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functions, in order to wander into bits; and it is with some regret tha disquisitions quite beyond their own we must necessarily consider it * depth and talent. But we cannot so parately, as exercised upon topics of far adopt the severity of the northern general literature, and as connected critics, as to make them responsible with party politics. not only for their own mode of wri. Upon the first of these points we ting, but for the errors and absurdi- confess' our inability to deduce any ties of all who, emulous of their fame, precise canons of criticism from the may attempt to imitate them in it. sixteen volumes which are now before We shall therefore content ourselves us. Nor do we consider this as matwith observing, that this novel prac. ter either of surprise or censure. A tice is peculiarly convenient for the series of unconnected decisions, eachi numerous class of grown gentlemen' resting upon its own specialties
, prowho are desirous to have a superficial nounced perhaps by different judge knowledge of the topics of the day, of the same court, can scarcely afford without being peculiarly anxious a. coherent materials for compiling bout its accuracy, or disposed to en. code of laws. But perhaps the artie counter much toil in the acquirement. cles of a review still more resemble To this body of readers, reviews, the pleadings of an ingenious barrimagazines, pamphlets, and all the ter upon various points of law, or the light-armed forces of the press, have theses of a learned sophist on differ been always a principal resource; and, ent points of controversy, in which as it is quite the same to them whe- the sole object, besides that of dise ther the scantling of information playing the versatile genius of the which they require comes from the advocate, is the maintaining some isoreviewer's mother-wit, or is only an lated and unconnected proposition by abstract or report from the author arguments which, upon another occabefore him, it is probable that the sion, may be changed or exploded
, variety, liveliness, and perspicuity of without incurring the charge of isthe lucubrations on general subjects consistency. Thus the same premises in the Edinburgh Review have tend. may be used on various occasions, as ed not a little to extend its popula. authorizing the most opposite com rity, although they may not be strict. clusions. For example, the decided ly consistent with its title and pro. and extended popularity of one 2u. fessed purpose.
thor may be represented as arising Hitherto we have spoken only of from his dealing more in the comcertain peculiarities in the conduct of mon-places of poetry than his cofthis celebrated and popular journal, temporaries, and another may be col of its general and uncompromising soled by the assurance, that if his tóne of severity, and of the uncere. work bé caviare to the multitude, it monious neglect of the various works is the more valuable to the few who which it professes to review, but can estimate the just representatier which have often as little connection of the most ordinary feelings of our with the article to which they give nature, which are precisely those up the title as the sign of the inn with on which the common-places of poe what passes in the tap-room. Some. try are founded : nay, if it be neces. thing remains to be said of the nature sary, both these propositions may be and taste of criticism which it exhi- abandoned, to charge a third poc?
ki want of popularity, as a conclu: fication in question was to both a rule ! sentence against him, pronoun- of art which they could not easily by the silent practical judgement elude or disobey, any more thau Tes he public. Now, although each niers could have finished his Flemish these dogmata may be silpported carousals without introducing tubs, very plausible and ingenious rea. barrels, pots, ladles, and other vulgar ing, it must certainly puzzle any utensils, or than Spagnolette could hor, disposed to act under such have brought out his group of banh authority, to discover whether, ditti without the necessary accomusing the most hackneyed lan- paniments of chains, axes, torturing ige and subjects of his art, he is engines, and bloody armour. st likely to secure the applause of It would be easy to point out si
multitude, or that only of the milar instances of critical inconsistct few; and if he should deters ence in the reviews which refer to le on pursuing the road to pu- different works of the same author, arity, recommended in the res and to shew that the unfortunate ver's latest opinion, he would be wight has been sometimes censured | uncertain whether, when attain- for taking, in his second work, the it is to be considered as a mark tone which the critic had approved nerit or reprobation. In the same and recommended in the first. But aner, if an author be dubious what we are satisfied to have adduced proofs free of labour or distinct descrip- of our proposition from leading arti.
