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These are placed at the distance of about two bow-shots, in order that thoenemy may bo everywhere within range. It descends into the sea in two parallel piers or jetties, which slope so gently that 0110 can ascend to tho top from the water flowing between them. The largest ships may approach within two miles of the wall, and, indeed, it is tho very place at which visitors should, iu future, disembark."
The members of the embassy landed under an escort of a dozen soldiers, for the purpose of exploring tho Wall, but their intention was verv- civilly resisted by a force of three hundred Tartar horsemen, whom they could easily have kept at bay with the twelve bayonets of their escort and the revolvers of the civilians; but the French envoy was unwilling to engage in a quarrel upon a mere matter of curiosity. The Frenchparty •were astonished to find that their Tartar friends, encamped almost at the gates of the capital, were not even aware of the fact that their government had been at war with France and England.
The visit to Japan occupies little more than fifty pages. The most notable thing in it is, an account of a misunderstanding occasioned by the manner in which the French envoy entered Yedo in the chair of state he
had brought with him from China. The incident is not without interest, as showing how easily Europeans may be led, by their ignorance of Japanese peculiarities, into giving unintentional offence:—
"The evening before, in the historical chair which had figured nt Tien-tsin, Baron Gros had in.nil- his entrance into the town, curried by eight Japanese coolies decked out as Chinamen. Now, it appears that it is a thing quite unknown in Japan, tin- a native to nppcar in Chinese garments; it is an enormity — a violation of all propriety. It is more; it is a crime. On this occasion, the unfortunate coolies were not considered the only guilty parties. Six hundred Japanese officials, who had not prevented tho offence, were sentenced to a hundred days' imprisonment! Here, then, was a total of sixty thousand days imprisonment, all on account of this unlucky palnnquin. The ambassador was much annoyed when ho heard of this proceeding, and took caro to get the prisoners immediately liberated. But if a wholesome respect for Japanese legislation had been taught tho two hundred officers sent by tho ta'icoon to guard and watch us, they had also been alarmed to an extent painful to us, lest we should be found wanting in respect for those rites to which the government attached so much importance, without their having it in their power to keep as right."
last honrs of La Fayette arc described by M. Gnizot, who belonged to n younger generation; bnt who, in all likelihood, will not see the end of tho French Revolution:—
"No life had ever been more passionately political than his; no man had ever placed his ideas and political sentiments more constantly above nil oilier prepossessions or interests. But politics were uttcrlyuuconnected with his death. Ill for three weeks, ho npproachcd his Inst hour. Bis children and household surrounded his bed; he ceased to speak, and it was doubtful whether he could nil! tec. His con George observed that with uncertain gesture ho sought for tomething in his bosom. lie came to his father's assistance, and placed in his hand a medallion which ho always wore suspended round his neck. M. do La Fayctte raised it to his lips; this was his last motion. That medallion contained n miniature and n lock of hair of Madame do L* Fayctte, his wife, whoso loss ho had mourned for twenty-seven years. Thus, already separated from tho cntiro world, nlono with the thought and imago of tho devoted companion
of his life,—ho died. In arranging his funeral, it was n recognized fact in tho family, that M. do La Fayetto had always wished to bo buried in tho small cemetery adjoining the convent of Picpus, by the side of his wife, in tho midst of victims of tho Revolution, the greater part royalists and aristocrats, whoso ancestors had founded that pious establishment. The desire of the veteran of 1789 was scrupulously respected and complied with. An immense crowd—soldiers, national guards, and populace — accompanied tho funeral procession along tho boulevards and streets of Paris. Arrived at the gate of the convent of Picptis, tho crowd halted ; the interior enclosure could only admit two or throo hundred persons. The family, tho nearest relatives, and tho principal authorities entered, passed through the convent in silence, then across the garden, and finally entered the cemetery. Thero no political manifestation took place; no oration was pronounced ; religion and tho intimate reminiscences of tho soul alone were present; public politics assumed no place near tho death-bed or the gravo of the man whoso life they had occupied and ruled."
