Imágenes de páginas

This is a good style of its kind; and the fol lowing passage from Cecilia is also in good style, though not in a faultless one. We say with confidence-Either Sam Johnson or the Devil.

spise him. Miss Branghton, the eldest daugh- nevertheless, seems so essential a part of the ter, is by no means ugly: but looks proud, ill-female character, that I find myself more awk. tempered, and conceited. She hates the city, ward and less at ease with a woman who wants though without knowing why; for it is easy to it than I do with a man." discover she has lived no where else. Miss Polly Branghton is rather pretty, very foolish, very giddy, and, I believe, very good-natured." This is not a fine style, but simple, perspicuous, and agreeable. We now come to Cecilia, written during Miss Burney's intimacy with Johnson; and we leave it to our readers to judge whether the following passage was not at least corrected by his hand:

"It is rather an imaginary than an actual evil, and, though a deep wound to pride, no offence to morality. Thus have I laid open to you my whole heart, confessed my perplexities, acknowledged my vain-glory, and exposed with equal sincerity the sources of my doubts and the motives of my decision. But now, indeed, how to proceed I know not. The difficulties which are yet to encounter I fear to enumerate, and the petition I have to urge I have scarce courage to mention. My family, mistaking ambition for honour, and rank for dignity, have long planned a splendid connection for me, to which, though my invariable repugnance has stopped any advances, their wishes and their views immovably adhere. But I am too certain they will now listen to no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial where I despair of success. I know not how to risk a prayer with those who may silence me by a command."

Take now a specimen of Madame D'Arblay's later style. This is the way in which she tells us that her father, on his journey back from the continent, caught the rheumatism:

"Even the imperious Mr. Delvile was more supportable here than in London. Secure in his own castle, he looked round him with a pride of power and possession which softened while it swelled him. His superiority was undisputed; his will was without control. He was not, as in the great capital of the king. dom, surrounded by competitors. No rival disturbed his peace; no equality mortified his greatness. All he saw were either vassals of his power, or guests bending to his pleasure. He abated, therefore, considerably the stern gloom of his haughtiness, and soothed his proud mind by the courtesy of condescension.” We will stake our reputation for critical sagacity on this, that no such paragraph as that which we have last quoted, can be found in any of Madame D'Arblay's works except Cecilia. Compare with it the following sample of her later style:

"If beneficence be judged by the happiness which it diffuses, whose claim, by that proof, shall stand higher than that of Mrs. Montagu, from the munificence with which she cele brated her annual festival for those hapless artificers who perform the most abject offices of any anthorized calling, in being the active guardians of our blazing hearths? Not to vain-glory, then, but to kindness of heart, should be adjudged the publicity of that superb charity which made its jetty objects, for one bright morning, cease to consider themselves as degraded outcasts from all society."

We add one or two shorter samples. Sheri dan refused to permit his lovely wife to sing in public, and was warmly praised on this ac count by Johnson.

"He was assaulted, during his precipitated return, by the rudest fierceness of wintry elemental strife; through which, with bad accommodations and innumerable accidents, he became a prey to the merciless pangs of the acutest spasmodic rheumatism, which barely suffered him to reach his home, ere, long and piteously, it confined him, a tortured prisoner, to his bed. Such was the check that almost "The last of men," says Madame D'Arblay, instantly curbed, though it could not subdue,"was Doctor Johnson to have abetted squan the rising pleasure of his hopes of entering dering the delicacy of integrity by nullifying upon a new species of existence-that of an the labours of talents." approved man of letters; for it was on the bed of sickness, exchanging the light wines of France, Italy, and Germany, for the black and loathsome potions of the Apothecaries' Hall, writhed by darting stitches, and burning with fiery tever, that he felt the full force of that sublunary equipoise that seems evermore to hang suspended over the attainment of long sought and uncommon felicity, just as it is ripening to burst forth with enjoyment!"

Here is a second passage from Evelina: "Mrs. Selwyn is very kind and attentive to me. She is extremely clever. Her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine; but unfortunately her manners deserve the same epithet. For, in studying to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the soft ness of her own. In regard to myself, however, as I have neither courage nor inclination to argue with her, I have never been personally aurt at her want of gentleness-a virtue which,

The club, Johnson's club, did itself no honour by rejecting on political grounds two distin guished men, the one a tory, the other a whig Madame D'Arblay tells the story thus: "A similar ebullition of political rancour with that which so difficultly had been conquered for Mr. Canning, foamed over the ballot-box to the ex clusion of Mr. Rogers."

