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sphere of his own personality—of entering have done, he is entirely free from the into the reality of another condition of life, charge of egotism. Whatever influence or of catching the spirit of a character very such a defence may have upon the minds much different from his own. He sought of Lamb's unqualified admirers, with us it in vain to sink himself in the mass of hu by no means obviates the charge we have manity, and temporarily to rise, like a brought against him and the class of true dramatist, clothed in whatever indi- writers to which he belonged, not only as vidual shape he would. The author him- being contemporary with them, but as in self seems not to have been unconscious of part fostered by them, and partaking this fact, as is plainly betrayed by the | largely of this same general characteristic. pains he has taken to fortify himself on Nor is this a topic which we feel at liberty this vulnerable point.
lightly to dismiss-bearing so directly and
| importantly as it seems to us to do, upon “I am at liberty to confess,” he says, in his
| the whole literature of tbat somewhat re
the whole niterature Preface to the collected " Essays of Elia,” markable period; an era ushered in by the " that much which I have heard objected to my hot-bed stimulus of a Parisian revolution, late friend's writings was well founded. ...., and expiring only in the repose of the Egotistical they have been pronounced by some
conqueror in a lonely, island grave. who did not know that what he tells us, as of himself, was often true only (historically) of
It is, indeed, a very superficial notion another; as in a former essay, (to save many
that the constant use of “the first perinstances,) where, under the first person, (his son,” however objectionable in other refavorite figure,) he shadows forth the forlorn spects, affords any sufficient ground, conestate of a country-boy placed at a London sidered by itself, for the charge of egoschool, far from his friends and connections— tism; and the friend,” from whose defence in direct opposition to his own early history. I of Elia we have already quoted: could If it be egotism to imply and twine with his
hardly have attached so much importance own identity the griefs and affections of another-making himself many, or reducing
to his extenuation of this fault as his many unto himself-then is the skillful novels | words would seem to imply. The accusaist, who all along brings in his hero or heroine, tion is made upon principles that have a speaking of themselves, the greatest egotist of bearing widely different, and more essenall; who yet has never, therefore, been accused tial than a form of expression which only of that narrowness. And how shall the in
a very natural circumlocution might elimitenser dramatist escape being faulty, who, doubtless, under cover of passion uttered by
nate entirely, and yet leave the spirit and another, oftentimes gives blameless vent to his
character of the writing unchanged. The most inward feelings, and expresses his own true point at issue is not at all touched, story modestly ?”
until reference is made-in rather a singu
lar manner, we think-to the example of Whatever logic there may be in this de the novelist and the dramatist. The quesfence of Elia, is solely of that species de- tion plainly put amounts very nearly to nominated petitio principii. The fact that this : Does the genuine poet or writer of the malerial of these essays, in the au- fiction see all his characters through himthor's own view, mainly consists of his self, and all his incidents through his own own personal experiences, is more than experience—“ making himself many, or implied in what we have quoted. It is the reducing many to himself”_"under cover drift of his argument, indeed, that all de of passion uttered by another, giving vent lineators of human character and all nar- to his most inward feelings”-telling “his rators of adventure and experience, spin own story modestly ?” —or does he, in entirely from the accumulated stores of some proper sense of the word, create ? their own individual being; that genuine Of course, we are now contemplating characterization consists in diversely or- the rule, and not the exception: yet the ganizing whatever their memory retains of rule, clearly enough established on other personal good or ill fortune, and of imme-grounds, is, for our present purpose, suffidiate observation, and in conferring upon ciently proved by the exception. All the such organization “a local habitation and world admires the novels of Sir Walter a name;" and that, therefore, since Elia Scott. That he stands at the head of the has done this, just as all other writers class of novelists, few will deny. His romances have been subjected to a rigid | exceptions, would have passed altogether examination in many lands; they have unquestioned under the universal rule. found their way to the hearts of all read- What female relative of Sir Walter ers. We deem it safe, in such a case, to Scott was the prototype of Flora McIvor ? accept the universal verdict of criticism on Who the Bridget of Elia is, we know; but certain leading points regarding these what sister of the novelist sat for the picwritings; and certain we are, that, in so ture of Rose Bradwardine, or Die Vernon, far at least as regards the particulars now or Jeannie Deans, or the “Maid of the especially to be considered, there can be Mist?” The originals of the Inner Temno