From The Saturday Review. JOHNSON'S LIVES OF THE POETS.*
Scarcely any book written a century ago enjoys greater popularity now than Johnson's Lives of the Poets. Many of the biographies still remain tho only readable account of minor poets; and if the lives of the greater poets have since received more elaborate notices, they have never been described and criticised with more judgment and wit. Johnson's book was the first work«f criticism written in the modern fashion, and the greater part of it is exactly whatthe critics of the present day would say if they knew how to say it. It is only as a model of critical writing that we now propose to speak of so wellknown a work. Few educated persons have failed to enjoy, at some time of their lives, the pleasure of reading these charming volumes; but it is necessary not only to read, but to reread them, in order to see what we may term their critical construction—the principles on which the criticism is based, and the arts by which it is set off to so much advantage. Much the greater part of criticism consists in applying common sense to decide on the value of what has been written, and in stating the result in a telling style. In this department of criticism Johnson is unrivalled, and so far his criticising must remain a permanent model to all English critics. A few examples will best show what we mean, and as examples may be best taken from the Lives which are probably most familiar to the reader we will confine ourselves to those of Pope and Swift. These two Lives supply abundant instances both of the application of Johnson's strong common sense, and of the happy turns of language which gave point to the expression of his judgment. There is also another department of criticism in which the critic shows his appreciation of authors whom he thoroughly admires, and connects the particular views of the author whom he is studying •with a general system of morals. Here Johnson is, we think, greatly inferior to the critics who have succeeded" him, and especially to Coleridge. His moral remarks are indeed, so badly expressed, and so near the surface, that they may be examined rather as warnings than as models. There are moral passages in the Lives so bad as to make a critic feel reasonably alarmed, and incline him to abstain from moral remarks altogether. It is only for the pungent expression of the dictates of common sense that Johnson deserves any high praise as a critic.
"We may class the instances in which his
* Johmon't Lien of the Poets. Loudon: Hurray.
common sense is eminently and successfully displayed under the several heads of the examination of particular biographical facts, the criticism of ideas and notions peculiar to the poet of whom he is speaking, and the exposure of delusions more widely entertained, but connected with the circumstances of the poet's history. Under the first head, the instances will necessarily be of rather a trivial nature; but most of the facts of any man's life are trivial, except to himself, and it is one of the first duties of biographical criticism to pass a rapid judgment or raise a passing doubt, so as to nut these .trivial facts before the reader's mind in the right light. It so happens that both in the Life of Swift and in that of Pope, there is an example of this kind of criticism as applied to statements regarding the trivial subject of the poet's eating. Johnson tells us that Swift attributed the illness which tormented him through life to an indiscretion which he committed as a boy in eating too largely of fruit. Nintey-nine biographers out of a hundred would have let this statement pass. Swift might be expected to be the best judge of his own stomach; and if he said that he made himself ill with eating fruit, why should he be contradicted? But Johnson remarks, that " the original of diseases is commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he can g_et without any great inconvenience." This is obvious, but it is also undeniable; and after we have read it, we feel very doubtful as to the cause of Swift's illness. In the same way he tells us that Pope was very fond of good living, and that his kind friends ascribed his death to the free use of a silver saucepan in which he used to boil lampreys. On this Johnson unanswerably observes, "That he loved too well to eat, is certain; but that his sensuality shortened his life will not be hastily concluded, when it is remembered that a conformation so irregular lasted six-and-fifty years, notwithstanding such pertinacious diligence of study and meditation."
