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ReviewExercise of 1 Squadron, 3*'
Russia, Emperor of, Key to his Con-
Scotland, Travels in, 19
Tonng, Tovtntend, Adams.
Society, Rcyal, Phi'osnphiaal Transac-
Saucdress, Review.Exercise of, 3x1
Stylet's Essay on the Stag*, 219
Suggestions for raising Men, 32:
tables, Mathematical, 97
1 •, Legendary, 101
Tandy's Appeal to the Public, axo
Theology, Lectures on, 370
Tevinscnd's Sermons, 315
Travelling Recreations, XI1
Tuke on Religion and Morality, 214
For MAY, 1808;
Art. I. Marmren; a Tale of FIodden-Gcld. By Walter Scott, Esq. 4to. pp. coo. it. nt. 6d. Boards. Edinburgh, Constable; London, Miller, &c. 1808.
T^rom the novelty of its style and subject, and from the spirit "of its execution, Mr. Scott's "Lay of the last Minstrel" kindled a sort of enthusiasm among all classes of readers} and the concurrent voice of the public assigned to it a very exalted rank, which, on more cool and dispassionate examination, its numerous essential beauties will enable it to maintain. For vivid richness of colouring and truth of costume, many of its descriptive pictures stand almost unrivalled: it carries us back in imagination to the time of action; and we wander with the poet along Tweed-side, or among the wild glades of Ettiicke Forest.
Perhaps this is the highest merit of poetry; and to this praise Mr. Scott is most undoubtedly intitled in an eminent degree. His faults, however, arc at least equally numerous, if not equally striking, with his excellences. His fable is generally abrupt, obscure, and, abstracted from the charms of poetry, uninteresting. No proportion of means to effects is observed in the machinery or in the circumstances. The versification, though flowing and easy, is often (we had almost said) shamefully incorrect; and not unfrequently, in the midst of the most splendid passage, we are shocked by an unmusical line, or series of lines, deficient in every characteristic of poetry except rhyme, and sometimes even in that mechanical qualification.—To these blemishes it may be added that the author carries even his beauties to a faulty excess; that his descriptions of natural scenery are repeated to tediousness; that his knowlege of the manners of formtr ages occasionally betrays him into pedantry; and that even the proper names of places, which convey a peculiar charm to ears that have been versed in the antient Scottish minstrelsy, are sprinkled so thickly and often with so little meaning as to make the reader, though delighted at first, begin at last to
Vol. LYI. B suspect suspect a trick, and to take offence at that which, if managed with a sparing hand, might have been made a source of unmixed pleasure and approbation.
These are the principal faults of Mr. Scott, to which the general pre-eminence of his former poem almost blinded his readers; and of all thtjse, his extreme carelessness was undoubtedly the most material and the least excusable. We regard it as no extenuation of this error, that in so many successive editions of the work he lias chosen to adopt a motto • which, expressing his consciousness of the fact, evinces a bhmeable spirit of defiance or of indifference to the censure, occasioned by it. On the contrary, it more peculiarly behoved him to have studied a greater degree of correctness in any future publication: yet even in the volume before us, in the epistle to Mr. William Erskine, which he styles an introduction to his third Canto, he not only acknowleges the same error, but asserts rather than excuses his perseverance in it.
Were it requisite to state our opinion of the comparative merits of this anc»the former poem, we should probably say that the peculiar beauties of each are almost equally halanced; that in Marmion the fable is more interesting, and the delineation of character and manners still more strongly and faithfully portrayed; that, on the other hand, we are gratified by fewer, touches of pathos, and fewer marks of genuine poetical enthusiasm-, in. short, that, as a whole, it is superior,—but that, taken to pieces, it presents much less that is worthy of our admiration, or that can excite and interest our affections. With regard to the faults, most of those which we have noticed as inherent in the "Lay of the last Minstrel" are observable, to a much greater degree, in Marmion. The story is so obscure, owing to the abrupt manner in which the several parts are connected together, that it requires a clear head to comprehend it at a single reading; and the instances of incorrect language and slovenly versification become frequent and gross to a most unpardonable extent.
■ Mr. Scott was justly proud of the applause bestowed on those charming pieces of poetry with which he has adorned the openings of his several Cantos, in the Minstrel's Lay. - There they were naturally introduced, and interrupted the interest of the reader no more than the little breaks and pauses of a real narration, or than the intervals between the acts of a pathetic tragedy. Surely, however, an extraordinary defect.of judgment has led him, ii» the present tale*
"* Dum relcgo, scrip use pudct, qiiiaplurima cerno r
tc extend these pauses to a length almost commensurate with the several Cantos of the poem itself; more especially as no artifice connects them with the main body of the work. The same effect is thus produced as if, having written Mx epistles to as many friends, on various subjects, and chusing to print them together with a poem of greater magnitude, he had whimsically Inserted one of the epistles between every four or five hundred lines of the tale itself.
The "chance and change" of nature,—the vicissitudes which are observable in the moral as well as the physical part of the creation,—have given occasion to more exquisite poetry than any other general subject. The author had before made ample use of the sentiments suggested by these topics j yet he is not satisfied, but begins again with the same in his first epistle, (or introduction to the first Canto,) addressed to Mr. William Stewart Rose. The lines are certainly pleasing: but they fall, in our estimation, far below that beautiful simile of the Tweed which he has introduced into his former poem. The At m ten fixXaxai of Moschus is, however, worked up again to some advantage in the following passage:
• To mute and to material things »
Nothing can be more awful nnd affecting rhan the consideration that, within the short period of twelve months, England iost three of the greatest characters recorded in her annals; that two of the number, engaged during more than twenty years in the most perilous political warfare, now sleep in peace by the side of each other; .and that their departure has left us in a state of vacuity almost unexampled in the history of the nation. We could have easily pardoned Mr. Scott for being se. duced, by the attraction of such a subject: but we cannot forgive his stepping out of the way merely to furnish us with thre or
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