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which there is more moral harmony, and penetrated throughout with intense ina nearer realization of the mind's desires, dividual feeling, in other words, one long than that which comes under our imme- continued lyric, and a poem including diate observation. Much of the confu- many individuals and grades of feeling, sion observed in general judgments on are to be judged by different laws. Shakbooks and authors, comes from the habit speare could easily have expanded Hamof blending our actual perceptions of life let into a poem. Had Hamlet lived in the with the life we lead in thought; and the nineteenth century, he might have “mul. consequence is, that an author who re- tiplied himself among mankind” like Bypresents in vivid colors the possibility of ron, without passing beyond the indivi. any form of actual life, is often deemed duality with which Shakspeare has gifted merely its copyist. Scott, for instance, him. But Shakspeare comprehends him; gave us no copy of life, as it was in the he does not limit Shakspeare. So Scott middle
ages; but he took the elements of in creating character, observes the conwhich it was composed, moulded them ditions of their being; and the wild pasinto forms corresponding to their nature, sionate utterance befitting one person, in and exhibited the whole as something one mood at one time, would not befit all possible to thought, after those elements of his persons, in all moods, at all times. were given. The actual history of the It must be admitted, however, that times is the mere raw material of the Scott with all his range of vision, with intellectual product.
all his skill in painting scenery, with all In meditation-in evolving the spiritual his love of the beautiful and sublime in significance of sensible objects in that nature, evinces no very subtil perceptions rapid shaping imagination which robes in of the spiritual mysteries of the universe. forms of dazzling beauty, the abstract In this his great contemporaries, Wordsconceptions of the mind-in that sublime worth, Shelley and Byron are his supericurrent of the soul, which forces the ors. In his description of nature there mightiest elements of the universe to be- is no mystical charm, no “sense sublime come the servitors of its wide wandering of something still more deeply interfused.” passions and impatient aspirations—in We believe that this mystical element is that impulsive surrender of the whole an objective as well as subjective reality, nature to the feeling or thought of the requiring only fineness of perception in moment, and coloring everything with a peculiar mood of mind, to be perceived. its gloomy or glittering hues—in all those But if Scott is here confessedly deficient, sensitive qualities of intellect and passion, neither are his compositions “sicklied which all delight to associate with the o’er” with that “pale cast of thought," bard, which, for the moment, take the that unrest and diseased spirituality mind captive, and feel their way in flame which too often meet us in the sensitive along every nerve of our being-in these, mysticism of subjective poets. Scott is Scott seems relatively deficient from the a hale, hearty man, through all his writobjectivity of his creations. The indivi- ings. In his domain of imagination, dual soul, merging all objects in itself, is there is neither fog nor earthquake, but not observable in his writings. But in only cloud and sunshine. We cannot his delineations of character, he well un say that he was deficient in a sense of derstood, and well represented, the in- the supernatural, for that was a promi. fluence of moods of the mind in modifying nent element in his genius, as in all the show of external nature, and the genius; but the distinction we all feel to burning emphasis with which imagina. exist between the supernatural and ihe tive passion utters the images which it mystical, measures the difference between seizes and shapes in moments of uncon him and Wordsworth, in regard to the trollable emotion. For the sharp, direct more refined processes of imagination urging expression of passion, in words and feeling. Had Shakspeare never lived, that leap right from the heart, and strike the union in one mind of such powers their objects instantly, his works furnish and impulses as distinguish Wordsworth, numberless instances. As his power in Shelley and Scott, would have been prothis respect was displayed only at inter- nounced an impossible combination. vals, from the breadth and variety of The tendency of Scott's writings, like character he delineated, the pauses of his the tendency of all the great compositions passion have sometimes been laid to his of the nineteenth century, is in favor of weakness, when they are more properly human freedom and human happiness. referable to his comprehension. “A poem However strong may have been the spell
which the past exercised over his mind, poignancy to the agonies he endured for whatever may have been his politics, he humanity, it continually teaches, that could not succeed in accurate delineation
