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that such a diffusion of knowledge is likely to prevent the future appearance of versifiers in humble lise, is one which we should hardly have thought necessary to notice seriously, if it had come from a pen of less influence than Mr. Southey's. This proposition, translated into plain unfigurative language, is, that the more the poor are educated, the less are they likely to write poetry. In the first place, we disbelieve the predicted result; and, secondly, we say, that if true, it is not a subject for regret,
a as it is evidently considered by Mr. Squthey. It seems almost a waste of words to confute so untenable a theory as that education is unfavourable to the developement of poetical talent. The rare occurrence of uneducated poels, and the wonder excited by their appearance, -the indispensableness of something more than the mere rudiments of educalion to afford to the incipient poet a competent store of the materials with which he works,-the fact, that our most distinguished poets have almost uniformly been men of studious habits, and of various and extensive reading-of which we have an example in the Laureate himself,- these are circumstances on which it is needless to enlarge—which, when heard, must be acknowledged, and when acknowledged, must convince; and we gladly close this part of an argument, in which the humblest disputant could gain no honour by confuting even the editor of the work before us. Indeed, it can scarcely be imagined that Mr. Southey could seriously maintain such an opinion; and that he must mean rather, that the poor who receive the advantages of education will, at the same time, learn to apply their acquirements to more useful purposes than writing verses. But there is this difficulty in such a supposition,—that a reproach would thereby be cast upon the practice of versifying, which Mr. Southey is very far from intending; and it is evident, from the tone of his book, that he does not contemplate with the pleasure which it ought to afford to a benevolent mind like his, the prospect of the poorer classes being inclined to apply the fruits of their extended education to works of practical utility. We must therefdre conclude, that he does not believe that the condition of the poor will be improved by such an education as will induce them to apply their acquired knowledge to purposes which are commonly called useful; but that it is better either keep them ignorant, or to give them just so much information as will encourage a developement of the imaginative or poetical part of their 'nature, without awakening them, more than can be helped, to any exercise of their reasoning powers. If this is not what is intended, then the praise bestowed upon uneducated poets, the encouraging complacency with which their efforts are regarded, and the sarcastic allusions to the Age of Reason and the March of Intellect, which is to arrest the progress of such commendable efforts, are utterly without a meaning.
But a writer who feels so strongly as Mr. Southey, can never, even when he is least logical, be accused of wriling without a meaning. Mr. Southey, both in this, and in other writings in which his ideas are more distinctly expressed, teaches us that poetry softens and humanizes the heart of man, while it is the tendency of science to harden and corrupt it. It would be useless to plead that Mr. Southey may never have expressed this sentiment in these precise words, while he has written much from which no other inference can be drawn.
According to this theory, the poor man who has a turn for versifying is likely to be more moral than one who discovers a bent for calculation or
mechanics ; a cultivation of the former talent will tend to constitute a pious man and a good subject,--the latter, if encouraged, may too probably lead to republicanism and irreligion. A labourer may write lines on a linnet, and praised for this amiable exercise of his humble lalent ; but if he reads any of the cheap works on science with which the press now leems,-if he presumes to learn the scientific name of his favourite bird,—to consider its relation to other birds,-lo know that it belongs to the genus Fringilla, and to ascertain the marks by which he might distinguish the name of any wandering stranger of the same tribe that happened to fall within his notice, -if he does this, then he becomes a naturalist, a scientific enquirer—and, as such, must fall under the ban of Mr. Southey. Let him apostrophize a flower in rhyme, but let him not learn its botanical name, or more of its properties than can be extracted from the Galenical lore of the oldest woman in the parish: he finds, a fossil bone ;-let him pen a sonnet about it if he pleases; but let him beware of consulting a geologist, lest he become a hardy sceptic,-doubt if there ever was a deluge, and question the Mosaic account of the creation. Utterly do we reprobate and disavow the doctrine, that it is otherwise than beneficial for minds of every degree to be rendered intimate with the mysteries of nature, -that the study of nature can be injurious to the morality and religious faith of any man whose morality and faith would have been safe without it, -thai the faith of the rustic who believes that the sun moves round the earth, and that the stars are small lamps, is more devout and pure than that of the same man would be when informed of the real sublimity of the scene around him. It is a doctrine of which any illustration is equivalent to a reductio ad absurdum. It is very natural that the Poet Laureate should think well of poetry. Some persons may smile at such an illustration of a propensity which they may have thought peculiar to humbler callings,-namely, that of altributing to a production or pursuit many more excellent qualities and advantages than can be discovered in it by the rest of the world; and they may have expected that a