Page images
PDF
EPUB

vice of literature. His contributions, metri- view' and Sir Richard Philips's 'Monthly cal and critical, to the periodical press of the Magazine.' He first met the poet (by nine time, opened a new and a rich vein—he was years his junior) at the house of a common treated accordingly by its proprietors and con- friend in Yarmouth, and they took to each ductors with an eagerness of attention such as other so heartily, that Southey not long afterseldom falls to the share of any but a great wards revisited Norfolk to pass several weeks original genius; and this will surprise no one under Taylor's roof. His younger brother, who considers what a dim and drizzling twi- Henry Southey, was by and bye domesticated light that was which intervened between the at Norwich as the pupil of an eminent surgeon obscuration of Cowper and the outblazing of there, and Taylor conceiving a warm affection the galaxy that has not yet entirely passed for the youth, and superintending with a paaway. As literary demands and connections ternal care the direction of his extra-profesmultiplied, his attendance at the counting- sional studies, the letters between him and the house became slacker and slacker. Before poet assume by no slow degrees such a charhe turned the corner of thirty he seems to acter of entire trust and confidence as might have pretty nearly settled into the gown and have beseemed the intercourse of near and slipper' habits of a confirmed bachelor, and a dear blood relations. To the correspondence confirmed miscellanist. Had he married at begun under these interesting circumstances, the proper time of life, he would have had and continued, with few interruptions, until motives for either not neglecting his father's near the end of Mr. Taylor's life, illustrating trade, or carrying a more strenuous spirit of as it does in a very lively manner the course enterprise into the department of letters: but of the late Laureate's literary history, the this is one of the very few biographies in changes that his mind underwent, and the unwhich there occurs from beginning to end no changeable warmth and purity of his heart and hint or trace whatever of any tender passion feelings, the present volumes owe their highor attachment. Though his writings indicate est attraction. The publication of Mr. Souno coldness of temperament, but the reverse, they's letters was authorized by himself shortly he appears to have declared from the very first after the death of his Norwich friend : seventhat he never would marry—and he stuck to ty-three of them are here printed. that resolution as doggedly as he did to his It must indeed have been with very pecuGerman lore, and what was, we suspect, a liar feelings that the grey-haired Laureate main source of all his errors and neglects, his revised some of these communications for the Meerschaum pipe. One of his earliest ac- press. On the 10th of August, 1798, Mr. quaintances out of the Norwich circle was Taylor writes to him thus :Godwin ; but they had not met for several years when that philosopher happened to pass entitled " Å Picture of Christian Philosophy," by

'I have just been reading a delightful book through Norwich shortly after his marriage Robert Fellowes. Such a work, and from a with Mary Wolstonecraft. His salutation to clergyman of the Establishment, is indeed an Taylor was an expression of surprise at find- omen of better times. The character of Burke is ing him still a bachelor. Yes, Sir,' said remarkably well given in one of the notes. Those Taylor dryly, 'I practice what I preach."* of Rousseau and of Paine are to my thinking not

It was in the summer of 1798 that the sec- quite so fortunate ; that of Jesus is drawn exactly retary of the Norwich ‘Revolutionary Socie- as it should be-in the manner most conducive ty' made acquaintance with Mr. Southey, most consonant with the general design of his

to its useful operation on public morality, and whose early opinions on many subjects were proper historians. This is infinitely the best anakin to his own, and who was, we believe, a swer to Wilberforce's cant which has yet been brother-contributor to both the Monthly Re- produeed, but is, I fear, of too refined an order to

operate on the organs of his followers-it is at

tempting with otter of roses to aromatize the So did not in this matter an elder and a better fumes of tobacco. light of Norwich. The Religio Medici was yet a 'I am idling away my leisure in settling quesnew book, when Sir Thomas Browne espoused, as tions of chronology. Í have stumbled on the Whitefoot records, ' a lady of such symmetrical per- new hypothesis, that the Nebuchadnezzar of fection to her worthy husband, both in the graces of Scripture is the Cyrus of Greek history, which her body and mind, that they seemed to come to annibilates seventy years of received story supgether by a kind of natural magnetism.' Johnson adds: • This marriage could not but draw the rail- posed to pass between them. To compress and lery of contemporary wits upon a man who had just squeeze together the annals of Egypt sufficiently, been wishing that we might procreate, like trees, has given me most embarrassment. A second without conjunction;" and had lately declared that proposition is, that Daniel, the Jew, a favorite of " the whole world was made for man, but only the this prince, wrote all those oracles scattered in twelfth part of man for woman,” and that "man is Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, relative to his enthe whole world, but woman only the rib or crooked terprises, for the particularization of which they

afford ample materials. Ishall endeavor to unite

part of man." ;

the several investigations in an essay on the life by his parents, and to which he returned in of Cyrus... "Will it be a sin this tenth of August to trans, understanding.

