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rious periods of our bistory, it is more far removed from the reading or particularly our object to trace and train of thought commonly pursued, point out. But in so far as regards or, on the other band, such as Pretaste and judgment in poetry orstyle, judice has long seized upon as her Johnson has no claims to rank high owo: yet how uncommonly simple in the scale of British literature. and perspicuous are his statements
Hume is still less entitled to this of the subject on which he means distinction, however great his merits to treat ; how willingly and imperundoubtedly are: of this we shall be ceptibly does the mind of the reader convinced, if we examine into the follow, and even acquiesce in his nature and fonndation of those me- train of reasoning ; nor is it till Rerits. They consist, in the first place, flection lends her assistance, that in an uncommon facility of exhibit- the error and mischief of many of ing such characters of the celebrated his opinions are detected. In his men who fall under his notice, as most sophistical and sceptical essays, immediately strike the reader, not he does not entangle the mind; he merely as being consistent in all does not aim at his object by obtheir parts, but as endowed with scuring and perplexing his docanimation and expression in every trines; all is clear, straight forward, feature, even in those cases in which and simple. But it is in those Eshe is disposed to question their jus- says which relate to political econotice. The same powers of mind, my (to wbich we very briefly adwhich enabled him to draw such verted at the close of the last Chapcharacters, are displayed in many of ter) that Hume, in our opinion, what may be called the descriptive ought to be indebted for his highest parts of his history : he places intellectual praise ; the peculiar us in the midst of the action or scene powers of his mind-powers which, which he is describing; we forget perhaps, may justly be defned to that we are far removed from it, in consist not so much in very deep respect both to time and place; the penetration, or very extensive comobjects around us may strike our prehension, as in clearing away eyes, but they no longer convey any every obstruction and impediment impression to the mind, so com- as far as he did penetrate, and seepletely is it occupied with the magic ing every thing clear and in its due scene which the historian has cre- proportion, within the range of his ated. Nor is it merely the circum- intellectual vision, -were well cal. stances of the action which interest culated to discussion in political us; Hume has higher powers; he, economy: in many cases, creates such an in- Such, in our opinion, are the disterest for the persons of bis history, tinguishing features of Hume's inthat even in despite of prejudiced or tellectual character ; but if our picsound objections to their character, ture and estimate of him be correct we seem, not only to live and act, and just, they do not strongly rebut also to sympathize with them. semble those features which we have
Home's intellectual powers are dis- described as the peculiar features of played in his Essays, though of a the intellectual character of the different kind from those which his British nation; and the tone of his History unfolds. The subjects of mind was certainly not British. It Rearly all of them are intricate may even be doubted, whether bis
judgment on literary subjects was of events of great moment,--that it very sound; at least, his estimation is in a great measure filled with the of ihe talents of Bacon and Shake- petty squabbles of obscure nations, speare would seem to warrant such that there are very few men of a doubt. His style, though uncom- high fame actors in it; and that, monly pleasing, from its flow and besides all these disadvantages, the elegance, is decidedly not genuine historian was obliged to become his English, neither in its phrases, nor own pioneer, and clear away, at its structure; and yet it possesses every step, immense piles of subqualities that the French style, from bish,—that the materials were to be wbich it is borrowed, is destitute of : sought for in an infinite number of perhaps it may be characterized as authors, who, besides being uncomthe style of a writer, who unconsci. monly dull and uninteresting, proously expressed French modes of bably, after much labour and time, thought in the English language. supplied only a shortor vague notio
Gibbon is a name that will al- which must be amplified, or illusways rank high in the annals of trated and confirmed by the perusal English literature; yet it would be of other works equally heavy and difficult to point out one feature in tiresoine, we shall be able to form his intelleciual character, which, if someestimate of the merit of Gibbon, he had not written in the English in producing bis History of the Delanguage, would bave discriminated cline and Fall of the Roman Empire. him as an English author. If Shake- ; In some respects, Robertson apspeare, Bacon, Milton, Dryden, , proaches nearest of all the celePope, Addison, Johnson, or even brated authors of this period, to the Hume, were to pass through a dou- character which we have drawn, ble translation, each doing injustice as that of a truly British writer. to their thoughts, --still any one There is, indeed, occasionally an apconversant with British literature, proach to feebleness in his thoughts, or we may assert, even with the in- and to diffuseness in his style, which tellectual character of the British takes away from the resemblance; nation, would pronounce