Page images

when he means to be very fine and very learned. Fortunately our admirable translation of the Scriptures abounds with these native terms of expression, and it is admitted to be almost as pure an authority for English as for doctrine.'--pp. 2-4.

Mr. Sharp returns to the same subject, in a preface which he drew up a little while after for his friend's Grammar. It must be owned that there was some boldness in publishing what follows, during the life of the great lexicographer. Our elegant and idiomatic satirist ridicules that

-"easy Ciceronian style,
So Latin, yet so English all the while.”

Some men, whose writings do honour to their country and to mankind, have, it must be confessed, written in a style that no Englishman will own: a sort of Anglicized Latin, and chiefly distinguished from it by a trilling difference of termination; yet so excellent are these works, in other respects, that a man might deserve well of the public who would take the trouble of translating them into English. As I do not notice these alterations in our language in order to commend them, I shall not produce any particular instances. I shall content myself with supporting the fact by the evidence of a truly respectable critic, now living. In the preface to his excellent dictionary, he says, “So far have I been from any care to grace my page with modern decorations, that I have studiously endeavoured to collect my examples and authorities from the writers before the Restoration, whose works I regard as the wells of English undefiled ; as the pure sources of genuine diction. Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its ancient Teutonic character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology, from which it ought to be our endeavour to recall it, by making our ancient volumes the groundwork of our style, admitting among the additions of later times only such as may supply real deficiencies ; such as are readily adopted by the genius of our tongue, and incorporate easily with our native idioms."

' In his preface to the works of Shakspeare, we also find the following very applicable sentiments :--"I believe there is in every nation a style that never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the principles of its respective language, as to remain settled and unaltered. The polite are always catching modish innovations; and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hopes of finding or making better; those who wish for distinction, forsake the rulgar when the iulgar is right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where Shakspeare seems to have gathered his comic dialogue. He is therefore more agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally remote, and among his other excellences deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of our language.”

Y 2


These passages I have inserted, because such a testimony from this great man will at least be thought impartial.'--p. 7-9.

After all, our critic has not quoted the strongest testimony which Johnson might have afforded him. When he put forth his early writings he was a poor scholar, a total stranger to cultivated society; and he framed a purely artificial standard of elegance for himself. In after days, when his genius had raised him to universal honour, and he moved habitually among men and women of the world, Burke, Reynolds, Mrs. Thrale, &c. &c., he had too much good sense and good taste, (which, indeed, is only one application of good sense,) not to see that his young academical fancy had misled him; and we may easily trace the effects of this in all his later works. Compare, for example, such of the · Lives of the Poets,' as were written in his years of toil and penury, with those of the same series that bear the date of Streatham. We venture to say that these last are not only, in substance, the most valuable specimens of the combination of biography and criticism ever yet given to the world, but entitled to admiration for the vigour and elasticity of their idiomatic English.

We cannot conclude without expressing our hope that Mr. Sharp may be stimulated to further efforts, by the success which is sure to attend this publication. It is impossible, in particular, to read the names of his correspondents, without thinking what rich materials he must have for a volume of literary and political Reminiscences.

ART. II.-Geschichte der Hohenstuufen und ihrer Zeit; von

Friedrich von Raumer. Six volumes. 8vo. Leipzig. 1925. THE THE recent advertisement of a translation of Letters from

Paris, illustrative of the history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,' seems like a tacit reproach upon our neglect, in not having made known to our readers the important work which established nearly ten years ago their author's (Von Raumer) reputation as an historian. It is not, perhaps, too late ; for, except within a small, though, we trust, expanding circle, even the most distinguished names in Germany obtain as yet but a slow and precarious circulation in this country. The commencement of another historical composition from the same able hand, which we may take an early opportunity of introducing to the notice of our readers, warns us to lose no more time in giving some account of a work which fills up an important chasm in the annals of Europe, and embraces a highly interestHistory of the House of Swabia and their Times.


ing period, as yet unoccupied by any author of extensive or lasting popularity. It is, however, of a work like the present-(of which ihe historical narrative fills four large volumes, and the very valuable collections on the laws, customs, manners, and arts of the period, on the constitutions of the German empire and the Italian cities, two more)—that journalists of our own class find it most difficult to give a fair and satisfactory account. The merit of the work does not lie in detached passages of brilliant eloquence or high-wrought description ; but in the general effect of the whole, which impresses the character of the age with remarkable force and clearness upon the mind. Though, as we shall hereafter observe, some subsidiary parts occupy a disproportioned space, it is, in general, remarkable how boldly and yet how harmoniously the main figures stand out from the historic canvass. Few modern histories are so full and copious in their details—yet the interest rarely languishes ; the distinctness of the general impression, and the marked features of the more prominent characters, are not lost and shaded away in the minuteness of the narrative. The tone of sentiment which prevails throughout the work is that of a calm and unimpassioned observer, though of one far from deficient in quick and lively sensibility. The author's imagination is by no means dead to the romantic and picturesque effect of which his subject is capable, yet, in his moral judgments, he does not forget that sober philosophy which ought to be expected from a writer in the present day. He at once remembers that he is writing of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but in the nineteenth. Nor is he less impartial in his discrimination between the influence of their age upon the leading personages whom he depicts, and that which more strictly belongs to their personal character. He does equal justice to popes and emperors, but permits neither the tiara nor the crown to obscure the individuality of lineament which belongs to each; they are men as well as feudal sovereigns and imperious churchmen. This is high praise ; and if we add true German diligence in the collection of materials, and a style, if we may presume to judge, more easy and agreeable than that of most German historians, we shall have assigned a distinguished rank to this work among the historical compositions of the day. But in proportion to the merit of the work, is our difficulty in justifying our opinion by the rapid outline of its plan and contents, for which alone we can afford space.