the sobriety of his matured and disciplined

But the whole of that deepcribe you an attempt at an ode on the death of Messrs. Shears of Dublin ??

ly-interesting story will be told ere long by

Mr. Southey's own selected biographer, hav[This is a long rebellious lyric, in phrase ing at command his entire correspondence, and metre as un-English as in sentiments, and we believe a MS. poem expressly dewhich we need not transcribe.]

signed to set forth the hidden life of his Many who read your writings forgive your mind. At present our business is with him opinions for the sake of the poetry. You are only as the friend of William Taylor-the called on for an opposite indulgence-forgive the freedom with which the two men from the poetry for the sake of the sentiments.

beginning communicated their thoughts and "Your very affectionate, "William Taylor, Jun.'

sentiments to each other, and the perfect

charity with which they continued this inNext week Mr. Southey says in reply (inter tercourse in the midst of growing divergence alia):

of opinion, and after Mr. Southey's creed, "I thank you for your ode. You have taught political and religious, had become what me enough of Klopstock to see that you have it was to the last, the very opposite of caught his manner. The Irish business has been Taylor's. almost a counterpart to the death of the Girond

Another of Taylor's eminent early friends ists; yet who would not be content so to die, in

was Sir James Mackintosh. They first met order so to have lived ? ....

'I shall look for Fellowes's book. Your chro- at Edinburgh, where Taylor twice visited nological researches I can only wonder at; my Sayers, while, like Mackintosh, pursuing his studies have never been directed that way. medical studies at the Northern University. Have you seen a volume of Lyrical Ballads, &c.? Upon being called to the bar here Sir James They are by Coleridge and Wordsworth, but made choice of the Norfolk circuit, and durtheir names are not atiixed. Coleridge's ballad ing the Norwich assizes he either took up his of “ The Ancient Mariner” is, I think, the clum- abode under Taylor's roof or spent the evening siest attempt at German sublimity I ever saw; in his society. One of Taylor's first known Many of the others are very fine; and some ! shall re-read, upon the same principle that led attempts in original verse was a lofty but stiff me through Trissino, whenever I am afraid of sonnet to the author of the Vindiciæ Gallice ; writing like a child or an old woman.

and many eulogistic notices of Taylor's tal"God bless you,--yours truly, ents and sly good-humored allusions to his ROBERT SOUTHEY.'

hopeless heresies of taste and style, are scatAbout the same time, Taylor, in criticis tered over Mackintosh's Indian diaries and ing some of Southey’s verses, gives him the letters; but if they were ever in the habit of pithy advice to squeeze out more of his epistolary correspondence, we have no proof whey'

-a phrase which is often revived be- of it in this book. On the other hand, tween them and then rebukes him for some though Taylor and Coleridge never saw doctrinal and moral aberrations, of what na- each other, community of connections and ture we may guess from the reply:

sympathies of studies made it natural for

them to write to each other when occasion "Barker is painting a picture from “ Mary the invited: and though neither was there any Maid of the Inn," but from what part of the story I have not learnt. He might have found personal acquaintance between Taylor and better subjects in my better pieces. My “St. Mr. Wordsworth, nor was Mr. Wordsworth Anthony" "has no morality at all. Sophistry at any period so unfortunate as to adopt any may be expected from the devil, whose object of Mr. Taylor's doctrinal errors, it is not surin arguing is to puzzle his adversary: The prising that in this case also we should find eclogue was written before Lloyd's “ Lines on tlie Fast," and "Letter to the Anti-jacobin" the exchange through Southey of friendly

traces of mutual regard, and now and then had reached me; but Satan defends himself ex

Taylor says on actly upon the same principle that Charles messages and criticisms. Lloyd defends existing establishments.'

Mackintosh's first visit at Norwich :

Dr. Parr and Mackintosh have been in NorWe have quoted enough to show how Tay- wichlor and Southey agreed in their early poli

“ Ceu duo nubigenæ quum vertice montis ab alto tics; and the reader of Southey's early

Descendunt Centauri." poetry, as originally published, and of his

They are both very dazzling men. One scarceLetters from Spain and Portugal in 1796, was already well aware that he in the pride of you knows whether to admire most the

oracular

significance and compact rotundily of the single youth wandered far from the Church of Eng: sentences of Parr, or the easy flow and glittering land, in whose principles he was educated expansion of the unwearied and unwearying eloquence of Mackintosh.

