« ZurückWeiter »
sionally appeared of a very different to use the same general style of cit. description, where the reviewer, plea- lity, towards others, although the sed with a theme which correspond- had not the same powerful title ed with his own taste and pursuits, protection. A certain deference was threw off the labourer, assumed the visibly paid to an author of celebrity, author, and analysed with a kindred whether founded upon his litera spirit the productions of genius or the qualities or on the adventities da researches of philosophy. In other tinctions of rank and title, and gezecases, the gentleman of the trade, rally there was a marked and guari whose book was to be reviewed, ed retenue both in the strictures to sought out among his own custo- zarded and in the mode of expressir
. mers, or the literary friends of the them. If raillery was ever attempt. author, some person whom he sup- there was no horse-play in it, and the posed qualified to treat the subject only fault which could be object: well, and disposed to use the work by the reader was, that the critic favourably. Such a voluntary as
Content to dwell in decencies far ef.t. sistant, though he might not possess more ability than the person on whom This rule was not, indeed, withou in stated routine thc iask would have exceptions ; the mind of a liberal zi devolved, took it up nevertheless with public-spirited critic sometimes re the eagerness of novelty; and if, at versed the sentence of his employer. the same time, he was paying a tax to and, unlike the prophet of Midian friendship, or endeavouring to throw anathematized the works on wh: a double lustre upon opinions which he was summoned to bestow benedi: he himself professed, his article was tions. Neither was it meet that the likely to possess a spirit and energy critical rod should be hung up ia which might raise it above the cold mere shew, lest in time, as it is leai. uniformity of those with which it edly argued by the Duke of Vienza
, was mingled. But exceptions, arising it should become more mocked this from either of these causes, were com- feared.” The terrors of the office paratively of rare occurrence, and, were, therefore, in some measure man. upon 'the whole, there was a visible tained by the severity exercised upca tameness and disposition to lethargy. the trumpery novels and still-born poe in the English reviews at the close of try which filled the monthly catalogue the 18th century:
whose unknown, and perhaps star A spirit of indolence is usually ac. authors, fared like the parish bora companied with a disposition to mer- at a charity school, who are logged cy, or rather those whom it has tho- not only for their own errors, bas za roughly possessed cannot give them- vindicate the authority of the master selves the trouble of rousing to deeds who cares not to use the same free of severity. Accordingly the calm, dom with the children of the squire even, and indifferent style of criticism, Sometimes also “ fate demanded which we have endeavoured to de: nobler head.” The work of a rial scribe, was distinguished by a lenient bookseller was to be crushed evers aspect towards its objects. The re- birth ; a powerful literary patroa, viewer, in the habit of treating with perhaps the reviewer himself, complacency those works which be- some private pique to indulge, 23 longed to his own publisher, was apt added a handful of slugs to the pok.
der and paper which formed the authors of sermons and essays, and usual contents of his blunderbuss. mawkish poems and stupid parish hisSometimes political discussions were tories, bore each triumphantly his introdueed, before' which deference ponderous load into the mart of liteand moderation are uniformly found rature, expanded it upon the stall of to disappear. Or, in fine, the sage his bookseller, sate brooding over it bibliopolist himself occasionally on till evening closed, and then retired pined that a little severity (so it with the consolation, that, if his wares came not the way of his own pública. had not met a purchaser, they had tions) might forward the sale of his at least been declared saleable, and review, and was therefore pleased to received the stamp of currency from cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of the official inspectors of literary mer. · war. But the operation of each and chandize. From these soothing all of these causes was insufficient to dreams, authors, hooksellers, and counteract the tendency of this spe- critics were son to be roused by a cies of criticism to stagnate in a rattling peal of thunder; and it now course of dull and flat and luke-warm becomes our task to shew how a con. courtesy. Something of the habitu. spiracy of beardless boys innovated al civility and professional deference the venerable laws of this lenient reof the tradesman seemed to qualify public of literature, scourged the the labours of those who wrote under booksellers' out of her senate-house, his direction ; and the crities them. overset the tottering thrones of the selves, accessible (not, we believe, in idols whom they had set up, awaken. almost any case, to pecuniary interpo. ed the hundred-necked snake of cri. sition, but to applications for favour ticism, and curdled the whole ocean in divers modes, whieh they found it of milk and water, in which, like the difficult to regist, and mixing, too, in serpentine supporter of Vistnou, he the intercourse of private life with had wreathed and wallowed in un. many of those who afforded the sub. wieldy sloth for a quarter of a cen. jects of their criticism, were seldom tury. Then, too,' amid this dire disposed to exercise their office in its combustion, like true revolutionists, full, or even in its necessary rigour. they erected themselves into a comThese were days of halcyon quiet. mittee of public safety, whose decrees ness for authors, especially for that were written in blood, and executed numerous class, who, contented to without mercy. venture their whole literary credit on As in many
other great revolutions, one dull work written upon as dull a the causes which gave rise to this subject, look forward less to rapid change of system were slight and for. sale and popular applause than to a tuitous. A few young men, who had favourable eriticism from the review. just concluded their studies at the ers, and a word or two of snug, quiet, University of Edinburgh, and were honied assent from a few private united together by a similarity of tafriends. The public indeed began to lents and pursuits, conceived a promurmur that
ject (designed, we believe, to be tem. Lost was the critic's sense, nor could be porary,) to rescue this province of found
literature from the state of degradaWhile one dull formal unison went round. tion into which it had gradually sunk, But the venerable and well-wigged and to give to the world what for ma.
