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But of that gay and sparkling face- universalized to all capacities and tiousness which he himself was wont tastes, in the greatest of Goldsmith's to admire so highly in other writers, works-certainly his greatest work in the iostances in this collection of prose—the immortal " Vicar of Wakeletters are innumerable. Can any field.” Criticism is not always superthing be more happily satirical than fluous where it but echoes the decision the extracts of continental news in the of the public ; for its more pleasing very letter which succeeds the one we office is ever, not to controvert, but to have just quoted ? or the deceived justify and strengthen it.
Yet even pbilosopher's address to the too in- this happier task of discovering or sinuatinig dame whom he discovers heightening beauties becomes unnecesnext day to have purloined his watch ? sary in a style so clear as to leave “- Celestial excellence," I intend to nothing to explore. The “Vicar of
Wakefield” is, we believe, the most say, "happy am I in having found out, after many painful adventures, a land of popular novel in the language ; nor is innocence and a people of humanity. I it likely to forfeit its reputation by any may rove into other climes, and converse
alterations of society; for had it been with nations yet unknown; but where transmitted to us in “ hard rock Greek," shall I meet a soul of such purity as that (as. Locke calls it in a passage of exwhich resides in thy breast! Sure thou ulting sarcasm,) and, unlike its ancient hast been nurtured by the bill of the brethren, had escaped the usual marShin Shin, or sucked 'the breast of the tyrdom of elucidation that darkens, provident Gin Hiung: The melody of and emendation that depraves,—had thy voice could rob the Chong Fou of it formed, for instance, the Ethiopica her whelps, or inveigle the Boh that of that most worthy old romancer, lives in the midst of the waters.'” Heliodorus of Emessa— its descriptions
Or his interview with the fair Virtuoso, would really be to this day not much who is so amusingly astonished at his from the commentators,) than they are
Jess intelligible (still supposing it safe depreciation of her Chinese temple, and compliments herself with gravity
actually felt to be by every class of readon the exalted philosophy which en
ers : for, though delineating temporary abled her to support existence after modes of society, its delineations are the crash of half a dozen porcelain its humor being founded upon princi.
of permanent interest, its pathos and dragons on the hearthstone? Or the tragical history of faithless Hansi? ples that are in their essence perpetual
, Or–or—but we will fly a hundred and which are always easily disenother seducing morceaux, and take tangled from their 'merely external refuge with thee, Beau Tibbs! With
dress of transitory manners. It is a thee evermore vainly saluting the un- question of some interest in criticism
-which of two describers bids fairer responding great, and evermore borrowing the unpaid half-crown! More for perpetuity, one of whom depicts a than once have we met thee (altered, peculiar aspect of social existence it is true, in such external changes as
with power and accuracy-as Scott, in thine idol, Fashion, doth command,) in and the other of whom, with the same
his Ivanhoe, or his Old Mortality; our wanderings through this worldly labyrinth ; for thou art not dead while force, presents us with man himself, human nature liveth : but where, oh independent (as much as a story will where shalt thou find another biogra- admit,) of all the peculiarities of any pher to pen thy modish dialogues with «individual age or country—as Shakequal accuracy, or to fix so vividly on
speare has done in his Hamlet, and the canvass of imagination thy perked in many of his other plays. The one
may with truth be said to have done up features and thine ever shabby, yet still imperishable raiment ?