Parr’s far-darting the same habits of profuse hospitality. Wilhyperboles and gorgeous tropes array the frag- liam Taylor is now entirely devoted to his ments of his conversation in the gaudiest trim. literary studies and magazine engagements Mackintosh's cohesion of idea and clearness of intellect give to his sweeps of discussion a more during the morning hours, dividing the rest instructive importance. "Parr has the manners of his time between the most affectionate atof a pedant, Mackintosh of a gentleman. Oftention to his parents, the pleasures of their course people in general look up to Parr with social circle, and the intellectual and conawe, and feel esteem for him rather than love; vivial activity of his clubs of liberalism and while Mackintosh conciliates and fascinates. In free-thinking. He soon became an active this feeling I do not coincide with others wholly. journalist--but this implied in his case a There is a lovingness of heart about Parr, a susceptibility of the affections, which would 'endear very helluo librorum. He was not to be conhim even without his Greek. But admiration tented with skimming surfaces—though he is, if I mistake not, yet more gratifying to Mackin-had, in his command of the continental lantosh than attachment; to personal partialities guages, the means of satisfying his editors he inclines less. His opinions are sensibly aris- and their readers at comparatively little cost tocratized since the publication of his “Vin- of labor to himself, he disdained to make diciæ ;” but they retain a grandeur of outline, himself the mere exponent of other men's and are approaching the manner of the constitutional school. Mackintosh's memory is well works and views, worked out every subject stored with fine passages, Latin and English, in his own way for himself, and was unwhich he repeats; and his taste in poetry in-doubtedly more instrumental than any man clines to metrical philosophy, rather than pathos of his standing in introducing that more disor fancy. Milton, Dryden, and Pope have alone cursive and essay-like fashion of reviewal sufficient good sense to please him. Virgil he which our Edinburgh brethren had the merit overrates, I think, and Cicero too. Style and again style is the topic of his praise.

or demerit (there is much to be said on both

Careless writing, redolent of mind, is better than all the sides) of ultimately, and we believe pervarnish of composition, merely artful. I was manently, popularizing in this country. surprised to find him agree with the French in Though, as we have already observed, his thinking Bossuet very eloquent; and still more classical education was slight, and he never so at his rating so very high the panegyric attained any thing like a critical skill in mysticism of Bishop Jeremy Taylor.?-vol. i. Greek or Latin, his curiosity was too genuine

to be satisfied without very extensive exSouthey answers :

ploration of the remains of antiquity, and You give me a more favorable account of with the help of the numberless excellent Mackintosh than I have been accustomed to re-translations and ingenious disquisitions ceive. Coleridge has seen much of him at the which his mastery of German placed at his Wedgewoods'. He describes him as acute in command, he certainly attained such an acargument

, more skilful in detecting the logical quaintance with the history and manners and truth himself-a man accustomed to the gladi- philosophical systems of the old world as was atorship of conversation-a literary fencer, who in his earlier day most rare among the ablest parries better than he thrusts. I suspect that, prosodists and variæ lectiones men of our in praising Jeremy Taylor and in overrating universities. That he had made some prohim, he talks after Coleridge, who is a heathen gress in Hebrew and its cognate dialects is in literature, and ranks the old bishop among also evident-we do not profess to measure his demigods.'

it; with so many German manuals at his elOur readers will by and bye remember bow, a man of his cleverness might produce with astonishment what William Taylor said niuch article effect with but a slender stock at this time concerning “style and again of real Orientalism; but he himself in his style;" but we must not lose sight of his letters to Southey now and then alludes to personal story.

his expertness in the use of his hidden reThe foreign commerce of the house of sources for that sort of mystification, with an Taylor and Co. had received a serious blow easy sportiveness which the mere charlatan on the breaking out of the war with revolu- never had courage for, and which probably tionary France, and among other changes, rather exaggerates the matter than othernot long afterwards, the idle partner's name wise. Of his skill in the cultivated lanwas dropt, while the old gentleman yielded guages of the modern continent there can the chief control of the remaining business be no question. He spoke and wrote the to a more active person, and withdrew a con- three most important ones with rare ease and siderable capital, to be invested by way of very rare accuracy; and he knew enough permanent provision for his son in mortgages of the minor dialects, whether Romance or and in the funds. The family continued in Teutonic, to read in them whatever they had the same spacious house at Norwich, and in worth reading. Probably no man ever re

Pp. 295–298.

