Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

them? With our author there is no feeling that is continuous ; these are
only realities that time engulfs entire, each in its turn. In the name of the
instruction that future generations should draw from it? No. The science
of humanity forming itself on the tradition of ages is almost always illusion;
strength belongs only to irreflective spontaneousness, to those he calls “ men
of instincts and insights * ;” above all, and in the last degree to accidental
circumstances; and as often as they shall happen to be reproduced, the same
effects will follow. Be not astonished, then, if all that represents in the
French Revolution the operation of feeling, and which to us is the most im-
portant, has been by him slighted. Think it not extraordinary that the
man who has given you pages — brilliant inimitable pages — like those on
the 14th of July, the 10th of August, and the nights of September, should
not have given you something beyond. More he could not. The taking of the
Bastille, say you, like the horrors of September, creates effects, not causes,
and these last are what it imports us to know. We know it; but could our
author attach importance to the study and exposition of causes? Has he
not written (Vol. 11. Book iii. chap. 6.) that it Mirabeau had lived a year
longer — one year more, observe, though Mirabeau, bought over by the
court, no longer marched at the head of the revolutionary movement, but
had vowed to roll it back, “ the history of France and the world had
been different.” Does he not repeat farther on (Book iv. chap. 7.) that if
King Louis, when his flight was arrested, had but held a firm and imposing
tone, by succeeding in passing the frontier, he would have changed the
whole course of French history?” Yes, the conquest of right and truth
the life of a people - the destinies of a world hang only on a few days of
the life of a traitor, or on a moment's firmness in a runaway! Let us burn
our pens, destroy our books; for, in this fashion, life and land are the sport
of chance! Oh, love we rather old Homer peaching to us from his throne
of two thousand years that “ The Gods permitted the ruin of Ilium, and
the death of a vast number of heroes, that poetry might draw thence lessons
useful for the ages to come!”
It is a sad lesson

sad

one, when it concerns singular and powerful individuals like Mr. Carlyle - to prove whither leads the absence of a creed on the law, the mission, and the destinies of humanity. Behold a man good, sincere, virtuous, comprehending and practising devotedness, whose heart is open to all holy emotions, whose calm brow betokens in him habits of kind watchfulness and noble sympathies, without wishing it, without knowing it, teaching doubt, scepticism, and despondency to his readers, by the mere effect of a system that he would repudiate with scorn were it to be called by his name.

[ocr errors]

Behold an intelligence full of poetry, almost to overflowing, forcible, ready, gifted with the power of incarnating its thoughts in their minutest tints, and yet reduced to mutilate its subject, to cast all its riches at the feet of a symbol without signification, to descend from the sphere in which its strength could soar, from eternal TRUTH to crawl

a very

This is said of Mirabeau, whom, in our opinion, he rates too highly - not in talents, but in influence on the revolution. It would have been immense, if in place of instincts he had had a creed. As he was, he received more from the people of France than he gave to them. Powerful so long as his voice of thunder was the abstract of the griefs and desires of the masses, he was already losing something of his popularity when he died. He had been left behind, and perhaps the consciousness of being so had as great a share as venality in driving him into engagements with the court. Even had le lived, he could not have attained the degree of power reached by Robespierre, who, though destitute of all that constitutes genius, was one of whom Sieyes could say, “ This man will hold out, he believes all that he says.

On the theory which guides Mr. Carlyle in the appreciation of powerful individualities, which we cannot here go into, see his piece entitled “ Characteristics," and what relates to it, in an article in the “ London and Westminster Review," No. 64.

along in that of transitory and incomplete reality. The unity of the event is divided into two parts, the soul and the body as it were; and the soul is hidden from his eyes, and whatever may be the power of the galvanism that the author brings to bear on the body our eyes witness in motion, we all of us feel that it is not the less a corpse. In this levée en masse of twentyfive millions of men, and, notwithstanding the minutes of the States-General, which from their commencement principally turn on institutions, rights, education, the triumph of ideas in a word, he sees only the result of hunger, the cry of material wants. In things like the Fête of the Federation of 1790, he sees but a theatrical manifestation -a vain parade of noise in the burst of the cannon of July 14th, that announced “ to the four corners of Europe” the accomplishment of the unification of France, and whose echo three years after repulsed the foreigner from the frontier. In a revolution that at this day causes the soil of Europe to tremble beneath the feet of its masters he sees only the negation of a great lie, a work of pure destruction, immense ruins; and he does not see the positive performance, the accomplishment in politics of what Christianity accomplished in morals by the Reformation - human individuality erecting itself on these ruins free and emancipated, asserting itself, and in the way to run through a new epoch, the signs of which are already spreading over the horizon. Like Goethe, his master, he has seen life, but not felt it.

