Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Tue wise men of antiquity loved to convey | worth the telling, lies on the surface. The instruction under the covering of apologue; writer evidently means to caution us against and, though this practice of theirs is generally the practices of puffers,-a class of people thought childish, we shall make no apology for who have more than once talked the public adopting it on the present occasion. A gene- into the most absurd errors, but who surely ration which has bought eleven editions of a never played a more curious, or a more diffipoem by Mr. Robert Montgomery, may well cult trick, than when they passed Mr. Robert condescend to listen to a fable of Pilpay. Montgomery off upon the world as a great poet.

A pious Brahmin, it is written, made a vow In an age in which there are so few readers that on a certain day he would sacrifice a that a writer cannot subsist on the sum arising sheep, and on the appointed morning he went from the sale of his works, no man who has forth to buy one. There lived in his neighbour- not an independent fortune can devote himself hood three rogues who knew of his vow, and to literary pursuits, unless he is assisted by laid a scheme for profiting by it. The first met patronage. In such an age, accordingly, men him and said, “Oh, Brahmin, wilt thou buy a of letters too often pass their lives in dangling sheep? I have one fit for sacrifice.”_"It is at the heels of the wealthy and powerful; and for that very purpose,” said the holy man, all the faults which dependence tends to pro" that I came forth this day.” Then the im- duce, pass into their character. They become postor opened a bag, and brought out of it an the parasites and slaves of the great. It is unclean beast, an ugly dog, lame and blind. melancholy to think how many of the highest Thereon the Brahmin cried out, “Wretch, who and most exquisitely formed of human inteltouchest things impure, and utterest things un lects have been condemned to the ignominious true, callest thou that cur a sheep ?"_"Truly," labor of disposing the commonplaces of aduanswered the other, “ it is a sheep of the finest lation in new forms, and brightening them into fleece, and of the sweetest flesh. Oh, Brahmin, new splendour. Horace invoking Augustus it will be an offering most acceptable to the in the most enthusiastic language of religious gods.”—“Friend,” said the Brahmin, “either veneration,-Statius flaitering a tyrant, and the thou or I must be blind."

minion of a tyrant, for a morsel of bread, Just then one of the accomplices came up. Ariosto versifying the whole genealogy of a * Praised be the gods," said this second rogue, niggardly patron,-Tasso extolling the heroic " that I have been saved the trouble of going virtues of the wretched creature who locked to the market for a sheep! This is such a him up in a mad-house,—these are but a few sheep as I wanted. For how much wilt thou of the instances which might easily be given sell it?" When the Brahmin heard this, his of the degradation to which those must submind waved to and fro, like one swinging in mit, who, not possessing a competent fortune, the air at a holy festival. “Sir," said he to the are resolved to write when there are scarcely new comer, “take heed what thou dost; this is any who'read. no sheep, but an unclean cur.”—“Oh, Brah- This evil the progress of the human mind min," said the new comer, “thou art drunk or tends to remove. As a taste for books becomes mad!"

more and more common, the patronage of indiAt this time the third confederate drew near. viduals becomes less and less necessary. In * Let us ask this man,” said the Brahmin, the earlier part of the last century a marked "what the creature is, and I will stand by what change took place. The tone of literary men, he shall say.” To this the others agreed; and both in this country and in France, became the Brahmin called out, “Oh, stranger, what higher and more independent. Pope boasted dost thou call this beast?"-"Surely, oh, Brah- that he was the “one poet” who had “pleased min,” said the knave, “it is a fine sheep.” by manly ways;" he derided the soft dedica Then the Brahmin said, “Surely the gods have tions with which Halifax had been fed,taken away my senses,”-and he asked pardon asserted his own superiority over the pen of him who carried the dog, and bought it for sioned Boileau,-and glorified in being not the a measure of rice and a pot of ghee, and offered follower, but the friend, of nobles and princes. it up to the gods, who, being wroth at this un- The explanation of all this is very simple. clean sacrifice, smote him with a sore disease Pope was the first Englishman who, by the in all his joints.

mere sale of his writings, realized a sum Thus, or nearly thua, if we remember rightly, which enabled him to live in comfort and in runs the story of the Sanscrit Æsop. The perfect independence. Johnson extols him for moral, like the moral of every fable that is the magnanimity which he showed in inscrib

ing his Iliad, not to a minister or a peer, but to * The Omnipresence of the Deity, a Poem. By ROBERT Congreve. In our time, this would scarcely MONTGOMERY. Eleventh Edition. London.' 1830. 2. Salan, a Poem. By ROBERT MONTGOMERY. Second when Mr. Moore pays a complimert of this

be a subject for praise. Nobody is astonished Edition. London. 1830.