An offence punishable with imprisonment is, in this language, an offence "which produces incarceration." To be starved to death is, "to sink from inanition into nonentity." Sir Isaac Newton is, "the developer of the skies in their embodied movements;" and Mrs. Thrale, when a party of clever people sat silent, is said to have been "provoked by the dulness of a taciturnity that, in the midst of such renowned interlocutors, produced as nar cotic a torpor as could have been caused by a dearth the most barren of all human faculties." In truth, it is impossible to look in any page

of Madame D'Arblay's later works, without wild satirical harlequinade; but, if we con finding flowers of rhetoric like these. Nothing sider it as a picture of life and manners, we in the language of those jargonists at whom must pronounce it more absurd than any of the Mr. Gosport laughed, nothing in the language romances which it was designed to ridicule. of Sir Sedley Clarendel, approaches this new euphuism.

Indeed, most of the popular novels which preceded Evelina were such as no lady would have written; and many of them were such as no lady could without confusion vn that she had read. The very name of novel was held in horror among religious people. In decent families which did not profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong feeling against all such works. Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three years before Evelina appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of sober fathers and husbands, when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge. This feeling, on the part of the grave and reflecting, increased the evil from which it had sprung. The novelist, having little character to lose, and having few readers among serious people, took without scruple liberties which in our generation seem almost incredible.

It is from no unfriendly feeling to Madame D'Arblay's memory that we have expressed ourselves so strongly on the subject of her style. On the contrary, we conceive that we have really rendered a service to her reputation. That her later works were complete failures is a fact too notorious to be dissembled; and some persons, we believe, have consequently taken up a notion that she was from the first an overrated writer, and that she had not the powers which were necessary to maintain her on the eminence on which good-luck and fashion had placed her. We believe, on the contrary, that her early popularity was no more than the just reward of distinguished merit, and would never have undergone an eclipse, if she had only been content to go on writing in her mother-tongue. If she failed when she quitted her own province, and at- Miss Burney did for the English novel what tempted to occupy one in which she had nei- Jeremy Collier did for the English drama; and ther part nor lot, this reproach is common to she did it in a better way. She first showed her with a crowd of distinguished men. New-that a tale might be written in which both the ton failed when he turned from the courses of the stars, and the ebb and flow of the ocean, to apocalyptic seals and vials. Bentley failed when he turned from Homer and Aristophanes to edit Paradise Lost. Inigo failed when he attempted to rival the Gothic churches of the fourteenth century. Wilkie failed when he took into his head that the Blind Fiddler and the Rent-Day were unworthy of his powers, and challenged competition with Lawrence as a portrait painter. Such failures should be noted for the instruction of posterity; but they detract little from the permanent reputation of those who have really done great things.

fashionable and the vulgar life of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic humour, and which yet should not contain a single line inconsistent with rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. Sho took away the reproach which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her track. At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is more honourably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the suc

Yet one word more. It is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of Madame D'Arblay's early works that she is entitled to hon-cessors of Madame D'Arblay have equalled ourable mention. Her appearance is an important epoch in our literary history. Evelina was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a picture of life and manners, that lived or deserved to live. The Female Quixote is no exception. That work has undoubtedly great merit when considered as a

her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the fact that she has been surpassed gives her an additional claim to our respect and gratis tude; for in truth we owe to her, not only Eve lina, Cecilia, and Camilla, but also Mansfield Park and the Absentee.

VOL. V-78

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SOME reviewers are of opinion that a lady who dares to publish a book renounces by that act the franchises appertaining to her sex, and can claim no exemption from the utmost rigour of critical procedure. From that opinion we dissent. We admit, indeed, that in a country which boasts of many female writers, eminently qualified by their talents and acquirements to influence the public mind, it would be of most pernicious consequence that inaccurate history or unsound philosophy should be suffered to pass uncensured, merely because the offender chanced to be a lady. But we conceive that, on such occasions, a critic would do well to imitate that courteous knight who found himself compelled by duty to keep the lists against Bradamante. He, we are told, defended successfully the cause of which he was the champion; but, before the fight began, exchanged Balisarda for a less deadly sword, of which he carefully blunted the point and edge.†

Nor are the immunities of sex the only immunities which Miss Aikin may rightfully plead. Several of her works, and especially the very pleasing Memoirs of the Reign of James the First, have fully entitled her to the privileges enjoyed by good writers. One of those privileges we hold to be this, that such writers, when, either from the unlucky choice of a subject, or from the indolence too often produced by success, they happen to fail, shall not be subjected to the severe discipline which it is sometimes necessary to inflict upon dunces and impostors; but shall merely be reminded by a gentle touch, like that with which the Laputan flapper roused his dreaming lord, that it is high time to wake.