he ought to bestow on the detail cles upon popular works, composed, those minute particulars which it is understood, by the same ingenious m the accompaniments of his pic- critic; and where therefore the
conclue, he may find difficulty in recon- sion which we have drawn is not liable ing two articles in the Review for to be evaded by ascribing the appapril 1808, in one of which the au. rent inconsistence which they display ir of a tale of chivalry is censured to their being written by different the pedantic specification of don- hands. So that, if the author be dis13, keeps, tabards, scutcheons, tres- posed to pardon what Dryden calla res, caps of maintenance, portcul- the horse-play of the reviewer's rail25, and wimples, while, in another, lery, he may be confounded by the e poet of the village is distinctly capricious distribution of favour of plauded for the minute and Chi. censure, which seems to have been se accuracy of detail which inven- adopted from the involuntary exerries the whole household goods of cise to which a cat subjects an unforthievish smuggler, including ill. tunate captive. This tone of uncere rted packs of cards, unpaired pis- tainty, and variation of opinion, or Is, frocks, wigs, hats, and blud. rather of humour, seems necessarily ons. To us it appears, that both to arise from the leading principle of ets, in completing their pictures, the Review, which renders each arre obliged to fill up the back-ground ticle an independent essay. It is imth the objects best suited to the possible for the critic, while consiture of the scene' and character of dering every new work as an isolated e actors, and that whatever advan. subject for the display of his owa ge might be on either side in the genius, to maintain perfect consist ode of execution, the minute speci. ence with what he may have formerly
advanced upon similar occasions ; nor cause the decisions in the court would his doing so amuse or interest criticism are not necessarily bindi the generality of the readers, who upon the parties over whom they are accustomed to consider each Re, pronounced. But it is evident tha view as an ephemeral publication, the in this desultory mode of deliveri contents of which are banished from his opinion, the critic abandons 1 their recollection before the next chance of rendering real service number makes its appearance. These letters, by establishing, or at lei will, of course, expect a new disqui acting upon, something like pera sition, as lively and brilliant as the nent rules of taste ; and that, bo preceding, upon every fresh work ever amusing the revolutions of which an author may send forth, and doctrine may be to the public, th will care very little whether such can only serve to confound the disquisition be founded on the same, fortunate author, for whose bene or upon new and inconsistent criti. one would suppose, admonition : cal doctrine. We have, therefore, reproof were principally intend been often tempted to compare these In short, we conceive this determi distinguished articles in the Edin. tion to be equally brilliant, and st burgh Review to the prefaces and king, and witty, and new, upon eft critical essays of Dryden, abound, article of importance which comes! ing in striking passages, animated fore them, is, in the critical cou language, and acute reasoning, but a sacrifice of the high duties of written to serve some instant or pres. judge's office to the love of amusi sing purpose ; and so far from ha. and of dazzling an extensive circle ving any regard to an uniform or readers. Were
we to attempt to ma general system, that they are often any general deduction from a sty in direct opposition to each other. of criticism so shadowy and variab They are, in short, like a series of de. we should say, that subj.cts of} cisions of certain courts of law, in thos, bearing immediate referen which each question is studiously se to domestic feelings and affection parated from all others by a detail seem to come most home to the a of circumstances, and decided as upon tic's bosom. The wilder flights grounds proper to itself, until the fancy find little there which is a lawyer, instead of being able to ex. sponsive; and had our northern Ari tract general principles
of law from tarch sat in judgement at the Greci the train of practice, is utterly per- recitations, we are certain he wou plexed by the maze of contradictory have given his vote for Euripide judgements, and only consoled by the while we shrewdly suspect the fligh reflection, that in the hour of need of Pindar would scarcely have at he can never fail to discover a prece. ned for their irregularity by their bezi dent in favour of his own cause, ty and sublimity. There is som whatever sort of precedent that cause thing in this distinction appropria may chance to stand in need of. That to the very art of criticism, which the law would grievously suffer in although, in a good and kind dispe the parallel case supposed cannot be șition, it cannot be supposed to hari doubted for a moment; and if lite en the heart, may have no small c rature does not sustain the same dis. fect în blunting the ardour of fancy advantage in that before us, it is be- Under the analytical process of suc
observer, traits of natural feeling length. But they also exhibit an un. like the perfume of the violet, becoming mixture of buffoonery and ich is only increased by the dis. “ fool born jest” with subjects of the ion of the botanist, while those deepest political and religious import. uties which address themselves to The tone with which the methodists imagination are, like the colours in particular are treated; is that of a he same fower, defaced under his jealous clergyman who affects in his pel. This, however, is descend. coterie to ridicule those of his fock more minutely in our observa. 'whom his pulpit eloquence is unable s on the character of the journal to withhold from the tabernacle. But 1 is bere necessary.
