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But before I conclude, may each man at this board
SYLVANUS URBAN AND CHRISTOPHER NORTH.
TIME makes a few changes, not only in kingdoms and manners, but also in periodicals. We have now got before us the lucubrations of Sylvanus Urban, Gent. for the year 1761, and have much amused ourselves with contrasting them with the magazine labours of the present day, and more especially with our own. What an alteration has the interval between two coronations produced!-Sylvanus Urban and Christopher North. The one is an antithesis of the other. The latter is all life, buoyancy, and fire, while the former is the personification of home liness and heaviness. The tendency of the one is continually upwards, while the other is carried downwards by supernatural force of gravitation. We never say or write a dull or stupid thing, while our worthy predecessor proses and doses to eternity. We are, however, mindful of the ties of relationship which subsist between us, and therefore do not scorn the humbler, but equally necessary pages, of that ancient pattern of urbanity. He was to us what the frugal shopkeeper, the founder of his family, is to the dashing young heir his grandson, who inherits the accumulated products of his industry. The one, mindful of pounds, shillings, and pence, keeps to his dirty shop in Threadneedle Street, or Mincing Alley, and jogs along the "even tenor of his way," without ever emerging into the airy regions of gaiety and fashion. To him all the world is contained within the limits of his daily occupation; he has no idea of further extending his researches. Bond Street and Berkeley Square are no more to him than the Giants Causeway or the Orkney Islands-he is satisfied in his own sphere. His successor, on the other hand, looks not to the east, but to the west. Full of the spirit of youth and life, he scatters around him his income with generous prodigality of
soul, and the very Antipodes of narrowness and regularity, he breaks through all humdrum restraints, and follows wherever the irrepressible and inexhaustible elasticity of his mind impels him.
We have often smiled within ourselves at the thought of the consternation which a Number of our Work would have caused about sixty years since, were it possible for one to have appeared, even but in a vision, to our forefathers. The venerable Sylvanus would instaneously have been petrified with surprise, and, like old Eli, would have fallen down in his chair at the news and broke his back. The whole tribe of allegory and essay writers would have been compelled to use the exclamation of Othello, and mourn over their departed vocation. After one smack of the high-flavoured and exciting viands of our table, the public taste would have become too fastidious to relish the homeliness of their ordinary repasts. Nothing plain or unseasoned would have served; our literary cookery would have tickled them too much to allow them to bear with less skilful and scientific provisions. What a pity that "My Grandmother,"* respectable old woman as she is, did not take to writing in those days! then, undoubtedly, was her time. Why she would have been considered as a very prodigy amongst her kind for clever writing. Even her lumbering heaviness, which renders her rather a dangerous article on shipboard, might in those happy days have been considered as volatility itself. Such is the misfortune of not paying sufficient attention to times and seasons in our enterprizes, and of being born either too soon or too late. But we were speaking of ourselves. We can picture the astonishment which would have pervaded the world of literature had one of our Numbers, for instance the present, been able to anticipate its
See Don Juan.
existence by about sixty years, and to figure away at the coronation of George the Third, instead of that of his worthy successor, whom God long preserve. Ossian himself, that apocryphal personage, and the Boy of Bristol, would have created less controversy and contention. It would have given a kind of St Vitus's dance to every limb of the mighty body of letters, and would have operated like an electrical shock. In short, good reader, you may probably have observed, if you are in the habit of making use of soda powders, the effect which is produced by the infusion of cold water on the particles as they lie scattered at the bottom of the glass. The cold and translucid lymph, late so calm and motionless, effervesces instantaneously, and boils upwards in foaming agitation, moved as if by a spirit. Such and so potent would have been the effect of one Number of our astonishing Miscellany.
The names of O'Doherty, Kempferhausen, Wastle, Timothy Tickler, and Lauerwinckel, must certainly ever preclude imitators; yet there were unquestionably many men of that period to which we have alluded, whom we think we could have made something of in the way of contributors. There was Johnson, for instance. To be sure his style is not of the fittest for our airy and etherial pages, and his wit is rather too clumsy for us, who delight more to use the razor than the hatchet. Properly trained, however, we think the old fellow might have been made to do great things. We have a notion he could have written a very forcible letter, though a Cockney himself, on Cockneys and Cockneyism, and occasionally we might have suffered him to take up, in conjunction with our friend, Timothy Tickler, the reviewing department of our work, provided the subject was not poetry; his Rasselas, after being entirely rewritten by ourselves, we might probably have inserted, but his Ramblers we should have taken the liberty of declining. As for Goldsmith, he would have just done for us. All our readers, we dare say, remember his account of the Common Council-man's visit to see the coronation of George the Third. In what an admirable spirit is it written! We should actually not have been ashamed of inserting it in our Magazine. Hear but Mr Grograms consultations with his wife.