seems to have the better eye, the
other the deeper judgment; the one The gentle morality and winning to be a painter more correct in the satire of the “ Citizen of the World," costume and grouping of his figures, is embodied with a power more forcible, the other in the naked proportions of because aided by the attractions of a the man. But, however the point of more complicated and affecting story, comparison be decided, there can be and, we may add, is more completely no question that the palm of highest
excellence belongs to him who attains soften down to the tone of daily life the object of both at once; and who, and reconcile to the level of humanity speaking two simultaneous languages, the brightness and the elevation of an makes one intelligible wherever man excellence otherwise too exalted for has learned to recognize himself, and Our national prejudices-prethe other appreciable, with equal force, judices that virtue never disowns by such readers as have learned to complete the spell; for, over all the recognize those special manifestations depiction of the hero of the tale, and of the human heart which have emerged his patriarchal domestic government, under uncommon circumstances and in there spreads the sweet colouring of peculiar conjunctures, or have even English rural life; the scented meaextended (the results of Christianity dows of an English landscape mingle are an example) through a long course their hues and odours with the graver of ages, when occasioned by the moral associations of the tale, and we agency of permanent principles, and feel prouder of our country when we thus partaking in the durability of feel that the character of the pastor their cause. Assuredly this merit and his people is essentially and pecubelongs to Goldsmith's exquisite fiction. liarly of British growth. From the The Vicar is a sage, and he is also a introductory chapter, opening with the Christian sage. He would be acknow- calm equability of his prosperity, to that ledged and honoured among Pagans, scene--perhaps the most subline in yet is he preeminently a Christian the range of prose fiction—where the pastor ; the incorruptible Fabricius of majestic patience of the servant of God rural life, yet was he animated by awes or wins to piety the scoffing feelings which Fabricius could never tenants of a prison, there is a someunderstand ; a Phocion in misfortune, thing interfused through every page yet could not Phocion enter into the full which belongs preeminently to Eng. spirit of his sublime adversity. Wisdom land. The curè of a French parish —which is Virtue working by Intel- could not have had the Vicar's domeslect—he possessed in common with the tic affections ; the minister of a Swiss sages of all times ; and yet how much congregation would have been without is there in which even Socrates falls his peculiar temptations; the comfort below the Vicar of Wakefield!
that surrounds his rustic paradise is But to construct vague personifica- certainly not Irish ; and he has, pertions of imaginary excellence, to soar haps, too much refinement and too in conception into those altitudes of little pedantry for the pastor of a Geretherial purity in which our frail hu- man village as secluded from society. manity is perhaps not capable of The latter characteristic ennobles hiin breathing, to heap together an incon- above ordinary depictions of his class. sistent aggregate of perfections, and The Vicar of Wakefield is no Parson stamp with the name of a single indi- Adams. Both delineations are, indeed, vidual, an extravagant combination of admirable, but their merit is distinct. the best qualities of all, this is a Fielding's hero is a caricature, though task as easy as any other abandonment a gentle one, and may, perhaps, be of the restraints of nature and proba- said to form a mean between our Vicar bility, and almost as unprofitable as most and the Dominie Sampson of Sir of them. It is not, therefore, the mere Walter Scott. But the excellence of virtues of the Vicar of Wakefield that Goldsmith's portrait is its absence of move our admiration of the conceiver every trait of caricature or excess, its and describer of such a character ; but exaltation perpetually secured without it is the critical propriety of the whole exaggeration, its being evermore within --the harmonizing skill of adaptation the limits of possible nature while by which the loftiest qualities are fitted raised beyond the sphere of common into each other in the structure of such experience. a mind-the tranquillity which reigns This beautiful elevation, never probetween the rival provinces of the firm duced at the expense of fidelity to virtues and the mild, the softness as nature, pervades the whole story. The well as strength, which bids us love Vicar's wife, though vulgar-minded in while we admire-tbe very weaknesses external manner, has a soul capable of that are virtues in disguise, or that that uncomplaining endurance, and
that passive fortitude of resolved suf- stage literature. They do not fall below fering which is the sublimity of female Cumberland or Cibber in plot or chavirtue. «« Where,' cried I, where are racter, while they surpass the former my little ones ?' • They are burned to in liveliness of humour, and the latter death in the flames,' said my wife in preservation of decorum. The calmly, “and I will die with them.'” Goodnatured Man echoes to us the And the noble-hearted blunderer, poor light laugh of Molière oftener than Moses ! What high philosophic pri any play in our language. It brings ciple, and what severe integrity is com- before us that sustained impersonation bined with all the boy's unsuspicious of definite peculiarities in which the disbelief in the chicanery of mankind : great comic poet of France delighted; giving a grandeur to his inexperience, and which, though we can never consiand teaching us to look with pity on der it the highest path of the art, yet our own dear-bought knowledge, while gives opportunity for a more direct we smile at his ignorance! And be- and a more immediately effective play trayed Olivia, resigned to a gentle de- of humour than the exact copies of the spair, trilling her mournful song of mixed humanity of actual life which subdued and pensive sorrow,* and the Shakspeare usually loves to present. eccentric honesty of the grave humor. When not man, but a quality of man ist, Burchell — and the adventurous clothed in human attributes, is exhiwanderer who moralizes and starves bited on the stage, much of the reality through Europe-and those two super- of nature must of course be sacrificed fine ladies with the interminable names to the prominent display of that quality; -and their degraded patron, the and as all the inferior cbaracters are Satan of this rural Eden-have not all ordered with a