“ Those who do endure of character, without allowing his genius Deep wrongs for man, and scorn, and to follow its own instincts, and confer its chains, but heap titles of nobility only on the meritorious. Thousand-fold torment on themselves and Those who have attacked him for his him." supposed injustice to particular classes, If the theory of tyranny be correct, its have generally been persons indisposed most despotic acts are right. We desire to do justice to the classes opposed to to know what human nature is. He, themselves. Critics who have been therefore, who represents it in charac-bigots in their hatred of him, have gene- ters that we feel to be true to the nature rally been bigots in their love of some of things, and beget in us a deeper symother order and development of genius. pathy for our kind, cannot fail to proBut the most pitiful lie that ever insinu- mote free principles. There is enough ated itself into any criticism above that democracy in the Waverley Novels to of Grub street, is the charge of aristocra- revolutionize the world. The science of cry, brought against his writings. He freedom may have been imperfectly aphad not, forsooth, “any sympathy with prehended by the author, but its spirit the people!" If such a foolish fallacy and substance was nevertheless felt. be correct, then most assuredly he is The readers of Scott know this, and it is not the author of the Waverly Novels. a pity that his critics cannot lift themThe people, however, have not left the selves to this point of view. task of answering the charge to critics. Two classes of critics have attacked But it is urged, that he displays a child. Scott's character and writings~-ultra radiish love of rank and titles. This, in its cals and ultra transcendentalists. He is essential meaning, is as false as the not democratic enough for the first, nor other. · Who among the characters in spiritual enough for the second. The “ Ivanhoe” is drawn with the most former, in condemning him, generally power-on whom has the author lavish- advance principles of criticism, which ed the whole wealth of his heart and lead, when carried out, to the conclusion imagination? Rebecca, the despised and that Joel Barlow was a greater man than untitled Jewess. In the “ Heart of Mid. Homer, because he entertained more libelothian,” there is an interview between ral notions of government. They seem Queen Caroline and Jeannie Deans. to think that if a poet's political opinions Now this queen is a case in point. She are monarchical, his representations of ruled her husband, who, after a fashion, human nature must be heretical. For ruled Great Britain. Yet the little Scotch instance, William Hazlitt would be deem. peasant girl, with no other titles than ed a much more liberal writer than Scott, those conferred upon her by the Most because his works swarm with invecHigh, is so represented that every reader tives and sneers against aristocracy and cannot but consider her as superior to toryism; yet, in spirit, he was one of the the queen. Instances of a similar charac- bitterest aristocrats that ever lived-imter might be quoted without number from patient of opposition, arrogant, selfScott's Poems and Novels, to prove that willed, regardless of the rights and feel. his sympathy with his race, and especi- ings of others, the most uncompromising ally with the humbler portions of it, has hater of his time. Now, a man of this never been excelled by any writer of stamp, however talented he may be, is equal comprehension of heart and imagi- not to be trusted in the representation of nation. By casting it in a dramatic and life and character, because from the nanarrative form, he made it more univer- ture of his disposition, his insight must sally felt, than if he had asserted it with be distorted by his antipathies. Whatmore impassioned emphasis. He so ex ever was not comprehended in the nar. hibited human nature, that its worth row circle of his individual tastes, would might be perceived by all. Tyranny be denounced or caricatured. exists by virtue of misrepresenting man. continually hear the judgments of such It considers him a wild animal, who can men quoted as authorities, against men be kept safely only by being caged. of infinitely more comprehensiveness of Like the malignant Furies, sent to taunt nature. Hazlitt detested Scott's politics, the godlike Titan, and give a sharper and believed all the lies against his
character. His criticisms, therefore, are Scott was expressed in nearly the same curious specimens of mingled admiration terms that Carlyle delights to lavish on and depreciation. His will is bent reso Goethe; and that the pith of Carlyle's lutely on making Scott appear mean and objection to Scott, contained in the phrase odious, but his instinctive sense of the that he delineated character from the excellence of what he is depreciating, “ flesh inwards, and not from the heart occasionally breaks out in splendid bursts outwards,” is almost literally the objecof eulogy: Sometimes, by shifting his tion which Goethe made to another of point of view, he would deride a particu Carlyle's favorites, Schiller. · Eckerlar quality of an author after having man's conversations with Goethe,” indiwarmly praised it but a few pages before. cate that the great German viewed Scott In the * Spirit of the Age,” when he with almost unqualified admiration. In criticises Godwin, be speaks with utter one connection he is reported to say, that contempt of the historical and legendary Waverly may be set beside the best materials used in the Waverley Novels; works that have ever been written in the but in the essay on Scott, in the same world.” Again, speaking of the romanvolume, he makes these the subject of ces generally, he says—" all is greatone of his most magnificent passages of material, import, characters, execution ; eloquent panegyric. None would claim and then what infinite diligence in the for Scott greater genius than Hazlitt al. preparatory studies ! what truth of detail lows him to possess, when the mist of in the composition !" Carlyle is struck partisan hatred does not dim his insight. with the superficial character of Scott's We appeal from Philip drunk to Philip productions. They do little more than sober;" from Hazlitt's individuality, to amuse indolent readers. Here the disciHazlitt's sense of beauty and Hazlitt's in ple again comes in conflict with the mastellectual acuteness.