The history of the imperial house of Swabia, the race of the Hohenstaufen, comprehends the termination of the great, and, for a time, decisive contest, between the spiritual and the temporal, the papal and the imperial dominion. As yet, the splendid vision of a vast moral supremacy, to be established by the successors of St. Peter over the principalities and thrones of the world—that vision which had dawned upon the mind of the first Gregory, and expanded into a commanding and systematic form under the seventb, the famous Hildebrand-might still impose itself upon men of the most exalted capacities and most generous motives, as a wise scheme for the civilization of barbarous Europe, and for the general religious government of mankind. The crimes, the vices, the injustice, the feuds of kings as well as of people, were to be repressed by an universal sacerdotal dominion, of which Rome, the metropolis of the Christian world, was to be the seat and centre. The pope, by the claim which he had assumed, of investiture to all ecclesiastical dignities, was, in fact, to regulate the appointment of the clergy throughout the western world; a clergy, by the strict law of celibacy, set apart from all the common ties and interests of society; and, by this simultaneous and irresistible agency, to govern the universal mind of man. According to the lofty theory of the papal autocracy, (as, no doubt, in justice as well as in charity, we may suppose it to have presented itself to the high-wrought imagination of its more eminent supporters,) it was to establish on the firmest basis, and extend to the utmost limits, the temporal and religious welfare of mankind. I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile :' such were the last words of Gregory VII. As yet, at least, papal ambition was entirely occupied by the advancement of the power and influence of the Roman see. It had neither degenerated into the desire of personal aggrandizement, nor into disgraceful nepotism. It had nothing of sordid individual interest. Though unbounded in its pretensions and unscrupulous as to the means of supporting them, it had ever in view what might, and did no doubt, appear a salutary and sacred end; if it violated justice--as, for example, when it twice arrayed father against son, in its contest with the imperial house which immediately preceded that of Swabia, --still, it was in a bold and open spirit of invasion on the riglits of mankind, which were to be sacrificed for a time, under a stern and inevitable necessity, to higher ultimate good. As yet, there was none of the low Machiavellian policy of later times, when the supreme head of Christendom was lost in the petty aud intriguing Italian potentate.

The Christian world was to become one great theocratic monarchy; and although such schemes of empire appear altogether repugnant to the character of churchmen, as in direct opposition to the pure religion of Christwe know not why they may not be advantageously compared with those of the temporal sovereigns who have aspired to universal dominion—the Alexanders, the Charles the Fifths, and the Napoleons, from whose admiration mankind is not yet disenchanted. At all events those spiritual conquerors might cherish, on better

grounds, grounds, the fond illusion, that they were establishing the salutary despotism of intellectual superiority over brute force; that in advancing their own supremacy they were advancing that of peace and religion, and even of civil liberty. For it must be remembered, that at this time the mass of mankind were crouching in miserable servitude, or groaning in helpless oppression, under the tyranny either of a stern monarchy, or more often of an armed and irresponsible aristocracy. The popes were for a considerable time the allies and protectors of Italian freedom. To them, as to the more noble-minded Italians of all ages, appeared, as the distant but legitimate scope of their earthly ambition, the exclusion of Transalpine influence from the peninsula. We must not, however, allow ourselves to be tempted into the great question, how far, at this period, the Christian church, by assuming the strength and consistency of a monarchical government, might, at least incidentally, greatly contribute to the establishment and preservation of social order, and the best interests of mankind-how far it inay have operated as a corrective to the fierce barbarism of the manners, the laws, and the governments of feudal Europe. With the impartiality of our author, we must be neither Guelpli nor Ghibelline. We would only impress on our readers this important consideration, that both the policy of the papal government, and still more the characters of the popes themselves, must be carefully distinguished in the various periods of history. The successors of Gregory VII, were men of a very different order from those mere bishops of Rome who were raised to the chair of St. Peter by the suffrages of a fierce and turbulent populace, and by their lawless and profligate leaders, the Theodoras and Marozias; and not less so from the worldly and demoralized prince-pontiffs, whose vices as well as spiritual tyranny accelerated the Reformation, when, in the person of Alexander VI., the supreme head of the Christian world appeared as the perfect model of unchristian vice. The prelates who, between these extreme periods of papal weakness and papal wickedness, carried the pretensions and the authority of the Vatican to their height, and waged a successful contest with the Empire, were men, in general, of austere, if not ascetic morals, of high endowments, and of commanding minds.

The chief founder of the spiritual autocracy, Hildebrand, lies beyond the sphere of the present history; we await with eager interest the long-promised life of him by M. Villemain. But among the opponents of the Swabian emperors, rank, perhaps, the ablest as well as the most ambitious of his descendants, Innocent III. ; and that extraordinary pontiff, Gregory IX., who, ascending the papal throne when past the age of eighty, for nearly twenty years waged an obstinate and almost incessant strife with the most


« PreviousContinue »