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Pursue what chance or fate proclaimeth best ;
There no forc'd banquet claims the sated guest, But silence spreads the couch of ever welcome rest.' The common courtesy of society has, we think, very justly proscribed the intrusive introduction of such topics as these into conversation ; and as no reader probably will open Childe Harold with the view of inquiring into the religious tenets of the author, or of eudeavouring to settle his own, we cannot but disapprove, in point of taste, these protracted meditations, as well as the disgusting objects by wich some of them are suggested. We object to them, also, because they have the effect of producing some little traces of resemblance between the author and the hero of the piece; a resemblance which Lord Byron has most sedulously and properly disclaimed in his preface.
It will now be proper to take a slight survey of the remaining contents of this volume.
On the subject of the notes, which are always lively and amusing, and sometimes convey much curious information, we should have had no comments to make, if Lord Byron had not occasionally amused himself with provoking controversy, and, in one instance at least, without any very legitimate reason.
He was, indeed, bound to state the grounds on which he had thought it necessary, in his poem, to designate Lord Elgin as the last, the worst dull spoiler' of Athens; as a man whom Scotland, must blush to own; as a modern Pict,'--' cold as the crags upon his native coast, his mind as barren and his heart as hard;' -- but we doubt whether the plea adduced by the poet would be admitted in any sober and impartial court of justice, as a complete excuse for so much invective. This allegation in the note amounts to this :that whilst the Consul of France has been endeavouring to obtain from the Turkish government their permission to seize and send to Paris the most valuable remnants of antiquity which still remained at Athens, our ambassador at Constantinople had contrived, by means of a more active agent, to get possession of the said antiquities, and to ship them to England; and that the same agent, in executing his commission, has' wantonly and uselessly defaced a whole range of basso-relievos in one compartment of the temple' wbich he was suffered to pillage. Supposing this statement to be correct, the Athenians have, undoubtedly, good reason to complain ; and if Lord Byron, indignantly feeling his share in the degradation of the national character consequent upon stich acts of outrage, had contented himself with producing his charge; with proving that the immediate instrument of the mischief had acted under the authority of a British ambassador, and with arguing against such au
abuse of the influence derived from this high situation ; we should have thought his spirit and his eloquence well employed. But it surely is not quite fair to begin by executing a supposed delinquent, and then to put him upon his defence. We can forgive, in a young and ardent traveller, the bitter expression of disappointed curiosity ; but Lord Byron, as a traveller and a scholar, may, perhaps, derive some advantage from the spirit of depredation of which he so feelingly complains. He has printed in his Appendix an extract from Meletius, containing a transcript of the Hellenic inscription, &c. on the marbles found at Orchiomenus; now we are informed that the marble containing this inscription is at present in England; and that, by a reference to the original, Lord Byron may easily satisfy himself that the copy given by Meletius in his Geography is full of inaccuracies.
In the note inserted at p. 143, Lord Byron has certainly replied, with great liberality and decorum, to a set of critics, who, in their censures of his earlier works, had not set him the example of extreme urbanity; but the instance of unprovoked pugnacity to which we allude is exhibited in pp. 146 and 147, where he denies to Mr. Thornton any claims to public confidence from a fourteen years' residence at Pera; assuring us that this can give him no more insight into the real state of Greece and her inhabitants than as many years spent at Wapping into that of the western Highlanders.' But, in the first place, if Lord Byron be right, Mr. Thornton cannot be wholly wrong; for, on comparing their respective opinions, it will be found that, in all essential points, they very nearly coincide. Secondly, as Constantinople and its immediate vicinity may furnish about one hundred thousand specimens of Greeks of different ranks and conditions, whilst Wapping cannot be supposed to offer very numerous samples of western Highlanders, we cannot consider the noble lord's illustration as very apposite. Thirdly, as Lord Byron admits, (pp. 159, 160,) that the best account of Turkish manners is Mr. Thornton's English,' it is not very probable that so accurate an observer of character, in instances where the means of observation were comparatively rare, should have been totally blind to the manners of a people with whom, during fourteen years, he must have been in habits of daily intercourse. Whilst we feel ourselves indebted to Lord Byron for the light which he has thrown on the character and manners of the Albanians, we are sorry that, in criticizing an intelligent and, apparently, accurate writer, he should condescend, more than once, to employ a tone of sarcasm which nearly borders on coarseness and vulgarity.
The notes are followed by a series of small lyric pieces, fourteen in number, some of which (and particularly the last) we should have been glad to transcribe, but that we are conscious of having
already already exhausted, and, perhaps, abused, the privilege of quotation.
Of the Appendix, which consists of various specimens of the Romaic, we need only say, that we consider it as a valuable
supplement to this entertaining Pilgrimage.' National songs, and popular works of amusement, throw no small light on the manners of a people; they are materials which most travellers have within their reach, but which they almost always disdain to collect. Lord Byron has shewn a better taste; and it is to be hoped that his example will, in future, be generally followed.