very cultivated mind would have soared above a prejudice of this description. Mr. Southey recommends poetry as eminently favourable to morality, and considers that every amiable man “will be both the better and the happier for writing verses.” Mr. Southey is a celebrated poet, and is, we believe, at the same time, a very pious and amiable man. It is therefore not unnatural that a talent for poetry should be associated in his mind with piety and morality; but if he thinks that they are necessarily connected, and that poetry is naturally conducive to those other more important qualities, he must attend rather to his own feelings than to the examples which experience would furnish. It would be an invidious, but easy task, to form a long list of men richly endowed with the gift of poetry, in whom pure morality and religious faith had been too notoriously deficient. It is unnecessary to mention names, for many—and enough-must occur to every reader; but we must remind Mr. Southey that the brightest name among the “uneducated poets" of this empire is that of one whose imagination and passions were unfortunately often too strong for the control of his judgment, and to whom the inborn gift of poetry, which he so exuberantly possessed, far from leading him into the paths of morality and peace, seem rather to have been false lights that lured him from them. It is the province of poetry to appeal to the passions rather than to the judgment; and the passions are the most erring part of human nature. Mr. Southey does not seem to reckon among possible contingencies the immoral direction of poetical talent. It is true, the verse-making rustic may celebrate the simple virtues which poets associate with rural life, and draw moral lessons from the contemplation of nature, but he may equally dedicate his music to the unhallowed task of lending a baneful interest to violence and crime. A reverence for antiquity, for social distinctions, and for the established order of things, are not necessary concomitants of an aptitude for verse. Liberty, the watchword under which rebellion always marches, has a spirit-stirring sound, especially to young and ardent minds, in which imagination prevails over judgment; and the lyre of the poet will echo as readily to its call as to images of pastoral peace. Mr. Southey must remember that even he once celebrated Wat Tyler. Anarchy has its laureate as well as monarchy, and the strains of the former are commonly most popular. A reference to his notice of the uneducated poets whom he has selected for celebration, will show that their versifying powers were not always exercised in a commendable manner. Taylor's contests in ribaldry with Fennor, another rhymer of humble lise, were not creditable to either; and Bryant seems to have hung his satirical talent in terrorem over his associates, and to have allowed himself to be employed by one of them to lampoon the daughter of respectable tradesman. We should be glad if it could have been proved that poetry is peculiarly conducive to morality; but we fear it cannot be shown that either the possession of the poetical faculty, or the perusal of works of that description, is calculated to ensure this desirable effect. To recommend poetry to the poorer classes, because there are in existence sundry moral poems which they would probably find among the least attractive, has little more sense in it, than to say that religious admonition is the peculiar attribute of prose, because sermons are written in that form. It matters not even though it could be shown that the essentials of poetry are akin to all that is most moral; for when we talk of poetry to the uneducated classes, they will think not of the essence, but only of the form. If the pursuit of poetry cannot be shown to be necessarily productive of moral benefit to persons in humble life, still less, we fear, can it be proved that it is calculated to ameliorate their worldly condition. We know no instance of any poor uneducated person whose prosperity and happiness has been essentially promoted by the developement of this talent. Six persons of this class are commemorated in the volume before us. Taylor the WaterPoet, Stephen Duck, James Woodhouse, John Bennet, Ann Yearsley, and John Frederick Bryant-of whom two died mad; and all appear to have undergone severe trials, and to have been very little raised, by the possession of this talent, above the lowly sphere in which they were born. It is also observable, that all of them seem to have owed even the precarious prosperity which they occasionally enjoyed to fortunate accidents, and the charitable notice of their superiors in wealth. Bryant owed his advancement to a song of his own making, which he sang in an innkitchen-Ann Yearsley to the casual notice of Mrs. Hannah More, with whom she afterwards quarrelled-Woodhouse to the patronage of Shenstone-Bennet to that of Warton—Duck was patronized by various persons, and at last by Queen Caroline, who settled a pension upon him— Taylor was a supple, ready-witted humorist, well skilled in the art of living at other men's cost. Such was his proficiency in this art,' that he undertook to travel on foot from London to Edinburgh, “not carrying any money
to or fro; neither begging, borrowing, nor asking meat, drink, or lodging." This journey, he says, was undertaken “to make trial of his friends," and we are informed by Mr. Southey that it was not an arduous one, “ for he was at that time a well-known person; and he carried in his tongue a gift which, wherever he might be entertained, would be accepted as current payment for his entertainment.” To this important and praiseworthy excursion, of which Taylor published an account in quaint prose, and quainter doggerel, entitled, “The Pennyless Pilgrimage, or the Moneyless Perambulations of John Taylor, alias the King's Majesty's Water-Poet,” Mr. Southey devotes twenty-three pages of a small volume.
