Abbildungen der Seite


and proceeded to fire their second plosion, and view them primed and barrel among the astonished multi. levelled against him from every book. tude, regardless alike of the piteous seller's window; but these paper state of those who fell into the ditch pellets, which may have some little in attempting to scramble out of gun. teazing effect when discharged across shot, or supplicated mercy on their a street in town, lose their force enknees, and of the threats of the hard- tirely in the space between London ier few who gathered stones and mud, and Edinburgh. A single copy or or waved canes and umbrellas, to re


reach our northern metropeltheir assaults, "Remarks," "Ob polis, perhaps by the medium of some servations," “ Defences,” « Vindi. * damn'd good-natured friend;" but, cations,” came forth without end; as they never get into general circulanor were there wanting those who en- tion, or become subjects of discus. deavoured to retort the injuries theysion in society, a man must be very or their friends had received in the irritable indeed who can disturb him. scuffle, by circulating pieces of per- self at the mere knowledge of their sonal abuse and scurrility against the existence. Had Pope lived two supposed authors of the fray. But hundred miles from London, he the public, after viewing so new a would probably never have heard of scene for some time with amazement, the puny attacks which called down began to learn that an insulted au vengeance in the Dunciad; and we thor is an animal not better furnished cannot help taking notice, that the fordefence than the poor sloth, which only personal assault which the edican only anroy its hunter by its plain- tor of the Edinburgh Review ever tive and discordant screams. A wri. gave himself the trouble to answer, ter who complains of the severity was written and published in Edinor even the rudeness of criticism, is burgh. like

one who should tell of the inhu The same accidental distance from manity with which his adversary London probably fortified the Edinkicked or cudgelled him ; for the dis- burgh critics in' adherence to their graceful nature of the injury attracts general plan of an impartiality bormore scorn than his sufferings can in- dering on rigour. They were sepa. spire pity.

rated from the great body of Eng. We do not, howerer, know whe. lish authors, and a gulf, as it were, ther the pococurante disposition of placed between them, so that, while the master critic, although a quality their works were under consideration, as remarkable as any by which he is no personal image of the writer could distinguished, could have actually excite either favour or commiseration borne him through in his undevia- in the mind of the critic. They ęs. ting course of severity in despite of caped also the manifold ties that fear and favour, had he not resided warp almost insensibly round one at a distance from the capital in who is fond of literary society, and which his review had excited this fer- which wind him into partiality which mnent. Lampoons, libels, and all that it is difficult to discard, and

expose pop-gun train of scandal's artillery, him to solicitations which it is imposnay annoy the most stoical and insible to parry. Edinburgh, indeed, lifferent philosopher, if he be placed it may be said, has a literary society within the aetual range of their ex. of its own, the members of which frea

ny there

quently subject themselves by publi- (at which we are rather surprised, cation to the censure of periodical considering that it seems incapable of criticism. But, in the first place, the proof, and is of very small conseliterati of Edinburgh are generally quence,) on the contrary, they disengaged in other pursuits in life, and cuss their roast and boiled together are not, we have observed, apt to feel in a very sociable manner. As for sore under the lash of criticism, as our literary class, it is well koowa probably more indifferent to literary that our Celt sits down with our fame than their brethren of the south, Goth, our war poet with our peace who frequently make that, and the poet, our Marian with our Elizabe. emoluments which accompany it, the than, and all with our critic ; so, ufprime object of life. The critic may til the lion lie down with the kid, Therefore exercise his faculty even on and the child play upon the hole of those with whom he lives and con- the asp, we can hardly expect a more verses, we do not say with securi- edifying accordance of opposite naty, but at least with little fear of con tures. Perhaps this may be owing verting a friend into an enemy. But, to the narrow circle in which these secondly, if the ties of private friend- gentlemen move ; perhaps to the preship sometimes occasion a tendency dominance of barristers among their to partiality, of which we cannot de- number,-a class of prudent persons

, may be found traces even who account all angry debate too va. in the Edinburgh Review, the nar. luable to be thrown away in gratuitrowness of the sphere in which such

pus controversy, and keep it carefultemptations occur necessarily renders ly corked up in guinea and two gui

