« PreviousContinue »
their vulgar conceptions of taste and liberality and discernment of the gennanners constantly betrayed, shewed tleman and connoiseur. The great pohat their condition was as obscure as litical events that were so loudly reheir names.
Now and then an ama- sounding on all sides, had awakened eur article, of a better kind, the ef- a universal curiosity, the gratification usion of college friendship to recom- of which rapidly increased the intellinend some abstruse illustration of gence of the people, even down to the some unread classic, did appear among very artizans. he congregation of trade articles, like a Theinference, therefore, to be drawn spruce divine in the crowd of Cheap- from all this; from the previous susLide. But even in those learned essays, ceptibility arising from the rejection of which the London Reviews, in their of the insane dogmas of the democrats; lotage, were so proud, there was no- from the state of periodical criticism in hing that came home to men’s business London, and from the improved intelind bosoms; they had all a scholastic ligence and literary taste of the age, en
a and unpractical character. They might sured to such an undertaking as the
have been ornamental in the ponder- Edinburgh Review the most splendid vus tomes of Scaligerian erudition; and unprecedented success. perhaps have merited the approbation Having thus stated the causes and of a Dacier, or a Porson; but they circumstances which contributed to neither instructed the age, nor ex- the rise of that celebrated journal, it
anded the horizon of knowledge. A may now be proper to take a view of vork, therefore, which assumed a cha- its progress; the last is more invidiacter the reverse of the London Re- ous, because it may be supposed to inriews, and which undertook to treat volve the necessity of estimating the if things as they are, and to consider talents and powers of particular indivassing events and existing opinions, viduals; but the brief limits to which s affecting the comfort and condió this sketch is restricted, obviates that ion of the living world, could not necessity in a great degree, and conput, on its first appearance, be hail- fines the disquisition to the general d with preference and respect, by characteristics and features of the book hat new and numerous class of read alone. Is, whom the spreading taste for lite- Besides those universal motives ature, and the more generous educa- which induced the public to receive ion of recent times had raised in the with no ordinary welcome the first lations ;-a class, who, without any appearance of the Edinburgh Review, jsretensions to the literary character, the work, by addressing itself to the arried into the seats and haunts of patronage of the Whigs, at that time pusiness, a degree of critical acumen, strong and formidable by their implied if knowledge, and sometimes even of union with the democratical faction, cience, which qualified them to esti- secured at once the personal interest nate the merits of authors, while it and applauses of a numerous and most nlarged the sphere of their profes- loquacious association. Delighted with jional pursuits. Nor will the fact a work on their side, in which so much De disputed, that, at time en more talent and practical sense appearhe Edinburgh Review made its ap- ed than in any other of the kind, they Jearance, there existed, among all ranks were loud and vehement in their plau
ind orders in this country, a general dits, and the genius of the writers was intellectualization, if the expression magnified to the skies-the Tories, too, eg nay be used, on every subject, not on- were pleased to see a work which left
y on those which affected agriculture, at such an immeasurable distance the snanufactures and commerce, but the raving nonsense of the anarchy press; enjoyments of taste and art; in a word, and though they disliked its anti-naon all with which the feelings and the tional principles and prejudices, they seasoning are interested. Themerchant joined in regarding it as a meritorious had become, by his wealth, qualified publication, calculated in the main to sto associate with princes, and, by his assist in the restoration of those ancient accomplishments, to entertain philoso- feelings and venerable affections which phers. The maxims of national polity had been so outrageously violated and were as familiar to the physician as to broken. The consequence was immethe statesman ; and the lawyer judged diate. The circulation of the Review of the productions of genius with the rapidly exceeded the most sanguine į Vol. X.