VOL. II. PART II.
ny years it had not seen a fair, but, fortune or generosity inclined them to at the same time, a bold and impar. labour for nought, and the less for. tial review of such works as appear. tunate scholar, to whom reward was ed to merit public attention. The in some degree an object; the pride scheme of publication, although deep. of the latter remained unwounded, ly laid, contained some staggering and, mingled as he was among many preliminaries. The associated critics, critics of wealth and rank, it remainwhile they asserted the most uncon- ed a secret known to none but him. trouled freedom from the influence of self, whether he was actuated by any their publisher, stipulated, it is well additional motives besides the desire knowo, a subsidy at more than treble of literary distinction, The report, the rate allowed to the best as well as too, of this uncommon premium
gare supplest mercenaries which London a sort of eclat to the undertaking, could afford. The mention of this and shewed that the associated crcircumstance, though it may seem to tics claimed a merit and consequence savour of minute inquiry, is in truth beyond the ordinary class of reviewneither trivial nor petulant. Young ers ; that their band, like the confe. men just entering upon life, especial. derates of Gadshill, were “no foot. ly if they belong to Scotland, are land-rakers, no long-staff sixpenny heldom in a situation to afford their strikers, but nobility and tranquillity, time gratis, or, if in such a situation, burgomasters and great oneyers.' are still more seldom disposed to be. In short, this subordinate circuestow their leisure hours in labour of stance (for it must be supposed that any kind. Besides, every one knows we hold it highly subordinate to the the inadequate recompençe usually principal causes of success) gave the made to a Scottish barrister during undertaking at its outset an appear. the early years of his practice, and ance of seriousness, for which, cog. it was probably not injudiciously con- sidering the youth of those upor ceiyed, that a more ample guerdon whom the execution was to rest, they might seduce some of that well-edu. might otherwise hardly have gained çated and peculiarly acute class of the necessary credit. young men to lend their aid to the In another circumstance, the Edisnew undertaking, which was carefully burgh Reviewers judiciously took a cleared of everything resembling difference from their brethren of mercenary drudgery, while the hono- England. Their criticism was prorarium it held forth made the ordi- fessedly limited to works which, in nary professional emoluments kick one shape or other, deserved the pub. the beam. In one respect that mer- lic attention ; and, that ample time cantile part of the matter was mana- might be allowed for selecting such ged with equal delicacy and prudence. $ubjects, their term of publication was No distinction was permitted between made quarterly instead of monthly, the Dilletanti writer, and one whose At the same time, and as a part of circumstances might render copy. the same arrangement, it was annousmoney necessary or acceptable. If ced to the public, that it was the object Czar Peter laboured in the trenches, of this new publication to be distinhe drew his pay as a common soldier; guished rather by the selection than and thus the degrading distinction for the number of its articles; that the was excluded between those whose editors did not assume any merit for
conveying priority of literary intelli- booksellers principally interested in gence, and therefore left such a space the success of these works took care of time betwixt their periods of pub. for their own sakes to procure relication as might avail for mature spectable assistance for what are call. consideration of the works fit to be ed the leading articles. But what reviewed, as well as of the judgement man of talent would be bribed to the to be passed upon them. It cannot analyzing and reporting this dungbe doubted that this deliberate mode hill of shreds and patches, this “ mass of proceeding at once added to the of all things base," or write these real merit of the review, and greatly paltry and brief notices, which were raised its character with the public. strung together, and appended to The reviews had been hitherto pub- the more dignified articles, like the lished monthly, and it was a neces