Our readers will probably infer from what we have said that Miss Aikin's book has disappointed us. The truth is, that she is not weli acquainted with her subject. No person who s not familiar with the political and literary history of England during the reigns of William II., of Anne, and of George I., can possibly write a good life of Addison. Now, we mean no reproach to Miss Aikin, and many will think that we pay her a compliment, when we say that her studies have taken a different direction. She is better acquainted with Shakspeare and Raleigh, than with Congreve and Prior; and is far more at home among the ruffs and peaked beards of Theobald's than among the Steenkirks and flowing periwigs which surrounded Queen Anne's tea-table at Hampton. She seems to have written about the Elizabethan age, because she had read much about it; she seems, on the other hand, to have read a little about the age of Addison, because she had determined to write about it. The consequence

The Life of Joseph Addison. By LUCY AIKIN. 2 vols. Svo. London. 1843.

+ Orlando Furioso, xlv. 68,

is, that she has had to describe men and things without having either a correct or a vivid idea of them, and that she has often fallen into er rors of a very serious kind. Some of these errors we may, perhaps, take occasion to point out. But we have not time to point out one half of those which we have observed; and it is but too likely that we may not have observed all those which exist. The reputation which Miss Aikin has justly earned stands so high, and the charm of Addison's letters is so great, that a second edition of this work may probably be required. If so, we hope that every paragraph will be revised, and that every date and statement of fact about which there can be the smallest doubt will be carefully verified.

To Addison himself we are bound by a sen timent as much like affection as any sentiment can be which is inspired by one who has been sleeping a hundred and twenty years in Westminster Abbey. We trust, however, that this feeling will not betray us into that abject idolatry which we have often had occasion to reprehend in others, and which seldom fails to make both the idolater and the idol ridiculous. A man of genius and virtue is but a man. All his powers cannot be equally developed; nor can we expect from him perfect self-knowledge. We need not, therefore, hesitate to admit that Addison has left us some compositions which do not rise above mediocrity, some heroic poems hardly equal to Parnell's, some criticism as superficial as Dr. Blair's, and a tragedy not very much better than Dr. Johnson's. It is praise enough to say of a writer, that, in a high department of literature, in which many em nent writers have distinguished themselves, he has had no equal; and this may with strict justice be said of Addison.

As a man he may not have deserved the adoration which he received from those, who, be witched by his fascinating society, and indebted for all the comforts of life to his generous and delicate friendship, worshipped him nightly in his favourite temple at Button's. But, after fall inquiry and impartial reflection, we have long been convinced, that he deserved as much love and esteem as can be justly claimed by any of our infirm and erring race. Some blemishes may undoubtedly be detected in his character; but the more carefully it is examined, the more will it ap pear, to use the phrase of the old anatomists, sound in the noble parts-free from all taint of perfidy, of cowardice, of cruelty, of ingratitude, of envy. Men may easily be named in whom some par ticular good disposition has been more conspicuous than in Addison. But the just harmony of qualities, the exact temper between the stern and the humane virtues, the habitual ob servance of every law, not only of moral rectitude, but of moral grace and dignity, distin


guish him from all men who have been tried by | College, Oxford; but he had not been many equally full information. months there, when some of his Latin verses fell by accident into the hands of Dr. Lancas ter, dean of Magdalene College. The young scholar's diction and versification were already such as veteran professors might envy. Dr Lancaster was desirous to serve a boy of such promise; nor was an opportunity long wanting. The Revolution had just taken place; and nowhere had it been hailed with more delight than at Magdalene College. That great and opulent corporation had been treated by James, and by his chancellor, with an insolence and injustice which, even in such a prince and in such a minister, may justly excite amazement; and which had done more than even the prosecution of the bishops to alienate the Church of England from the throne. A president, duly elected, had been violently expelled from his dwelling. A papist had been set over the society by a royal mandate: the Fellows, who, in conformity with their oaths, refused to submit to this usurper, had been driven forth from their quiet cloisters and gardens, to die of want or to live on charity. But the day of redress and retribution speedily came. The intruders were ejected; the venerable house was again inhabited by its old inmates: learning flourished under the rule of the wise and virtuous Hough; and with learning was united a mild and liberal spirit, too often wanting in the princely colleges of Oxford. In conse