"Grizzle," said I to her, "Grizzle, my dear, consider that you are but weakly, always ailing, and will never bear sitting out all night upon the scaffold. You remember what a cold you caught the last fast day, by rising but half an before your time to go to church, and how I was scolded as the cause of it. Besides, my dear, our daughter, Anna Amelia Wilhelmina Carolina will look like a perfect fright if she sits up, and you know the girl's face is something, at her time of life, considering her fortune is but small.
Mr Grogram,' replied my wife, Mr Grogram, this is always the case when you find me in spirits. I don't want to go out, I own, I don't care whother I go at all; it is seldom that I am in spirits, but this is always the case." In short, sir, what will you have on't?
to the coronation we went." Poor Goldy, he would have written an excellent series for our Magazine, and we would have paid him handsomely. What a pity he did not live in the days of Blackwood. Burke, too, would have been of some use to us in any political department. To be sure he was rather whiggish at his outset, but we could have fully satisfied him, we think, as to this point. A letter or two of his to certain noble lords, whom we have in view, would have suited us exactly. Churchhill, it must be acknowledged, was a sad fellow-relentlessly indiscriminate in abusive satire; his only excuse is, that he did not live within the period of our publication. He was, however, an engine of power, though improperly directed, and we could have turned him, we think, to very considerable use. What a fine character he would have drawn of the amiable Scotsman! How minutely would he have marked the different features of this Ursa Major, and how glowingly he would have coloured the whole. He would have transfixed him in the very act of shedding the venom of his spleen over the brightest characters of his country. Gray would have done very well for the Diletante Society, and very well for our Magazine. He was a man of taste, and of habits of thinking and writing something like our own, and, in spite of his whims and his delicacies, we are confident we should have agreed to a tittle. As for the rest, they would all have had their posts, some in the higher and some in the lower chambers of our temple of immortali
ty, as our old friend Jeremy very properly denominates it. Sylvanus should have superintended our obituaries. Horace Walpole might have arranged our nicknacks; and Voltaire, who would have been delighted at the idea of writing in our Magazine, might have officiated as our jack of all trades. Our readers will observe we say nothing of the author of Junius. We are above mysteries, but there is a delicacy in this case which restrains us. In fact, to tell the truth, we wrote the book ourself, when our politics and our principles were not properly fixed. We must, however, observe, as a kind of corollary to the preceding, that there is yet another instance in which our modesty has prevented us from coming openly forward, and receiving in our own person the acclamations and plaudits of the world. There is yet another instance in which our possession of Gyges's Ring has procured us the immunities of invisibility. This excusable instance-but no-we will not anticipate, or withdraw the veil-we will leave it to futurity to determine what is this third and greatest claim of Christopher North to pre-eminence in letters.
But we are, in the mean time, digressing entirely from the subject; a mode of writing, to use the phrase of that eminent auctioneer Mr Smirk, "pleasant, but wrong." We began with Sylvanus, and we have ended with ourselves, a topic certainly inexhaustible. In short, good reader, what champaigne is to homely black strap, are we when compared with our worthy predecessor. Nevertheless, there are times and seasons when plain dishes are grateful to the palate, and, after the flash and glare of our pages, it may not be unamusing to look back at the sober and serious miscellany of Sylvanus, who, good man! takes care that his guests shall never injure their health by interdicted spiceries. We will, therefore, with thy permission, our gentle friend, just tumble over his coronation volume for the year 1761. And first of all, we must observe, that the poetry is sad stuff. It is all of that particular sort which neither gods nor men are said to permit. Tales, Acrostics, Verses to Miss A. Miss B. and all the Misses in the alphabet,-Odes to Narcissa, Næra, Cloe, and other names of classical notoriety,--Stanzas on the Four Seasons, VOL. X.