VOL. 1,-83

[ocr errors]

kind to Sir Walter Scott, or Sir Walter Scott / upon with a despicable ingenuity by people to Mr. Moore. The idea of either of those engaged in a pursuit which never was, and gentlemen looking out for some lord who never will be, considered as a mere trade by would be likely to give him a few guineas in any man of honour and virtue. A butcher of return for a fulsome dedication, seems laugh- the higher class disdains to ticket his meat. A ably incongruous. Yet this is exactly what mercer of the higher class would be ashamed Dryden or Otway would have done; and it to hang up papers in his window inviting the would be hard to blame them for it. Otway is passers-by to look at the stock of a bankrup, said to have been choked with a piece of bread all of the first quality, and going for half the which he devoured in the rage of hunger; and, value. We expect some reserve, some decent whether this story be true or false, he was, be- pride, in our hatter and our bootmaker. But yond all question, miserably poor. Dryden, at no artifice by which notoriety can be obtained near seventy, when at the head of the literary is thought too abject for a man of letters. men of England, without equal or second, It is amusing to think over the history of received three hundred pounds for his Fables most of the publications which have had a run -a collection of ten thousand verses,—and during the last few years. The publisher is such verses as no man then living, except often the publisher of some periodical work. himself, could have produced. Pope, at thirty, In this periodical work the first flourish of had laid up between six and seven thousand trumpets is sounded. The peal is then echoed pounds,-the fruits of his poetry. It was not, and re-echoed by all the other periodical works we suspect, because he had a higher spirit, or over which the publisher or the author, or the a more scrupulous conscience, than his pre- author's coterie, may have any influence. The decessors, but because he had a larger income, newspapers are for a fortnight filled with puffs of that he kept up the dignity of the literary cha- all the various kinds which Sheridan recounted, racter so much better than they had done. - direct, oblique, and collusive. Sometimes

From the time of Pope to the present day, the praise is laid on thick for simple-minded the readers have been constantly becoming peopie. “ Pathetic,”.“sublime," "splendid," more and more numerous: and the writers, “graceful, brilliant wit,” “exquisite humour," consequently, more and more independent and other phrases equally flattering, fall in a It is assuredly a great evil, that men fitted by shower as thick and as sweet as the sugartheir talents and acquirements to enlighten plums at a Roman carnival. Sometimes greatand charm the world, should be reduced to er art is used. A sinecure has been offered to the necessity of flattering wicked and foolish the writer if he would suppress his work, or if patrons in return for the very sustenance of he would even soften down a few of his incomlife. But though we heartily rejoice that this parable portraits. A distinguished military and evil is reinoved, we cannot but see with con- political character has challenged the inimita cern that another evil has succeeded to it. ble satirist of the vices of the great; and the The public is now the patron, and a most libe- puffer is glad to learn that the parties have ral patron.

All that the rich and powerful been bound over to keep the peace. Somebestowed on authors from the time of Mæcenas times it is thought expedient that the puffer to that of Harley would not, we apprehend, should put on a grave face, and utter his panemake up a sum equal to that which has been gyric in the form of admonition! “Such atpaid by English booksellers to authors during tacks on private character cannot be too much the last thirty years. Men of letters have condemned. Even the exuberant wit of our accordingly ceased to court individuals, and author, and the irresistible power of his withhave begun to court the public. They for-ering sarcasm, are no excuses for that utter merly used flattery. They now use puffing. disregard which he manifests for the feelings

