Page images
PDF
EPUB

1807.]

Aikin's Letters on English Poetry.

273

like to be directed, in this dearth are none more alive to his merits, of polite literature, to those whose than the gentlemen of the Antholpretensions are fairer. We sus- ogy. We know, that he moved pect that their numbers are easily in the literary world with the firm computed; unless the eccentricks step and imposing port of a giant, of the new school of poetry are but it cannot be concealed, that to be thrown into the account, he sometimes passed, unimpressed, who compose elegies on asses, or by a sublimity, and sometimes un. annually lie in with an epick. couthly set his foot on a grace. The occasion, however, of this In pursuing the track of his pre. disaffection to the Doctor is readi. decessor, in the series before us, ly explained. There are in all Doctor Aikin has occasionally literary communities a set of dif- done justice to those, who have ficult sparks, who pronounce every suffered by his severity. Among thing execrable, which is not po- the numbers, who have been reinsitively divine, and with one stated in their literary claims, we sweeping clause cut up by the were happy to notice the eccenroot a second-rate author, with trick Dean of St. Patrick's. the same unconcern, as they cut Whether, because Johnson's arisopen his leaves. But we have tocracy was hurt by the Doctor's been too long acquainted with the familiarities with the great, or bepretensions of inferiour excellence cause his Deanship had neglected not to allow, that there is much to procure him a degree, or on worth preserving, which falls short what account, or no account, he of their standard. Though the entertained, his dislike, our readers, Doctor in his poetical criticisms if disposed, may conjecture for may be less copious than Johnson, themselves : but we are convincor elaborate than Hurd, he has ed, either for something or noperformed to the utmost what thing, that he was inclined to dishe seems to have intended, and we parage both the man and his works. could wish, that his opponents However, the superiority of Swift were invariably as fortunate. is not easily veiled ; and those,

It is a reviving reflection to an who would deny him the first author, that it is not in the power praise as a wit, may expect to be of a name to destroy his preten- accused of stupidity or prejudice. sions; that though the world may Sheridan has lately acquainted us be set against him for a time by with the moral excellences of the the oracle of the day, he will at. Drapier, and Doctor Aikin has tain in the end the celebrity he now pronounced him a writer fiero merits. Notwithstanding john- fect in his kind. son's reputation as a critick, it has With the criticisms on Ham. been suspected of late that his mond and Young (we beg pardon taste was confined, and it is now of the Muses for coupling them) considered excusable to fall out we are not, we confess, so perfectwith the Prefaces. Poor Collins ly satisfied. We conceive that is every day getting better of the the Doctor has spoken rather timfaint praise of his friend, and it is idly in praise of the latter, and thought that the bard may yet and that he might, conscientiously, pass for a prophet. We must not have said less of the former. be charged with a want of rever- Upon the merits of the Love Eleence for the Rambler, for there gies perhaps we ought to be silent,

Vol. IV. No, 5.

for some time has elapsed since have been rendered more enter. We had the heart to peruse them. taining ; and its airiness is not ob However, should we, 'from existe tained at the expense of sound ing impressions, venture an opin- comment. ion concerning them, we should This work is neatly executed. agree, what with the cloying nature of their theme, and the dieaway style, in which it is treated, that they were peculiarly adapted

ART. 26. to give one a surfeit.

The Echo : printed at the Porcu

pine Press, by Pasquin Petro* Love, only love, their forceless num

nius. 8vo. New-York, 1807. bers mean' Of any ill effects, that might at

OF the type and paper of this tend a close acquaintance with the volume, which contains 331 pages, Night Thoughts, we cannot con

we may justly speak with approceive. Few minds, we believe,

bation. The plates likewise, which owe their melancholy or cheerful are eight in number, designed by ness to the influence of song; and Tisdale, and engraved by Leney, the fears, which our author enter. possess considerable merít. That tertains of the dejected muse of of the negro-ball contains an admiDoctor Young, appear, we must ,

rable likeness of a ci-devant goversay, altogether extravagant. Be

nor of this state. The work itself sides, allowing the lady aforesaid is said to be the production of vato be rather grave in her sugges

rious political wits in Connecticut, tions, the critick should recollect who, at different periods, have em: that it is wholesome, occasionally, ployed their talents in ludicrously to visit the tombs. We own we versifying the prosaick absurdities, love at midnight to follow this which occasionally appeared in the mournful sister of poesy over the

democratick papers. The Echo ungven footing of the church yard, amused the publick for the moor to pause with her by moonlight ment, was read, excited a laugh, on the broken colonade.

and was forgotten.

