« AnteriorContinuar »
SOUTHEY'S EDITION OF THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
of the fancies which passed through the mind of an illiterate man, whose affections were warm, whose nerves were irritable; whose imagination was ungovernable, and who was under the influence of the strongest religious excitement. In whatever age Bunyan had lived, the history of his feelings would, in all probability, have been very curious. But the time in which his lot was cast was the time of a great stirring of the human mind. A tremendous burst of public feeling, produced by the tyranny of the hierarchy, menaced the old ecclesiastical institutions with destruction. To the gloomy regularity of one intolerant church had succeeded the license of innumerable sects, drunk with the sweet and heady st of their new liberty. Fanaticism, endered by persecution, and destined to enender fresh persecution in turn, spread rapidly through society. Even the strongest and most commanding minds were not proof against this strange taint. Any time might have produced George Fox and James Naylor. But to one time alone belong the frantic delusions of such a statesman as Vane, and the hysterical tears of such a soldier as Cromwell.
every tinker that ever lived has been a blackguard. Indeed Mr. Southey acknowledges this "Such he might have been expected to be by his birth, breeding, and vocation. Scarcely A man, whose manners and senindeed, by possibility, could he have been otherwise." timents are decidedly below those of his class, deserves to be called a blackguard. But it is surely unfair to apply so strong a word of reproach to one who is only what the great mass Those horrible internal conflicts which Bunof every community must inevitably be. yan has described with so much power of language prove, not that he was a worse man than his neighbours, but that his mind was constantly occupied by religious considera. tions, that his fervour exceeded his knowledge, and that his imagination exercised despotic power over his body and mind. He heard voices from heaven: he saw strange visions of distant hills, pleasant and sunny as his own Delectable Mountains; from those seats he was shut out, and placed in a dark and horrible wilderness, where he wandered through ice happy region of light. At one time he was and snow, striving to make his way into the The history of Bunyan is the history of a seized with an inclination to work miracles. most excitable mind in an age of excitement. At another time he thought himself actually By most of his biographers he has been treated possessed by the devil. He could distinguish with gross injustice. They have understood the blasphemous whispers. He felt his inferin a popular sense all those strong terms of nal enemy pulling at his clothes behind him. self-condemnation which he employed in a He spurned with his feet, and struck with his theological sense. They have, therefore, re- hands, at the destroyer. Sometimes he was presented him as an abandoned wretch, re- tempted to sell his part in the salvation of manclaimed by means almost miraculous; or, to kind. Sometimes a violent impulse urged him use their favourite metaphor, "as a brand to start up from his food, to fall on his knees, plucked from the burning." Mr. Ivimey calls and break forth into prayer. At length he him the depraved Bunyan, and the wicked fancied that he had committed the unpardontinker of Elstow. Surely Mr. Ivimey oughtable sin. His agony convulsed his robust to have been too familiar with the bitter accusations which the most pious people are in the habit of bringing against themselves, to understand literally all the strong expressions which are to be found in the Grace Abounding. It is quite clear, as Mr. Southey most justly remarks, that Mr. Bunyan never was a vicious man. He married very early; and he solemnly declares that he was strictly faithful to his wife. He does not appear to have been a drunkard. He owns, indeed, that when a boy, he never spoke without an oath. But a single admonition cured him of this bad habit for life; and the cure must have been wrought early for at eighteen he was in the army of the Parliament; and if he had carried the vice of profaneness into that service, he would doubtless have received something more than an admonition from Sergeant Bind-their-kings-in chains, or Captain Hew-Agag-in-pieces-beforethe-Lord. Bell-ringing, and playing at hockey on Sundays, seem to have been the worst vices of this depraved tinker. They would have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud. It is quite clear that, from a very early age, Bunyan was a man of a strict life and of a tender conscience. "He had been," says Mr. Southey, "a blackguard." Even this we think too hard a censure. Bunyan was not, we admit, so fine a gentleman as Lord Digby; yet was a blackguard no otherwise than as
frame. He was, he says, as if his breastbone
was every creature over I! for they stood fast, and kept their station. But I was gone and lost." Scarcely any madhouse could produce an instance of delusion so strong, or of misery
of Isaiah to the household and guests of Gaius; and then sallies out to attack Slaygood, who was of the nature of flesh-eaters, in his den. These are inconsistencies; but they are incon sistencies which add, we think, to the interest of the narrative. We have not the least doubt that Bunyan had in view some stout old Great
with his men before he drilled them; who knew the spiritual state of every dragoon in his troop; and who, with the praises of God in his mouth, and a two-edged sword in his hand, had turned to flight, on many fields of battle, the swearing, drunken bravoes of Rupert and Lunsford.