difference of opinion. Scott, amidst ple and Christ's Hospital would have been the large and varied group of characters plainly enough recognized, doubtless, had to which he has introduced us, (scarcely | they been called by fictitious names ; but one of which is untrue to nature, or has when did the author of Waverley dwell in not its real prototype among living men— the Castle of Tillietudlem, and how far was whatever may be said of their originality,) | he personally familiar with Kenilworth is generally understood to have drawn two Castle and the Court of King James ? or three characters from certain circum- Where did he learn the manners he has stances of his own condition, and to have depicted in Ivanhoe, and when was he woven the events of one or two stories ever present at a tournament! What did from the incidents of his own life. The Sir Walter know, personally, of Baillie early years and the education of Waverley Nicol Jarvie, and Dugald Dulgetty, and are admitted to have been taken from the Donald Bean Lean, and Balfour of Burauthor's personal experience; but here all ley? We assert, without fear of conthe personality ends, and scarcely a resem- | tradiction, that both characters and inblance, even, remains in all that follows cidents, from the first to the last of the first few chapters. In the “Red these celebrated novels, have an individGauntlet” we find another and still more uality—with only slight exceptions—as noteworthy instance of the same person- distinct from the character and fortunes of ality. Here the author again is admitted the author, as the characters and incidents (under the “ modesty" of various dis- of a veritable history are distinct from each guises) to have expressed “his own story,” | other. and to have “ given vent" to some of his And equally true is this principle, as it “ most inward feelings.” Now, it is a respects every genuine work of fiction, consideration which we can well afford to whether in prose or in verse. Who, among omit entirely, that these same introduc- all the characters of the Iliad and Odyssey, tory chapters of Waverley--which are is the representative of the blind bard himwritten strictly according to the method self? Who has detected, “ under cover" laid down and defended by the “friend” of of any“ disguise,” the “most inward Elia—have been universally esteemed feelings” of the real Homer? Why have among the least readable parts of the book two or three personal allusions in Paradise in which they occur; and that the story Lost been so carefully noted, and set down of “Red Gauntlet” was one of the least among the faults of John Milton? And successful of all the author's romances. It | when did he have personal experience of was not, however, for the sake of showing the “most inward feelings" “ given vent" that a work so written will almost inevita- | through the lips of the lost archangel ?" bly prove a failure, (which we believe to Even more evident, perhaps, is the abbe the fact,) that we adduced the example surdity of the allusion to the dramatist. So of this novelist. We call attention to the manifest and universally understood are the absurdity of pointing out two or three laws which exclude every appearance of instances in a score of novels, and in the personal feeling from the drama, and which midst of a hundred distinct and natural deny the epithet dramatic to any dialogue fictitious characters--as the world have in which the author's self is a character, done---for examples of a personality, and how much more when he “makes himwhich, if the theory of Lamb be correct, is self many”!) that we forbear any illustrainseparable from every such composition, tion of the subject. A more unhappy referand which, instead of being pointed out asence could not have been made, if meant to be understood as in earnest ; but if | almost entirely lost. Out of the immeonly intended as a jest, as we feel inclined diate circle about him, composed of his to believe, it certainly amounts to a very brother, his sister, and a score or two of ingenious and unextenuating confession of friends, he knew little of men. In literathe charge which it ostensibly refutes. ture, even, he had no strong sympathies
How far this first-personality, (which, be beyond a limited round of writers. His chief it observed, is manifested in no slight de- favorites were the dramatists, and such gree in that species of bravado by which quaint and melancholy authors as Burton, an author sets at defiance all the acknowl- Sir T. Brown, and old Francis Quarles. edged rules and modes of expression, and, The necessities of his outward lot the boasting a heroic originality, indulges in a severe lesson of subordination he so faithstyle that tasks Christian forbearance to fully learned and practiced from his youth the utmost to endure,) how far this ego- up the character of his literary associtism may be the fundamental vice of ates—all contributed to fix the boundary Wordsworth, and Byron, of Hazlitt, and of his mind within limits to which Nature Godwin, and Shelley, and Hunt, and herself seems to have but half intended to others, their contemporaries, we leave the confine him... judicious reader to decide for himself. In Literature as an amusement—notwiththe writings of Charles Lamb, we find standing the sage words and “advice” of only the individual-confined to a narrow Coleridge on this subject—by no means sphere-bounded in his contemplations suffices one whom destiny bas ordained for within the limits of common