view to the development these “ beings of the mind, not of clay,” of that selected peculiarity, the sacrifice entered into a sort of secondary is in a great measure extended through reality ? Are we not prepared to the entire piece. Such are preeminently admit their more than fancied vita- the comedies of Ben Jonson; such, lity, and, in their case preeminently, in resolute adherenee to predeterto adopt the pleasant supposition of mined system, are the greatest plays the novelist who, placing all the phan- of Joanna Baillie; such are the very toms of fiction in the lunar regions, best of Molière; and such, with probagifts with actual life these people of bly a judicious estimation of his own the imagination ?t. And the impres- powers, was the best which Goldsmith sion is surely not less beneficial than has given us. There is, indeed, one vivid. In truth, it is a book which, obvious advantage in this partial view heyond most others, enriching the re- of human qualities: the humour which flective soul with a happy spirit of it elicits is rapidly intelligible, it cantenderness for human error, and sym- not be mistaken or unperceived, and pathy with human virtue, teaches it to the reader or hearer, in being let into derive from experience wisdom, and, the secret of the master-passion of the in the profound words of a greater hero, possesses a key which opens his poet than Goldsmith,
way into the purport of the whole * To look on nature, not as in the hour
drama. He does not know the plot, Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
but he knows the direction it must The still, sad music of humanity,
take ; and if he has not an accurate Nor harsh por grating, though of ample power view of the line of march on which the To chasten and subdue.”
characters are to proceed in the story, The DRAMATIC POWERS of Goldsmith he yet can easily calculate what ob- for our restricted space warns us to stacles are likely to impede or facilities leave a too seductive topic-were not to accelerate their progress. The Miser perhaps of the very highest order. Yet must oppose all that threatens his his plays are a valuable accession to our wealth; the Inconstant must suffer for
Two stanzas which exemplify as forcibly as any in the whole compass of Goldsmith's verse, that union of simplicity in expression, with, so to speak, elaborated sentiment, which gave so exquisite a charm to his poetry.
+ Mr. E. S. Barrett, in the Preface to his amusing “ Heroine.
his multitude of caprices; the Hypo- of a single air into all the fantastic crite must succeed for a time in his evolutions of a thousand variations ! triumphant duplicity, and be ulti- Guided by a great leading thought, mately punished; the Goodnatured the mind of the receiver can retreat Man must be taught for a time the perpetually for illustration to the funconsequences of his amiable folly, and damental purport of the entire; while be ultimately rewarded. And it is not that of the creator can make its very only the course of the plot that is thus divergencies auxiliary to its main efsecured from inconvenient perplexity, fect. On the part of the former, the but every gleam of humour subservient offices of attention in each case are not to the principal purpose brightens with unlike the processes of natural science. an additional illumination reflected In the one that is, in those closer from the full light in which that pur- transcripts of reality where no partipose is placed. Hence there are, in cular passion is the basis of the drama point of fact, no plays more universally -he derives from a congregation of popular than those which present a facts by a sort of analysis the moral section of human character for analysis, truths of the piece for himself; much and which, leaving the rest of the inin- as we collect prudential maximns from gled mass of notives and principles experience in the course of common sunk in the shade, invite us to contem- life : in the other—that is, in the plays plate one propensity or passion ex- of a single prominent passion-he is alted to a prominence beyond nature, taught this instruction in the way of and disposed in stronger relief from the synthesis, by the author, who assumes depression of all around it. And this, the place of a theatrical lecturer, and as it is a task easier to the reader, is selects this portion of character for his also, we believe, a task more readily dramatic “demonstration. It is not mastered by the author of a drama. In wonderful that almost universal prethe other case, his difficulty is to pre- ference should attend that class of vent confusion, and to concentrate at- comedy which, in a case where few tention from its wanderings over the seek anything beyond temporary occuwide extent of possible character; in pation, so powerfully assists imaginathe case before us, to prevent mono- tion to realize its conceptions, and so tony, and keep the attention from slum- pleasingly relaxes attention to the tone bering inactively over a system of mo- of enjoyment. tives too confined and undiversified. But Goldsmith's comedy resembles In the former instance, the mind is apt Molière not solely in the plan upon to be puzzled by variety; in the latter, which it is constructed. A very similar to be lulled by sameness. But in all playfulness of humour gives vivacity to the arts it is easier to rise from a single both. Molière would have been proud idea into many than to condense mul- of the conception* and execution of tiplicity to unity. In painting, it is a the character of Croaker. And there younger and feebler inspiration to de- is a respect in which we think our sign, and it requires a less matured countryman has the advantage over the sensibility to apprehend, a single pre- illustrious dramatist to whom we comdominant figure or group of figures, pare him. It is in the art of touching with the rest of the composition subor- other feelings besides those which are dinate, than to impress a vast and har- the peculiar object of the comic inmonizing mass with a common expres- ventor. The great characteristic of sion, or to perceive the expression so Goldsmith's humour is its pathetic imprinted : and in music, for one com- power. No man ever made mankind poser who can breathe an uniform laugh so pensively. Like the music spirit over the successive strains of a of his country, there is a dash of mewhole concerto, for one hearer who lancholy in his merriest moods. He can recognize that grand pervading jests in a philosophic vein. Through all identity, how many composers and his compositions there runs a strong hearers can expand the primary idea infusion of the saddened yet not dis
* The conception, however, was not wholly Goldsmith's. He confessed that he had partly moulded Croaker out of Johnson's Suspirius. Rambler, No. 59.