6

viewed books written in such a variety of lan- own reviewals, I should say—This man's style guages—and he whom we have just heard has an ambitious singularity, which, like chewexpatiating on the charm of careless writ- ing ginseng, displeases at first and attaches at ing, redolent of mind,' reviewed them all in often sacrifices felicity to curiosity of expression:

last. In his pursuit of the curiosa felicitas, he a style as thoroughly artificial as was ever with much philological knowledge, and much compounded out of Gibbonism and Parrism; familiarity among the European classics of all nay, it is not too much to say in a dialect of sorts, his innovations are mostly defensible, and his own invention, which was adhered to his allusions mostly pertinent; yet they have with paternal steadfastness in spite of the both an unusuality which startles, and which, if solemn reclamations of every editor with ultimately approved, provokes at least an antewhom he formed any connection—in spite of merit is the appropriate application of his infor

rior discussion that is unpleasant. His highest remonstrances and rebukes that led to the mation: in his account of Rivarol you discover breaking up of more than one such connec-only his philological; in his account of Eichhorn tion—in spite of the pressing and affectionate only his theological ; in his account of Gillier appeals which Southey repeated until the only his artistical; and of Wieland only his case was utterly hopeless-and in spite of a

belles-lettristical pedantry, &c.' thousand friendly jokes and jibes from the

We make no attempt to follow our biograit up in despair, saying in his Bombay diary; Critical labors. They embraced a vast varie

Well, there is no help—I am content to add another tongue to my list for the sake of one ty of subjects—philology, especially etymol

ogy, chronology, topography, history, sacred author.'

This Taylorian dialect is mainly English and profane, ancient and modern, political of a Johnsonian cast, spoilt and distorted by Talmudic legend, Mahometan ethics, Bibli

economy and statistics, international law, the embroidery of vocables from the Ger- cal texts, churches and sects, parliamentary man, but still more frequently by the intro-reform, slave-trade--and, the catalogue would

of ing to the German principle, and involutions branch of the belles-lettres of modern Eu

fill a couple of pages, almost every possible of phrase and syntax adopted with similar infelicity from the same quarter. But in his rope. The editor has interwoven specimens, * Babel-like structure, as Southey calls it

, with, we are willing to believe, a good discri

mination; and he hints at some larger selecfew materials were inadmissible. Words and turns, old or new, from south or north, will encourage him in that design: it is a

tion by and by. We doubt if the public east or west, whenever they seemed capable.

very

remarkable fact, that no collection of reof being employed so as to lend precision to viewals has as yet proved a successful bookhis sentence, or to heighten the strut of his

seller's speculation. paragraph, were alike lawful plunder in the eyes of Mr. Taylor. That even to those who maxim of an eminent doctor of the craft,

We are not exactly prepared to adopt the were skilled in the sources of his plunder, he that the best reviewer is he who has had least did not often make his meaning clearer by knowledge of his subject until he begins to the free use of such license, may be readily conceived; but he of course made himself prepare for his article: but undoubtedly the very often utterly unintelligible to the read outpourings of a vigorous writer on a fresh

theme may often surpass, in popular attracing public, who could not translate him for themselves, as they went on, into Dutch: tion, the pages in which one of equal power and we should have lamented'indeed his ad- indulges the gentler enthusiasm of old love. herence to the dialect, had the doctrines it

Perhaps some of Taylor's on great English authors are among

the most striking exammostly conveyed not been as heterogeneous ples of this. The rush of novel ideas masand presumptuous as the vehicle. This is to ters the man; and he forgets occasionally be said to his credit, as compared with some other Babel-mongers, perverted by studies enough does in a friendly letter, that it is be

through a whole printed page, as he often not dissimilar from his, that however difficult low his dignity to express himself in his plain his phraseology, it does not seem ever to have been made obscure either from mistiness in Milton's prose, he is so carried away by the

mother tongue. In one of his papers on his ideas themselves, or from reluctance to magic of novelty as to proclaim Milton's disclose them. It is impossible not to be diverted with But he is somewhat cooled when he says to

poetry a very inferior species of manufacture. his description of his own style, in a letter to Southey a few weeks later :Southey of 1799:

"I think it casier you should always know me "A. Aikin sent me the new edition of Milton's in prose than in verse. Were I reviewing my

