« ZurückWeiter »
them bloom and burn on-flowers in which there is no poison, stars in which there is no disease--whose blossoms are all sweet, and whose rays are all sanative-both alike steeped in dew, and both, to the fine ear of nature's worshipper, bathed in music.
Only look at Maga! One hundred and forty-eight months old! and yet lovely as maiden between frock and gown--even as sweet sixteen! Not a wrinkle on cheek or forehead! No crow-foot has touched her eyes
“Her eye's blue languish, and her golden hair !" Like an antelope in the wilderness--or swan on the riveror eagle in the sky. Dream that she is dead, and oh! what a world! Yet die she must some day--so must the moon and stars. Meanwhile there is a blessing in prayers and hark! how the nations cry, "Oh! Maga, live for ever!”
We often pity our poor ancestors. How they contrived to make the ends meet, surpasses our conjectural powers. What a weary waste must have seemed expanding before their eyes between morning and night! Don't tell us that the human female never longs for other pastime than
“To suckle fools and chronicle small beer.” True, ladies sighed not then for periodicals--but there, in the depths of their ignorance, lay their utter wretchedness. What! keep pickling and preserving during the whole mortal life of an immortal being! Except when at jelly, everlastingly at jam! The soul sickens at the monotonous sweetness of such a wersh existence. True that many sat all life-long at needle-work; but is not that a very sew-sew sort of life? Then oh! the miserable males! We speak of times after the invention, it is true, of printing—but who read what were called books then ? Books! no more like our periodicals, than dry, rotten, worm-eaten, fungous logs are like green living leafy trees, laden with dews, bees, and birds, in the musical sunshine. What could males do then but yawn, sleep, snore, guzzle, guttle, and drink till they grew dead and got buried ? Fox-hunting won't always do--and often it is not to be had; who can be happy with his gun through good report and bad report in
an a' day's rain ? Small amusement in fishing in muddy waters ; palls upon the sense quarrelling with neighbours on points of etiquette and the disputed property of hedgerow trees; a fever in the family ceases to raise the pulse of any inmate, except the patient; death itself is no relief to the dulness; a funeral is little better ; the yawn of the grave seems a sort of unhallowed mockery ; the scutcheon hung out on the front of the old dismal hall, is like a sign on a deserted spittal ; along with sables is worn a suitable stupidity by all the sad survivers,—and such, before the era of periodicals, such was life in--merry England. Oh! dear !-oh! dear me!
We shall not enter into any historical details for this is not a monologue for the Quarterly--but we simply assert, that in the times we allude to (don't mention dates) there was little or no reading in England. There was neither the reading Ay nor the reading public. What could this be owing to, but the non-existence of periodicals? What elderly-young lady could be expected to turn from house affairs, for example, to Spenser's Fairy Queen ? It is a long, long, long poem, that Fairy Queen of Spenser's; nobody, of course, ever dreamt of getting through it; but though you may have given up all hope of getting through a poem or a wood, you expect to be able to find your way back again to the spot where you unluckily got in ; not so, however, with the Fairy Queen Beautiful it is indeed, most exquisitely and unapproachably beautiful in many passages, especially about ladies and ladies' love more than celestial, for Venus loses in comparison her lustre in the sky; but still people were afraid to get into it then as now; and “ heavenly Una, with her milk-white lamb,” lay buried in dust. As to Shakspeare, we cannot find many traces of him in the domestic occupations of the English gentry during the times alluded to; nor do we believe that the character of Hamlet was at all relished in their halls, though perhaps an occasional squire chuckled at the humours of Sir John Falstaff. We have Mr. Wordsworth's authority, for believing that Paradise Lost was a dead letter, and John Milton virtually anonymous. We need say no more. Books like these, huge heavy vols. lay with other lumber in garrets and
libraries. As yet, periodical literature was not; and the art of printing seems long to have preceded the art of reading. It did not occur to those generations that books were intended to be read by people in general, but only by the select few. Whereas now, reading is not only one of the luxuries, but absolutely one of the necessaries of life, and we no more think of going without our book than without our breakfast ; lunch consists now of veal-pies and Venetian Bracelets—we still dine on roast beef, but with it, instead of Yorkshire pudding, a Scotch novel Thomas Campbell and Thomas Moore sweeten tea for us—and in “ Course of Time" we sup on a Welsh rabbit and a reli. gious poem.