hopes of the projectors, and all the som, the stateliest of all the ancient honours and homages of a premature bay-trees of literature. Events, too, immortality were bestowed on the began to falsify the brave arrogance of contributors. They were allowed a. its political predictions, and the persepontifical authority in taste, a pro- verance and constancy with which the phetical, in politics ; the fates of authors Tory administration adhered to the and of kingdoms were alike commit- principles on which the war had been ted to their decision and foresight
and undertaken, seemed to partake of some Jeffrey and Brougham became the Mi- nobler quality than the obstinacy and nos and Rhadamanthus of literature. folly with which they were charged
But this prodigality of praise, this by the Whig orators and their echoes superstitious admiration, was soon dis- in the Review. It was also discovered covered to be excessive. The spirit that the Reviewers wrote rather of, of the publication was certainly less than to, the public mind; that their irrational than that of its predeces- pages were but so many mirrors, which sors in the democratic interest, but only reflected opinions that already it possessed a full measure of Jaco- existed. bin antipathy against the political ad- But nothing so effectually arrester
! versaries of the Whig party. Doubts the progress of the Edinburgh Review, also arose as to the soundness of many as the establishment in London of the of its opinions in matters of taste, in Quarterly. The northern work had consequence of authors, whom it con- become so intolerant; success had signed to derision,growing upinto fame, made it so insolent, that it could no and overshadowing, with a vast lux- longer be endured by the moderate Touriance of vigour in bough and blos- ries; (c) and they longed for another,
(c) It is perhaps difficult to point out any particular cause in the conduct of the Edinburgh Review, which completed the disgust of the Tories with the intolerant party character of the work; we are, however, inclined to think, that Number XXXI., published in April, 1810, occasioned their decision
. The despicable spirit in which the Review of Lord Erskine's speeches was drawn up, to say nothing of its literary incongruities, not only roused their indignation, but was viewed as something partaking of the rabia of insanity and infatuation by many, even of the most sensible Whigs themselves. —Cobbet, himself, appears a gentleman when speaking of the living, compared to the manner in which the frantic reviewer speaks of the deceased Mr Pitt, and the abhorrence which the article produced at the time, was sharpened by the report that it was from the pen of one who had sneaked to earn his favour ; who had not only traduced Lord Lauderdale's pamphlet, as his Lordship said, to ingratiate himself with that statesman, but was understood to have accepted from Mr Pitt himself a non-descript mission to Portugal, almost as base as that of a ? spy-we say almost, because it may be possible that there are secret diplomatie appointments which do not partake of such an odious character, and the one alluded to
may have been one of them. The Whigs, of late, have been making a clamorous outcry against the personality of the Tory press; but since the death of Mr Fox, has any thing appeared from it reflecting on his character to compare with the following ?
66 Mr Frost had been a reformer too, and had even held a high office among the menbers of Mr Pitt's society. In this capacity, he had constant communications with that distinguished personage ; and at his trial, could even produce the most cordial and re. spectful letters on the interests of their “ great and common cause.”
The canting visage of Harrison, or the steady virtue of Hutchison, were not more hateful to Crownwell--Danton and Brissot were not more formidable to Robespierre-Sieyes is less odious to Buonaparte-a catholic petition to Lord Castlereagh—or, to come nearer to the point
, the question of the abolition to the same Mr Pitt himself, after his periods had been turned on the slave traffic ; than such men as Frost, Hardy, Thelwall, and Holcroft
, were to that convicted reformer of the Parliament. After he had once forsworn the end error of his way, and said to corruption, “ thou art my brother,” and called rather place, his God, (for he truckled too much for the sake of keeping in—he was to mean in his official propensities to deserve the name of ambitious,)—the sight of a 4former was a spectre to his eyes--he detested it as the wicked do the light-as do the history of their own times, which haunts their repose even after the conscience
conducted in the same manner, but in public estimation. But on all sides, on principles more congenial to their events began to arise which conown; the consequence of which was, founded and mortified its most strethat as soon as the Quarterly appeared, nuous admirers. The whole of its poit divided the interest with the Edin- litical predictions were falsified, not burgh. For some time, however, the only with respect to the war, and the Tories continued to read the latter, for changes in operation on the feelings of the purpose of comparison; and also, the world, but with regard to the because many of them disliked the views which it had taken of individual coarse feeling which was so strong- character, and of human nature, in rely allowed to disgrace the general abi- lation to the chief actors in French aflity displayed in the former. Per- fairs. The triumphs of the Peninsuhaps the circulation of the Edin- lar war overwhelmed and finished its burgh, from the excitement of public pretensions to political sagacity. Necuriosity produced by the competition, ver in the history of literature was may have even continued to increase any thing so complete and perfect as for some time after the first appearance the demonstration of the political insaof the Quarterly. But this did cer- gacity of the Edinburgh Review. Its tainly not continue long; the work inferiority and inability with respect to was less and less read, while the the estimates of genius also, about Quarterly was continually extending, the same time, received an equal expo- both in character and circulation. sure. From the publication of Childe Nevertheless, such was the general Harold, the author of which it had so persuasion of the high degree of ta- merrily ridiculed for being no poet, lent employed in the Edinburgh Re- all confidence was lost for ever in its view, that it would perhaps have long dicta in taste; and Jeffrey will herecontinued to hold a distinguished place after be chiefly recollected as the Zoilus
has ceased to sting their souls. We must be pardoned for using this language--WE KNOW OF NO EPITHET TOO HARSH FOR HIM WHO WAS PROFLIGATE ENOUGH TO THIRST FOR THE BLOOD OF HIS FORMER ASSOCIATES IN REFORM_of the very men whom his own eloquence, and the protection of his high station, had seduced into popular courses and not content with deserting them, to use the power with which he had mounted on their backs for the purpose of their destruction !”