appearing as periodically as the seasons themselves,-Epigrams which look as dismal as epitaphs, and songs which seem elegies miscalled, are the ordinary stuff of which the venerable Sylvanus weaves his monthly chaplet of poetical flowers. It must certainly have been a most comfortable and solacing reflection to the young manufacturers of these useful articles, the ingenious youths of sixty years ago, who now, alas! having lost the fire of their younger days, write for the Edinburgh Review, and "My Grandmother," to think that such a good-natured repository was extant, which, like the poors' box in a church, was continually open for the contributions of the well-disposed. But now, indeed, Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. Editors are grown hard hearted, and constant readers, as well as constant writers, plead in vain. We will not number the hosts of young men, "smit with the love of poetry and prate," whose hearts we have broken by our repeated refusals, sometimes, indeed, embittered with the shafts of our wit, yet really the number is quite alarming. We are not without our fears of awaking some night, like King Richard the Third, to see our victims pass in review before us, upbraiding us with our cruelty. We wish, too, we had not similar cruelties to the fair sex to charge ourselves with; yet such is the melancholy case. It is an ascertained fact, that two sempstresses died within the last month of a decline, into which our neglect of the Odes of the one and the Stanzas of the other had precipitated them. We are accused of being severe; but we assure our readers, that no sooner were we made acquainted with their melancholy situation, than we hobbled out as fast as our gouty limbs allowed us, to be the messenger of glad tidings to them, and offer them, if necessary for their recovery, the long-desired admission. We were, however, too late. "Mr North," said one of them, " your kind attention is unavailing; we are now going fast to the bourne, from which, to use the expression of Shakspeare, no traveller returns; yet, why should we deny it, it would be some consolation to us before we die, to see ourselves in Blackwood's Magazine. We should then have finished our concerns on this side of the grave." Our good readers will believe that we could not refuse 0
them a request under such circumstances. Even we, albeit unused to the melting mood, were dissolved into tears, when we took leave of these two interesting young creatures. Their parting request it was net in our power to perform. They died, alas! before the 20th of the month, without having that felicity to which they so anxiously looked. All this is very melancholy, we wish we could say it was not very true. We should certainly have immortalized their memory, as we have done that of Sir Daniel Donelly, by a Luctus expressly for the occasion; but the coronation intervening, we thought the expression of sorrow at such a period would have been indecorous and disloyal, and have therefore abandoned the idea. We feel yet the remembrance of this sad event casts a damp upon our spirits, and we will accordingly drop the subject.
devised, through which, as through a common sewer, these bad humours of young and old may meet with an unobstructed passage. Thus shall we see many walk lighter along the streets, who now seem as if pressed and weighed to the earth by some unaccountable internal force of heaviness acting upon them like the night-mare, and, in short, the spirit of cheerfulness, ease, freedom, and self-enjoyment will be diffused through his Majesty's dominions. As an inducement to the happy person who first seizes upon this bright idea which we have here thrown out for the benefit of the world of literature, we hereby promise to set him up with two MSS. poems of Leigh Hunt, some unpublished verses by Lord Byron, and several ditto by our excellent friend the Patriarch Jeremy, who has taken to the writing of poetry in a most extraordinary manner of late, and who now sends us regularly contributions of this description, the postage of which, we are sorry to say, he does not as regularly discharge. Nevertheless, this is excusable enough in an old man like him, whose memory was never of the best.