There cannot be a better instance of critical common sense applied to the opinions of a particular poet than is afforded by the commentary which Johnson appends to the story of the Unfortunate Lady on whom Pope wrote his elegy. He gravely tells the story first—how the lady loved, was separated, and died rather than endure the sep_aration; and he then remarks, "From this account, given with evident intention to r.use the lady's character, it does not appear that she had any claim to praise, nor much to compassion. She seems to have been impatient, violent, and ungovernable. Her uncle's power could not have lasted long s the hour of liberty and choice would have, come in time. But her desires were too hot
for delay, and she liked self-murder better than suspense." This is a perfectly just and legitimate account of the facts as stated, and < yet the Unfortunate Lady is entirely anni- j hilated by them. The reader enjoys the' pleasure of seeing things put upon a sound j footing, and this pleasure is, perhaps, heightened by the consciousness that, until he read !in1 common-sense criticism, he thought the Unfortunate Lady a very interesting young | woman. Of course every thing depends on i the criticism in such a case being perfectly | legitimate. It is easy to vulgarize every subject of poetry by describing it in the language of contemptuous prose. But we feel! that if the history of this lady was as it is! represented by her admirers, it was very j little to her credit, and that therefore she! never deserved to be made a heroine. Much in the same way, Johnson comments on a I passage in the preface to the Miscellanies, in which Pope complains of the robberies committed upon authors by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers, and states that the cabinets of the sick and the closets of the dead have been broken open and ransacked. We naturally accept the fact as historical, and feel a generous indignation at the wrong done to such illustrious men, until •we read Johnson's sarcastic remark—" as if those violences were often committed for papers of uncertain and accidental value, which are rarely provoked by real treasures —as if epigrams and essays were in danger where gold and diamonds are safe." So, again, by a few caustic sentences, Johnson entirely dissipates all the admiration which Pope tried to raise in his readers by speaking slightingly of what he had wntten. "One of Pope's favorite topics," says Johnson, "is contempt of his own poetry. For this, if it had been real, he would "deserve no commendation; and in this he was certainly not sincere, for his high value of himself was sufficiently observed; and of what could he be proud but of his poetry?"
Among the delusions which Jonnson notices as snared by the particular poet of whom mention is being made, but also as common to many other people, may be instanced the supposition of Swift that he honored himself by affecting an equality with the great, and the supposition of Pope that the whole world was absorbed in thinking what he and his literary friends were doing. Johnson tells us that in Swift's letters there frequently appears "an affectation of familiarity with the great, an ambition of momentary equality sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies which custom has established between one rank and another." He then proceeds to hold up this affectation to ridicule, and to justify himself for doing
THIRD SERIES. LIVING AGE. 519
so. "This transgression of regularity was by Swift and his admirers termed greatness of soul. But a great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and, therefore, never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away." The exposure of Pope's delusion is still better, because it is not quite so solemn. "It is evident," Johnson says, "that Pope's own importance swells often in his mind. He is afraid of writing lest the clerks of the post-office should know his secrets; he has many enemies; he considers himself as surrounded by universal jealousy;" "after many deaths and many dispersions, two or three of us, says Pope, may still be brought together, not to plot, but to divert ourselves, and the world too, if it pleases," and we can live together and "show what friends wits may be, in spite of all the fools in the world." Johnson proceeds to make mincemeat of this. "All this while it was likely that the clerks did not know his hand; he certainly had no more enemies than a public character like his inevitably excites; and with what degree of friendship the wits might live very few were so much fools as ever to inquire." Considering that Johnson himself lived among all the wits of his time, and was the centre of one of the best literary circles that have ever been formed in England, it is in the highest degree creditable to him, that his common sense was too strong to allow him to suppose that society may be divided into a knot of literary gods and a mass of outside worshippers. It is to be regretted that his common sense has not descended in any large or complete degree to this generation.