that they but, on the other hand, there are were British authors. In all of qualities in him which, if we are them there is a sterlingness of not much mistaken, will io vain be thought (if the expression may be sought for in any author not Bripermitted) which marks the country tish. The wide range of reflection, to which they belong :--but we be into which his mind frequently exlieve it would puzzle the most acute pands, the vigour and boldness and experienced judge of the litera- which he stamps on his delineations ture of all European nations, to fix of character, as well as the peneiraupon the particular nation to which tion into human motives which he Gibbon belonged, if he read his His. often displays, united with the oritory in a language he was informed ginal practical principles both of was not that in which it was written. common and political life, that are
We are by no means unwilling to amply scattered, but by no means give Gibbon bis due praise as an obtrusively or awkwardly, through historian. When we reflect on the his writings, must have proceeded portion of history which forms the from that frame and constitution subject of his volumesmrthat it is bare of mind which are peculiarly the
growth of the circumstances in and feelings too powerful and abwhich a native of Britain is placed. sorbing, to admit of the exercise, or
Of Burke it is difficult to speak even the existence of the more sober in terms that will convey a just and faculties of the mind. clear idea of his talents and literary From the writings of Burke may character. Indeed as a native of be selected passages which, if taken Ireland, he was most broadly and by themselves, would mark him out palpably distinguished from all the as niost decidedly and characteristiauthors respecting whom we have cally a British author ; in these already treated : for Ireland, more passages are embodied the most oriperhaps than any other country, ginal and instructive maxims, apgives birth to men, distinguished, plicable either to the purposes and if we may use the expression, for conduct of common life,--10 situaidiosyncrasy ; a ready wit, wonder- tions of extreme difficulty and delia ful and striking combinations of cacy, or to the management, duties, ideas; an imagination sometimes and interests of States. When Burke rich, sometimes powerful, and some- gave loose to his imagination and times both; an eloquence untaught, feelings, he was not unfrequently as well as unshackled by art,- extravagant, erroneous, and even which pours forth with the most palpably absurd in his political noexuberant luxuriance, all the ideas tions ; but even in the midst of which flow from this imagination; passages of this description, there are or from feelings, wishes, and syn- gleams of propriety, and profoundpathies, scarcely, if at all, controlled ness of thought, which almost atone, by sober reflection, cool calculation even in the opinion of those who of consequences or propriety, or most widely differ from him on poeven by the dictates of judgment. litical subjects, for the rant and exe Such is the picture of Irish genius, travagance of those parts of his when viewed on its favourable side; writings in which his feelings and but on the reverse, there appears a imagination overpowered his judgviolation of taste, often very gross and offensive; and an extravagance If we turn from these great writers of imagination which often passes in prose, to the most distinguished the bounds, not only of common poets that intervened between the sense, but of all comprehension of time of Pope and his immediate folits object or meaning.
lowers and imitators, and the French In the writings of Burke are dis- Revolution, we shall be able to played all the excellencies of his select some names on whom Bricountry's genius; and with them tain may fix as her legitimate sons. are united a profoundness and com. Of these we would select Youog, prehension of view~a knowledge of Thomson, Akenside, Gray, Collins, human nature minute, accurate, and and Goldsmith, as all containing extensive, and a penetration not within them a greater or less portion only into human motives, but into of the stamina of British intellect. the consequences of actions and We are well aware that some of events which come upon the reader these poets, strictly speaking, do not most unexpectedly, in the midst of belong to the period of which we passages that seem to indicate an are now treating : but as they are imagination too vivid and creative, all of a school, very different from
that of Pope, we have preferred British mind. This observation apnoticing them in this Chapter, they plies both to bis most glaring debeing more characteristic of the fects, and to his most striking beauperiod of which we now treat, than ties and excellencies; in all these of that in which Pope lived. may be traced that peculiar structure
