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THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
THE SELECT WORKS
CRABBE, WILSON, COLERIDGE, WORDSWORTH, ROGERS, CAMPBELL, MISS LANDON, BARTON, MONTGOMERY, SOUTHEY, HOGG, BARRY CORNWALL, AND OTHERS.
A SUPPLEMENTARY VOLUME
THE POETICAL WORKS OF BYRON, SCOTT AND MOORE.
FRANCFORT O. M.
PRINTED BY AND FOR H. L. BRENNER.
DURING the first twenty five years of the nineteenth century the poetical soil of Great-Britain has proved more intensively fertile than in the whole space of time elapsed since the days of Spenser and Shakspeare. The great dramatists of the Elizabethan age are still unrivalled, and the giant genius of Milton stands alone, illustrating the dark period of puritanical fanaticism-but the writers who adorned the beginning of the eighteenth century, decidedly surpassed by those of our own time, have no chance of ever regaining the supremacy they had usurped, but in which they have been supplanted. There is nothing very stupendous in this triumph of the cotemporary poets, for the writers that flourished under Queen Anne had not much more than their judgment and industry to stand on, and were rather remarkable for the fewness of their faults, than the greatness of their beauties. Their inspiration is but a sprightly sort of good sense and they have scarcely any invention but what is subservient to the purposes of derision and satire. Slight gleams of pleasantry and sparkles of wit glitter through their productions; but no glow of feeling-no blaze of imaginationno flashes of genius ever irradiate their substance. In the age subsequent to Dryden and Pope there was a still more remarkable dearth of original talent, a very long interruption of native genius. The dramatic art was dead, and poetry seemed verging to a similar extinction. The few sparks that appeared, however, showed that the old fire was burnt out, and that the altar must hereafter be heaped with fuel of another quality. The transition was marked by the noble genius of Cowper, who, with a style of complete originality, for the first time made it apparent to readers of every description, that Pope and Addison were no longer to be the exclusive models of English poetry.
This brings us down to the times that are still near us. A splendid progeny of distinguished literary characters arose, and in the midst of a great political commotion the sacred flame of poesy diffused its beneficent warmth. Three great stars eclipsed the remnant of the new constellation. Byron, Scott and Moore inscribed their names in the rolls of immortality. But many other poets, scarce inferior to these happy three, are not so much known, particularly on the continent, as they well deserve. It was
this consideration, which engaged the editor to undertake the present collection. The poetical Works of Byron, Scott, and Moore have spread all over Europe. It remained to publish the most successful effusions of their competitors for fame. The reader will judge if the volume, now laid before him, answers the design, which, we have no doubt, will be acknowledged meritorious. Without further apologizing for a publication that will recommend itself by the bulk of attractive matter condensed in it, we join only such prefatory sketches, as will suffice to introduce the Authors, whose works adorn the following pages, to the particular notice of our readers.
GEORGE CRAB BE.
MR. CRABBE is the greatest mannerist of all living poets. The characteristics of the genius of this admired writer are: an unrivalled and almost magical power of observation, resulting in descriptions so true to nature as to strike us rather as transcripts than imitations-an anatomy of character and feeling not less exquisite and searching-an occasional touch of matchless tenderness-and a deep and dreadful pathetic, interspersed by fits and strangely interwoven with the most minute and humble of his details. Add to all this the sure and profound sagacity of the remarks with which he every now and then startles us in the midst of very unambitious discussions -and the weight and terseness of the maxims which he drops like oracular responses, on occasions that give no promise of such a revelation;-and last, though not least, that sweet and seldom sounded chord of lyrical inspiration, the lightest touch of which instantly charms away all harshness from his numbers and all lowness from his themes and at once exalts him to a level with the most energetic and inventive poets of his age.
There is a strange mixture of satire and sympathy in all his productions -a great kindliness and compassion for the errors and sufferings of our poor human nature but a strong distrust of its heroic virtues and high pretensions. His heart is always open to pity, and all the milder emotions -but there is little aspiration after the grand and sublime of character, nor very much encouragement for raptures and ecstacies of any description. These, he seems to think, are things rather too fine for the said poor human nature-and that, in our low and erring condition, it is a little ridiculous to pretend, either to very exalted and immaculate virtue, or very pure and exquisite happiness. He not only never meddles, therefore, with the delicate distresses and noble fires of the heroes and heroines of tragic and epic fable, but may generally be detected indulging in a lurking sneer at the pomp and vanity of all such superfine imaginations-and turning to draw men in their true postures and dimensions, and with all the imperfections that actually belong to their condition: the prosperous and happy overshadowed with passing clouds of ennui, and disturbed with little flaws of bad humour and discontent-the great and wise beset at times with strange weaknesses and meannesses and paltry vexations- and even the most virtuous and enlightened falling far below the standard of poetical perfection, and stooping every now and then to paltry jealousies and prejudices, or sinking into shabby sensualities, or meditating on their own excellence and importance, with a ludicrous and lamentable anxiety.