of the play

where we now find them. Had Godwin written “ Macbeth,” those reflections, in all probability, would have occurred where, instead of piercing the heart, they would have fatigued the attention. The trick of the boards, the scenic effect, the life of the stage, is what a novelist possessed of Miss Landon's powers should intently study. It will teach her never to narrate, where she can act, her story; and while as thoughtful, as reflective, as analysing as ever, to be so only in the right moment, and with the most effect. We need not say that we should not have given this advice to a writer of moderate genius ; nor should we have given it to a novelist of long standing. It is given as a proof that we form from the present performance great hopes for the future. And now, passing over unmentioned, on the one hand, a few slight inaccuracies and petty blemishes, and on the other, a whole host of delicate and subtle beauties of composition, we consign our Author to the popularity she will doubtless obtain, and most richly deserve. When we consider her accomplishments, her versatility, her acute observation, her graceful fancy, her powers both in the actual world and the ideal, her habit of thought, and her command of language ; and when we remember also how much she has yet done, and how young she yet is, we speak advisedly when we recommend to her the highest models and the severest study. Such a recommendation could only be given to one capable, if she do justice to herself, of achieving those triumphs which, as her critics, we anticipate, and as her admirers, we predict.

GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION.

INDISCRIMINATELY as these two terms are used, there is a wide difference between them. Government implies authority, a power not emanating from those over whom it is exercised." Hence the plausibility and receptability of the old notion of Divine right; for if Kings and Rulers derived not their authority from men, from whom did they derive it? Among an ignorant and unthinking people, who could not understand the expediency of compliance with laws and customs, the word Government was useful as a delusion. When the understanding of the people is matured, and when a people are really free, then the management of public affairs becomes Administration. Then the question is not of the wickedness of rebellion, but of the impolicy of resistance and the folly of a minority contending against the will of the majority. A Representative Government is very nearly a contradiction in terms. He that acts by a representative is supposed to act from his own will, though not in his own person :-now self-acting beings can hardly be said to be governed. The driver of a carriage governs the movements of his horses. The commanderin-chief governs the movements of his army. The schoolmaster governs his pupils. In these cases there is no representation. One mind-one will rules all. But representation implies that the will of the whole is consulted, and that the mass acts by its representatives, and is not acted upon by them.

POEM.

BY THE AUTHOR OF THE CORN-LAW RHYMES.

The “ New Monthly Magazine” was the first journal that attracted the attention of the Public to the genius of the Poem, called “ Corn-Law Rhymes.” The example thus set, was soon followed, and other periodicals, to which the Poem had been sent long before, but in so uninviting a type and shape that, in all probability, curiosity stopped at the outside-struck with the singular strength and beauty of the extracts we gave—took up the poem, hitherto neglected, and, to their honour be it said, were no less lavish, viz. no less just in their encomiums than ourselves. We have now the pleasure of presenting our readers with another poem by the same author. We are sure that those characteristics that stamped the “Corn-Law Rhymes," will be equally recognized in the verses we subjoin—the same nerve, vigour, and originality on the one hand—the same roughness and obscurity on the other. We think two or three lines, especially that containing the curious objurgationcat but not vulture,” as bad as lines can well be. We think the description of Napoleon, as fine as any thing in the language. We are sure that every man of a pure and genuine knowledge of criticism will unite with us in hailing the rise of a Poet of so great promise, from the lower ranks of life and the heart of a manufacturing town—and in trusting that powers of so high an order will be exerted in a flight more lofty and sustained, than those in which they have, as yet, toyed with their own strength.-ED. BYRON AND NAPOLEON; OR, THEY MET IN HEAVEN.

I.

THROUGH realms of ice my journey lay, beneath

The wafture of two pinions black and vast,
That shook o'er boundless snows the dust of death,

While over head, thick, starless Midnight cast

Gloom on sad forms, that ever onward pass'd.
But whither passed they? Oh, Eternity,

Thou answerest not! Yet still thy sable wings,
Silently, silently, how silently!

Are sweeping worlds away, with all their Kings !

And still I wander'd with forgotten things,
In pilgrimage with Death, an age-long day,

À year of anxious ages--so methought-
Till rose a living world in morning grey,

And light seem'd born of darkness-light, which brought

Before my soul the coasts of land remote,
“ Hail, holy light, offspring of heav'n, first-born,

Or of the eternal, co-eternal beam !"
Through worlds of darkness led, and travel-worn,

Again I felt thy glowing, brightening gleam,

Again I greeted thine ethereal stream,
And bless'd the fountain whence thy glories flow.

II.

I waked not then, methought, but wander'd slow,

Where dwell the great, whom death hath free'd from pain. Trembling, I gazed on Hampden's thoughtful brow,

While Strafford smiled upon me in disdain,

And turn'd away from Hutchison and Vane.
There, some whom criminals disdain'd; and all

Who, battling for the right, had nobly died;
And some whom justest men deem'd criminal,

Wond'ring, I saw! the flatter'd, the belied !

And Muir, and Saville, walking side by side !
They wept-ev'n Strafford melted, when I told

Of Britain's woes--of toil that earn'd not bread,
And hands that found not work; but Fairfax scowl'd,

While Cromwell laugh’d, and Russell's cheek grew red,

When, pale, 1 spake of satraps breadtax-fed.
Lo! as I ceas'd, from earth a Stranger came,

With hurried step-a presence heavenly fair !
Yet grief, and anger, pride, contempt, and shame,

Were strangely mingled in his troubled stare!

And thus he spoke, with timid, haughty air,
To Russell, Fairfax, in tones low but sweet:

“I too am noble. England's magnates rank
Me with themselves; and when, beneath their feet

Fate's low-born despot, hope-deserted, sank

When torrid noon his sweat of horror drank-
I join’d his name for ever with my own!"

III.

Him then to answer, one who sate alone,

Like a maim'd lion, mateless in his lair,
Rose from his savage couch of barren stone,

His Kingly features wither'd by despair,

And heart-worn till the tortur'd nerve was bare.
With looks that seem'd to scorn ev'n scorn of less

Than demigods, the Army-Scatterer came ;
An awful shadow of the mightiness

That once was his '; the gloom, but not the flame
Of waning storms, when winds and seas grow tame.
The stranger, shrinking from the warrior's eye,

On his own hands his beauteous visage bow'd,
Sobbing ; but soon he rais'd it mournfully,

And met th' accusing look, and on the crowd
Smild, while the stern accuser spake aloud.

IV.

“ Yet, Lordling*—though but yesterday a King,

Throneless, I died,'—yet nations sobb'š my knell !
And still I live, and reign, no nameless thing!

I fell, 'tis true I failed; and thou canst tell
That
any
wretch alive

may say

I fell.
Of worth convicted, and the glorious sin

That wreck'd the angels, now I owe and pay,
To wealth and power's pretended Jacobin,

Scorn for thy glory, laughter for the lay

That won the Aatteries of an abject day. If it be objected to these lines that the great bard is dead, so, I answer, is also the great warrior ; and he who has honest and useful thoughts to express of either, or both of them, should do his duty Briton-like.

« AnteriorContinua »