The absurdity of this passage is almost as ridiculous as the fustian of the composition. Did Mr Pitt mount into power on the backs of Frost, Hardy, Thelwall, and Holeroft ? But the nonsense is nothing to the rhodomontade that follows.
“When the wars and the taxes which we owe to the lamentable policy of this rash statesman shall be forgotten-and the turmoils of this factious age shall live only in historical record ;-when those venal crowds shall be no more, who now subsist on the spoil of the myriads, whom he has undone—the passage of this great orator's life, which will excite the most lively emotions, will be that where his apostacies are enrolled—where the case of the African slave, and of the Irish catholic, stand black in the sight; but most of all, will his heart shudder at his persecutions of the reformers—and his attempt to naturalize in England a system of proscriptions, which nothing but the trial by jury and by English judges could have prevented from sinking the whole land in infamy and blood."-Ed. Řeview, No. XXXI. page 120.
But, after all this rant and bouncing, we would ask the Reviewer, was Mr Pitt the only persecutor of the said reformers ? and did he persecute them for being reformers after his own kind, or after the Reviewer's kind ?-because the Reformers may have changed their opinion of Parliamentary reform, and
because there are certain dark passages in Thelwall's Letter to Jeffrey, already · quoted, which we would gladly see expounded—“You must be well aware, Mr
Jeffrey,” says the derided reformer and lecturer, “ that your FORMER HISTORY, and that of some OF YOUR MOST INTIMATE COLLEAGUES, can be no secret in Edinburgh ;-that you could have no public pretence for volunteering yourselves as my opponents, or as my prejudicators. Now, in the historical distance in which we are placed, we should be glad to know what is here meant, and why Mr Thelwall inquires" By what strange and sinister motive” Mr Jeffrey was “induced to render" himself an instrument of " calumny, malignity, and injustice," against that then poor persecuted individual.
of Byron. His name may exist in be difficult to name as many volumes connexion with that of the poet, but in the English language which afford his criticism will be read no more. so few quotable passages; and per.
The Decline of the Edinburgh Re- haps there can be no better proof of view may, therefore, be dated from the original mediocrity of the contrithe appearance of the Quarterly; and butors, whatever may have been the the cause ascribed to the general inabi- merit of a few occasional articles. lity of the contributors to maintain the In this sketch of the history of the competition for public favour, with Edinburgh Review, the circumstances the learning and talent engaged in the in which it arose, and by which it was rival Journal. But its fall is entirely affected during its course, have alone owing to itself; the seeds of death were been considered ; and in speaking of the in it from the commencement. The causes which contributed to its decline powers of satire and of derision, which and fall, reference only has been made it exercised with as little mercy as to matters of notoriety entirely within modesty, have proved, in the result, the knowledge of the public. To have very
humble powers; and after usurp- adduced other instances of personality, ing an authority, the most dictatorial of misrepresentation, or of false or unand audacious, a general doubt is now fair criticism, would have swelled the expressed as to the ability with which notes to an unreasonable length. Perit was at one time supposed to have haps I may hereafter resume this ferbeen conducted. Of this there cer- tile theme. tainly can be no dispute, that it will
* We shall be glad to hear occasionally from VINDEX.-C.N.