ter. Generally,” says Goethe, “he Carlyle's criticism has been of late shows great knowledge of art; for which years the standing authority against reason those like us, who always look Scott. It is amusing to see the zest with to see how things are done, find especial which its dogmas have been echoed, “ by pleasure and profit in his works.” After country clergymen and lone women,” by reading “Ivanhoe,” we find the legitimate the whole class of dillettanti spiritualists. successor of Shakspeare, the man of sure Carlyle's essay is a very natural expres- insight, holding this language : " Walter sion of Carlyle's nature. It has great Scott is a great genius; he has not his individual truth ; bui no criticism is less equal ; and we need not wonder at the entitled to be a law to others. It is an extraordinary effect he has produced on attempt to accommodate facts to a pre- the reading world. He gives me much to possession ; to sacrifice man's genius to think of ; and I discover in him a wholly another man's prejudice. The tone of new art, with laws of its own.” Carlyle it is a “ low, melodious” growl. Its in- cannot discover this. Goethe, again, fluence consists in an adroit substitution says: “ His comprehensive existence of the author's warped personal percep- corresponds with his great genius. You tions, for the thing perceived. State. remember the English critic, who comments of peculiar individual tastes are pares the poet with voices for singing, of given as statements of fact. It is even which some can command only a few condemned by Carlyle's own general fine tones, while others can at pleasure, principles of criticism; but, like Hazlitt, run through the whole compass, equally Carlyle's general principles ever bend to at their ease with the highest and the the intolerance of his character.
lowest note. Walter Scott is one of this Those, however, who are inclined to last sort.” receive Carlyle’s dictum with unhesitat In fact, Goethe judges Scott, as it is ing faith, would do well to recollect that, fashionable among us to judge German in the case of Scott, it is contradicted by authors. It is a pity that much of the Carlyle’s acknowledged critical and spi- acuteness employed in detecting the esoritual master-Goethe. Jf Carlyle may teric meaning of foreign compositions, is be believed, the latter possessed the sur not diverted into English channels. If est insight of any man since Shakspeare; any of our readers will turn to the conthat in looking at things he always saw versation in Eckermann, on the “ Fair objects as they were in themselves. Now Maid of Perth,” one of Scott's minor creait is curious that Goethe's admiration of tions, they will see with what fineness
of analysis its latent beauties and hidden ties. For what sentimental idealists laws are evolved. The mere novel-read- would call the mere vulgar virtue of pay. er deems it a mere novel ; but to Goethe ing his debts, he consciously sacrificed it seems a wonderful work of genius. In his life. He literally paid his creditors referring to one slight circumstance in the in instalments of his vitality; and worked development of a character,—so slight incessantly until brain and heart were that we believe nobody else ever observ- crushed beneath the load of labor. Had ed it-Goethe tells us that “ it shows an the “ pound of flesh, nearest his heart,” eye for human nature, to which the deep- been cut off at once, it would have been est mysteries lie open." Carlyle would mercy, compared to that lingering toil, use exactly this language respecting that slow exhaustion of faculty, that Goethe. Now, in these extracts we see gradual letting forth of the blood, drop one of the greatest and most comprehen by drop, which was the mode ordained sive minds in modern time, one, too, par- for his destruction. Now, if instead of ticularly gifted with a clear perception of killing himself to pay his debts, he had objective realities, discovering in Scott written a very affecting "Farewell to my such preëminent intellectual excellences. Books,” or some elegant rhymes accusIf any of our pseudo-transcendental breth- ing fortune of cruelty, or a truculent ren are desirous of taking their opinions rhapsody about his own miseries—bad he at second-hand, why not select the best done as poets usually do when great that can be obtained? They are sure, at practical evils pitilessly invade the sancleast, of having “ Sir Harcourt's consola. tuaries of their ideal existence—we have tion.” “My wife eloped, it is true, but no doubt that his personal admirers would then she did not insult me by running be multiplied among “men of deep feelaway with a cursed ill-looking scoun- ing,” and “genial critics,” and milddrel.”
mannered sympathizers with “ the infirWe have referred to Scott thus at mities of genius.” The same disposition length, because it has become almost which makes society so fearful That the fashionable to underrate his genius. It private mourner will not experience sufmust pass away like other fashions. ficient grief, and so nicely critical of his The man is too great to have his “ quie- conduct and features after calamity, leads lus made” with a “bare bodkin.” As it to expect that men of genius will be an imaginative writer, we have alluded communicate in misery, and allow no to his novels as well as poems. In both “ secret wound to bleed beneath their the distinctive character of his genius is cloaks.” observable; but, in a consideration of his The position of Samuel Taylor COLEmental power, his whole works and life RIDGE among his contemporaries has are to be brought into the discussion. never been settled by common consent. These display almost an unparalleled Mr. Griswold boldly places him at the activity and "- force of being.” His pos- head, calling " him the most wonderful session of rare capacities, is not so re- genius of the nineteenth century.” When markable as his strength of nature in their we consider the strength and delicacy of exercise. He was so strong that he his genius, and the all but universal acovercame obstacles, and mastered diffi- quirements of his mind—as a scholar, as culties, without any of those spasmodic a poet, as a thinker-it is difficult to resigns which usually accompany great sist joining in the acclamation of his diseffort.