. their influence rare and occasional. nea bottles, for the use of those who Lastly, we must observe, to the ho- may chance to need it at the bar. nour of tl:e literary society of Edin. But whether the ludicrous cause we burgh, that if there exist any causes have assigned, or one more honourwhy a critic who is their able to those who are by profession zen and daily companion should de. in the daily habit of maintaining code light

to honour them more than per. troversy with temper, and enduring haps they merit, there is little room contradiction without animosity, gries for that darker motive of partiality, stability to the amicable and pacific which arises from the feuds, factions, state of our little literary republica and heart-burnings in which he might the fact is certain, that the critica be elsewhere involved. There is, in. who are members of it can draw from deed, a difference between two classes thence no food to stimulate malero. of our philosophers, which we (to lence, though it is possible they may use Sosia’s expression) shall leave to find some motives for indulgence of the “ other we," our physical asso- partial preference. And these ciates, to make plain, and which, if condary causes had doubtless their we (meaning, we ourselves) rightly effect in establishing the character of comprehend the matter, resolves into the Edinburgh Review, since can. a dispute whether the world at the dour, like other virtues, is most easily creation was roasted or boiled into its adhered to where there are the fewest present form. But we do not find temptations to disobey its dictates. our Neptunists and Vulcanists incli- All these, however, were but accined to draw daggers on this question ; dental advantages, which could only

further this undertaking in propora exercise of authority, though it may tion to the internal vigour and sta- subdue, seldom can reform; and, conmina with which it was supported. sidering the cause of literature as The aim was judiciously taken, but alone in question, a tone of haughty it remained to prove the elasticity of and uniform superiority on the part the bow and the nerves of the archer. of the critic is sure to harden the au. And, after laying due weight upon thor in the offences charged against the particulars we have enumerated, him. The latter is of a class not faas contributing to the success of the mous in any case for pliability or Edinburgh Review, it must be al meekness; he is probably conscious lowed that the talents of the editor that, whatever his general inferiority and his associates would have been of may be, he must have bestowed more themselves sufficient to force the thought and research upon

the imme. work into public notice under the diate subject of his work than the remost disadvantageous circumstances. viewer by whom his labours are vi. The tone of the editor's mind neces- lipended,

and his wounded pride finds sarily, pervaded and regulated the a reasonable pretext for resisting coun. principal articles. It was bold, uncom- sels, which, however just and useful, promising, and intolerant, fraught have been conveyed with supercilious deeply with various science, yet still contempt or acrimonious censure. By more remarkable for prompt arrange- adopting this tone of general severi. ment of the knowledge he possessed ; ty, therefore, the real advantage which distinguished for the clear, summary, literature might have derived from the and perspicuous statement of argu- Review was greatly diminished. There ment or theory, but unequalled for is prudence in the maxim which recom. the ready and acute felicity of bril. mends us to glean knowledge even liant illustration. With these high from an enemy; but few are able to gifts was combined a fluent eloquence practise so humiliating a lesson, or to upon almost any given topic, the co. derive the same profit from contumely ruscations of a lively wit, and the and reproach, which they might have power of pungent sarcasm and unmer: been disposed to deduce from friend ciful irony.

The possessor of such ta. ly advice and gentle reproof. It will lents could hardly be ignorant of the be readily admitted, that we only obsuperiority which they afforded him ject to the indiscriminating use of over all whom he met in the ordinary severity. We have already stated walks of life, and over most of those our sense of the degraded state of lea! whom he conversed with through the thargy into which the critical art medium of their literary essays. And had fallen for want of a little animaperhaps this sense of his own uncom. ted and independent satire, and we mon powers has given rise to the most can have no wish that those days of striking feature in the Edinburgh gentle dulness should return, when all Review, an indifference, namely, to the disquisitions of criticism, like the the work treated of, and a tone of messes of the Romans, were sweetened superiority, both over the book and with honey and oil. In the name of the writer, often just, but sometimes public justice, let conceit be flogged offensive

to the reader, and always it and pickled, immorality ducked and sitating to the author. It is scarce nie. pilloried, and folly brayed in a mortar. cessary to observe, that the despotic It is when works conveying, perhaps

useful, may important information, are creeping style of the laborious antiridiculed for the want of graces which quary, the egotistical verbiage of the were not necessary to their matter traveller, the stately and self-import. it is where writers of talent may have ant dogmatism of the experimente erred in the application of their philosopher, may be easily rendered powers--it is where early genius, in a ridiculous, while the value of the premature attempt at distinction, discoveries remains upimpeached. may have fallen short of the mark at But the boy in the apologue conld which it aimed, that we would re- not have justified his imprudence in commend to a critic who shares that cutting off the supply of the golda information, talent, and genius, to sus- eggs by pleading that it was a goose pend the lash of ridicule, and to essay which produced them; and, as every the effects of a friendly and warning one who reads must be conscious that voice. It would have the appearance our most valuable information base of cant, were we to expatjate on the not always been obtained by me pain which a contrary tone inflicts the best fitted to put it into ae ele. upon the sufferer ; nor can we expect gant shape, a discerning critic ought that such an argument should influ. rather in such cases to consider the ence a professional critic, to whose intention and effect of the informaoccupation such infliction is indispen- tion conveyed, than amuse bimself sable. But in the Memoirs of the and his readers by bantering the shape late amiable and ingenious Kirke and fashion of the vehicle which White, we find a scene of which no brings it before his tribunal. good man would willingly hazard a It remains we should notice to repetition, whether for the sake of ex. effect of this tone of dogmatical shibiting his wit, or of extending his periority in the reviewer, when it's reputation. To crush the spirit and assumed towards authors of some annihilate the hopes (as far as the name and an ascertained rank in the reviewer was able) of such a young literary world.; and, to say the truth

