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pitiated by musicians, because, having failed in her own attempts, she had taken a dislike to the art and all its successful professors. But I shall probably have occasion hereafter to deliver my convictions more at large concerning this state of things and its influences on taste, genius, and morality.
In the Thalaba, the Madoc, and still more evidently in the unique' Cid, in the Kehama, and, as last, so best, the Roderick ; Southey has given abundant proof, se cogitare quam sit magnum dare aliquid in manus hominum ; nec persuadere sibi posse, non sæpe tractandum quod placere et semper et omnibus cupiat." But on the other hand, I conceive, that Mr. Southey was quite unable to comprehend, wherein could consist the crime or mischief of printing half a dozen or more playful poems ; or to speak more generally, compositions which would be enjoyed or passed over, according as the taste or humor of the reader might chance to be ; provided they contained nothing immoral. In the present age peritura parcere charta is emphatically an unreasonable demand. The merest trifle he ever sent abroad had tenfold better claims to its ink and paper than all the silly criticisms on it, which proved no more than that the critic was not one of those, for whom the trifle was written ; and than all the grave exhortations to a greater reverence for the public—as if the pas. sive page of a book, by having an epigram or doggrel tale impressed on it, instantly assumed at once locomotive power and a sort of ubiquity, so as to flutter and buzz in the ear of the public to the sore annoyance of the said mysterious personage. But what gives an additional and more ludicrous absurdity to these lamentations is the curious fact, that if in a volume of poetry the
a critic should find poem or passage which he deems more especi.
9 I have ventured to call it unique; not only because I know no work of the kind in our language (if we except a few chapters of the old translation of Froissart),—none, which uniting the charms of romance and history, keeps the imagination so constantly on the wing, and yet leaves so much for after reflection ; but likewise, and chiefly, because it is a compilation, which, in the various excellences of translation, selection, and arrangement, required and proves greater genius in the compiler, as living in the present state of society, than in the original composers.
10 (Accommodated from Pliny the younger. L. vii., Ep. 17. En.]
ally worthless, he is sure to select and reprint it in the review; by which, on his own grounds, he wastes as much more paper than the author, as the copies of a fashionable review are more numerous than those of the original book ; in some, and those the most prominent instances, as ten thousand to five hundred. I know nothing that surpasses the vileness of deciding on the merits of a poet or painter--not by characteristic defects; for where there is genius, these always point to his characteristic beauties ; but)-by accidental failures or faulty passages; except the impudence of defending it, as the proper duty, and most instructive part of criticism. Omit or pass slightly over the expression, grace, and grouping of Raffael's figures; but ridicule in detail the knitting needles and broom-twigs, that are to represent trees in his back grounds; and never let him hear the last of his gallipots! Admit, that the Allegro and Penseroso of Milton are not without merit; but repay yourself for this concession, by reprinting at length the two poems on the University Carrier! As a fair specimen of his Sonnets, quote
“A Book was writ of late called Tetrachordon;"
and, as characteristic of his rhythm and metre, cite his literal translation of the first and second Psalm! In order. to justify yourself, you need only assert, that had you dwelt chiefly on the beauties and excellences of the poet, the admiration of these might seduce the attention of future writers from the objects of their love and wonder, to an imitation of the few poems and passages in which the poet was most unlike himself.
But till reviews are conducted on far other principles, and with far other motives; till in the place of arbitrary dictation and petulant sneers, the reviewers support their decisions by reference to fixed canons of criticism, previously established and deduced from the nature of man; reflecting minds will pronounce it arrogance in them thus to announce themselves to men of letters, as the guides of their taste and judgment. To the purchaser and mere reader it is, at all events, an injustice. He who tells me that there are defects in a new work, tells me nothing which 1 should not have taken for granted without his information. But he, who points out and elucidates the beauties of an original work, does indeed give me interesting information, such as experience would not have authorized me in anticipating. And as to compositions which the authors themselves announce with
Hæc ipsi novimus esse nihil,11
why should we judge by a different rule two printed works, only because the one author is alive, and the other in his grave ? What literary man has not regretted the prudery of Spratt in refusing to let his friend Cowley appear in his slippers and dressing gown? I am not perhaps the only one who has derived an innocent amusement from the riddles, conundrums, tri-syllable lines, and the like, of Swift and his correspondents, in hours of languor, when to have read his more finished works would have been useless to myself, and, in some sort, an act of injustice to the author. But I am at a loss to conceive by what perversity of judgment, these relaxations of his genius could be employed to diminish his fame as the writer of Gulliver, or the Tale of a Tub. Had Mr. Southey written twice as many poems of inferior merit, or partial interest, as have enlivened the journals of the day, they would have added to his honor with good and wise men, not merely or principally as proving the versatility of his talents, but as evidences of the purity of that mind, which even in its levities never dictated a line which it need regret on any moral account.
