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tended to prolong some of his personal annoyances, by giving malevolent critics fresh pretences for making his private affairs the subject of public discussion, has certainly been in no respect injurious to his poetical reputation. It was in reviewing some of the performances included in this Volume, that Sir Walter Scott threw out the following observations, not the less interesting and instructive for certain modest allusions to that great author's own experiences as a popular poet:
“ We are sometimes,” he says, “ tempted to blame the timidity of those poets, who, possessing powers to arrest the admiration of the public, are yet too much afraid of censure to come frequently forward, and thus defraud themselves of their fame, and the public of the delight which they might afford us. Whère success has been unexpectedly, and perhaps undeservedly, obtained by the capricious vote of fashion, it may be well for the adventurer to draw his stake and leave the game, as every succeeding hazard will diminish the chance of his rising a winner. But, they cater ill for the public, and give indifferent advice to the
poet, — supposing him possessed of the highest qualities of his art, — who do not advise him to labour, while the laurel around his brows yet retains its freshness. Sketches from Lord Byron are more valuable than finished pictures from others; nor are we at all sure, that any labour which he might bestow in revisal, would not rather efface than refine those outlines of striking and powerful originality which they exhibit, when flung rough from the hand of the master. No one would have wished to condemn Michael Angelo to work upon a single block of marble, until he had satisfied, in every point, the petty criticism of that Pope, who, neglecting the sublime and magnificent character and attitude of his Moses, descended to blame a wrinkle in the fold of the garment.
“ Should it be urged that, in thus stimulating genius to unsparing exertion, we encourage carelessness and hurry in the youthful candidates for literary distinction, we answer, it is not the learner to whom our remarks apply; they refer to him only, who, gifted by nature with the higher power of poetry, — an art as difficult as it is enchanting, — has made himself
master, by application and study, of the mechani
cal process, and in whom, we believe, frequent
, exertions upon new works awaken and stimulate that genius, which might be cramped and rendered tame, by long and minute attention to finish to the highest possible degree any one of the number. If we look at our poetical library we shall find, generally speaking, the most distinguished poets have been the most voluminous, and that those who, like Gray, limited their productions to a few poems, anxiously and sedulously corrected and revised, have given them a stiff and artificial character, which, far from disarming criticism, has rather embittered its violence, while the Aristarch, like Achilles assailing Hector, meditates dealing the mortal wound through some unguarded crevice of the supposed impenetrable armour, with which the cautious bard has vainly invested himself.
“Our opinion must be necessarily qualified by the caution, that as no human invention can be infinitely fertile, as even the richest genius may be, in agricultural phrase, cropped out, and rendered sterile, and as each author must necessarily have a particular style in which he is supposed to excel, and must therefore be more or less a mannerist; no one can with prudence