Whether the old or the new vice be the of others. We cannot but wonder that the worse,—whether those who formerly lavished writer of such transcendent talents,-a writer insincere praise on others, or those who now who is evidently no stranger to the kindly contrive by every art of beggary and bribery charities and sensibilities of our nature, should to stun the public with praises of themselves, show so little tenderness to the foibles of noble disgrace their vocation the more deeply,—we and distinguished individuals, with whom, it is shall not attempt to decide. But of this we clear, from every page of his work, that he are sure,-that it is high time to make a stand must have been constantly mingling in socieagainst the new trickery. The puffing of ty." These are but tame and feeble imitations books is now so shamefully and so success of the paragraphs with which the daily papers fully practised, that it is the duty of all who are filled whenever an attorney's clerk or an are anxious for the purity of the national taste, apothecary's assistant undertakes to tell the or for the honour of the literary character, to public, in bad English and worse French, how join in discountenancing it. All the pens that people tie their neckcloths and eat their din

were employed in magnifying Bish's ners in Grosvenor Square. The editors of the Jucky office, Romanis's fleecy hosiery, Pack- higher and more respectable newspapers wood's

's razor strops, and Rowland's Kalydor, usually prefix the words “ Advertisement," or all the placard-bearers of Dr. Eady,-all the “From a Correspondent," to such paragraphs. wall-chalkers of Day and Martin-seem to But this makes little difference. The panegyhave taken service with the poets and novel ric is extracted, and the significant heading ists of this generation. Devices which in the omitted. The fulsome eulogy makes its arlowest trades are considered as disreputable, pearance on the covers of all the Reviews and are adopted without scruple, and improved Magazines, with “ Times” or “Globe" affixed,



though the editors of the Times and the Globe tised judges can; that he is not familliar with have no more to do with it than with Mr. Goss's the finest models; that he has never looked at way of making old rakes young again.

them with close attention; and that, when the That people who live by personal slander general effect of a piece has pleased him, or should practise these arts is not surprising. displeased him, he has never troubled himself Those who stoop to write calumnious books to ascertain why. When, therefore, people may well stoop to puff them ;—and that the whom he thinks more competent to judge than basest of all trades should be carried on in the himself, and of whose sincerity he entertains basest of all manners, is quite proper, and as no doubt, assure him that a particular work is it should be. But how any man, who has the exquisitely beautiful, he takes it for granted least self-respect, the least regard for his own that they must be in the right. He returns to personal dignity, can condescend to persecute the examination, resolved to find or imagine the public with this rag-fair importunity, we beauties; and if he can work himself up into do not understand. Extreme poverty may, something like admiration, he exults in his indeed, in some degree, be an excuse for em- own proficiency. ploying these shifts, as it may be an excuse Just such is the manner in which nine for stealing a leg of mutton. But we really readers out of ten judge of a book. They are think that a man of spirit and delicacy would ashamed to dislike what men, who speak as quite as soon satisfy his wants in the one way having authority, declare to be good. At pre as in the other.

sent, however contemplible a poem or a novel It is no excuse for an author, that the praises may be, there is not the least difficulty in proof journalists are procured by the money or in- curing favourable notices of it from all sorts fluence of the publisher, and not by his own. of publications, daily, weekly, and monthly. It is his business to take such precautions as In the mean time, little or nothing is said on may prevent others from doing what must de- the other side. The author and the publisher grade them. It is for his honour as a gentle are interested in crying up the book. Nobody man, and, if he is really a man of talents, it has any very strong interest in crying it down. will eventually be for his honour and interest | Those who are best fitted to guide the public as a writer, that his works should come before opinion, think it beneath them to expose mere the public, recommended by their own merits nonsense, and comfort themselves by reflecting alone, and should be discussed with perfect that such popularity cannot last.