His father was the Reverend Lancelot Addison, who, though eclipsed by his more celebrated son, made some figure in the world, and occupies with credit two folio pages in the "Biographia Britannica." Lancelot was sent up, as a poor scholar, from Westmoreland to Queen's College, Oxford, in the time of the Commonwealth; made some progress in learning; became, like most of his fellow-students, a violent royalist; lampooned the heads of the university, and was forced to ask pardon on his bended knees. When he had left college, he earned an humble subsistence by reading the liturgy of the fallen church to the families of those sturdy squires whose manor-houses were scattered over the Wild of Sussex. After the restoration, his royalty was rewarded with the post of chaplain to the garrison of Dunkirk. When Dunkirk was sold to France, he lost his employment. But Tangier had been ceded by Portugal to England as part of the marriage portion of the Infanta Catharine; and to Tangier Lancelot Addison was sent. A more miserable situation can hardly be conceived. It was difficult to say whether the unfortunate settlers were more tormented by the heats or by the rains; by the soldiers within the wall or the Moors without it. One advantage the chaplain had. He enjoyed an excellent opportunity of studying the history and manners of the Jews and Mohammedans; and of this opportunity he ap-quence of the troubles through which the sopears to have made excellent use. On his return to England, after some years of banishment, he published an interesting volume on the polity and religion of Barbary; and another on the Hebrew customs, and the state of rabbinical learning. He rose to eminence in his profession, and became one of the royal chaplains, a doctor of divinity, archdeacon of Salisbury and dean of Litchfield. It is said that he would have been made a bishop after the Revolution, if he had not given offence to the government by strenuously opposing the convocation of 1689, the liberal policy of William and Tillotson. In 1672, not long after Dr. Addison's return from Tangier, his son Joseph was born. Of Joseph's childhood we know little. He learned his rudiments at schools in his father's neighbourhood, and was then sent to the Charter House. The anecdotes which are popularly related about his boyish tricks do not harmonize very well with what we know of his riper years. There remains a tradition that he was the ringleader in a barring-out; and another tradition that he ran away from school, and hid himself in a wood, where he fed on berries and slept in a hollow tree, till after a long search he was discovered and brought home. If these stories be true, it would be curious to know It is proper, however, to remark, that Miss by what moral discipline so mutinous and en- Aikin has committed the error, very pardonterprising a lad was transformed into the gen-able in a lady, of overrating Addison's classi tlest and most modest of men.

ciety had passed, there had been no election of new members during the year 1688. In 1689, therefore, there was twice the ordinary number of vacancies; and thus Dr. Lancaster found it easy to procure for his young friend admittance to the advantages of a foundation then generally esteemed the wealthiest in Europe.

At Magdalene, Addison resided during ten years. He was, at first, one of those scholars who are called demies; but was subsequently elected a fellow. His college is still proud of his name; his portrait still hangs in the hall; and strangers are still told that his favourite walk was under the elms which fringe the meadow on the banks of the Cherwell. It is said, and is highly probable, that he was distinguished among his fellow-students by the delicacy of his feelings, by the shyness of his manners, and by the assiduity with which he often prolonged his studies far into the night. It is certain that his reputation for ability and learning stood high. Many years later the ancient doctors of Magdalene continued to talk in their common room of boyish com positions, and expressed their sorrow that no copy of exercises so remarkable had been preserved.

cal attainments. In one department of learnWe have abundant proof that, whatever Jo-ing, indeed, his proficiency was such as it is seph's pranks may have been, he pursued his studies vigorously and successfully. At fifteen he was not only fit for the university, but carried thither a classical taste, and a stock of learning which would have done honour to a master of arts. He was entered at Queen's

hardly possible to overrate. His knowledge of the Latin poets, from Lucretius and Catullus down to Claudian and Prudentius, was singularly exact and profound. He understood them thoroughly, entered into their spirit, and had the finest and most discriminating percep

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All the best ancient works of art at Rome and Florence are Greek. Addison saw them, however, without recalling one single verse of Pindar, of Callimachus, or of the Attic dramatists; but they brought to his recollec tion innumerable passages in Horace, Juvenal, Statius, and Ovid."

