« ПредишнаНапред »
that great national work, the new edition of Stephens's Greek Thesaurus. It must, however, be confessed, that several articles in recent numbers of the Review have displayed very profound knowledge of the subjects treated, and a deep and gentle spirit of criticism.
The British Review is, both in evil and good, far below the two great Quarterly Journals. It is, however, very far from wanting ability, and as it lacks the gall of its contemporaries, and speaks in the tone of real conviction, though we do not subscribe to all its opinions, we offer it our best wishes.
The Pamphleteer is a work of very meritorious design. Its execution, depending less on the voluntary power of its editor than that of any other periodical work, is necessarily unequal. On the whole, it has embodied a great number of valuable essays—which give a view of different sides of important questions, like the articles of the Edinburgh, but without the alloy which the inconsistency of the writers of the last mingle with their discussions. It has, we believe, on one or two occasions, suggested valuable hints to the legislature—especially in its view of the effects arising from the punishment of the pillory—which, although somewhat vicious and extravagant in its style, set the evils of that exhibition in so clear a light, that it was shortly after abolished, except in the instance of purjury. As the subject had not been investigated before, and the abolition followed so speedily, it may reasonably be presumed that this essay had no small share in terminating an infliction in which the people were, at once, judges and executioners—all the remains of virtue were too often extinguished—and justice perpetually insulted in the execution of its own sentences.
The Retrospective Review is a bold experiment in these times, which well deserves to succeed, and has already attained far more notice than we should have expected to follow a periodical work which relates only to the past. To unveil with a reverent hand the treasures of other days—to disclose ties of sympathy with old time which else were hidden—to make us feel that beauty and truth are not things of yesterday—is the aim of no mean ambition, in which success will be without alloy, and failure without disgrace. There is an air of youth and inexperience doubtless about some of the articles; but can any thing be more pleasing
than to see young enthusiasm, instead of dwelling on the gauds of the " ignorant present," fondfy cherishing the venerableness of old time, and reverently listening to the voices of ancestral wisdom 1 The future is all visionary and unreal —the past is the truly grand, and substantial and abiding. The airy visions of hope vanish as we proceed; but nothing can deprive us of our interest in that which has been. It is good, therefore, to have one periodical work exclusively devoted to " auld lang syne." It is also pleasant to have one which, amidst an age whose literature is "rank with all unkindness," is unaffected by party or prejudice, which feeds no depraved appetite, which ministers to no unworthy passion, but breathes one tender and harmonious spirit of revering love for the great departed. We shall rejoice, therefore, to see this work "rich with the spoils of time," and gradually leading even the mere readers of periodical works, to feel with the gentle author of that divine sonnet, written in a blank leaf of Dugdale's Monasticon:—
"Not harsh nor rugged are the winding ways
These, we believe, are all the larger periodical works of celebrity not devoted to merely scientific purposes. Of the lesser Reviews, the Monthly, as the oldest claims the first notice; though we cannot say much in its praise. A singular infelicity has attended many of its censures. To most of those who have conduced to the revival of poetry it has opposed its jeers and its mockeries. Cowper, who first restored "free nature's grace" to our pictures of rural scenery—whose timid and delicate soul shrunk from the slightest encounter with the world—whose very satire breathed gentleness and good-will to all his fellows—was agonized by its unfeeling scorn. Kirk White, another spirit almost too gentle for earth—painfully struggling by his poetical efforts to secure the scanty means of laborious study, was crushed almost to earth by its pitiable sentence, and his brief span of life filled with bitter anguish. This Review seems about twenty years behind the spirit of the times; and this, for a periodical work, is fully equal to a century in former ages.
Far other notice does the Eclectic Review require. It is, indeed, devoted to a party; and to a party whose opinions are not very favourable to genial views of humanity, or to deep admiration of human genius. But not all the fiery zeal of sectarianism which has sometimes blazed through its disquisitions—nor all the straight-laced nicety with which it is sometimes disposed to regard earthly enjoyments—nor all the gloom which its spirit of Calvinism sheds on the mightiest efforts of virtue—can prevent us from feeling the awestriking influences of honest principle—of hopes which are not shaken by the fluctuations of time—of faith which looks to "temples not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The Eclectic Review, indeed, in its earliest numbers, seemed resolved to oppose the spirit of its religion to the spirit of intellect and humanity, and even went to the fearful excess of heaping the vilest abuse on Shakspeare, and of hinting that his soul was mourning in the torments of hell, over the evils which his works had occasioned in the world.*
* This marvellous effusion of bigotry is contained in an article on Twist's Index to Shakspeare in the third volume of the Review, p. 75. The Reviewer commences with the following tremendous sentence:—
"If the compiler of these volumes had been properly sensible of the value of time, and the relation which the employment of it bears to his eternal state, we should not have had to present our readers with the pitiable spectacle of a man advanced in years consuming the embers of vitality in making a complete verbal Index to the Plays of Shakspeare."
