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which he formed, are still less like indeed reduced to an art, in order the genuine poetry of England. to acquire a mastery in which it There is in all the poetry of Pope a was necessary to study a particular great deal of good sense, an ac- phraseology, abundantly scaliered quaintance, by no means superficial, in all the writers of what, by courwith the manners of mankind, and tesy, was denominated poetry. If those slighter and surface passions our observations regarding the es(if one nay use the word) of the sential difference between the Brihuman heart, which break out in tish national character, and the chamanners and temper and petty ac- racter of other nations, be correct tions, but never give birih to any and just; and if we were also just in grand and overwhelming events, or what we have laid down regarding lay bare the anatomy of the heart; the resemblance of our sterling Brithere is also a considerable share of tish poets to that character, we need wit and understanding, great terse- not prove, that the substitution of a ness and polish of language. But peculiar language, however brilliant, these are
not the distinguishing metaphysical, or remote from the qualities of the poetry of Sbake- language of prose and common life, speare or Milton ; these are quali- in the stead of the essence of poetry, ties which foreign poeis possess as it shone forth in Shakespeare and nearly in an equal degree with Pope; Milton, must have must materially consequently they are not qualities contributed to strip British poetry of that mark him out and set him apartits peculiar character, and to have as an English poet, possessing the stamped it with a resemblance to grandest and most peculiar features the poetry of other nations much of the nation to which he belonged. less richly gifted.
Pope also introduced another From this brief and rapid sketch change into our national poetry, of our Literature (so far as it apwhich still farther removed it from peared in those writers, who, treaiits genuine national character, and ing of human manners, habits, and rendered a return to that character passions, wrote for the great mass of extremely difficult; we allude to mankind) it will be seen, that though his having been the first poet, it improved with respect to tasie, or, at least, the first poet of great correct judgment, and elegance, it influence, who regularly made fell off with respect to vigour, comuse of what may be termed po- prehension, and boldness of views, etical terms and phrases, in lieu as well as with respect to the living of those terms and phrases which, delineation of human passions. whether portical or not, gave the We have purposely left for sepapoetical idea or feeling in all its rate consideration that portion of warmth and vigour. From the time our literature which was occupied of Pope till very lately poetry bas with subjects suited only to particugenerally been considered to consist Jar classes of readers. We allude to in, or, at least to be incapable of the state of political science, of poexisting, without a peculiar Jan. litical economy, and of science guage; and even if that language strictly so called. Our observations clothed ideas remote from genuine on these, however, must be very poetry, he who employed it was brief and general. Political science, deemed a poet. Hence poetry was or that science which treats of the
origin, nature, duties, and rights of times, indeed, especially the esta- y government, could hardly be ex- blishment of the Bank of England, pected to assume a regular and no- the state of the coin-the estaticed existence till the wars between blishment of the funding system, Charles and bis Parliament called it and the South-Sea scheme-gave into life. Even here, however, we rise to many ingenious and some meet with much less regarding the profound treatises different principles of government than might branches of political economy. But be expected: the political writers of in none of these treatises can we that period are almost exclusively trace even the outline of general occupied with discussing the points principles. Towards the close of in dispute between the sovereign the period of which we are treating, and his parliament; and though those Hume published his Essays: in who advocated the cause of the latter, some of these there is displayed a almost necessarily referred to liberal surprising degree of acuteness and principles of government in support comprehension on particular topics of their positions, they by no means of political economy; while, in seem to have known or recognized others, there are predictions which those principles in all their bearings have been so completely falsified as or purity. The fact is, indeed, that to prove, that his mind did not em. many of the most zealous opposers brace political economy as a science, of Charles were not in the least in- nor take in all the elements of clined to extend to the great mass of which it is composed. the people those political rights and In science, strictly so called, Engprivileges which they claimed for land shone most while Newton themselves, and in defence of which lived; before his time, and since it, they put to risk not only their own this country has not been particularly lives and fortunes, but the peace distinguished for the higher departand prosperity of the nation at large. ments of pure science. In a sucIt was not till the period of the ceeding Chapter we shall bave occaRevolution that the great mass of sion to prove that the mere mathethe people were represented by matical sciences are not so congenial writers on government, and especi- to the developement and growth of ally by Locke, as being parties in intellect, or to the intellectual chathe reciprocal rights of sovereigns racter of the British nation, as those and subjects. This author swept sciences which depend more on exaway the doctrine of the divine periments, and on deductions from right of kings, and of non-resist- ihose experiments; at present we ance and passive obedience, and shall merely remark, that while all substituted the doctrine of a con- would agree that Shakspeare, Bacon, tract between the sovereign and the and Milion, in the character of their people-a doctrine which seems to intellect, as displayed in their wrihave maintained its ground till the tings, were purely British, no one, period of the American Revolu- however jusily proud of Newton, tion.
could point him out as characteristiPolitical economy was still less a cally British in his genius. science, during the period of which With regard to the changes in we are treating, tban politics; the the intelleciual babits and pursuits particular circumstances of the of the people during the period of
which we have been treating, it is lity, as well as the indifference, of difficult to find evidence by which the great mass of the people to pub. it could be ascertained. There are, lic affairs, was most striking. Very however, some circumstances which few of them comparatively could seem to prove, that a habit for read- read; and it is probable their reading was created during the Reforma. ing was confined to Fox's Book of tion, and that it grew, but very Martyrs, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Proslowly and by no means extensively, gress, Robinson Crusoe, and works during the seventeenth century, and of a similar description. Even those
а the first half of the eighteenth cen- in the middling ranks of life possesstury. The great change in this re- ed few intellectual habits or purspect has undoubtedly taken place suits, and these underwent no masince the accession of his present terial change, certainly, till within Majesty : prior to that period, the the latter half of the eighteenth ignorance, superstition, and imbeci- century.