sympathy, a man of letters. To sustain two distinct every-day fortune, and humble experience. characters in the drama of actual life, is He seems never to have had the faintest | as impossible as it is undesirable. The yearning after anything better than was anointed poet can by no means devote his afforded by the immediate circle that sur- | days to the drudgery of business, and his rounded him—the immediate society and nights to the enchantments of song. Talthe actual stage of civilization and improve- fourd, the author of Ion, and Talfourd, the ment in which his lot had been primarily serjeant at law, seem to us totally inconcast. In his earlier days, indeed, we find gruous; nay, both characters must necessome traces of a strong religious aspira- sarily be partial and imperfect, and, in some tion; such as, we believe, has always good measure, failures. That Lamb, the more or less characterized every truly “man of figures,” could not, from the nagreat and genial spirit. But time scat ture of the case, rise to a very exalted tered these emotions and impulses, and position in belles lettres, without casting maturer years found him apparently in off his original profession, seems to us too different, and without genuine spiritual evident to admit of any argument. It rehopes. It is, perhaps, the natural course quires the whole man—the whole soul, with all healthy minds to grow more might, mind, and strength-to fill up the religious as they advance in life, and measure of mediocrity, even, and much to become more and more attracted to more evidently, of greatness, in any high things “unseen and eternal," as the sor- calling. In judging the literary character rows and calamities of this sublunary exist of Lamb, therefore, justice compels us to ence calm the passions, and sober the judge him for what he is, and not for what heart to the realities of man's immortal some too partial admirers have held him being: as the change and illusion, that up to our view. mock him perpetually here, lead the disap The boyish admiration we have already pointed mortal to long for the everlastingly confessed for this writer, was not, we true and immutable. But Lamb's reli- are prone to think, a mistaken feeling. gious sympathies, his heavenly yearnings, The characteristics which then won our were mainly confined to his youthful days. attachment we now discover as plainly,
In his general sympathies, there was and appreciate, perhaps, as fully, as in little expansiveness: there was, at most, other days. To speak of these qualities but a comentary elasticity. Out of the delights us, after all, quite as much as to city-out of the particular quarter of Lon- | point out the limitations and short-comings don in which his days were passed, he was to which we have alluded, and which, in the more youthful days we have mentioned, | true of others, but in no case besides (as we lacked the discrimination to detect. we are aware) is the author at once so We love Charles Lamb-and this is main-constantly present to our minds, and his ly true, we suppose, of all his readers— presence so freely and cordially welcomed. for the affectionateness of his disposi- ! In Lamb, the predominant quality of tion and the kindliness of his heart; and mind seems to have been affection. Strong, more than all, for his genuine, inimitable turbulent passions he had none. To whathumor. These are qualities which will ever habit and education had consecrated never lack admirers. Though in some in his mind, he clung with an inextinguishmeasure it may be true that these quali- able fondness. The Inner Temple, where ties best appear in the living man, and his childhood was passed-its courts, its cannot be fully represented in the writ- fountains, the grave and venerable charten work—and though, undoubtedly, one acters he was there wont to see and to evening spent with Lamb, in his best converse with ; Christ's Hospital, the scene mood, were quite as delightful as any es- of his school-days; the favorite haunts of say of “Elia,”—yet it is certainly not his school-boy leisure; all the little inciimpossible to embody these characteristics dents and events which he saw and interin a literature that shall be truly agreeable, preted with childhood's eyes; the customs and deserving of a high rank. And we grown obsolete, and the buildings transtake pleasure in saying to the praise of formed or gone to decay, which in earlier Lamb, that he seems to us to have com days had been centres of business and er. bined these elements after a manner hither- citement; the older friends who had cato unknown in any literature. Our read ressed the child; and the relations on ers may think we have spoken some whom he had accustomed himself to rely what too strongly of the personality of with an unsuspecting confidence; were the these writings. But never, perhaps, was first, foremost, ever present objects of his there a writer in whom the quality in ques attachment. He judged everything (we tion appears with so little to offend, and might almost literally say) according to his from whose personal musings we rise with simple likes and dislikes; he measured so little dislike at what is usually so un- everything according to an immediate atpleasant, and oftentimes disgusting. It is traction or repulsion, rather than by a dea fault so inherent in a literature of this liberate exercise of his understanding, kind—and which we have affirmed to pos- We have sometimes thought, (and we besess distinct marks of originality—a