Prose Works. Instead of meddling with Sym

mond's biography, which was almost my whole per ? Such glimpses of Southey, at all events, duty, I have reviewed Milton's pamphlets one by must have no ordinary value for all our one, as if they were new publications. It is

readers. In September, 1793, Taylor pleasant to get out of the modern shrubberies in

writes :perpetual flower, into the stately yew-hedge walks, and vased and statued terraces, and fruit- "Your friend Mr. Lloyd has been addressing ful walls and marble fountains, of the old school to me a tragedy. I thought it odd he should send of oratory. Such things are not made without to me his poem to read; he has older and dearer a greater expense of study and of brains than friends, who are better judges of the taste of an modern method requires; and yet there is a English public than I, whose taste has been something of stiffness and inutility to censure moulded on that of a foreign public. I wrote to there, and as omething of aptness, grace, and him very freezingly—I do not know enough of convenience to applaud here.'

his heart as yet to take strong interest in his

head. The afternoon I drank tea with him at We wish the editor had afforded more ex- Burnett's, he struck meas better qualified to assert planatory notes as to various persons mention- empire over the understanding than over the feeled in this correspondence, whose celebrity ings—as a good reasoner—as a man of great cahas already pretty well passed away.

Of Mr. pacities. His sensibility, I suspect, is too soon Lloyd, indeed, we have a sufficient account excited to be very profound, and attains its maxin one of the Appendices to Southey's edi- mark of debility, not of vigor, in children and

imum of irritation by inferior woes. It is a tion of Cowper—but of others who fill no old men to be intoxicated with a small quantity small space in these letters, and who at the of wine. Those who can die of a rose in arotime were objects of general curiosity and matic pain have not grief in reserve for Medea's high expectation, tlre generation that now is last embrace of her children. If I am wrong, knows little or nothing. Such is the case as

set me right about Lloyd. Is not he one of those to the friend who brought Southey and Taylor their productions, and who are too much used to

men who underrate their talents and orerrate together—Mr. George Burnett, of whose lit

complaisance to bear severity ?" erary performances only one, we believe, can be said to have escaped utter oblivion-a

Southey's reply has this passage :small volume of letters from Poland, written Lloyd has promised me his tragedy, and I about the beginning of this century—a lively have been for some time vainly expecting it. and amusing book, which was on its first ap. quaintance would enable you to add to what you

You have well charactered him. A long acpearance very popular—the first English book have said, not to alter it. Lloyd is precipitate that gave any detailed view of modern Polish in all his feelings, and ready to be the dupe of society. We see that Burnett was born near any one who will profess attachment. I never Southey's native city of Bristol, the son of a knew a man so delighted with the exteriors of then flourishing farmer, and that he was friendship. He was once dissatisfied with me for Southey's fellow-student at Balliol we infer a coldness and freedom of manner: it soon wore from the name of that college on the title-off, and I believe he now sincerely regards me, page of the Polish letters. When he intro-casions advised, and at times reproved him, in un

though the only person who has ever upon all ocduced Southey to Taylor he was minister of palliated terms. Certainly he is a powerful reaan Unitarian chapel at Yarmouth. He after- soner, but he has an unhappy propensity to find out wards studied medicine at Edinburgh-failed a reason for everything he does: and whether he in the attempt to establish himself as a prac- drink wine or water, it is always metaphysically titioner in some provincial town—went abroad right. His feelings are always good, but he has as secretary and librarian to a Polish noble- not activity enough for beneficence. I look at

his talents with admiration, but almost fear that man, with whom he in about a year quar- they will leave no adequate testimony behind relled—and hung about London after his re- them. I love him, but I cannot esteem him, and turn, a mere adventurer of the periodical so I told him. He thinks nothing but what is press, which career his idle irresolute charac- good, but then he only thinks. I fear he will ter seerns to have made peculiarly unhappy. never be useful to others or happy in himself.' Of his erd we know nothing. Many of In a subsequent letter, chiefly occupied Southey's allusions to this gentleman and with a family quarrel of poor Burnett's, on others of a similar class are dark as the dark- which Southey had as usual spoken his mind est enigmas of Taylorism, for want of a note without disguise, Taylor, who objected to inwhich we can hardly think it would have terfere, gives this reason for his conduct :cost the editor much trouble to supply. In

'I shall avoid that sort of comment which singeneral, however, our quotations are made for cerity perhaps requires, but which, as it respects the sake of sentiments or opinions that may a question of the finer feelings, would inflict an stand by themselves-sketches of other men unhealable though invisible wound on our relathat are by reflex autobiographic-as indeed lions of intimacy. who can criticise his fellow-beings without At the time when Southey was bestowing throwing light on his own character and tem- so much of his anxiety on the struggles of

« PreviousContinue »