We have not time-how can we ?-to trace the history of the great revolution. But a great revolution there has been, from nobody's reading any thing, to every body's reading all things; and perhaps it began with that good old proser Richardson, the father of Pamela, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison. He seems to have been a sort of idiot, who had a strange insight into some parts of human nature, and a tolerable acquaintance with most parts of speech. He set the public a-reading, and Fielding and Smollett shoved her on-till the Minerva Press took her in hand-and then the periodicals. But such periodicals! The Gentleman's Magazine-God bless it then, now, and for ever!--the Monthly Review, the Critical and the British Critic! The age had been for some years literary, and was now fast becoming periodical. Magazines multiplied. A rose in glory the Edinburgh, and then the Quar. terly Review- Maga, like a new sun, looked out from heaven-from her golden urn a hundred satellites drew light-and last of all, “ the planetary five,” the annuals, hung their lamps on high; other similar luminous bodies emerged from the clouds, till the whole circumference was bespangled, and astronomy became the favourite study with all ranks of people, from the king upon the throne to the meanest of his subjects. Now, will any one presume to deny, that this has been a great change to the better, and that there is now something worth living for in the world? Look at our literature now, and it is all periodi. cal together. A thousand daily, thrice-a-week, twice-aweek, weekly newspapers, a hundred monthlies, fifty quarterlies, and twenty-five annuals! No mouth looks up now and is not fed! on the contrary, we are in danger of being crammed ; an empty head is as rare as an empty stomach; the whole day is one meal, one physical, moral, and intellectual feast; the public goes to bed with a periodi. cal in her hand, and falls asleep with it beneath her pillow.
What blockhead thinks now of reading Milton, or Pope, or Gray? Paradise Lost is lost; it has gone to the devil. Pope's Epistles are returned to the dead-letter office; the age is too loyal for «ruin seize thee, ruthless king," and the oldest inhabitant has forgotten the curfew tolls."
All the great geniuses of the day are periodical. The Scotch novels-the Irish novels—the English novelsthe American novels—the Family Library-the Library of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge-Napier's History of the Spanish War-Tytler's History of Scotland-Chal. mer's Civic Economy-but what is the need of enumeration-every work worth reading is published in numbers, from the Excursion-being a portion belonging to the third part of that long, laborious, and philosophical poem, the Recluse, by William Wordsworth-down to the first six books of that long, laborious, and unphilosophical poem, Nineveh, by Edwin Atherstone.
What donkey was the first to bray that the annuals, the subject of this our monologue, were introduced into this country from Germany ? Gentle reader, did you ever see a German annual or literary almanac? We beseech you look not at any one print, if you do not wish to die of laughing—to fall into guffaw.convulsions. Such a way of making love! But you know better-you know that the annuals are a native growth of the soil of England, springing up, like white and red clover beneath lime (a curious fact that) wherever the periodical ploughshare has drawn its furrows. Import what seeds, germs, roots, or plants, you choose from Germany; sow them; dibble them in; and in a week, it matters not whether the weather be wet or dry, they are all dead as David's sow. We want none of your German horticulture, or agriculture, or arboricul. ture in Britain. Let us grow our own flowers, and our
own corn, and our own trees, and we shall be well off for fragrance, for food, and for shelter.
But lo! arrayed in figure of a fan, and gorgeous as spread-peacock-tail—the annuals! The sunshine strikes the intermingled glow, and it threatens to set the house on fire. But softly—they are cool to the touch, though to the sight burning; innocuous is the lambent flame that plays around the leaves ; even as, in a dewy night of fading summer, the grass-brightening circle of the still glowworm's light!
Singular! They have formed themselves into classes beneath our touch-according to some fine affinities of name and nature; and behold in one triad, the ForgetMe-Not, the Souvenir, and the Keepsake.
One word embraces them all-memorials. When « absent long, and distant far,” the living, lovely, loving, and beloved, how often are they utterly forgotten! But let something that once was theirs suddenly meet our eyes, and in a moment, returning from the region of the rising or the setting sun, lo! the friend of our youth is at our side, unchanged his voice and his smile ; and dearer to our eyes than ever, because of some slight, faint, and affecting change wrought on face and figure by climate and by years! Let it be but his name written with his own hand, on the title-page of a book; or a few syllables on the margin of a favourite passage which long ago we may have read together, “ when life itself was new," and poetry overflowed the whole world! Or a lock of her hair in whose eyes we first knew the meaning of the word 66 depth” applied to the human soul, or the celestial sky! But oh! if death hath stretched out and out into the dim arms of eternity the distance and removed away into that bourne from which no traveller returns the absence
of her on whose forehead once hung the relic we adore in our despair-what heart may abide the beauty of the ghost that, as at the touch of a talisman, doth sometimes at midnight appear before our sleepless bed, and with pale, uplifted arms waft over us-so momentary is the visionat once a blessing and a farewell !
But we must be cheerful, for these are cheerful volumes, and they are bound in smiles. Yet often “ cheerful