It is now time to take leave-we hope not a long leave-of Childe Harold's migrations, but we are unwilling to conclude our article without repeating our thanks to the author for the amusement which he has afforded us. The applause which he has received has been very general, and, in our opinion, well deserved. We think that the poem exhibits some marks of carelessness, many of caprice, but many also of sterling genius. On the latter we have forborne to expatiate, because we apprehend that our readers are quite as well qualified as ourselves to estimate the merits of pleasing
versification, of lively conception, and of accurate expression. Of those errors of carelessness from which few poems are, in the first instance, wholly exempt, we have not attempted to form a catalogue, because they can scarcely fail to be discovered by the author, and may be silently corrected in a future edition. But it was our duty attentively to search for, and honestly to point out the faults arising from caprice, or from a disregard of general opinion; because it is a too common, though a very mischievous prejudice, to suppose that genius and eccentricity are usual and natural companions; and that, to discourage extravagance is to check the growth of excellence. Lord Byron has shewn that his confidence in his own powers is not to be subdued by illiberal and unmerited censure; and we are sure that it will not be diminished by • our animadversions: we are not sure that we should have better consulted his future fame, or our own character for candour, if we had expressed our sense of his talents in terms of more unqualified panegyric.
ART. XI. The Judgment delivered Dec. 11, 1809, by the Right
Hon. Sir John Nicholl, Knt. LL. D. Official Principal of the Arches of Canterbury; upon the Admission of Articles exhibited in a Cause of Office promoted by Kemp against Wickes, Clerk, for refusing to bury an Infant Child of two of his Parishioners, who had been baptized by a Dissenting Minister. pp. 47. London, Butterworth. 1810.
A Respectful Examination of the Judgment, &c. in a Letter to Sir
John Nicholl. By the Rev. Charles Daubeney, LL. B. Archdeacon of Sarum. Bath, Meyler and Son; London, Riving
tons. 1811. Remarks upon a late Decision in the Court of Arches, 8c. By
the Rev. George Hutton, D.D. Vicar of Sutterton, &c. Boston,
Kelsey; London, Baldwin, 1811. IT T was our intention to avoid all notice of the controversy main
tained in these pamphlets; not because we considered the question as unimportant, or the parties engaged in it as undeserving of attention, but because, in truth, we lamented that such a dispute had ever arisen, and were unwilling by any remarks of ours to prolong its existence or increase its notoriety. Circumstances, however, have occurred to make us depart from this determination. We have heard of late from various quarters that the question has not been suffered to sink into oblivion, that persons of high authority in the church have thought it necessary to raise their voice : against the dangerous consequences of Sir J. Nicholl's judgment; and, in particular, that one learned prelate has not only addressed his clergy on the subject, but has also circulated some printed * Reflections,' in which he endeavours to prove that the decision of the Court of Arches is unfounded, and that nothing less than the integrity and stability of the Established Church is involved in the issue. Even the labours of Dr. Hutton, though they prove nothing else, shew that the question is not yet at rest. His pamphlet, indeed, is invested with somewhat more of authority than its intrinsic merits could claim, from being dedicated by permission to the Lord Bishop of Peterborough,' within whose diocese the case arose, which has given origin to so much discussion.
The facts of this case are, in brief, as follows; the Rev. J. W. Wickes, Rector of Wardly, refused to bury Hannah, the infant daughter of John and Mary Swingler, protestant dissenters of the denomination of Calvinistic Independents, assigning, as the reason of his refusal, the baptism of the said infant by a minister, preacher, or teacher of the same class of dissenters, which baptism was with water, and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For this refusal articles were exhibited against Mr. Wickes in the Arches Court of Canterbury; the admission of these articles was opposed on the plea that, if the facts were true, still the defendant had been guilty of no offence. When, after a patient hearing of the whole cause, the official principal, Sir John Nicholl, decided that the minister, in refusing to bury the child, had acted illegally, and consequently admitted the articles exhibited against him.
It is our intention to lay before our readers an impartial view of the grounds of this decree, and of the arguments by which it has been controverted: we shall not scruple to give our own opinion of ti'ie merits of the controversy, and to make such observations as may occur to us, on the principal points involved in it.
The 68th canon, and the rubric before the office of burial, comprise the whole law of the case. The canon ordains that no minister shall refuse to bury any corpse brought to the church or church-yard, except the party deceased were denounced excommunicated majori excommunicatione for some grievous and notorious criine.' The rubric adds two other exceptions expressly. Here is to be noted that the office ensuing is not be used for any that die unbaptized or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands on themselves. In the present instance the question is whether this infant did die unbaptized within the true meaning of the rubric. This, at least, is considered to be the only point at issue in the judgment of Sir John Nichell; other inatters are introduced by him, but incidentally, or for the sake of illustration.
To ascertain the meaning of the disputed word, the learned judge has recourse to the ordinary rules of construction; first, he considers it in its general sense and unconnected with the rubric, and states it then to mean 'not baptized at all, not initiated into the Christian church.'--p. 11. He next examines whether in the context there be any thing to vary or limit this general meaning. The context associates with the unbaptized, persous excommunicate, and suicides, obviously not contradicting, but, in the opinion of Sir John Nicholl, rather confirming the former construction, that persons unbaptized are those who are not Christians at all; for such, he thinks, excommunicates also, and suicides are to be deemed.
Having thus considered the word in its general meaning and in its context, he notices another rule of construction, namely, that the general law is to be construed favourably, and the exception strictly. Here the general law is, that burial is to be refused to no person; and, since exceptions must not be extended by mere implication so as to limit the general law, it would have been necessary, instead of using the term ‘unbaptized,' to have said not baptized according to the form prescribed by the book of Common Prayer,' if it had been the intention of the legislator to give to his exception so large a meaning.
He next proceeds to examine whether there be any thing in the history of the law to confirm or disprove the interpretation, to which the course of his argument hitherto has led him : particularly whether lay-baptism has been recognized as valid by the church of England; for if it has, he contends that the church cannot mean