After acknowledging the genius of Shakspeare, the Reviewer observes, " He has been called, and justly too, the 'Poet of Nature.' A slight acquaintance with the religion of the Bible will show that it is of human nature in its worst shape, deformed by the basest passions, and agitated by the most vicious propensities, that the poet became the priest; and the incense offered at the altar of his goddess will spread its poisonous fumes over the hearts of his countrymen, till the memory of his works is extinct. Thousands of unhappy spirits, and thousands yet to increase their number, will everlastingly look back with unutterable anguish on the nights and days in which the plays of Shakspeare ministered to their guilty delights." —The Reviewer farther complains of the inscription on Garrick's tomb (which is absurd enough, though on far different grounds)—as "the absurd and impious epitaph upon the tablet raised to one of the miterahle retailers of his impurities.'" "We commiserate," contiBut its conductors have since changed, or have grown wiser. Their Reviews of poetry have been, perhaps, on the whole, in the purest and the gentlest spirit of any which have been written in this age of criticism. Without resigning their doctrines, they have softened and humanized those who profess them, and have made their system of religion look smilingly, while they have striven to preserve it unspotted from the world. If occasionally they introduce their pious feelings where we regard them as misplaced, we may smile, but not in scorn.* Their zeal is better than heartless indif
nues the critic, " the heart of the man who can read the following lines without indignation:—
'And till eternity, with power sublime,
"Par nobile fratrum! Your fame shall last during the empire of vice and misery, in the extension of which you have acted so great a part! We make no apology for our sentiments, unfashionable as they are. Keeling the importance of the condition of man as a moral agent, accountable not merely for the direct effects, but also for the remotest influence of his actions, while we execrate the names, we cannot but shudder at the stale of those who have opened fountains of impurity at which fashion leads its successive generations greedily to drink."— Merciful Heaven!
* We will give an instance of this—with a view to exhibit the peculiarities into which exclusive feelings lead; for observation, not for derision. In a very beautiful article on Wordsworth's Excursion, the critic notices a stanza, among several, on the death of Fox, where the poet—evidently not referring to the questions of immortality and judgment, but to the deprivations sustained by the world in the loss of the objects of its admiration—exclaims,
"A power is passing from the earth
To breathless nature's vast abyss;
What is it more than this,
Doth yet to God return?
Then wherefore shall we mourn?"
On which the Reviewer observes; "The question in the last two lines needs no answer: to that in the four preceding ones we must reply distinctly, 'It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the Judgment.' "—Heb. ix. v. 27.
ference—their honest denunciations are not like the sneers of envy or the heartless jests which a mere desire of applause inspires. It is something to have real principle in times like these—a sense of things beyond our frail nature—even where the feeling of the eternal is saddened by too harsh and exclusive views of God, and of his children: for, as observed by one of our old poets,
"Unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!*"
The British Critic is a highly respectable work, which does not require our praise, or offer any marks for our censure. It is, in a great measure, devoted to the interests of the church and of her ministers. It has sometimes shown a little sourness in its controversial discussions—but this is very different, indeed, from using cold sneers against unopposing authors. Its articles of criticism on poetry—if not adorned by any singular felicity of expression—have often been, of late, at once clear-sighted and gentle.
The Edinburgh Monthly Review is, on the whole, one of the ablest and fairest of the Monthly Reviews, though somewhat disproportionably filled with disquisitions on matters of state policy.
Few literary changes within the late changeful years have been more remarkable than the alteration in the style and spirit of the magazines. Time was when their modest ambition reached only to the reputation of being the " abstracts and brief chronicles" of passing events—when they were well pleased to afford vent to the sighs of a poetical lover, or to give light fluttering for a month to an epigram on a lady's fan—when a circumstantial account of a murder, or an authentic description of a birth-day dress, or the nice development of a family receipt, communicated, in their pages, to maiden ladies of a certain age an incalculable pleasure— and when the learned decyphering of an inscription on some rusty coin sufficed to give them a venerableness in the eyes of the old. If they then ever aspired to criticism, it was in mere kindness—to give a friendly greeting to the young ad