We little expected to see a per" The tombs And monumental caves of death look

formance, thus local in its subjects, cold,

and therefore not likely to excite And shoot a chilness to my trembling more than a temporary interest, heart.

come forward, at the expiration of Give me thy hand, and let me hear thy several years, in all the dignity of voice.'

octavo, and ornamented with splenWere we to go into a particular did type, paper, and engravings; criticism upon this performarice, nor did we imagine, that the crude We should exceed the usual limits and unfinished trifles of an idle allotted to a notice; we must there. hour, would obtrude themselves fore content ourselves with a ge- on the grave tribunal of profest neral acknowledgment of its me criticism. Vanity is said to be rits. To say, simply, that we have our national foible, and we are sorbcen pleased with the style in ry that the authors of the Echo which it is executed, would be in- have afforded additional confirmasirectly to withhold what we con- tion to the truth of the remark. sider its due. Perhaps no pro We cannot, indeed, discover duction of a critical cast could sufficient merit, in the contents of

THE rage

this volume, to justify re-publica Pitsligo, Bart, one of the execution, which, we firmly believe, can tors of Dr. Beattie. now be read with interest by the

Earum rerum omnium vel in primis, &c. &c. writers only. At the same time,

CICÉRO pro Archia we enter our protest against this New-York, published by Briscustom of book-making, by which ban & Brannan, No. 1, Citywe are invited to purchase, at an Hotel, Broadway. 1807. 8vo. advanced price, what we have already paid for. Should this vol

for book-making ume succeed, it may operate as an seems lately to have vented itself encouragement for the revival of by Memoirs, Lives, and Biograph. much deceased trash, and may a- ical Sketches. When a man, who waken from the peaceful slumber has attained to any literary emiof oblivion, the Gleanings of the nence, expires, the biographer anCentinel, the Flowers of the Reper- ticipates the undertaker, and istory, and the Beauties of the Palla sues proposals for his Life,' before "dium. We fear, that New-Eng- the publick have fairly received land wit can be relished only in the intelligence of his death. It New-England; and if M'Fingal is has been well observed by Mason, an exception, that exception only in his Life of Gray, that the lives proves the rule. We excel more

of men of letters seldom abound in judgment, than in imagination, with incidents. A reader does not like the inhabitants of Scotland, find in the memoirs of a philosopher whom we are thought greatly to or poet, the same species of enresemble, where wit is so rare a

tertainment or information, which prodigy, as to have become almost he would receive from those of a proverbial. In the Echo there is statesman or general. He exsome broad humour ; a severe crit. pects, however, to be informed or ick would say vulgarity, but no

entertained,' &c. &c. But of what wit. We are not yet arrived at a consequence to the world is the sufficient height of civilization to domestick bistory of men, who write satire like gentlemen ; as

have passed their days in studious would be soon discovered, were

seclusion, and who have taken no Horace as well understood as he active part in the great drama of deserves to be :

life? Would not that, which is

most essential to be known, shine Defendente vicem modd rhetoris, at- brighter through the medium of

que poëtæ ; interdum urbani,parcentis viribus,atque

their literary labours ? We do not Extenuantis eas consulto.'

mean by this to confine their HOR. S. 10. 1. 1. names, and their history, to the

storied urn;" (the reader would, sometimes, be little bettered by

this bargain); our only intention is ART. 27.

to check the spinsters and the knila An account of the life and writings ters of Lives, Sketches, and Me.

of James Beattie, L.L.D. late moirs, in their tedious tales, and in professor of moral philosophy and wearying us with the triling aneclogick in the Marischal college dotes of men, whose works we view and university of Aberdeen. In- with as much delight, as we look cluding many of his original let. upon their private lives with indifters. By Sir William Forbes, of ference. Sir William tells us in

his appendix to this octavo, that which he would never wish to hear he intended to have inserted the of again ; and what a restraint Diary, which Dr. Beattie kept of would it be on all social interthe number of days he was reading course, if one were to suppose, Homer ;' but finding upon calcula. that every word one utters would tion that it did not exceed what be entered in a register.' any young man, with no extraordi. In this compilation of Letters, nary degree of application, might occasionally illustrated by Sir W. accomplish,' he thought proper to F., and which he has thought prowithhold it ; and thus the world per to entitle the Life of Dr. is deprived of the number of days, Beattie,' the Dr.'s thoughts and and perhaps hours and minutes, opinions on men and things, toconsumed by the Doctor, in his gether with the state of his health perusal of Homer. We are very at various times, are given with glad, that we know in what state all the frankness of undisguised his gown was, in which he was friendship. There are also some wrapped while reading it ; for he of a more dignified nature, inscri. tells ys himself, in a letter to the bed to men, who, he well knew, Rev. Dr. Majeudie, that it was would exhibit them to others; and

very ragged,' and, for that rea. in these the studied manner of the son, facetiously compares himself composition distinguish them from to Socrates,