contented spirit of his own heart. In conciseness of the older poetical school the “ Vicar of Wakefield,” the work into of Pope, and the high-wrought feeling which he threw his soul most earnestly, of our modern masters, he thus may be this spirit is most discernible; but in said to form a point of union for tastes the two comedies, and more especially the most opposed. His is the most in the admirable one which we have refined expression of the spirit which been noticing, it is also revealed as some of our cotemporary critics would much as the nature of the drama will consider as superseded in descriptive permit. In short, the “philosophic verse ; as if anything so faithful to vagabond” is never wholly absent; the nature, and so exquisitely wrought out thoughtful humorist, whose erratic of its selectest manifestations could ever temperament hovers between the smile be superseded, or as if the labours of and the sigh, and finds almost equal Crabbe and of Campbell and of Byron motive for each in all the common himself in our own day, have not circumstances of life. His range of proved that the power of wielding the characters was probably not great; old heroic couplet as an instrument of and an observing critic will detect description, is not buried with their repetitions even in the few he has poetical ancestors. Are not the Corgiven us. It is known that he at- sair and the Island, are not the Pleatempted tragedy ;* and, while we sures of Hope and the Theodric, are doubt not his success to a certain point, not the inimitable Tales of the Hall, bad he persevered vigorously in the worthy of being received as links in pursuit, we cannot believe that he the chain which binds us to those elder would ever have stood in the first or times of verse? and are not their the second rank of tragic writers. He creators meet dqdouxon to transmit, as would not have been inferior to Rowe, in the torch-race of old, to after ages, but he would not have approached the burning light of successive genius Otway. His powers of descriptive which the author of the Deserted eloquence were great; but he never Village left inextinct when he passed mastered—we doubt he ever could away from the scene of his toils ? The have mastered—the condensed expres- passion for reducing all poetical siveness of dialogue, which appropriates writers to a classification of ages and character in a single stroke, or the schools, is really as injurious to sound stern strength of conception and reso- criticism, as the similar rage for system lute purpose which bears the intellect among the ancient philosophers of nature on triumphantly to the development of proved to their physical science. Thedea great tragedy.
velopments of imaginative genius purIt is as a poet, in the more restricted sue laws of their own which will refuse significance of the term, that the world to be amenable to these arbitrary arthinks oftenest of Goldsmith. The rangements. And we may well be character of his poetry makes it uni- convinced that while the English lanversal. He is one of those who belong guage lasts, and whatever school" to do school or sect; and accordingly arise, that measure and style will not his merits have never been much ex- be neglected in its poetry, which disaggerated or depreciated by the fervour plays the strength and variety of our of controversial zeal. His skilful ap- vocabulary in a perfection which we peals to common feelings and associa- confess we have not seen in many intions, and the art with which he ap- stances attained without their aid. "It is pears so devotedly natural, win bim not unworthy of remark that Wordsadmirers in every class. He has little worth himself
, who certainly holds a high to dread from malevolent criticism; for rank, if not the highest, among the no power of misrepresentation can dis- founders of the style usually contrasted tort what is so simple, no force of sar- with that of Pope and his followers, in casm can ridicule what is so unaffectedly one of his earlier works, was a close true. Standing midway between the and not an unsuccessfulimitator of Gold
• A tragedy was one of his earliest efforts. It was shown to Richardson, who perhaps discouraged the author from completing it; for it was never finished.