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lecture to modern critics, as it does admirably in its second number in an article on the once formidable John Dennis, it expostulates in so genial and informing a spirit, that he must be a very far gone critical old woman indeed, who does not feel inclined to leave off the brandy-drinking of abuse, — the pin-sticking of grudging absurdity. It is extremely pleasant to see it travelling in this way over so wide a range of literature, warming as well as penetrating as it goes, with a sunny eye, — now fetching out the remotest fields, and anon driving the shadows before it and falling in kindly lustre upon ourselves. The highest compliment that we can pay it, or indeed any other work, is to say, that the enthusiasm is young, and the knowledge old ; - a rare, a wise, and a delightful combination.*
It is lucky for us that we happened to speak of this work in another publication, the very day before the appearance of the second number; for the latter contained a very kind mention of the little work now before the reader; and thus our present notice might have been laid
*“The Retrospective Review," says Lowell, in a pleasant passage of his uncollected prose writings, "continues to be good reading, in virtue of the antique aroma (for wine only acquires its bouquet by age) which pervades its pages. Its sixteen volumes are so many tickets of admission to the vast and devious vaults of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, through which we wander, tasting a thimbleful of rich Canary, honeyed Cyprus, or subacidulous Hock, from what dusty butt or keg our fancy chooses. The years during which this Review was published were altogether the most fruitful in genuine appreciation of old English literature. Books were prized for their imaginative, and not their antiquarian, value, by young writers who sat at the feet of Lamb and Coleridge.” One of the best and most agreeable contributors to the “Retrospective Review” was Thomas Noon Talfourd, the biographer of Lamb, and the early friend and literary guide of Dickens. He wrote the article on John Dennis, mentioned above, and those on North's “Life of Lord Guilford,” “Rymer on Tragedy,” Colley Cibber's “Apology for his Life,” and Wal. lace's “ Prospects of Mankind, Nature, and Providence.” – ED.
to the account of a vanity, which, however gratified, is not the cause of it. The value of praise as well as rebuke does indeed depend upon the nature of the persons from whom it comes; and it is as difficult not to be delighted with panegyric from some, as it is easy to be indifferent to it, or even pained by it, from others. But when we confess our pleasure in this instance, we can say with equal truth, that all our feelings and hopes being identified with the cause of what we think good and kind, our very selflove becomes identified with it; and we would consent to undergo the horrible moment of annihilation and oblivion the next instant, could we be assured that the world would be as happy as we were unremembered. And yet what a Yes! would that be!
But to get from under the imagination of this crush of our being, and emerge into the lightness and pleasurability of life, - it was very hard of the Retrospective Review, that, while it praised us, it should pick our intentional pockets of an extract we had long thought of making from an old poet. We allude to the poem called “Music's Duel” from Crashaw. Here the feelings expressed at the head of our paper come over us again. It has been said of fond students that they were “wedded to their books.” We have even heard of ladies who have been jealous of an over-seductive duodecimo; as perhaps they might, if every literary husband or lover were like the collegian in Chaucer, who would rather have
At his bed's head,
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psaltry. And yet we feel that we could very well like them too at the bed's head, without at all diminishing our regard for
what should be at the bed's heart. We could sleep under them as under a bower of imaginations. We are one of those who like to have a book behind one's pillow, even though we know we shall not touch it. It is like having all our treasures at hand.
But if people are to be wedded to their books, it is hard that under our present moral dispensations, they are not to be allowed the usual exclusive privileges of marriage. A friend thinks no more of borrowing a book nowadays, than a Roman did of borrowing a man's wife; and what is. worse, we are so far gone in our immoral notions on this subject, that we even lend it as easily as Cato did his spouse. Now what a happy thing ought it not to be to have exclusive possession of a book, -one's Shakespeare, for instance ; for the finer the wedded work, the more anxious of course we should be, that it should give nobody happiness but ourselves. Think of the pleasure not only of being with it in general, of having by far the greater part of its company, but of having it entirely to one's self; of always saying internally, “ It is my property;” of seeing it well-dressed in “black or red,” purely to please one's own eyes; of wondering how any fellow could be so impudent as to propose borrowing it for an evening; of being at once proud of his admiration, and pretty certain that it was in vain ; of the excitement nevertheless of being a little uneasy whenever we saw him approach it too nearly; of wishing that it could give him a cuff of the cheek with one of its beautiful boards, for presuming to like its beauties as well as ourselves; of liking other people's books, but not at all thinking it proper that they should like ours; of getting perhaps indifferent to it, and then comforting ourselves with the reflection that others are not so, though to no purpose ; in short, of all the mixed transport and
anxiety to which the exclusiveness of the book-wedded state would be liable; not to mention the impossibility of other people's having any literary offspring from our fair unique, and consequently of the danger of loving any compilations but our own. Really if we could burn all other copies of our originals, as the Roman Emperor once thought of destroying Homer, this system would be worth thinking of. If we had a good library, we should be in the situation of the Turks with their seraglios, which are a great improvement upon our petty exclusivenesses. Nobody could then touch our Shakespeare, our Spenser, our Chaucer, our Greek and Italian writers. People might say, “Those are the walls of the library!” and “sigh, and look, and sigh again ;” but they should never get in. No Retrospective rake should anticipate our privileges of quotation. Our Mary Woolstonecrafts and our Madame de Staëls, — no one should know how finely they were lettered, — what soul there was in their disquisitions. We once had a glimpse of the feelings which people would have on these occasions. It was in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. The keeper of it was from home; and not being able to get a sight of the Manuscript of Milton's “Comus,” we were obliged to content ourselves with looking through a wire work, a kind of safe, towards the shelf on which it reposed. How we winked, and yearned, and imagined we saw a corner of the all-precious sheets, to no purpose! The feelings were not very pleasant, it is true ; but then as long as they were confined to others, they would of course only add to our satisfaction.
But to come to our extract; for not being quite recovered yet from our late ill-health, we mean to avail ourselves of it still. It is remarkable, as the Reviewer has observed, for “a wonderful power over the resources of our language.” The original is in the “ Prolusions of Strada,” where it is put into the mouth of the celebrated Castiglione, as an imitation of the style of Claudian. From all that we recollect of that florid poet, the imitation, to say the least of it, is quite as good as any thing in himself. Indeed, as a description of the niceties of a musical performance, we remember nothing in him that can come up to it. But what will astonish the reader, in addition to the exquisite tact with which “Strada” is rendered by the translator, is his having trebled the whole description, and with an equal minuteness in his exuberance. We cannot stop to enter into the detail of the enjoyment, as we would ; and indeed we should not know perhaps how to express our sense of it but by repeating his masterly niceties about the “clear unwrinkled song,” the “warbling doubt of dallying sweetness,” the “ever-bubbling spring," the kindling of the bird's
“ soft voice
In the close murmur of a sparkling noise,” the “quavering coyness,” with which the musician “tastes the strings,” the “surges of swoln rhapsodies," the “fullmouthed diapason swallowing all ;” and, in short, the whole “pride, pomp, and circumstance” of masterly playing, from its lordly sweep over the full instrument to the “capering cheerfulness” of a guitar accompaniment. The man of letters will admire the power of language; and to the musician and other lovers of music we are sure we are affording a great treat. Numbers of them will never have found their sensations so well analyzed before. Part of the poetry, it is true, is in a false and overcharged taste; but in general the exuberance is as true as it is surprising, for the subject is exuberant and requires it.
We should observe, before the concert begins, that