the rest. If the letter to Dr. Of all the ways of presenting a Porteus is not in this class, it is man to the world, hitherto devised, one which seems to betray not a that of publishing his private let- little art and vanity in the author. ters is perhaps the most unfair. His opinion of Johnson as a critick, It is like taking a man out of his and his observations on the Tour bed, or pulling him from his closet, to the Hebrides, must be taken to thrust him into company, where with some indulgence; for it must it is indecent to be seen in an un- nut be forgotten, that Dr. Beattic dress. Letters intended for pub. was born in Scotland. The exlication are always dull things at travagant encomium, lowever, best; and those meant only for the which he bestows on Mrs. Moneye of a friend ought never to ap- tagu and her book, reflects but litpear in print. The former com tle credit on the author of the monly possess too little of that Essay on Truth : freedom pcculiar to the epistolary style ; the latter generally contain

• Johnson's harsh and foolish censure too much. Dr. Beattie himself

on Mrs. Montagu's book does not surwas partly of this opinion, and pro- contemptuously of it. It is for all that,

prise me ; for I have heard him speak bably would have heard with re. one of the best, most original, and most gret, that many of these letters elegant pieces of criticisin in our lanwere to be seen by others than guage, or any other. Johnson had many those to whom they were addres. of the talents of a critick ; but his want sed. In one of his letters to Ro- something, I am afraid, of an envious

of temper, his violent prejudices, and bert Arbuthnot, Esq. “to publish turn of mind, made him often a very a man's letters,' says he, or his unfair one. Mrs. Montagi was very conversation, without his consent, kind to him, but Mrs. Montagu has is not in my opinion fair : for how

more wit than any body; and Johnson

could not bear that any body should many things, in friendly corres- have wit but himself. Even lörd Ches. pondence, does a man throw out, terfield, and, what is more strange, even

Mr. Burke, he would not allow to have ume; he ultimately citose the forwit! He preferred Smollet to Field

mer mode, as by far the most coning. He would not grant that Arm

venient ; and in our opinion his strong's poem on' Health,'or the tragedy of Douglas,' had any merit. He

choice was assuredly most wise. told me, that he never read Milton We cannot but admire a part of through, till he was obliged to do it in note 1. §. I. order to gather words for bis Diction.

It has been remarked by some, who ary. He spoke very peevishly of the masque ofComus ;' and when I urg

are fond of fanciful analogies, that the ed, that there was a great deal of po

tomb of Virgil, in the neighbourhood of etry in it, yes, said he, but it is like

Niples, was adorned with a laurel; the gold under a rock ; to which I made no

birth-place of Dr. Beattie was partly reply, for indeed I did not well under. covered with idy, as if to denote that it stand it.'

had produced a poet.

The other notes, though many His observation on Swift

, Vol. in number, are of little consetaire, Rousseau, &c. his criticisms

quence.

In the 3d of page 12, on the Henriade' and · Eloise,'

o from what the Dr, was heard to and various other works, if not de

say, &c. he preferred the reading livered with more justice, are give of Viensius' edition of Virgil' Very en with more temperance. We have reviewed this volume, hear-say evidence.

like he might ; but this is merely as the Letters of Dr. Beattie ; for it contains little beside of much volume is, like most of the publi

The typographical part of this value or importance. As to that cations from the press of Brisban part of it, which Sir William may

& Brannan, of a clean type, on probably call the · Life,' it is but a good paper, and generally correct. meagre performance, possessing all the monotony of Boswell, without Johnson for its subject. As the · Letters of Dr. Beattie,' it has af.

ART. 28. forded us all that pleasure, which Twenty six sermons to young peo. we expected from the author of

ple ; preached A.D. 1803, 1804 : the Minstrel.

to which are added prayers, also

three other sermons. ' He sleeps in dust, and all the Muses

By Jame? mourn:' Minst. ver. Ixi.

Dana, D. D. Sydney Press,

New-Haven. 1806. There are no less than eight paragraphs, which we have noted, A NEGATIVE character is uniand doubtless many have escaped versally allowed to be of all others us, in almost the same number of the most difficult to be delineated. pages, beginning with • it is very Of pre-eminent excellence a mat: curious,' and it is very singular,' may with the utmost safety exand it is not a little curious,' in the press his opinion ; for, though he illucidations of Sir William ; from may not give to excellence its due, which we are inclined to give to yet will he always obtain credit for his part of this performance the what commendation he bestows: i noi a little curious' style. Sir and of indisputable worthlessness William debated with himself, his modesty may with equal safe, whether to print his notes at the ty permit biun to speak ; for whefoot of each page, or, in the man. ther he break out in direct abuse, ner of • fashionable publications,' or utter but a gentle censure, the place them at the end of the vol- one is always too much relished

« PreviousContinue »