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if not of the first class of statesmen, one of the first in the second class.
He went to India, and that large piece taken out of the best part of his life made this also impossible. Had he then devoted his leisure hours to researches on Indian antiquities, how much might he have done in that vast field, where so small a portion of the harvest is yet gathered in. Nobody was better qualified to disregard the common prejudices with respect to the representations of the Hindoos, to find a clue which should guide him through the mighty maze of Indian theology, and remove the world of rubbish, beneath which forms radiant in truth and beauty lie concealed. His fondness for the history of opinion would here have had full scope, and he might have cast a blaze of light upon a most interesting portion of the annals of mankind. This “ fair occasion,” too, he let slip, and returned to Europe, broken in health and spirits, and weakened, as any man must be, who has passed so many years in occupations which called for only so small a portion of his powers.
Did he then fix his attention on that other noble aim which rose before him, and labour to become for ever illustrious as the historian of his country ? No! Man may escape from every foe and every difficulty, except what are within-himself. Sir James, as formerly, worked with a divided heart and will; and Fame substituted a meaner coronal for the amaranthine wreath she had destined for his brow. Greatness was not thrust upon him and he wanted earnestness of purpose to achieve it for himself.
Let us now turn from the sorrowful contemplation of his one fault, to the many endearing or splendid qualities intimately connected with, or possibly fostered by this very fault. For so it is, “ what makes our virtues thrive openly, will also, if we be not watchful, make our faults thrive in secret ;” and vice versa. Let us admire his varied knowledge, his refinement of thought, which was such that only his truly philosophic turn could have prevented it from degenerating into sophistry ; his devotion, even niore tender than enthusiastic, to the highest interests of hu. manity; that beautiful fairness of mind, in which he was un. equalled, a fairness which evidenced equal modesty, generosity, and pure attachment to truth ; a fairness which made him more sensible to every one's merits, and more ready to perceive the excuses for every one's defects than his own; a fairness not to be disturbed by party prejudice or personal injury ; a fairness in which nobody, except Sir W. Scott, who was never deeply tried as he was, can compare with him. In what other journal shall we find an entry like the following, the sincerity of which no one can doubt :
"-- has, I think, a distaste for me, which I believe to be natural to the family. I think the worse of nobody for such a feeling; indeed, I often feel a distaste for myself; I am sure I should not esteem my own character in another person. It is more likely that I should have disrespectable or disagreeable qualities than that should have an unreasonable antipathy."
The letter to Mr. Sharpe on the changes in his own opinions, exhibits this trait to a remarkable degree.
It has been said that had he been less ready to confess his own mistakes of judgment, and less careful to respect the intentious of others, more arrogant in his pretensions and less gentle towards his opponents, he would have enjoyed greater influence, and been saved from many slights and disappointments. Here, at least, is no room for regret.
We have not, of course, attempted any thing like a comprehensive criticism upon the Life. The range of Sir James's connexions and pursuits being so wide, and the history of his mind being identical with that of the great political movement of his day, a volume would not give more than verge enough for all the thoughts it naturally suggests. If these few reflections excite the attention of sorne readers and are acceptable to others, as sympathy, they will attain their legitimate object.
MODERN BRITISH POETS.
“Poets—dwell on earth,
Nine muses were enough for one Greece, and nine poets are enough for one country, even in the nineteenth-century. And these nine are “a sacred nine,” who, if not quite equal to Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton, are fairly initiated masters of the wand and spell; and whose least moving incantation should have silenced that blasphemer, who dared to say, in the pages of Blackwood, that “all men, women, and children, are poets, saving only—those who write verses.”
First—There is CAMPBELL—a poet; simply a poet—no philo. sopher. His forte is strong conception, a style free and bold; occasionally a passage is ill-finished, but the lights and shades are so happily distributed, the touch so masterly and vigorous, with such tact at knowing where to stop, that we must look for the faults in order to see them. There is little, if any, originality of thought; no profound meaning; no esoteric charm, which you cannot make your own on a first reading ; yet we have all probably read Campbell many times. It is his manner which we admire; and in him we enjoy what most minds enjoy most, not new thoughts, new feelings, but recognition of
“What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.” Thus, in Campbell's best productions we are satisfied, not stimulated. “ The Mariners of England” is just what it should be ;—for we find free, deep tones, from the seaman's breast, chorded into harmony by an artist happy enough to feel naturewise enough to follow nature. « Lochiel” is what it should be, a wild, breezy symphony, from the romantic Highlands. There are, in fact, flat lines and tame passages in “ Lochiel ;” but I should never have discovered them, if I had not chanced to hear that noble composition recited by a dull schoolboy. The ideal. izing tendency in the reader, stimulated by the poet's real mag. netic power, would prevent their being perceived in a solitary perusal, and a bright schoolboy would have been sufficiently inspired by the general grandeur of the piece ; to have known how to sink such lines as
“Welcome be Cumberland's steed to the shock,
Let him dash his proud foam like a wave on the rock ;" or,
“Draw, dotard, around thy old, wavering sight;" and a few other imperfections in favour of
"Proud bird of the mountain, thy plume shall be torn," and other striking passages.
As for the sweet tale of “ Wyoming,” the expression of the dying Gertrude's lips is not more “ bland, more beautiful,” than the music of the lay in which she is embalmed. It were difficult to read this poem, so holy in its purity and tenderness, so deliciously soft and soothing in its coloring, without feeling better and happier.
The feeling of Campbell towards women is refined and deep. To him they are not angels -not, in the common sense, heroines; but of a “perfect woman nobly planned,” he has a better idea than most men, or even poets. Witness one of his poems, which has never received its meed of fame; I allude to Theodric. Who can be insensible to the charms of Constance, the matron counter. part to Gertrude's girlhood ?
"To know her well,
“To paint that being to a grovelling mind
Were like portraying pictures to the blind.