Critical common sense is, however, never very effective unless it is aided by a telling and pointed style. Partly by a natural gift, partly by long practice, Jonnson had the power or putting his common sense in nearly as good a form as it could be put in; and it is interesting to observe how he produces the effect which every reader, however rapid, cannot fail to admire. Sometimes there is a single expression which is either ambitious or neat enough to arrest our attention. Thus, in speaking of the influence exercised by Martha Blount in determining Pope to insert an insult to Mr. Allen in his will, he says, "Pope suffered his testament to be polluted with female resentment." But generally the style is rather pointed than ambitious. Slight sarcasms are put indirectly, and almost as matters of fact. Thus we are told that Swift obtained his degree at Dublin by special favor—" a term used in that university to denote want of merit." This is quite in the vein of the best jokes of the Dictionary. Sometimes the sarcasm is skilfully veiled in the narrative, and the comment on a course of proceeding is put in the shape of a historical fact. Pope, for instance, is said to have attempted to terrify ( the world by a threat that he would not write any more. Johnson quietly adds, "When he talked of laying down his pen, those who sat round him entreated and implored; and self-love did not suffer him to suspect that they went away and laughed." Johnson had no means whatever of knowing that, as a fact, they did go away and laugh, but he wishes to insinuate it was likely they did so; and, in order to insinuate it strongly, he states it as historically true. He is often also extremely happy in adding a metaphorical illustration at the end of a piece of sarcastic reasoning, go as to terminate the passage with as much point as possible. For instance, in the part of Pope's life to which •we have already referred, where the poet is stated to have complained of the danger to which literary papers are exposed. Johnson ends by saying, "A cat hunted for its musk is, according to Pope's account, but the emblem of a wit winded by the booksellers." The introduction of the technical word "winded" in this sentence is a little masterstroke of neat writing.
Usually Johnson, where he is really good, is more elaborate; and where he is sarcastic, he generally gains by the involved and highly wrought construction of his sentences. It is only when he is didactic and moral that he is tedious and confused. The concluding words of the following passage about Pope's grotto at Twickenham are perhaps rather stilted, but otherwise afford a model of quiet ridicule. "A grotto is not often the wish or the pleasure of an Englishman, who has more frequent need to solicit than to exclude the sun; but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his garden, and as some men try to be proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage." Johnson also understood the art of condensing a long train of reasoning .into a single sentence. For example, he thus disposes of Swift's project of an English Academy, and of the reasoning by which the project was supported. "The certainty and stability which, contrary to all experience, he ithinks attainable, he proposes to secure by 'instituting an Academy, the decrees of which every man would have been willing, and many would have been proud, to disobey, and •which, being renewed by successive elections, would in a short time have differed from itself." If the reasoning contained in this sentence had been drawn out fully, it would have filled a closely printed octavo page. • The same sort of skill is exhibited in many
passages where different opinions on the same point are brought into close juxtaposition, and the reader is led up to thinking the one last assigned is the best. Thus, Johnson tells us that Swift often slept at a penny lodging, and then goes on:—" This practice Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love of grossness and vulgarity; some may ascribe it to his desire of surveying human life through all its varieties; and others, perhaps with equal probability, to a passion which seems to have been deeply fixed in his heart, the love of a shilling." A writer who can frame such passages naturally delights in them, and Johnson is very fond of constructing his sentences in an inverted order merely because it pleases him to exercise his ingenuity and his command over language. He frequently frames his sentences in this way—" To charge those favorable representations which men give of themselves with the guilt of hypocritical falsehood would show more severity than knowledge." Here, we may observe, that not only is the language twisted, but the thought is highly condensed. For we do not suspect that anyone would do the thing that is denounced until we find it denounced, and the offence is thus hypothetically inserted in a sentence framed to condemn it. In the same way Johnson says, in the Life of Swift — " Three years afterwards was published the Tale of a Tub. Of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of peculiar character without ill intention, but it is certainly of dangerous example." From this sentence we have to gather that the Tale of a Tub is a dangerous book — that it is not certain whether the author designed it should be so —that it would require a charitable mind to believe he did not—that it is not certain that any mind, however charitable, could believe it—that in any case it must take much persuasion to come to such a conclusion—that charity itself would only believe that the author might have written innocently, not that he did so—and that he could not possibly have done so unless he had been of a peculiar character. To condense all this into a neat flowing sentence shows great skill, and the author will generally be rewarded by the pleasure he takes in its construction. It does not, however, follow that he will always please all readers. The mass of mankind is too indolent, and reads too hastily, to consider elaborate and condensed sentences any thing but a bore. The few who take the pains to unravel them will rate them as highly as the thought expended on them deserves. Butthe many will much prefer something simpler and plainer, and the popularity of Johnson has been sustained because his style in narration is simple, and his more' pointed and sarcastic sentences are often | short and neat.