A LETTER CONCERNING'HAYDON'S PAINTINGS. MR CHRIETOPHER North, ing which is capable of circulating As you have probably been hindered popularly in this country, as other by that gout of which we hear so fre- works of imagination do, and of awaquently, from going to see any thing kening general and disinterested symout of doors, you may not intend to pathies. Situated as painters are with favour the public with any remarks on us, the truth is, that they must look the pictures which have lately been in the first place, to public exhibitions, sent by Haydon to be exhibited here. for the most expectable remuneration And, if you had upon any occasion for their labours. It is true, that the viewed and considered these works of feelings of the multitude, though cathe pencil, it is most likely that you pable in general of sympathising with would be averse to administer to that any strong expression of passion, tend appetite for the cant of criticism, naturally towards impurity and degrawhich, when it is prevalent, is more a lation of taste. But if an artist, like sign of vanity than of taste in the pub- a poet, seriously endeavour to express lic. For my part, I entirely agree situations of human nature, which are with those who think that painting is to move and speak home to the hearts
“silent art," and that much talk of his contemporaries, it is probable that about it tends to peryert the judgment, he will at least attain to excellence in and make us uncertain of what we the dramatic or humanly expressive behold, or rather to supersede the sense department of his art, and afterwards of sight altogether; in which case if the public should be found capable every man is his own Apelles. There- of recognizing higher things, the artist fore, in addressing this letter to you, willof courseraise his style. In England, I do not mean to utter particular cri- the painters certainly never seem to en. ticisms upon the paintings before- joy any of those visions of celestial beau. mentioned, bụt to say a few words on ty and felicity which frequently came painting in general, as a sort of com- to the mental eyes of the Italian artists
. munication of thought among man. The artists here may be expected to kind, like literature, and also to de succeed most frequently in dramatic fend the credit of that kind of paint- expression and in the shewing of sitų.
ons; nevertheless, in choosing in- with more effect than what he copies Cesting subjects for paintings, it is from sight. error in the artist to seek for other
Admiring Haydon's drawings from an those found in the Scriptures, the Elgin marbles, I think as follows nich present conceptions permanent concerning that kind of sculpture. d known to all mankind, and replete External form may either express abth true meaning and sentiment. stract quantities, which are beautiful nese would not be exhausted al- independently of their relation to life, ough they were painted a thousand or it may shew the action and power nes ; for they might still be repeated of the substance which is in the form. ferently in other pieces, beyond That which is seen in the Elgin marmeration. Invention in painting is bles is of the latter kind. The figures ewn in the mode of treating a known there are most expressive of the interbject, and bringing out its meaning, nal reaction of the parts, and, for that a great actor does that of a poet. reason, beget in the spectator more Although I have not always admired feeling of power and substance than e tout ensemble of Haydon's pictures, of pure quantity. Therefore, accordhink that he evidently shews the ing to the ancient and true discrimi. ening up of this kind of genius, (that nation of Aristotle, they may be called Lo say, the power of dramatic expres- beautiful or expressive xata Evegyélav, sn,) and that he ultimately will be ef- according to energy. But those other tive in it. The zeal which he has ma- remains of Grecian statuary which are ested cannot spring from so sapless chiefly intended to affect the mind by pot as the mere desire for fame or mo- shewing pure quantities in the limits y, but must come from the wish to of the figure, (from whatever position k after what is generally significant viewed,) may be called beautiful rata 1 affecting, and to communicate itsvranexatay, or according to definition.
mankind. Nor ought he to be se- To please in painting, the great reusly blamed for using copious means quisite is the well-ordered effect of the
draw the notice of the public; whole together. This strikes at first ce all these things were necessary sight, if grand, with awe and astonish
overcoming the obstacles which ment, and even in any case continues must have found in his way. A always to satisfy the spectator as to the .nly self-confidence is not only beco- most important particulars of the comng, but necessary; since most Eng- plex appearance which heviews. Foritis 1 painters, from timidity and want of a labour to view and comprehend even ong feeling, have resorted to a compi- the most significant forms, if not plaion, which has the merit of correct ced in such lights as give simplicity sign, but wants that natural deriva- and perspicuity to the whole. The n of parts which gives vitality and picture of Haydon's, which is most ity of effect, and which shews a work agreeable to look upon, and best tuned pethe genuine and free-born offspring in the colouring, is that of Christ kneela single mind. Therefore, in many ing in the Garden. It has been unles it is wisest in an artist to resist justly depreciated ; for the figure of ternal and inconsistent impressions, Judas is original, and so much the betI to spread out whatever character ter for verging towards grimace. Since
style he finds the root of in his he already excelsin colouring, as an imirius; and those conceptions, which tation of nature, it is to be wished that ing from the workings of original the artist would study more to charm Dught, will have a vigour like that by colouring as a harmony, connecting a living and growing tree. But to all which is comprehended in a picture, is no one can attain, unless he have and spreading from part to part. But, vre confidence in his own feelings it must be acknowledged, that a maan in external impressions. Every jority of those who go to see his picinter, besides learning from externale tures are more capable of being affectobserving human beings, has a more ed by the sound of a cart or a drum. portant knowledge of human nature The feeling of harmony in colouring himself, and his works will be ac- is like the acquisition of a new sense. rding to the eleyation, or sensibility, I am, Mr Christopher, power of gesture, which is in his
Yours, &c. n nature ; and this he expresses