the matter is grown too ominously There are general'subjects, and we serious for this jocular mode of disird the fact with pleasure, upon cussion. If it is intended to convert ch the Edinburgh critics have ex. the methodists from their more enthuited no variation or shadow of siastic tenéts, let the effort be made ning, but have passed and uniform. in such a manner as will neither irridhered to their well-advised and tate the feelings which prompt them, l-merited censure. We allude to like other men, to repel contumely by
class of poetry which, while it is contempt, or shock those of reverenricularly addressed to the young tial awe, with which they, above all gay of both sexes, is calculated other sects, are trained to regard xhibit a sentimental refinement of every thing connected with religion. strains of Sedley and Rochester There is much good and much evil sid. We rejoice to say, that the in methodism, and it is difficult to thern blight has so far affected the conceive 'how it should have been s of the modern "men of wit and made the subject of ludicrous discusisure about town," that, when sion by those very men who pretend y shall sprout again, we may con- to regard the question of catholic ntly expect a very different fofi. emancipation as a matter of such se
Nor do we notice with less rious and vital importance, unless inisure their sturdy defence of mo. deed they allege the novelty of the y in general, and their animated seet as sufficient excuse for treating rtions against the negro trade in its doctrine with familiarity, and ticular,-a cause which they early think with @nobarbus, pred, and contributed, we believe,
'tis better playing with a lion's a little, by well-timed and well
whelp ten articles, to conduct to its pre. Than with an old one dying : fortunate and honourable con Upon' metaphysical subjects, the Fuation. This tenacity upon Edinburgh Review vindicates the its of morality may be well allowed ancient reputation of our metropolitan ounterbalance a thousand yaria. aniversity, long celebrated for that spes of the reviewers' opinions upon cies of cobweb reasoning, as Paisley is ters of taste,
for our national gauze. The non est Sur approbation of the theologi- tanti, alwaysan ungenerousargument, articles of the Edinburgh Review might be more decidedly applied to not be so unqualified. They are pure metaphysics than to any other ply tinged with party spirit ; but of parsuit, were it not that, like the abwe shall speak presently more at stract propositions of algebra, they af.
ford a facility of generalizing or ana- archiological subjects
, the joua lyzing at pleasurequestions of political does not merit the same comnetand moral importance, and, if they be- tion. wilder weaker minds, afford to those The fault which we are under 1.5 of a firmer texture, an acuteness of necessity of charging against perception and argument not to be able review with the most unquait: acquired by any other study. Upon censure, is the spirit of political part no subject, indeed, has the manager which pervades it in so remarkabel of the Edinburgh Review displayed degree. We are far from saying ta more of his characteristic acuteness, reviewers are not entitled, nay than upon those where metaphysics upon, in the fair discharge of the are treated, either separately or as duty, to express their own police applied to practical subjects. There sentiments whenever the nature de moti
, is at once a force, a dignity, a sim- subject requires them to do plicity, and a precision in his mode cordingly, though we might be. Este of expression peculiarly fitted, not posed to combat the opinions de sa only to impress upon the reader the ed by the Edinburgh reviewer i importance of the subject, but to en- many of their political articka sebe lighten and delight the attention do not pretend to question their which he has previously fixed. He to treat these questions in the never uses words of a dubious im- which appeared to them most kitty port, or in an imperfect sense ; his But the evil lies in the strain of per illustrations, although numerous and feeling, which visibly infects the p frog splendid, never exhibit that doubt- articles of general literature with other its fal analogy which tends to mislead politics have least to do, in a set the reader, or bewilder him in the narrow factious spirit of distributi puzzling consequences of an imper- censure or approbation with a fect and inaccurate parallel. The to the political predilections de reviewer not only fully comprehends author, rather than to the litogel all which he means to say, (no small merits or demerits of his work
. virtue in a metaphysician,) but he has former reviews, the effect of the the happy art of expressing himself in tic's politics was confined to a los language as plain as it is precise, and ticles, where every reader was propia of conveying, in the most distinct man-red to expect that he should give ways ner, toevery reader of moderate intelli- to his partialities, and therefore than gence,
the propositions which his own sidered his argument with the recent mind has conceived with so much ac. sary allowances; but on the cu.acy. It is but his just praise to system, these prejudices are like ti
! say, that, as a guide through the plague in Leviticus, which not only! místy maze of speculative philosophy, tected warp and woof, liner andet none has trod with a former step, or len, but left its foul stains up! held equally high a torch which has walls, the mortar and the stonen glowed so clearly
on subjects whose natures seemed Several disquisitions of great clas. capable either of admitting of the sical value have at different times ap- ing the tokens of pestilential | peared in this work, and the sci
. tion. It is not enough that the entific department is sustained by tics have a relaxed their brott masterly talent. On historical and vere," and softened their tonecas