ciples. A great part of his fame is doubt. The heroism of his character does not less owing to the passionate eulogies of lie on the surface, and has been too much friends who enjoyed his companionship, overlooked for that reason ; but he still and listened to the eloquence of his conwas a hero, if intense struggle with in- versation. Wordsworih speaks of him ward and outward evils constitute hero. as the “rapt one, with the godlike foreism. Because calamity did not urge head,” the heaven-eyed creature.” Hazhim, as it did contemporary poets, into litt says that no idea ever entered the public confession of feeling, many have mind of man, but at some period or other deemed him deficient in feeling. After “it had passed over his head with rustyears of almost gigantic labor, and at an ling pinions.” Talfourd writes of seeing age when most men think of retiring “the palm trees wave, and the pyramids from all active exercise of their powers, tower, in the long perspective of his he resolutely bent his energies to free style.” All who knew him, seemed to himself from enormous pecuniary liabili- have confidence in his capacity of doing
an indefinite something, which no other sense of fear and amazement into the man could do. The records of his con soul. To address so refined an element versation, in a book called “ Coleridge's of thought as this, is one of the most Table Talk,” are mere rubbish, compared daring efforts of genius; for the chances with what we might have expected from are always in favor of failure, and failure the eulogists of his discourse. In fact inevitably draws down ridicule. Every, Coleridge's reputation was greater for the body detests the idea of mysticism, and works he was to write, than for those he denies the legitimacy; and keen must be had written. With regard to his intend the imagination which succeeds in pierced productions, society “never was, ing through the common experience of but always to be, blest.” His mighty consciousness, to its remote seat in our work on philosophy, which his disciples nature.
When it is awakened, no effort were continually preparing the world to of the will can stifle its subtil workings. receive, never came. In the “ Friend” Touched by a master mind, it becomes a and the “ Aids to Reflection,” there is source of mysterious delight; and Coledisplayed a lack of constructive power, ridge knew well the avenues and labywhich casts “ominous conjecture” on bis rinths of the mind, through which lancapacity to frame a system of metaphy- guage must pass to reach its dwellingsics, at once comprehensive and compre- place. He could likewise stir that suhensible. They can hardly be called pernatural fear in the heart, which he philosophical, replete though they be has so powerfully expressed in one with splendid fragments of truth and ex
stanza of the “ Ancient Mariner"-a fear amples of intellectual acuteness and force. from which no person, poet or prosaist, They excite wonder, because the pro- has ever been entirely free ;-and which cesses of the understanding and the ima- makes the blood of the pleasantest athegination are continually crossing each ist at times turn cold, and his philosophy other, and producing magnificent disorder. slide away under his feet :Visions intermingle with deductions, and
“ Like one, that on a lonesome road inference follows image. He thinks Doth walk in fear and dread, emotions and feels thoughts. We hear And having once turn'd round, walks on, the “ rustling pinions” of the great prin. And turns no more his head. ciple that is to comprehend all, but it Because he knows a frightful fiend passes over the head, not into it. The Doth close behind him tread." mind of the man does not seem to com The harmony and variety of Coleridge's prehend and bind together, the ideas it versification, his exquisite delineations of singly perceives or appropriates. His the heart, his command of imagery, his prose works contain great things, without “wide wandering magnificence of imagi. being great works. They give an im- nation,” have so often been the theme of pression, which we believe was felt admiring comment, that they need not be among many of his contemporaries, that dwelt upon here. There is no person, he was half seer, and half charlatan. with the least pretension to poetical taste,
From his poetry, and the traditions of who cannot find something in Coleridge, his conversation, Coleridge will probably either in the gorgeous suggestiveness of be most esteemed by posterity. As a his poetry or its delicate and graceful poet we think that his genius is display- feeling, to admire or love. There are at ed with the most wonderful effect, in the same time, a number of obvious faults, “ Christabel” and the “ Ancient Mariner.” scattered over his poems, which evince In these the mystical element of human that he sometimes reposed on his laurels, nature has found its finest poetical em- and wrote when he ought to have slept. bodiment. They act upon the mind with Some of his love pieces are merely pretty, a weird-like influence, searching out the and others tame and mawkish. No poet most obscure recesses of the soul, and with so much feeling and faculty for the waking mysterious emotions in the very sublime, and with such a sway over the centre of our being; and then sending most majestic harmonies of sound, ever them to glide and tingle along every nerve allowed himself to fall into such bombast and vein with the effect of enchantment. as occasionally disfigures his style. AfIt is as if we were possessed with a sub- fluent as he was, he seems to have sometil insanity, or had stolen a glance into times selected those hours for composithe occult secrets of the universe. All tion when his mind chanced to be our customary impressions of things are barren and nerveless, and the results of shaken, by the intrusion of an indefinite those sterile intervals, every lover of his