Every age produces such men as By-ends. But the middle of the seventeenth century was eminently prolific of such men. Mr. Southey thinks that the satire was aimed at some particular individual; and this seems by no means improbable. At all events, Bunyan must have known many of those hypocrites who followed
It was through this Valley of the Shadow of Death, overhung by darkness, peopled with devils, resounding with blasphemy and lamen-heart of Naseby and Worcester, who prayed tation, and passing amidst quagmires, snares, and pitfalls, close by the very mouth of hell, that Bunyan journeyed to that bright and fruitful land of Beulah, in which he sojourned during the latter days of his pilgrimage. The only trace which his cruel sufferings and temptations seem to have left behind them, was an affectionate compassion for those who were still in the state in which he had once been. Religion has scarcely ever worn a form so calm and soothing as in his allegory. The feeling which predominates through the whole book is a feeling of tenderness for weak, timid, and harassed minds. The character of Mr. Fearing, of Mr. Feeble-Mind, of Mr. Despond-religion only when religion walked in silver ency and his daughter Miss Muchafraid; the account of poor Littlefaith, who was robbed by the three thieves of his spending-money; the description of Christian's terror in the dungeons of Giant Despair, and in his passage through the river, all clearly show how strong a sympathy Bunyan felt, after his own mind had become clear and cheerful, for persons afflicted with religious melancholy.
slippers, when the sun shone, and when the people applauded. Indeed, he might have easily found all the kindred of By-ends among the public men of his time. He might have found among the peers, my Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, and my Lord Fairspeech; in the House of Commons, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Facingboth-ways; nor would "the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues," have been wanting. The town of Bedford probably contained more than one politician, who, after contriving to raise an estate by seeking the Lord during the reign of the saints, contrived to keep what he had got by persecuting the saints during the reign of the strumpets; and more than one priest who, during repeated changes in the discipline and doctrines of the church, had remained constant to nothing but his bene
Mr. Southey, who has no love for the Calvinists, admits that, if Calvinism had never worn a blacker appearance than in Bunyan's works, it would never have become a term of reproach. In fact, those works of Bunyan with which we are acquainted, are by no means more Calvinistic than the homilies of the Church of England. The moderation of his opinions on the subject of predestination, gave offence to some zealous persons. We have scen an absurd allegory, the heroine office. which is named Hephzibah, written by some raving supralapsarian preacher, who was dissatisfied with the mild theology of the Pilgrim's Progress. In this foolish book, if we recollect rightly, the Interpreter is called the Enlightener, and the House Beautiful is Castle Strength. Mr. Southey tells us that the Catholics had also their Pilgrim's Progress without a Giant Pope, in which the Interpreter is the Director, and the House Beautiful Grace's Hall. It is surely a remarkable proof of the power of Bunyan's genius, that two religious parties, both of which regarded his opinions as heterodox, should have had recourse to him for assistance.
One of the most remarkable passages in the Pilgrim's Progress, is that in which the proceedings against Faithful are described. It is impossible to doubt that Bunyan intended to satirize the mode in which state trials were conducted under Charles the Second. The license given to the witnesses for the prosecution, the shameless partiality and ferocious insolence of the judge, the precipitancy and the blind rancour of the jury, remind us of those odious mummeries which, from the Restoration to the Revolution, were merely forms preliminary to hanging, drawing, and quartering. Lord Hategood performs the office of counsel for the prisoners as well as Scroggs himself could have performed it.
"JUDGE. Thou runagate, heretic, and traitor, hast thou heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against thee?
"FAITHFUL. May I speak a few words in my own defence?
There are, we think, some characters and scenes in the Pilgrim's Progress, which can be ully comprehended and enjoyed only by persons familiar with the history of the times through which Bunyan lived. The character of Mr. Greatheart, the guide, is an example. His fighting is, of course, allegorical; but the allegory is not strictly preserved. He delivers a sermon on imputed righteousness to his companions; and, soon after, he gives battle to Gan Grim, who had taken upon him to back the lions. He expounds the fifty-third chapter No person who knows the state trials can be
"JUDGE. Sirrah, Sirrah! thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet, that all men may see our gentleness to thee, let us hear what thou, vile runagate, hast to say."