Our readers will naturally desire to see some specimens of a work which has attracted so much of the Laureate's attention. Of the following verses, We will merely say, that their excellence is quite of a piece with the importance of the information they convey. They describe Taylor's reception at Manchester.
“Their loves they on the tenter-hooks did rack,
Roast, boild, baked, too-too-mach, white, claret, sack ;
They saw I wanted, and they gave me, gloves.' " Taylor makes another excursion From London to Christ Church, in Hampshire, and so up the Avon to Salisbury,' and this was, 'for toyle, travail, and danger,' the worst and most difficult passage he had yet made. These desperate adventures did not answer the purpose for which they were undertaken, and he complains of this in what he calls (Taylorice') the Scourge of Baseness, a Kicksey Winsey, or a Lerry-Come-Twang.
"I made my journey for no other ends
Above seven hundred, play the sharking javils.' " The manner,” says Mr. Southey, “in which he (Taylor) published his books, which were separately of little bulk, was to print them at his own cost, make presents of them, and then hope for 'sweet remuneration' from the persons whom he had thus delighted to honour.” The following passage is quoted from a dedication to Charles I., in which Taylor says, "My
gracious sovereign, your majesly's poor undeserved servant, having formerly oftentimes presented to your highness many such pamphlets, the best fruits of my lean and steril invention, always your princely affability and bounty did express and manifest your royal and generous disposition ; and your gracious father, of ever-blessed and famous memory, did not only like and encourage, but also more than reward the barren gleanings of my poetical inventions."
There is nothing extraordinary in this, when we consider that, even much later, men of acknowledged talent were not ashamed to write fulsome dedications; but it is a circumstance degrading to literature, and that part of its history which we would most gladly forget—and it is pitiable in this instance to see a man of no slight cleverness begging in such abject terms. The fact is, that all the uneducated poets whom Mr. Southey has noticed were, in a more or less degree, literary mendicants. They obtained from private charity that assistance which the public would not grant. Their productions were not of sufficient value to obtain remuneration on the score of intrinsic merit; and their rewards were wrung either from the pity of their benefactors, or from their wondering curiosity at the occurrence of so rare a monster as an uneducated poet. None of ihem really enjoyed the blessings of independence—the proud and happy feeling that their own erertions were sufficient for their support. Mr. Southey seems to contemplate this state of dependence with peculiar complacency. We are not very sure that he does not consider the spirit of the present age loo independent, and that it might be improved by a gentle encouragement of that spirit of humble servility, which once prompted poor authors to ply rich patrons with begging dedications, and to look up with trembling hope for the casual bounty of those who possessed in abundance the good things of this life. The best and happiest times, it would seem, were those in which the poor begged for sustenance at the doors of a convent. Those which we call erroneously“ the dark ages,” were, it seems, the best times for the advancement of humble talent. Then a clever boy like Stephen Duck “would have been noticed by the monks of the nearest monasterywould then have made his way to Oxford, or perhaps to Paris, as a begging scholar—have risen to be a bishop or mitred abbot-have done honour to his station, and have left behind him good works and a good name.” Those were golden days! But then came a period which we benighted Protestants still call that of the Reformation, and Duck, who lived long after it, fell on harder times—but still not utterly cruel-for there were yet patrons in the land, and Duck sound a royal one; and “ the patronage which he obtained,” says Mr. Southey, "is far more honourable to the spirit of his age, than the lemper which may censure or ridicule it can be to ours.' Whatever it may please Mr. Southey lo consider the temper of our age, we, albeit reckoned among the infected, are not disposed to censure or ridicule the benevolent feelings which may prompt any one to become the patron of humble merit, but we do censure that maudlin spirit of shortsighted humanity, that fritters its beneficence in temporary and misplaced relief, and would thoughtlessly aggravate misfortune for the sake of indulging sensibility in its subsequent removal. It is the best charity to prevent the necessity of charitable assistance. Doubtless there is in the charitable alleviation of distress much that is gratifying to the heart of the benefaclor, and much the contemplation of which is delightful to an amiable mind. But shall we therefore encourage mendicancy, that the world may lecm