State and Character of Literature in Great Britain, from the Accession of
George III. to the beginning of the French Revolution.
S the object of this part of our the rate of travelling extremely
work is merely to give a slow and precarious ; consequently slight and general sketch, neither the communication among the difthe nature of that object, nor our ferent parts of the kingdom was not limits, will permit us to dwell at nearly so frequent, easy, and geneany length on the topics which ral, as it is at present. that object embraces : we must bare- Another circumstance which disly touch upon the most prominent tinguished those times from the parts connected with literature and present, was, the paucity of newsscience; or rather, by drawing their papers, and other publications incharacter in a few words, depend tended for general perusal and inupon our readers seeking out evi- formation. We particularize these dence of the justice of that charac- two points of difference, because ter in other works.
they are not remotely or slightly It is extremely difficult to ascer- connected with the immediate and tain the real state of any nation, at proper topic of this Chapter. It is any particular period, even though often asserted, that literature and not very remote; we mean its state science were at a higher pitch at with respect to the portion of intel- some past period than they are at ligence and information to which it the present time: but though tho had attained at that period, the talents and information of literary comforts which it enjoyed, and the and scientific men may bave been various advantages which it pos- superior at that period, it may well sessed. We who live in the present be doubted, whether literary aud times (with the exception of those scientific knowledge was at any prewho are near the usual limits of hu- vious time so widely or speedily man life-threescore years and ten) diffused as it is at present, and incan form only a very imperfect idea deed has been during the greatest of what was the state of this king- part of the reign of George III. dom and its inhabitants at the ac- The early part of the present cession of the present Sovereign. reign was illuminated by several We know, generally, that with re- men of superior talents and informaspect to improvements of all kinds, tion; but few of them, in any line England was then in a very rude of literature, were distinguished for state; there were comparatively few that particular description of intelturnpike roads, the modes of travel. lect, to which we have given the ling were very uncomfortable, and name of British, and of which 1817
Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton, intercourses of life, it would most are such shining specimens: we do probably appear, that Johnson (exnot mean to say that few of the li- cept so far as regarded liis style) terary men, who fourished in the
was a fair and striking specimen of early part of the reign of George British intellect. Of those features Ill. were equal in genius to Shake. in our national character, to wbich speare, Bacon, and Milton ; for that we have just alluded, he undoubtwould be laying down a position, edly is ; but be certainly is not which none would be disposed to British in bis taste and judgment; dispute, or call in question; but we and his style is far remored from mean that the character of intellect the native vigour, compactness, and was not then decidedly British. precision of ihat style, of which the Indeed, a variety of circumstances English language is capable. It are always in operation, which tend would be doing great injustice, to assimilate the literary character bowever, to Johnson, not to admit, of any particular nation, to the ge- that so far as he was British in bis neral literary character of the age, intellect and tone of thought, he though there always must remain was so in a very high degree. In some strong and peculiar marks by fact, his reflections on human life, which it may be distinguished. on the circumstances which form
In several of the great literary and indicate human character, bis men of the period to which we al- penetration into the recesses of the Jude, there were, however, indivi- human heart,-bis talent in stripdual circumstances which removed ping actions bare of their assumed their intellectual character, and the disguise,-his exposure of vice, and character of their tone of thought his powerful recommendations of and'style, farther from the nationalli- virtue,-most distinctly and uneterary character, than the generalcir- quivocally distinguish him from the cumstances to which we have alluded morality of every other nation, parcould, of themselves, have done. ticularly the French. Of this we
The truth of this remark will shall be sensible, if we compare bis appear, if we consider some of writings with those of the most the most eminent of those men distinguished French moralists; in - Johnson, Hume, Gibbon, Ro- them we shall in vain look for such bertson, and Burke. The intel- deep penetration into the human lectual character, as well as the character, and the motives of man; tone of thought in Johnson, in- they are, indeed, expert in dissectdeed, is undoubtedly British, ex- ing the lighter parts of the human cept so far as regards his taste and character,—the superficies, as it judgment in Poetry. To such foc were, of the human heart,—but reigners as were ignorant of our they do not pierce into those parts great and unparalleled poets,-of of it which are essential to the forShakespeare and of Milton, ---but mation and circulation of that blood who well knew the cold tempera- on which the moral health and ment of the British nation, its re- vigour of man depend. So far flecting disposition, its habits of Johnson is a favourable specimen of reasoning, on almost every topic, that species of intellectual character and the little animation or fancy which we bare called British; the which are displayed in the common progress and state of which, at va