This confreedom. If his objects be really such as he temptuous lenity has been carried too far. It may own without shame, he will find that they is perfectly true, that reputations which have will, in the long run, be better attained by suf- been forced into an unnatural bloom, fade alfering the voice of criticism to be fairly heard. most as soon as they have expanded; nor have At present, we too often see a writer attemp!- we any apprehensions that puffing will ever ing to obtain literary fame as Shakspeare's raise any scribbler to the rank of a classic. It usurper obtains sovereignty. The publisher is, indeed, amusing to turn over some lale volplays Buckingham to the author's Richard. umes of periodical works, and to see how Some few creatures of the conspiracy are dex- many immortal productions have, within a few terously disposed here and there in a crowd. months, been gathered to the poems of BlackIt is the business of these hirelings to throw up more and the novels of Mrs. Behn; how many their caps, and clap their hands, and utter their “profound views of human nature," and“exquivivas. The rabble at first stare and wonder, site delineations of fashionable manners," and and at last join in shouting for shouting's sake;"vernal, and sunny, and refreshing thoughts,” and thus a crown is placed on the head which and “high imaginings,” and “young breath. has no right to it, by the huzzas of a few ser- ings,” and “embodyings,” and “ pinings,” and vile dependants.

“minglings with the beauty of the universe," The opinion of the great body of the reading and “harmonies which dissolve the soul in a public is very materially influenced even by passionate sense of loveliness and divinity,” the the unsupported assertions of those who as- world has contrived to forget. The names of sume a right to criticise. Nor is the public the books and the writers are buried in as deep altogether to blame on this account. Most, an oblivion as the name of the builder of Stone. even of those who have really a great enjoy- hedge. Some of the well-puffed “fashionable ment in reading, are in the same state, with novels" of the last, hold the pastry of the prerespect to a book, in which a man, who has sent year; and others of the class, which are never given particular attention to the art of now extolled in language almost too nigh-flown painting, is with respect to a picture. Every for the merits of Don Qnixote, will, we have no man who has the least sensibility or imagina doubt, line the trunks of eighteen hundred and tion, derives a certain pleasure from pictures. thirty-one. But though we have no apprehenYet a man of the highest and finest intellect|sions that puffing will ever confer permanent might, unless he had formed his taste by con- reputation on the undeserving, we still think templating the best pictures, be easily per- its influence most pernicious. Men of reai suaded by a knot of connoisseurs that the worst merit will, if they persevere, at last reach the daub in Somerset-house was a miracle of art. station to which they are entitled, and intruders If he deserves to be laughed at, it is not for his will be ejected with contempt and derision. ignorance of pictures, but for his ignorance of But it is no small evil that the avenues to fame men. He knows that there is a delicacy of should be blocked up by a swarm of noisy, taste in painting which he does not possess; pushing, elbowing pretenders, who, though that he cannot discriminate hands, as prac- they will not ultimately be able to make gorul

[ocr errors]


their own entrance, hinder, in the mean tinie,

“But who could trace Thine unrestricted course, those who have a right to enter. All who will

Though Fancy follow'd with immortal force 1

There's not a blossom fondled by the breeze, not disgrace themselves by joining in the un- There's not a fruit that beautifies the trees, seemly scuffle, must expect to be at first hustled There's not a particle in sea or air, and shouldered back. Some men of talents,

But nature owns thy plastic influence there!

With fearful gaze, still be it mine to see accordingly, turn away in dejection from pur- How all is filled and vivified by Thee; suits in which success appears to bear no Upon thy mirror, earth's majectic view, proportion to desert. Others employ in self

To paint Thy Presence, and to feel it too." defence the means by which competitors, far The last two lines contain an excellent speinferior to themselves, appear for a time to ob- cimen of Mr. Robert Montgomery's Turkey lain a decided advantage. There are few who carpet style of writing. The majestic view of have sufficient confidence in their own powers, earth is the mirror of God's presence; and on and sufficient elevation of mind, to wait with this mirror Mr. Robert Montgomery paints secure and contemptuous patience, while dunce God's presence. The use of a mirror, we after dunce presses before them. Those who submit, is not to be painted upon. will not stoop to the baseness of the modern

A few more lines, as bad as those which we fashion are too often discouraged. Those who have quoted, bring us to one of the most amus. stoop to it are always degraded.

ing instances of literary pilfering which we We have of late observed with great plea- remember. It might be of use to plagiarists to sure some symptoms which lead us to hope, know as a general rule, that what they steal is, that respectable literary men of all parties are to employ a phrase common in advertisements, beginning to be impatient of this insufferable of no use to any but the right owner. We nuisance. And we purpose to do what in us never fell in, however, with any plunderer who lies for the abating of it. We do not think so little understood how to turn his booty to that we can more usefully assist in this good good account as Mr. Montgomery. Lord Bywork, than by showing our honest countrymen ron, in a passage which every body knows by what that sort of poetry is which puffing can heart, has said, addressing the sea, drive through eleven editions; and how easy

“Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow." any bellman might, if a bellman would stoop to the necessary degree of meanness, become Mr. Robert Montgomery very cooly appro“ a master-spirit of the age.” We have no en- priates the image, and reproduces the stolen mity to Mr. Robert Montgomery. We know goods in the following form: nothing whatever about him, except what we

"And thou, vast Ocear, on whose awful face have learned from his books, and from the

Time's iron feet can print no ruin trace.” portrait prefixed to one of them, in which he so may such ill-got gains ever prosper! appears to be doing his very best to look like a man of genius and sensibility, though with less Atheists is then described in the following

The effect which the Ocean produces on success than his strenuous exertions deserve.

lofty lines: We select him, because his works have received more enthusiastic praise, and have de- “Oh! never did the dark-soul'd Atheist stand, served more unmixed contempt, than any

And watch the breakers boiling on the strand,

And, while creation staggered at his nod, which, as far as our knowledge extends, have Mock the dread presence of the mighty God! appeared within the last three or four years.

We hear Him in the wind-heaved ocean's roar, His writing bears the same relation to poetry

Hurling her billowy crags upon the shore;

We hear him in the riot of the blast, which a Turkey carpet bears to a picture And shake, while rush the raving whirlwinds past!” There are colours in the Turkey carpet, out of which a picture might be made. There are

* Mr. Robert Montgomery's genius were not words in Mr. Montgomery's verses, which when far too free and aspiring to be shackled by the disposed in certain orders and combinations, rules of syntax, we should suppose that it is have made, and will again make, good poetry at the nod of the Atheist that creation shud. But, as they now stand, they seem to be put ders, and that it is this same dark-souled Athetogether on principle, in such a manner as to ist who hurls billowy crags upon the shore. give no image of any thing in the “heavens A few more lines bring us to another in. above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters stance of unprofitable theft. Sir Walter Scott under the earth."

has these lines in the Lord of the Isles, The poem on the Omnipresence of the Deity The dew that on the violet lies, commences with a description of the creation,

Mocks the dark lustre of thine eyes." in which we can find only one thought which This is pretty, taken separately, and, as is has the least pretension to ingenuity, and that almost always the case with good things or one thought is stolen from Dryden, and marred good writers, much prettier in its place than in the stealing

can even be conceived by those who see it only

detached from the context. Now for Mr. Mont. “Last, softly beautiful as music's close,

gomeryAngelic woman into being rose."

“And the bright dew-bead on the bramble lies,

Like liquid rapture upon beanty's eyes." The all-pervading influence of the Supreme Being is then described in a few tolerable lines The comparison of a violet, bright with the borrowed from Pope, and a great many intoler- dew, to a woman's eyes, is as perfect as a able lines of Mr. Robert Montgomery's own. comparison can be. Sir Walter's lines are The following may stand as a specimen- part of a song addressed to a woman, and the

The gro

comparison is therefore peculiarly natural and familiarity so far as to bid the Supreme Being graceful. Dew on a bramble is no more like stop and meditate on the importance of the a woman's eyes than_dew anywhere else. interests which are under his care. There is a very pretty Eastern tale, of which tesque indecency of such an address throws the fate of plagiarists often reminds us. The into shade the subordinate absurdities of the slave of a magician saw his master wave his passage, the unfurling of whirlwinds, the unwand, and heard him give orders to the spirits rolling of thunder, and the upheavir.g of who arose at the summons. He accordingly worlds. stole the wand, and waved it himself in the Then comes a curious specimen of our air ; but he had not observed that his master poet's English-used the left hand for that purpose. The spirits

" Yet not alone created realms engage thus irregularly summoned, tore him to pieces, Thy faultless wisdom, grand, primeval sage! instead of obeying his orders. There are very For all the thronging woes to life allied few who can safely venture to conjure with

Thy mercy tempers, and Thy cares provide." the rod of Sir Walter, and we are sure that we should be glad to know what the word Mr. Robert Montgomery is not one of them. “ For" means here. If it is a preposition, it

Mr. Campbell, in one of his most pleasant makes nonsense of the words, “Thy mercy pieces, has this line

tempers.” If it is an adverb, it makes non

sense of the words, “ Thy cares provide." “The sentinel stars set their watch in the sky."