which form the tail sary consequence, that those num- of a boy's kite ? Or, if such a critic bers which appeared in what is call. were willing to stoop to the task of ed the publishing season, which lasts a scavenger, and was condescending from the end of November till after enough to sift this heap of cinders, the King's birth-day, were over. could a bookseller be expected, upon whelmed with important discussions mercantile principles, to compensate which the critics had neither time his labours according to the writer's maturely to consider, nor room to merit and not to their worth? It is treat at length. Hence we have probable, therefore, that these depart. frequently seen the reviewer under ments in many cases slipped into the the inconvenient but unavoidable ne. hands of a low description of hackcessity of continuing a single arti. ney, scribblers, whose very names cle of importance from one number tended to throw disrespect upon the of his review to another, by which employment of reviewers, and who division his argument sustained deep may be supposed little scrupulous as and material injustice. It was a yet to the indirect modes by which more serious inconvenience to the they mended the pittance allotted editor, that he was obliged to bolster them. As, therefore, in this subordi. out his summer numbers with an extra nate department, the partiality of pri. proportion of those insignificant and vate friendship, and the rancour of still born productions which never for personal malignity, could be summonan instant either did attract, or ought ed into activity, unsuspected and unto have attracted, the attention of the detected, it seems farther probable, public. But at all times their plan that, if there were any real grounds for admitted too much of this trumpery. actual corruption and bribery, to The monthly catalogue, where, as which we believe the superior class in the cauldron of Acheron, all min- of reviewers were strangers, they gles that mingle may, while it occu- might perhaps occur in this ill-scourpied a degree of room widely dispro. ed sink, this lowest dungeon of critiportional to its no-importance, had, cal publication. In disclaiming, therein a secondary point of view, an ef- fore, any intention of reviewing what fect disadvantageous to the charac. was naturally destined to obscurity, ter of the reviews, and those by the Edinburgh critics at once cleared whom they were written. We have their hands of a huge, ill-arranged, already stated our belief that the and most uninteresting class of sub
jects, and relieved themselves from vices of this gentleman were of course the necessity of associating in their declined, and it was made sufficiently labours those discreditable compeers, manifest that the publishers were to upon whom the task of considering derive no other advantage from this it must necessarily have devolved. work than the direct emoluments They did more-by this arrange- which the sale might produce to ment, they pledged themselves to the them. reader, that they would exercise no The first numbers of the Edioabsolute and peremptory fiat of ac- burgh Review asserted the character quittal or condemnation without which it has in most respects maintreating the subject at some length, tained to this day. The style was and
grounds of their sen- bold, caustic, decided, and intolerant tence, so that, if just, they might To mark as far as possible the new be assented to, if ill-founded, they principles of their criticism, the ad. might be opposed and confuted. venturers hung out the bloody fag Thus every thing in their plan be. in their title-page, and by the approspoke the purpose of men capable priate motto (Judex damnatur si no. and confident in their powers, bend. cens absolvitur) intimated their in. ing themselves gravely to a purpose tention to discard the courteous rules from which they had studiously ex and indulgent civility, under the recluded all that was trifling, vulgar, or straint of which their contemporaries insignificant.
had been hitherto content to wage The associated critics having thụs their drowsy warfare. It was a sort provided for the expences of their of imprecation on themselves and campaign, calculated the duration of their infant publication, if they withtheir marches, and estimated the im- held their arm from battle for pity, portance of their proposed achieve. need, or respect of persons, ments, the Edinburgh Review ap
“ Such and such evil God on Guyon reare, peared in October, 1802. A circum. And worse and worse, young orphan, be stance is said to have occurred in the thy paine, very outset, unimportant in itself, but If I or thou due vengeance do forbeare." tending strongly to shew the necessi Most readers must remember the ty that some review should exist al. hubbub occasioned by the first issuing together free from book selling influ. forth of this unruly northern whida ence, as well as to evince the strong wind. The confusion is before our opinion of the right of management eyes and in our ears, as if it had hapwhich the trade retained as to all pened but yesterday. A bail-storn, such works. "A very respectable or rather the alarm of a mad-dog in bookseller, selected as the London Kensington Gardens, about four o'. publisher, took upon him to decline clock on a fine Sunday, is the best or delay publishing the first number emblem we can propose to those who of the Review, alleging (it is said) did not witness the universal convery frankly, the detriment it was sternation of the book writing and likely to occasion to the sale of a book-selling world. The Edinburgh certain expensive work in which he critics meanwhile, like their couns was concerned, and which the Nor- tryman Lismahago in a similar situthern Aristarchs had treated with ation, beheld, with a Sardonic grin
, slender ceremony. The future ser. the confusion they had occasioned