We were speaking of Sylvanus and his poetry. It would really have done him good to look into our repository for rejected verse, a heap which has been gradually and prodigiously accumulating for the last four years, and now shews a bulk "like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved." There would have been matter enough to supply his poetical corner for twenty years, and such matter, too, as the old gentleman would have jumped at. We cannot help observing by the way, that, notwithstanding the great number of Magazines and periodical works, there is yet one desideratum, and that is, a Repository expressly for dull or middling poetry. We are confident it would have a prodigious sale, and we should certainly recommend it as a good speculation to Mr Colburn, or Messrs Taylor and Hessey. It is a thing much wanted. The mighty pent up mass of dullness, to adopt the phrase of that well known resolution of the House of Commons," has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished." We, of course, never admit any portion of it into our pages. The London Magazine, and the New Monthly, take off a great deal, and the other periodicals still more; yet the part taken has but a very small proportion to the part left. It is like paying off the interest of the national debt, and even those who contribute to its reduction feel it as a tax. We therefore think it absolutely necessary that some public channel should be
But let us now see what the good Sylvanus has got in the way of prose. It is but homely stuff, but it is unquestionably better than his poetry. Yet," Interesting Queries concerning the Dutch," "New Project for inclosing the Common Land," " Account of a Cure for a Cold," "Some Proceedings in the last Session of Parliament," "Narrative of the Attempt on Belleisle," and "Description of a terrible Shipwreck," are amongst some of the most attracting contents of his Miscel lany. These, we have a notion, would look rather curious by the side of " An Hour's Tête-a-tête with the Public," or the intrepid Standard-bearer's Boxiana. The story of Almoran and Hamet would hardly pair well either with the "Ayrshire Legatees," or the "Steam-Boat." People now-a-days grow sick at the names of Omar, and Abdallah, and Caled, and feel no great desire to traverse the plains of Circassia, even with a Genius at hand to instruct them. Mountains and forests now rather pall the stomach, and "Son of man" inevitably gives us the vapours. The time is past when the old men saw visions, and the young men dreamed dreams. Visions now only make us shut our eyes, and dreams
set us instantly a-sleeping. That useful class of the community who would dream you a dream of six columns as regularly as the week came on, is now, like the tribe of scriveners, extinct, though, in both cases, the same thing is revived under another denomination. The writers on politics have taken up the falling mantle; and he who wishes to see how the old sect of dreamers are
now employed, need only to look into the Edinburgh Review.
But, after all, Sylvanus must be considered as one of the sages of literature; and we shall be quite satisfied if we are enabled to continue our career as long as he has done, and, throughout the whole period, be regarded with as much uniform respect and esteem by the Gentlemen of England.
CONTINUATION OF DON JUAN.
MY DEAR NORTH, As I know you have a confounded moral ill will at Byron, and lately threw yourself into a devil of a passion at his racketting boy, Don Juan, I have determined, before you can get the three new Cantos, to put it out of your power, for a month at least, to say one uncivil word on the subjectFor you will not venture to reject any communication of mine; and two articles on the same topic, is what you will never permit in the same number. This afternoon, as I was at dinner, an unknown porter brought me a copy of the book-what bookseller sent it he either would not or could not tell, but I have no doubt, when I get my bill from Murray, I shall find it there. At the sight of Don Juan, I need not say that the dissection of joint and fowl was instantly abandoned, even had I not been seized with the determination to anticipate the severity of your strictures, by immediately sitting down to try if I could get this sketchy critique off by the post.
In the first place, then, Christopher, I take leave to insist that these three cantos are like all Byron's poems, and, by the way, like every thing else in this world, partly good, and partly bad. In the particular descriptions, they are not quite so naughty as their predecessors; indeed his Lordship has been so pretty and well behaved on the present occasion, that I should not be surprised to hear of the work being detected among the thread-cases, flower-pots, and cheap tracts, that litter the drawing-room tables of some of the best regulated families. But to the work itself. The third canto opens with a reference to the condition in which the hero and Haidée were left at the conclusion of the second.
"Hail, Muse! et cetera. We left Juan sleeping,
Pillow'd upon a fair and happy breast, And watch'd by eyes that never yet knew weeping,
And loved by a young heart, too deeply blest
To feel the poison through her spirit creep
Or know who rested there; a foe to rest Had soil'd the current of her sinless years, And turn'd her pure heart's purest blood.
"Oh, Love! what is it in this world of ours Which makes it fatal to be loved? Ah, why
With cypress branches hast thou wreathed thy bowers,
And made thy best interpreter a sigh? As those who dote on odours pluck the flowers,
And place them on their breast-but place to die
Thus the frail beings we would fondly
Are laid within our bosoms but to perish."
This, you must allow, is pretty enough, and not at all objectionable in a moral point of view. I fear, however, that I cannot say so much for what follows; marriage is nojoke, and therefore not a fit subject to joke about; besides, for a married man to be merry on that score, is very like trying to overcome the pangs of the toothache by affecting to laugh.
"Men grow ashamed of being so very fond;
The same things cannot always be admired; Yet 'tis "so nominated in the bond,"
That both are tied till one shall have
Sad thought! to lose the spouse that was
Don Juan; Cantos III, IV, and V. London: Printed by Thomas Davison,