SOUTHEY'S EDITION OF THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.
at a loss for parallel cases. Indeed, write what Bunyan would, the baseness and cruelty of the lawyers of those times "sinned up to it still," and even went beyond it. The imaginary trial of Faithful before a jury composed of personihed vices, was just and merciful, when compared with the real trial of Lady Alice Lisle before that tribunal where all the vices sat in the person of Jeffries.
divine, this homely dialect, the dialect of plain workingmen, was perfectly sufficient. is no book in our literature on which we could so readily stake the fame of the old unpolluted English language; no book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper wealth, and how little it has been improved Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that lie by all that it has borrowed. To our refined foreThe style of Bunyan is delightful to every dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for reader, and invaluable as a study to every per- fear of moving a sneer. son who wishes to obtain a wide command fathers, we suppose, Lord Roscommon's Essay over the English language. The vocabulary on Translated Verse, and the Duke of BuckWe live in is the vocabulary of the common people. inghamshire's Essay on Poetry, appeared to There is not an expression, if we except a few be compositions infinitely superior to the alle technical terms of theology, which would puz-gory of the preaching tinker. We have observed better times; and we are not afraid to say zle the rudest peasant. several pages which do not contain a single that, though there were many clever men in One of those minds pro word of more than two syllables. Yet no wri- England during the latter half of the seventer has said more exactly what he meant to teenth century, there were only two great say. For magnificence, for pathos, for vehe- creative minds. ment exhortation, for subtle disquisition, for duced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pil every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the grim's Progress.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
CROKER'S EDITION OF BOSWELL'S LIFE (
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1831.]
THIS work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may have been prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be a valuable addition to English literature, that it would contain many curious facts and many judicious remarks; that the style of the notes would be neat, clear, and precise; and that the typographical execution would be, as in new editions of classical works it ought to be, almost faultless. We are sorry to be obliged to say, that the merits of Mr. Croker's performance are on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton on which Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and which he, with characteristic energy, pronounced to be, "as bad as bad could be; ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-dressed." That part of the volumes before us, for which the editor is responsible, is ill-compiled, ill-arranged, ill-expressed, and ill-printed.
Nothing in the work 'had astonished us so much as the ignorance or carelessness of Mr. Many Croker with respect to facts and dates. of his blunders are such as we should be surprised to hear any well-educated gentleman commit, even in conversation. The notes absolutely swarm with misstatements, into which the editor never would have fallen, if he had taken the slightest pains to investigate the truth of his assertions, or if he had even been well acquainted with the very book on which he undertook to comment. We will give a few
Beattie, died in 1816. A Sir William Forbes
"Scarce had lamented Forbes paid
In one place, we are told, that Allan Ramsay,
In one place, Mr. Croker says, that at the commencement of the intimacy between Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, in 1765, the lady was twenty-five years old. In other places he says, that Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year coincided with Johnson's seventieth. Johnson was born in 1709. If, therefore, Mrs. Thrale's thirty-fifth year coincided with Johnson's seVentieth, she could have been only twenty-one
This is not all.
years old in 1765. Croker, in another place, assigns the year Mr. Croker tells us, in a note, that Derrick, 1777 as the date of the complimentary lines who was master of the ceremonies at Bath, which Johnson made on Mrs. Thrale's thirtydied very poor, in 1760. We read on; and, a fifth birthday. If this date be correct, Mrs. few pages later, we find Dr. Johnson and Bos-Thrale must have been born in 1742, and could well talking of the same Derrick as still living and reigning, as having retrieved his character, as possessing so much power over his subjects at Bath, that his opposition might be fatal to Sheridan's lectures on oratory. And all this The fact is, that Derrick died in
In one note we read, that Sir Herbert Croft, the author of that pompous and foolish account of Young, which appears among the Lives of the Poets, died in 1805. Another note in the same volume states, that this same Sir Herbert Croft died at Paris, after residing abroad for fifteen years, on the 27th of April, 1816.¶
Mr. Croker informs us, that Sir William
The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.; including a
+ V. 184.
have been only twenty-three when her acquaintance with Johnson commenced. Two of Mr. Croker's three statements must be false. We will not decide between them; we will only say, that the reasons which he gives for thinking that Mrs. Thrale was exactly thirtyfive years old when Johnson was seventy, appear to us utterly frivolous.
Again, Mr. Croker informs his readers that Lord Mansfield sarvived Dr. John "Lord Mansfield survived Johnson full ten years."* son just eight years and a quarter. Johnson found in the library of a French lady, whom he visited during his short visit to Paris, some works which he regarded with great disdain. "I looked," says he, "into the books in the lady's closet, and, in contempt, showed them to Mr. Thrale-Prince Titi; Biblothèque des Fées, and other books."
* II. 262.