, man, was not merely harsh and un. it is in such a case that we consider just cruelty to the individual, it was the critic as most justified in assuming defrauding the public of all they an independent at least, if not a lofty had to expect from awakening ta- tone of censure. Too much deference lent, and smothering the fire of genius' to merit generally admitted, too much ere it had struggled through the delicacy in pointing out the errors damps of timidity and modesty. of an author of acknowledged rank, There is at least the same cause for would in fact be a cowardly derelice forbearance and moderation, where tion of his owo critical authority information really useful in itself is and an admission that he had cited to communicated by a person perhaps his bar one who should have sate up not well fitted by taste or education on his bench. It is therefore, in such to come before the public as an au. instances that a moderate and manly, thor. In such a case, a critic is bound nay somewhat a peremptory assertion consider the merit and

value of the reviewer well, if it be supported with by his duty to the public, rather to of the dignity of his craft becomes : work, than the talents or manner of the skill and knowledge necessary 18 the author. The latter is often pe. render it more than an empty, asset culiarly obnoxious to ridicule; for the tion. And we are reconciled to a

rtain severity of criticism in such a nected with, and derived from, the se for two reasons; both because tone of superiority assumed by these is ten to one that such an author critics over the subjects of their lucu! peruse the article respecting him brations. It is the right which they her with good humoured convice assume of at any time deserting the ing or with contemptuous indiffer- work which gives the title to their ce; and, secondly, because there is article, and, without further reference pund for a fair and manly contest to it than a few lines of general vitu. tween the assailant and the party' peration, proceeding to canvass the ailed, and not unattended with risk subject matter according to their own the reviewer himself, since he can- views. Former reviewers accounted I fall into the error of over-loading it their principal and indispensable criticat artillery without somewhat duty to give an account of the work dangering his reputation by the upon their table, and conveyed all oil. Yet even in this struggle, their own remarks in such a form as where Greek meets Greek," the might bear upon and be applicable to linburgh reviewers are apt to for their immediate text-book. But the t, that fair and generous opposi- Edinburgh reviewers have often fung a of sentiment ought to be like it aside, as an extemporaneous preach. en war between civilized powers, er shuts the Bible after he has read debased by the use of undue advan- his text, and it is well if, on such oc. çes and poisoned weapons. Above casions, they have again adverted to

the critic should remember, that it during the whole of the article. It : form of the fight gives him the cannot be denied that this mode of ht of attack; - an advantage to be considering a subject, in a general :d with courtesy, not with atroci. point of view, gives scope to the ge

The author, by the very act of nius of the critic, and an ample oppor. blication, gives, as it were, his cheek tunity for the display of hisown knowthe smiter; he must, like the Duke ledge; nor are we inclined to join the Austria in the old romance, who cry of the neglected and discontented dertook to receive a buffet from authors, who complain that the edifice chard Cæur de Lion, “stand forth, of the critic is often run up with 1 hold his head fair as a true man." bricks súrreptitiously abstracted from e think this advantage ought not their own contemned Babel. On the be abused on the reviewer's part ; contrary, the Edinburgh Miscellany it the combat ought to be maini. must be admitted to contain many ned according to the laws of cour- original and luminous essays upon us chivalry; and our literature, if subjects the most generally interest. ssible, preserved from disgracefuling, written in a style alternately, angling between the professors and powerful and lively, and forming a judges of literature, and from the species of composition which, if it ival of such controversies as dis- cannot be properly termed a review iced learning in the days of Sciop- of any work, is often much better is and Scaliger.

worth reading than if it were. It is Another leading innovation, intro. no doubt true, that the example of ced by the example of the Edin- this leading publication has induced rgh Review into the art of period. those of minor fame to neglect the I criticism, is perhaps strictly con- natural and usual discharge of their

« ZurückWeiter »