Johnson, as we have said, was not great in , appreciatory criticism. He was far too generous not to praise heartily when he praised at all, and every thing he praises would be praised in these days for the exact qualities he finds in it to approve. He is far too good a critic to be always sneering. Nothing can be warmer and more unreserved than his panegyric on Dryden's Odes and Pope's Rape of the Lock. But he did not care much for the very highest poetry, and he had none of the metaphysical analysis which Coleridge worked with so much subtlety a
few years later. His style also is full of imperfection whenever he begins to indulge in reflections that belong to his own philosophy of morals. Those dreadful sentences beginning with "He that," and divided off into couplets of opposed adjectives and substantives, are not so frequent in the Lives as they are in his earlier works; but they come much too often. They were perhaps appropriate and acceptable to the age in which they appeared, and we may hope that it is a sign of our advancing virtue that they are no longer palatable to us. At any rate, they prevent our regarding the Lives as a model of more than partial excellence for modern criticism to imitate.
Making Gas From Prairie Stones.—The Chicago Democrat chronicles on important discovery which lias recently been made in that vicinity. It says a large quantity of "prairie stone," near the western suburbs of that city, has been found to yield immense quantities of gas and saltpetre. The particulars of the discovery, which wag brought about while searching for indications of oil, are as follows :—
"A small bit of this stono, a piece perhaps four inches square, was taken by Mr. Wm. Cumberland, a well-known chemist of this city, a day or two since, for the purpose of endeavoring to extract oil from it. The experiment, so far as the end in view was concerned, was a failure— but in the progress of it other discoveries were made of startling importance and great interest. The stono has been broken up and placed in a retort, which was then subjected to the action of the heat. A vapor was seen to issue from the neck of the retort, and on n match being applied it ignited nnd burned brilliantly for half an hour. It gave a light fully equal to the same volume of coal-gas, and emitted no odor of any kind! The burned stone was then analyzed, and found to contain fifty per cent of saltpetre, which being removed, the residue was excellent lime!
"Here indeed was a discovery! A stone was found exiting in inexhaustible quantities, and obtainable at very little cost, which made gas as well and as freely as the best coal; which yielded fifty per cent of pure saltpetre; and which then was as good lime as could be had anywhere.
"Additional experiments having been performed, in the presence of the superintendent of the gas works, and others, resulting in a confirmation of the discovery, arrangements have been made to experiment on the manufacture of gas from prairie stone. "A retort and gasometer will be prepared at
the gas works, and a large quantity of stone submitted to a test which will leave no doubt of the practical benefits growing out of this unexpected discovery.
"The Chicago Stone Coal-Mining Company have, as it were, stumbled into an almost incalculable fortune. They own twenty acres of land filled with this trebly-valuable stone, and suddenly find it advancing in value from six to eight dollars to forty or fifty dollars a cord 1"
William The Silent.—In the recently published volume of Lord Macaulay's Biographies, there occurs a sentence which somewhat carelessly endorses n popular and erroneous view of the characteristics of a great man. Speaking of parliamentary government as it shaped itself in England from Pitt's day downwards, Lord Macaulay observes: "In a perilous crisis, such men" (as Windlmm and Townshend) "would have been found far inferior in all the qualifications of a ruler to such a man as Oliver Cromwell, who talked nonsense, or as William the Silent, who did not talk at all." It is a common error—clearly sustained here by Lord Macau lay—that the great founder of Batavian liberty was a man habitually taciturn, or deficient in the gift of eloquence. William of Orange was a remarkably eloquent speaker, and could and did deliver, when occasion needed, lengthened, powerful, and brilliant speeches. In private life he was joyous, genial, and rich in conversational talent. As you are aware, he was nicknamed "The Silent," simply because ho gave abundant proof that ho could hold his tongue when it was wise not to speak, and because, in one peculiar and memorable instance, his self-control led to the revelation of a famous royal complot against Protestantism.