tion of all their peculiarities of style and melody; nay, he copied their manner with admirable skill, and surpassed, we think, all their British imitators who had preceded him, Buchanan and Milton alone excepted. This is high praise; and beyond this we cannot with justice go. It is clear that Addison's serious attention, during his residence at the univer- The same may be said of the "Treatise on sity, was almost entirely concentrated on Latin | Medals." In that pleasing work we find about poetry; and that, if he did not wholly neglect three hundred passages extracted with great other provinces of ancient literature, he vouch- judgment from the Roman poets; but we do safed to them only a cursory glance. He does not recollect a single passage taken from any not appear to have attained more than an or- Roman orator or historian; and we are confidinary acquaintance with the political and dent that not a line is quoted from any Greek moral writers of Rome; nor was his own writer. No person who had derived all his Latin prose by any means equal to his Latin information on the subject of medals from Adverse. His knowledge of Greek, though doubt-dison, would suspect that the Greek coins were Jess such as was, in his time, thought respect-in historical interest equal, and in beauty of able at Oxford, was evidently less than that execution far superior to those of Rome. which many lads now carry away every year from Eton and Rugby. A minute examination of his work, if we had time to make such an examination, would fully bear out these remarks. We will briefly advert to a few of the facts on which our judgment is grounded.

Great praise is due to the notes which Addison appended to his version of the second and third books of the Metamorphoses. Yet these notes, while they show him to have been, in his own domain, an accomplished scholar, show also how confined that domain was. They are rich in apposite references to Virgil, Statius, and Claudian; but they contain not a single illustration drawn from the Greek poets. Now if, in the whole compass of Latin literature, there be a passage which stands in need of illustration drawn from the Greek poets, it is the story of Pentheus in the third book of the Metamorphoses. Ovid was indebted for that story to Euripides and Theocritus, both of whom he has sometimes followed minutely. But neither to Euripides nor to Theocritus does Addison make the faintest allusion; and we, therefore, believe that we do not wrong him by supposing that he had little or no knowledge of their works.

His travels in Italy, again, bound with classical quotations, happily introduced; but his quotations, with scarcely a single exception, are taken from Latin verse. He draws more illustrations from Ausonius and Manilius than from Cicero. Even his notions of the political and military affairs of the Romans seem to be derived from poets and poetasters. Spots made memorable by events which have changed the destinies of the world, and have been worthily recorded by great historians, bring to his mind only scraps of some ancient Pye or Hayley. In the gorge of the Appennines he naturally remembers the hardships which Hannibal's army endured, and proceeds to cite, not the authentic narrative of Polybius, not the picturesque narrative of Livy, but the languid hexameters of Silius Italicus. On the banks of the Rubicon he never thinks of Plutarch's iively description; or of the stern conciseness of the commentaries; or of those letters to Atticus which so forcibly express the alternations of hope and fear in a sensitive mind at a great crisis. His only authority for the events f the civil war is Lucan.

If it were necessary to find any further proof that Addison's classical knowledge was confined within narrow limits, that proof would be furnished by his "Essay on the Evidences of Christianity." The Roman poets throw little or no light on the literary and historical ques. tions which he is under the necessity of examining in that essay. He is, therefore, left completely in the dark; and it is melancholy to see how helplessly he gropes his way from blunder to blunder. He assigns as grounds for his religious belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cock-lane ghost, and forgeries as rank as Ireland's "Vortigern;" puts faith in the lie about the thundering legion; is convinced that Tiberius moved the senate to admit Jesus among the gods; and pronounces the letter of Agbarus, king of Edessa, to be a record of great authority. Nor were these errors the effects of superstition; for to superstition Addison was by no means prone. The truth is, that he was writing about what he did not understand.

Miss Aikin has discovered a letter from which it appears that, while Addison resided at Oxford, he was one of several writers whom the booksellers engaged to make an English version of Herodotus; and she infers that he must have been a good Greek scholar. We can allow very little weight to this argument, when we consider that his fellow-labourers were to have been Boyle and Blackmore. Boyle is remembered chiefly as the nominal author of the worst book on Greek history and' philology that ever was printed; and this book, bad as it is, Boyle was unable to produce without help. Of Blackmore's attainments in the ancient tongues, it may be sufficient to say that, in his prose, he has confounded an aphorism with an apophthegm, and that when, in his verse, he treats of classical subjects, his habit is to regale his readers with four false quantities to a page!

It is probable that the classical acquirements of Addison were of as much service to him as if they had been more extensive. The world generally gives its admiration, not to the man who does what nobody else even attempts to do, but to the man who does best what multitudes do well. Bentley was so immeasurably superior to all the other scholars of his time that very few among them could discover his

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