I have in imagination transferred to the future biographer the duty of contrasting Southey's fixed and well-earned fame, with the abuse and indefatigable hostility of his anonymous critics from his early youth to his ripest manhood. But I cannot think so ill of human nature as not to believe, that these critics have already taken shame to themselves, whether they consider the object of their abuse in his moral or his literary character. For reflect but on the variety and extent of his acquirements! He stands second to no man, either as an historian or as a bibliographer; and when I regard him as a popular essayist—(for the articles of his compositions in the reviews are, for the greater part, essays
" [The motto prefixed by Mr. Southey to his Minor Poems. Ed.]
on subjects of deep or curious interest rather than criticisms on particular works)—I look in vain for any writer, who has conveyed so much information, from so many and such recondite sources, with so many just and original reflections, in a style so lively and poignant, yet so uniformly classical and perspicuous; no one, in short, who has combined so much wisdom with so much wit; so much truth and knowledge with so much life and fancy. His prose is always intelligible and always entertaining. In poetry he has attempted almost every species of composition known before, and he has added new ones ; and if we except the highest lyric—(in which how few, how very few even of the greatest minds have been fortunate)—he has attempted every species successfully ;-from the political song of the day, thrown off in the playful overflow of honest joy and patriotic exultation, to the wild ballad ; from epistolary ease and graceful narrative, to austere and impetuous moral declamation; from the pastoral charms and wild streaming lights of the Thalaba, in which sen. timent and imagery have given permanence even to the excite. ment of curiosity ; and from the full blaze of the Kehama-la gallery of finished pictures in one splendid fancy piece, in which, notwithstanding, the moral grandeur rises gradually above the brilliance of the coloring and the boldness and novelty of the machinery)—to the more sober beauties of the Madoc ; and lastly, from the Madoc to his Roderic, in which, retaining all his former excellences of a poet eminently inventive and picturesque, he has surpassed himself in language and metre, in the construction of the whole, and in the splendor of particular passages.
Here then shall I conclude ? No! The characters of the de. ceased, like the encomia on tombstones, as they are described with religious tenderness, so are they read, with allowing sympathy indeed, but yet with rational deduction.
There are men, who deserve a higher record ; men with whose characters it is the interest of their contemporaries, no less than that of posterity, to be made acquainted; while it is yet possible for impartial censure, and even for quick-sighted envy, to cross-examine the tale without offence to the cortesies of humanity; and while the eulogist, detected in exaggeration or falsehood, must pay the full penalty of his baseness in the contempt which brands the con victed flatterer. Publicly has Mr. Southey been reviled by men, who, as I would fain hope for the honor of human nature, hurled fire-brands against a figure of their own imagination ; publicly have his talents been depreciated, his principles denounced ; as publicly do I therefore, who have known him intimately, deem it my duty to leave recorded, that it is Southey's almost unexampled felicity, to possess the best gifts of talent and genius free from all their characteristic defects. To those who remember the state of our public schools and universities some twenty years past, it will appear no ordinary praise in any man to have passed from innocence into virtue, not only free from all vicious habits, but unstained by one act of intemperance, or the degradations akin to intemperance. That scheme of head, heart, and habitual demeanor, which in his early manhood, and first controversial writings, Milton, claiming the privilege of self-defence, asserts of himself, and challenges his calumniators to disprove ;' this will his schoolmates, his fellow-collegians, and his maturer friends, with a confidence proportioned to the intimacy of their knowledge, bear witness to, as again realized in the life of Robert Southey. But still more striking to those, who by biography or by their own experience are familiar with the general habits of genius, will appear the poet's matchless industry and perseverance in his pursuits; the worthiness and dignity of those pursuits ; his gene. rous submission to tasks of transitory interest, or such as his genius alone could make otherwise ; and that having thus more than satisfied the claims of affection or prudence, he should yet have made for himself time and power, to achieve more, and in more various departments, than almost any other writer has done,
19 (Ad me quod attinet, te testor, Deus, mentis intima cogitationumque omnium indagator, me nullius rei (quanquam hoc apud me sæpius et, quam marime potui, serio quæsivi, et recessus, vitæ omnes excussi), nullius vel recens vel olim commissi mihimet conscium esse, cujus atrocitas hanc mihi præ cæteris calamitatem creare, aut accersisse merito potuerit.-Def. Sec.
Tu senties eam esse vitæ meæ et apud me conscientiam, et apud bonos existinctionem, eam esse et præteritæ fiduciam et reliquæ spem bonam, ut nihil impidere me, aut absterrere possit, quo minus flagitia tua, si pergis lacessere, etiam liberius adhuc et diligentius persequar.—Def. cont. Alex Morum Ed.)