litera- live not without reason,) that a violation of ture which must necessarily exhibit the sentiment was with him paramount to a author in his own living peculiarities—that violation of justice; that a transgression we are willing, for the time, to forget the against his own peculiar taste, was more evil, for the sake of the real good of which heinous than a transgression against conit is the ground. It is the man, Charles science. He complained of the “ Decay Lamb, that from first to last we love; and of Beggars in the Metropolis," for instance, analyze our impressions of his writings as from considerations that addressed them closely as we will, we shall probably find selves solely to his affection, through the this to be the grand object and the final cherished remembrances of childhood. end of all our attachment. Hence it is Whatever innovated upon these last, was that we so often suspect ourselves of a condemned to unqualified censure. He greater fondness for the letters so properly lived in his habits and affections, and an collected (and perhaps not without an in- assault upon these was, therefore, to him, sight of their significance in this very par- a capital injury. ticular) by Serjeant Talfourd, than for the | That there was an almost entire absence more finished productions on which his of passion in his constitution, we have reputation in the literary world had hither- | already remarked. We do, indeed, read to stood. Almost imperceptibly to our that he was once, for a few weeks, in love selves, we are all the while interesting with a fair Quakeress, to whom he neither ourselves in the man, and longing to get had spoken, nor did ever speak, an audible nearer and nearer to the real object of our word. “Elia ” alludes occasionally to a devotion. More or less, the same may be certain “ Alice W- " who, if not the
same, seems to have been a love of very | Comparatively cold and unimpassioned similar character. The "love" for this as Wordsworth certainly is, we find in a Quakeress in a short time becomes so touching little poem of his, on a kindred perfectly extinct that he avows himself subject, a contrast to the above, sufficiently ashamed to have been guilty of such folly— strong and noticeable for illustrating what declares himself forever wedded to the we mean. Imperfect and qualified as our fortunes of his sister, and settles down admiration of this poet has always been, with her, without, apparently, another we could never regard this as anything thought of “love;" for, marriage, even less than a perfect poem : in those few weeks whose folly he so much deplores, seems not to have once oc
“ LUCY. curred to his mind. And when the pretty 6 She dwelt among the untrodden ways Quakeress dies, witness the manner in Beside the springs of Dove, which the poet lover expresses his grief! A maid whom there were none to praise, Beautiful-touching beyond description
And very few to love: this best of Lamb's poems truly is ; yet
“ A violet by a mossy stone how clearly does it prove that such a mind
Half hidden from the eye! never did, in any accepted sense, LOVE! Fair as a star, when only one Lamb, at the date of this poem, was Is shining in the sky. twenty-eight years of age.
“She lived unknown, and few could know “ HESTER.
When Lucy ceased to be ;
But she is in her grave, and, oh, “When maidens such as Hester die,
The difference to me!"
We can better pardon this deficiency, so
uncommon in a poet, than the extravagances “A month or more hath she been dead,
of his fondness-rivalling the sickly longYet cannot I by force be led
ings of the enceinte--for whatever was To think upon the wormy bed
quaint, eccentric, out-of-the-way in literaAnd her together.
ture. Wholesome, healthy nourishment
answered not his purpose at all. If no " A springy motion in her gait,
oddity sufficiently gratifying could be comA rising step, did indicate Of pride and joy no common rate,
passed, he must at least be served to a That flushed her spirit.
dish of the antique. Nor were these sickly
longings without their influence upon the “I know not by what name beside
literary offspring to which he subsequently I shall it call : if 'twas not pride,
gave birth. The simile has its full applicaIt was a joy to that allied,
tion. Quaintness is always affected, unShe did inherit.
less it have become natural in the way of “ Her parents held the Quaker rule,
habit; and eccentricity, we are sure, forms Which doth the human feeling cool, no part of genius, and cannot, but with But she was trained in Nature's school | difficulty, amalgamate with it. Nature had blessed her. How strong was Lamb's affection for
whatever had become habitual and conse“ A waking eye, a prying mind,
crated by time and experience, and how he A heart that stirs, is hard to blind :
shuddered at the approach of any innovaA hawk's keen sight ye cannot blindYe could not Hester.
tion or disturbance, is remarkably shown
in the essay entitled “New Year's Eve," "My sprightly neighbor, gone before We refer especially to such passages as
To that unknown and silent shore, the following :
“I am naturally, beforehand, shy of novelties
-new books, new faces, new years from “ When from thy cheerful eyes a ray some mental twist which makes it difficult in Hath struck a bliss upon the day,
me to face the prospective. I have almost A bliss that would not go away,
ceased to hope ; and am sanguine only in the A sweet forewarning?" prospects of other (former) years. I plunge VOL. I. NO. V. NEW SERIES.