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. Here were authors destined to work a great poetical revolution, to give a peculiar character to the literature of a generation, to have followers even among men of genius. In their earlier efforts, doubtless, grave faults might have been discovered. Their thoughts were often vitiated by mental bombast; their expression, by simplicity that bordered on silliness, by obscurity that sometimes tumbled into the void iname. But amidst all their errors, indica tions were continually given of the vital powers of genius, – of minds which, to the mere forms and colors of nature, could “Add the gleam, The light that never was on sea or land, The consecration and the poet's dream.” Now, these poets Jeffrey judged before he interpreted. His quick glance over the superfices of things, and his faculty of rapid empirical generalization, enabled him to present their defects before the eye in exaggerated proportions; but their genius merely hummed in his ears. He was never borne along with the glad and exulting song in which they hymned the wondrousness and beauty of nature; his soul never lifted itself up to those regions where their spirits roved and shaped in the ecstasies of contemplation. In all his various critiques, he never touched the heart of their mystery, -never comprehended their individuality, their humanity, their spirituality, the organic life of their works. He either could not, or would not, reproduce in his own mind those moods of thought and feeling upon whose validity the truth of their poetry was to be tried; consequently, he merely shoots squibs when he seems to be delivering decisions. Though he could handle a wide variety of topics, and was generally adroit and plausible in their management, his comprehension was simply of the surfaces of things. Now, the man for whose opinions Jeffrey had the least regard is the true exponent of the philosophical criticism of the century, -Coleridge. He was the first who made criticism interpretative both of the spirit and form of works of genius, the first who founded his principles in the nature of things. Though his views strikingly coincide with those of Schlegel, they were formed and publicly expressed before that author's lectures on the Drama were delivered. Hazlitt, who delighted to vex Coleridge, was still very indignant when the latter was accused of pilfering from Schlegel, testifying to the fact of his originality from the most positive knowledge. Amid a host of professional critics, it was reserved for a poet to declare the true principles on which literary judgments should be grounded. Coleridge's mind was eminently interpretative. He never was contented with knowing merely the surfaces of things, but his intellect pierced beneath to their laws. He possessed the power of learning from other minds. A creed, a poem, an institution, which had met the wants of any body of people, required, in his view, to be explained before it was censured. The reason of its influence must be given. He was not contented with judging it from his own point of view, but looked at it from its author's position. He saw that, to understand the events of history and the masterpieces of art, it was necessary to bring to them a mind willing to learn, – that knowledge began in self-distrust, — that individual experience is a poor measure of the resources of the race, —and that ideas and principles varied their forms with variations in the circumstances of mankind. He knew that “to appreciate the defects of a great mind, it was necessary to understand previously its characteristic excellences.” He had a clear motion of the difference, lying at the base of all poetic criticism, between mechanical regularity and organic form ; and in the disregard of this distinction by critics, he saw the cause of the numberless fallacies and falsities which vitiated their judgments. The form or body of a work of genius he considered as physiognomical of the soul within; that it was not a collection of parts, cunningly put together, but a growth from a central principle of life; and that every production of the mind, which was animated with life, was to be judged by its organic laws. This, of course, brings the critic to the very heart of the matter, the consideration of the vital powers of genius; those mysterious powers of growth and production, which are identical with the laws by which they work, and whose products, therefore, are not to be tried by laws external to themselves. “Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art.” Without this doctrine of vital powers, criticism becomes mere gibberish. Animated and informed by these vital powers, commonplace becomes poetry, and ritual religion. The first thing to be settled, in reviewing a composition, is its vitality. Has it life? Did it grow to its present shape, or was it merely put together? It is useless to criticize a corpse. Now, if a poem have life, the principle of growth and assimilation, then criticism should first develop from within the laws of its being. The question of its relative excellence comes afterwards. We must first discover what it is, and not decide that by saying what it is not. We must pass into the mysteri+ ous depths of the mind in which it was matured, see the fountain-springs of its thoughts and emotions, and discern its own laws of growth and production. The peculiar individuality of the man, the circumstances of his being, not our peculiar individuality and the circumstances of our being, must be investigated, and, in imagination, lived. We must learn from what point, and under what influences, he looked on nature and human life, in order rightly to interpret his production. A tree, growing by virtue of inward properties, has, we all feel, an independent existence, and is itself its own apology and defence. So with a true poem, instinct with vitality. To judge it simply on its agreement or disagreement with the form of other poems, is about as wise as to flout the willow because it is not the oak. Besides, what are called the “rules” of poetry were once the organic laws of individual works. The first poet furnished the rules of the first critic. The essential originality and life of a poem consists in containing within itself the laws by which it is to be judged. To make these laws the tests of other poems, produced by different minds, under different circumstances, in different ages and countries, is to convert the results of freedom into the instruments of slavery, and doom the intellect to barrenness and death. In almost every instance where a man of genius has given the law to others, the literature formed on his model has dwindled into mechanical imitation, and only been resuscitated by rebellion. Nature furnishes exhaustless arguments against the critical narrowness which would kill new beauty by accredited reputations. The faculty of perceiving beauty in a variety of different objects and forms, is the source of true delight and improvement in literature, as in

scenery. An everlasting sameness and repetition in either would be intolerable. In one sentence Coleridge has given the true method of investigation: — “Follow nature in variety of kinds.” As nature is inexhaustible in its variety, so are the possible combinations of the human mind. If we could see all the poems that exist potentially, nature and man being given, we should drop our critical rules, though they were as wide as Homer and Shakspeare. The man of true taste enlarges his apprehension to receive the new poem, as readily as to 2.eceive the new landscape. The Alps breed in him no contempt of the prairies. He has something in him which answers to Lake Leman, as well as to the ocean. He has no quarrel with Chaucer, because he loves Wordsworth. He feels the unity of beauty, and love, and grandeur, amid all the differences of forms; feels it, indeed, all the more intensely, with every glimpse of it in a new object. The swan and dove are both beautiful, but it would be absurd, says Coleridge, pertinently, “to institute a comparison between their separate claims to beauty from any abstract rule common to both, without reference to the life and being of the animals themselves ; or, as if, having first seen the dove, we abstracted its outlines, gave them a false generalization, called them the principles or ideal of bird beauty, and proceeded to criticize the swan and the eagle.” It was from a method similar to this that critics, mesmerized by Pope and Goldsmith, dictated laws to Wordsworth and Shelley, and measured the genius of Shakspeare and Spenser. It was this method which made two generations rest contented with that precious morsel of criticism on Shakspeare, that he was a man of great beauties, balanced by great faults — a man of the Supremest genius, and execrable taste! In

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