These beauties we have taken, almost at The thought is good—and has a very striking random, from the first part of the poem. The propriety where Mr. Campbell placed it—in second part is a series of descriptions of vathe mouth of a soldier telling his dream. But, rious events,--a battle---a murder--an executhough Shakspeare assures us that “every tion.--a marriage--a funeral---and so forth. Mr. true man's apparel fits your thies," it is by no Robert Montgomery terminates each of these means the case, as we have already seen, that descriptions, by assuring us that the Deity was every true poet's similitude fits your plagiarist. present at the battle, murder, execution, marLet us see how Mr. Robert Montgomery uses riage, or funeral, in question. And this propo. the image

sition, which might be safely predicated of “Ye quenchless stars! so eloquently bright,

every event that ever happened, or ever will Untroubled sentries of the shadowy night,

happen, forms the only link which connects While half the world is lapped in downy dreams, And round the lattice creep your midnight beams,

these descriptions with the subject, or with How sweet to gaze upon your placid eyes,

each other. In lambent beauty looking from the skies."

How the descriptions are executed, our rea.

ders are probably by this time able to conjecCertainly the ideas of eloquence---of un

The battle is made up of the battles of troubled repose---of placid eyes, on the lambent all ages and nations ; “red-mouthed cannons, beauty of which it is sweet to gaze, harmonize uproaring to the clouds,” and “hands grasping admirably with the idea of a sentry! We would not be understood, however, to operations of which this part of the poem re

firm the glittering shield." The only military say, that Mr. Robert Montgomery cannot make minds us are those which reduced the Abbey similitudes for himself. A very few lines far: of Quedtinburgh to submission--the Templar ther on, we find one which has every mark of with his cross--the Austrian and Prussian originality, and on which, we will be bound, grenadiers in full uniform--and Curtius and none of the poets whom he has plundered will Dentatus with their battering-ram. We ought ever think of making reprisals:

not to pass by unnoticed the slain war-horse, “The soul, aspiring, pants its source to mount,

who will no more As streams meander level with their fount.'

“Roll his red eye, and rally for the fight;" We take this to be, on the whole, the worst similitude in the world. In the first place, no

or the slain warrior, who, while “ lying on his stream meanders, or can possibly meander, bleeding breast," contrives to “stare ghastly level with its fount. In the next place, if

and grimly on the skies.” As to this last ex. streams did meander level with their founts, no

ploit, we can only say, as Dante did on a simi. two motions can be less alike than that of

lar occasion, meandering level, and that of mounting up

“ Forse per forza gia di parlasia

Si stravolse cosi alcun deltutto: wards.

Ma io nol vidi, ne credo che sia." We have then an apostrophe to the Deity, couched in terms which, in any writer who

The tempest is thus described. dealt in meanings, we should call profane, but “But lo! around the marsh'lling clouds unite, to which, we suppose, Mr. Robert Montgomery

Like thick battalions halting for the fight; attaches no idea whatever.

The sun sinks back, the tempest-spirits sweep
Fierce through the air, and flutter on the deep,

Till from their caverns rush the maniac blasts, “Yes! pause and think, within one fleeting hour, Tear the loose sails, and split the creaking masts, How vast a universe obeys Thy power;

And the lash'd billows, rolling in a train, Unseen, but felt, Thine interfused control

Rear their white heads, and race along the main!" Works in each atom, and pervades the whole; Expands the blossom, and erects the tree,

Whal, we should like to know, is the difer. Conducts each vapour, and commands each sea, Beams in each ray, bids whirlwinds be unfurl'd,

ence between the two operations which Mr. Unrolls the thuader, and upheaves a world!"

Robert Montgomery so accurately distinguishes

from each ciher---the fierce sweeping of the No field-preacher ever carried his irreverent tempest-spirits through the air, and the rushing


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »