« PreviousContinue »
zard of being charged with a fifth or a tenth repetition of our own sentences, that the work displays a most wonderful latitude and wildness of unguarded assertion.
The portion which displays the state of the blessed in heaven, has many forcible and brilliant passages. Especially a part of the Fourth Chapter of the Second Book, (* On the Greatness of Eternal Pleasures,')—the part suggested by that one of the many pathetic sublimities of the Bible, Enter thou into the joy of thy * Lord,' is in a lofty and enchanting strain, in Taylor's best man, ner. The intervention may be suspected of a slight degree of beautiful fallacy ; but there is truth enough to sustain the sublimity. This is doubtless the most elevated part of the work ; and it bears something analogous to the celestial roseate hue which forms an evening vision of such exquisite beauty on the summits of the highest mountains.
The main substance, however, of what we should regard as the most useful in the book, consists in a certain portion of the striking illustrations and solemn enforcements of those trite topics, the shortness and uncertainty of life, the unsatisfactory nature of sublunary things, and the dreadful folly of forgetting the approach of death and judgement. For the vigorous, and, if we may so express it, fulminating manner in which these subjects are forced on the Reader's mind, we should deem the republication a service to the public, in spite of the grave exceptions it is impossible to help inaking, to both the style and the matter of the work. And also, to some persons not hitherto acquainted with Taylor, and deficient in the courage for approaching him amid his formidable array of folios and quartos, this small volume may serve as a specimen highly characteristic, though on the whole estimate not quite equal in quality to the average merit of a similar quantity of composition taken in some of his best works. Within the space of a few pages, any where, there is something above the reach of ordinary writers. It is true, at the same time, that Taylor, like other distinguished divines of the same age, had the fault of an undiscriminating and immeasurable copiousness. He seems to go on writing absolutely every thing that occurs to him, without the slightest attempt at selection or compression. There is consequently interfused through the composition, in a very considerable proportion, matter of an indifferent quality, a multitude of makeweight and inert sentences, among which the reader inust not be surprised to meet some of the humblest common-places and truisms. But be really cannot help surprise at the excessive credulity of which this volume affords several exemplifications. The Author seems not to have had the slightest surmise of mendacity or credulity in the authorities on which he
describes the Egyptian Thebes, as a city of which most of " the houses were of alabaster marble, spotted with drops of
gold,' and which had a hundred gates," out of each one of which there issued ten thousand armed men, which in the ' whole came to be an army of a million. But this is an utter · trifle to what immediately follows : he tells us with all the apparent gravity of the most perfect faith, that,
- Marcus Polus writes, that he passed by the city of Quinsay, which contained fourscore millions of souls : and Nicholas de Conti, passing not many years after by the same way, found the city wholly de. stroyed, and begun to be newly-built after another form. But yet greater than this was the city of Nineveh,' &c.
Several misprints of the former editions are retained when · the former correction was obvious. For instance, in page 214,
" the gift of charity,' ought evidently to have been the same phrase which occurs in the next page, the gift of clarity.
Art. VI. Cursory Remarks on the Physical and Moral History of the
Human Species, and its Connection with surrounding Agency. By
L. S. Boyne. 8vo. pp. 378. Price 10s. 6d. Baldwin and Co. 1815. TT has been repeatedly said, and said with truth, that the I present is the age of superficial acquirements. Every corner of the kingdom is now furnished with individuals who can talk about oxygen, and hydrogen, and caloric, and chlorine, and principles of life, and properties of matter, with the utmost familiarity and fluency.
We shall not, at present, enter into a consideration, whether the real interests of science have lost or have gained by this general diffusion of its principles; but shall content ourselves with remarking, that there is one evil arising out of the present order of things, which is of some importance. The facility of philosophical acquisition, has supplied the world with a host of teachers, and lecturers, and writers, who would be much more usefully employed in humbler and less conspicuous situations in society.
It would, however, be unjust, to denounce the work now before us as being altogether amenable to the charge of ignorant, or of mere book-making authorship. It contains, indeed, much that is very superficial, very common-place, and in very bad taste. We meet with some little parade of words : we have terrestrial
balls,' and 'barks of human reason,' and ' Alps on Alps,' and bright luminaries,' and 'baseless fabrics, &c. &c. &c.; and the title-page has not forgotten to tell us, that the proper • study of mankind is man.' Occasionally, indeed, Mr. Boyne takes higher flights, and informs us, that 'oxygen is the alma ' mater of animal perfection ;' and be proposes a new apo'theosis to the consideration of the enfranchised Africans, and
trusts, if they are destined to remain still in their native ig" norance and idolatry, that they may place the name of Wilberforce as the Prince of Idols in their pantheon.' . .
Had Mr. Boyne's book been written throughout in this bad taste, with a total absence of that merit, both as to materials and composition, which in the present case makes the bad with which it so much abounds more prominently striking than otherwise it would be, we should not have thought it worth while to trouble either ourselves or our readers with any notice of its contents. It contains, however, much that is both amusing and instructive; and considering the modest pretensions of the Author, there is little reason perhaps to expect more. ' He claims,' he says, ' no merit; he has furnished nothing
new; he has merely thrown together in a familiar shape a ! number of facis in nature, that cannot be instructive to the
learned, but may operate as introductive of further enquiry ? among general readers.
The first chapter is Geographical and Geological, and contains a somewhat interesting abstract of the general hypotheses which have been proposed for the explanation of the earth's constituent principles and present state. In the next essay are introduced observations on the constitution of the atmosphere, with an account of the mechanical and other properties of the air. 'Ligbt, vision, colour, matter, space, vacuum, attraction, time, 'magnetism, materialism,' are the subjects of the third chapter. The Author then proceeds to consider the nature and general principles of organization, as distinct from inert or dead matter; and in this part of his work he combats with some ingenuity the sceptical analogy which has been proposed between the phenomena of crystallization, and the laws of living agency. His account of insects, and of the singularity of their functions, is rendered very interesting ; and is calculated to excite in young persons a taste for the pursuit of natural history. From insects he proceeds, through the gradations of living existences, up to man, and enters somewhat largely into the question, as matter of science.- Did man spring from one common source? In proving the affirmative of this question, and establishing the accordance between the natural history of the human race, and the Mosaic account of the Creation, our Author displays industrious research, and evinces à considerable power of concentrating the materials of historical and physical evidence, and of rendering them sufficiently interesting.
The metaphysical, moral, and ethical disquisitions which follow, have not so much to recommend them, though they are not altogether destitute of merit. With the above exceptions, the work may be considered on the whole as a respectable performance, at least as an introduction to a more minute investigation of the several particulars of which it treats.
Art. VII. Mador of the Moor, a Poen. By James Hogg, Author of
The Queen's Wake, &c. 8vo. pp. 140. Price 7s.6d. Murray.
1816. VVHEN Mr. Southey disclaimed for “ Madoc" the de
graded title of epic', it was asked in what class of poems he would place it. We care very little about names, but we certainly seem to perceive a very great, almost an essential, difference between the ancient epics, and modern narrative poems; much the same, indeed, as subsists between our own romantic dramas, and the heroic dramas of Greece or of France. Certain established rules of criticism are, without doubt, given up in our narrative or romantic poems. All such rules were originally derived from the poets; for it is absurd to suppose the critio setting himself down to frame laws for a community over which he has no jurisdiction. It becomes, then, a question, how far the poet bimself can be allowed to dictate rules to his successors. The general laws of pleasing in poetry, must be studied by each poet for himself; and better, surely, that they should be studied directly from Nature, than from any poet, how great soever. In particular considerations, he must confotm himself to the custom of his country; not because it may be the best, but simply because, without doing so, he will not please those whom he most wishes to please. Our pedestrian iambic may perhaps be less full and sonorous than the Greek and Roman hexameter: but what then? A coat and waistcoat, are less grand and flowing than a pallium or toga ; but the man who should walk the streets in the old Roman costume, must be content to excite wonder and ridicule; and a similar fate would be the sole remuneration of the poet, who should be so much in love with old examples, as to coine forth arrayed in heroic hexameters.
We shall never then be of the number of those who object to any species of poetry, that it is new. The laws of ancient poetry were not originally contrived and framed by a single man; they were in a great measure the work of chance. And what ground is there for supposing that the form thus adopted, should be the best possible? What sufficient reason for prohibiting the poet to attempt a new one? But, putting all reasoning out of the question, it is the design of poetry to excite the imagination and the feelings; and that is the best poem, which best effects these purposes, be its form what it may.
The difference between the ancient epic and the modern narrative, seems to us quite sufficient to bear Mr. Southey out in choosing to disclaim the old specific name, though he has not substituted a new one in its place. The modern narrative does - not prescribe limits to itself; it extends or contracts itself at pleasure ; it groupes its figures less artificially perhaps on the whole, but more freely; in greater variety and with more interest. It comes nearer home; shews us less of gods and heroes, and more of men. It takes a wider range of sentiment, and better accommodates its language to it. It has more incident and action, more life and passion. It has less set speaking, and yet is more dramatic, when drama is required.
We have been led into these considerations, by reflecting how utterly unlike any thing that the ancients have left us, is the present poem ;-now comic, now tender, now proceeding with a legendary tale, now losing itself in long descriptions, and now entirely stopping in the Author's own reflections. Not that we should bring forward this piece as a good specimen of the style we have been speaking of: as a whole, we think the poem is not good in any respect; and indeed we altogether doubt Mr. Hogg's abilities for continued narrative. Our readers, we trust, bear us witness, that we have always done justice to Mr. Hogg's powers. In the ballad-style we think him alınost iniinitable.
There is an unearthly wildness in some of his pieces of this kind, and an ethereal delicacy in others, which we should hardly know where to match. But in the present poem there is no keeping: the writer does not seem to know when he is to put forth his strength, and when he may reserve himself; what he is to compress, and what he is to bring forward at length; in short, he does not know that there are some parts in a poem which are important in themselves, and some that are merely accessary links between these. The “ Introduction' is an address to the Tay, and contains some very pleasing stanzas.
• Thou Queen of Caledonia's mountain floods,
Theme of a thousand gifted. Bards of yore,
That lovest to circle cliff and mountain hoar,
And with the winds to mix thy kindred roar,
Rich are the vales that bound thy eastern shore,
Aloft would bear me, middle space, to see
By shadowy hill, gray rock, and fairy lea.
• To Fancy's eye the ample scene is spread,
The yellow moon-beam sleeps on hills of dew,
That bathes its gray head in celestial blue.
These o'er thy cradle stand the guardians true,