The character of Young's genius of mind which is generated by the and talents is singular; and it is circumstances in which a native of extremely difficult to form a just this country is placed. Thoughtand impartial estimate of them. To fulness, or a propensity to prefer those persons who are not pene- , communion with what is passing trated by any very deep sense of re- in one's own mind, to the occuligion, or whose religion is raiher a pation of the senses by external matter of cool reflection than of objects; and that thoughtfulness powerful feelings, Young must ap- sober, serious, melancholy, and pear a forbidding, as well as an ex- not unfrequently sad and gloomy; travagant writer ; whereas by those -reflections on human nature and whose religious principles and feel. character, and on the future life of ings strike the same chord as runs man, partaking of the same cast, through his writings, he will be a fondness for the scenery of uature, deemed a poet of most wonderful not so much perhaps on account of powers; and even the most extra- its real and intrinsic beauty or subvagant passages in his writings, and limity, as on account of the associathe most gross and palpable viola- tions with which it is connected, tions of good sense and correct taste, and the images and reflections will be set down as beauties. The which it calls up ;-a soul wrapt up judgment which we form respecting in the duties, interests, pleasures, all poetry depends, in a very great and even the apprehensions of dodegree, on the associations of our mestic life, and which turns away minds: to him, in whose mind there with weariness or loathing from the are no pleasing and interesting as- bustle, gaiety, thoughtlessness, and sociations, with descriptions of rural heartlessness, with which the world scenery, rural life, or domestic life, abounds, to repose in the quiet of poems on these subjects must be that life; these are the peculiarities dull and usinteresting, if not re of character that distinguish our pulsive. This remark is peculiarly most genuine British poets; and applicable to the poetry of Young; some of these may most distinctly and therefore it is either an object be traced in the writings of Young. of great interest and high praise, or A fondness for the beauties of of strong dislike and contempt ;-it nature,--a soul that enters into the is a species of poetry which cannot perception and enjoyment of those be read by any person, wbatever his beauties,mare among the distinassociations may be, with cool and guishing and most pleasing features languid indifference.
of the British character ; accord. Different and opposite, however, ingly we find in the poetical litera. as the judgments respecting Young ture of Britain, most exquisite and as a poet must be, it will, we appre. faithful descriptions of natural sce, hend, be admitted by all, that his nery, and a most powerful calling poetry bears strong and unequivocal forth of all those feelings and asso marks of being the product of a ciations that are connected with
In vain shall we more aptly and justly, as unfolding look in most of the continental and depicting, with the utmost poetry for such powerful descrip- faithfulness and effect, those grand tions of nature. And in the poets of emotions of the heart, which neie, France more especially,—not even ther spring from nor are connected with the exception of De Lisle,- with passion, but are the result of there is, in all their attempts to à frame of mind of deep sensibility, paint natural scenery, or the occu- -most pure taste,-ardent feeling, pations and pleasures of a country and an attachment to what is beaulife, a tameness or an affectation,- tiful and good in the creation, or an ignoarnce most provoking and almost rising to enthusiasm. The disgusting to those who are conver- blank verse of this poet is fully sant with the writings which Britain worthy of his subject; there is a has produced on the same topics. richness about it, which is so mixed
Thomson is generally regarded as up with fulness and grandeur, that one of the most perfect and en- it never cloys or tires. But the chanting of our descriptive poets: poetry of Akenside, to be relished, but we must confess that, in our must be read by minds not organized opinion, there is a luxuriance of in the every day manner, wbose thought, and a prolixity of language feelings and babits are in unison in his Seasons, not exactly in with those of the poet. The lover complete unison with his subject. of the beauties of nature, or of the At the same time he must be occupations and pleasures of a couns regarded as a charming poet, and try life, will relish the poetry of one whose Seasons will always be Thomson; but unless he sees more pointed out, as indicating and pro- in these beauties and pleasures than ceeding from truly British feelings, Thomson points out, he cannot enter and as illustrative of the British into the spirit of the poetry of Akenliterary character.
side : the same observation may be The poetry of Akenside is of a made with respect to those who are much loftier character, and assimi- admirers of domestic poetry, or that lates to the more rare and dignified poetry which describes the feelings, features of the British intellect; habits, and pleasures, of domestie with the exception of some parts of life : unless their minds and imagiMilton, we know of no poetry in nations are framed in such a manner our language similar to the Plea. that they can penetrate deeper into sures of the Imagination of Aken- these feelings, babits, and pleasures, side, or that can be compared to it. than the poets who generally deThey are chiefly conversant with the scribe them, penetrate, they will not moral sublime; they contain most understand the poetry of Akenside, exquisite and faithful paintings of when he treats on the same topics. those grand pleasures which result Gray and Collins are poets, in from the exercise of the intellectual some respects and degree, of the powers; not those powers which same school; but, at the same time, are necessary to, or conversant with they differ from each other so much, abstract reasoning; but such as are that they ought to be considered employed in objects of taste and separately. From the life of Gray imagination. Or, perhaps, the po- we learn that he had about him a etry of Akenside may be described good many of the habits which