IV.

The name of Goethe has een several times on the tip of our pen in the course of this article. In fact it is the evil genius of Goethe that hovers over the trilogy of Mr. Carlyle, and more than once whilst reading we have fancied we beheld the cold physiognomy and the Mephistopholist smile of that man who carried only faculties of scientific observation to the campaign of Argonne, who in the cannon commencing the war of peoples and kings remarked but a sound – Mr. Carlyle repeats it — “curious enough, as if it were compounded of the humming of tops, the gurgling of water, and the whistle of birds.” It is, indeed, to Goethe, too much revered by Mr. Carlyle, whose heart is worth far more than the former's, that we owe that tinge of irony which in this book so often supervenes to taunt the labours and the efforts of a nation then fighting for us all — those pleasantries, at the least unseasonable, that slip in to the recital of matters as solemn as the night of the 4th August, 1789* — those traits of mockery on the deputies of the constituent assembly, so unworthy the subject+ -- above all that disposition to crush man by contrasting him with the Infinite. As if it were not precisely from the consciousness of that Infinite environing him, and that yet prevents him not from acting, that man is great- as if the eternity that is before us, after us, and around us, were not also within us — as if, as says Jean Paul, more elevated than the earth that bears us, we did not hear a voice crying to us, “ Proceed in action with faith and a consciousness of thy dignity: the God that has given thee a mission here below to fulfil has promised to exalt thee step by step even to himself."

* “ A memorable night, this fourth of August : dignitaries, temporal and spiritual, peers, archbishops, parliament-presidents, each outdoing the other in patriotic devotedness, come successively to throw their (untenable) possessions on the altar of the father-land. With louder and louder vivats, — for indeed it is after dinner, too — they abolish tithes, seignorial dues, gabelle," &c. Chap. ii.

+ “In such manner labour the national deputies ; perfecting their theory of irregular verbs," &c. Chap. ii.

Let us not be mistaken ; it is no absurd and unjust party reaction that makes us thus speak of Goetho; it is from a profound conviction that from the principle, the feeling of this man, the most

We are conscious of what Mr. Carlyle has done by this book, and even without thinking of it for the progress of intelligences and history. If we have not touched on this if we have not united our voice to those raised in his praise — it is because straitened within narrow limits we have preferred saying what it appeared to us might be useful rather than what would have been inore grateful to ourselves. No one thinks more highly than we of the man and the author. Could we have

Could we have gone into details, we should have been led to consider as an excellence even what has been hitherto looked on as a defect by those whose sympathies have been most with him, and to see an element of new life introduced into the style and language in those forms of expression that have been held so strange; they contain perhaps the germ of an entire renovation. If, therefore, we have preferred the demonstration of what in our way of thinking is a failure, it is because we fancied we could not better exemplify the consequences of a false system than by choosing a writer like himself: men of his kind are useful even in their errors.

The times are serious. Frigid scepticism has eaten but too much into youthful souls born for better things. No writer of Mr. Carlyle's genius, above all no historian, can henceforth add to the stock of doubt, without condemning himself to remorse. As to European crises, and the great trials that are preparing, History should at least; when she does not feel called on to do more, be a comment, by the pourtrayal of devotedness, on the noble words of Thraseas Specta juvenis . ... in ea tempora natus es, quibus firmare animum expedit constantibus exemplis.” It is with a view to the times that are coming sooner perhaps than is thought for --that we have written these few pages. Mr. Carlyle will pardon the frankness of our remarks, and will estimate by our reproofs the measure of the hopes we nourish in him.

J. M.

REVIEW OF NEW BOOKS. We have a great distrust of the influence of the annuals upon literature and art. We believe they have done much mischief in both departments, weakening the healthy appetite of the public, and producing a relish for expensive and enfeebling luxuries. They have now been long

enough in existence to test their popularity, and the failure of some of the oldest and most brilliant may be accepted as a proof of the fickleness of that superficial taste which they have themselves mainly created. Year after year the early annuals drop off, one by one, and their place is supplied by productions still more costly, in some of which a visible attempt is made to effect substantial improvements in a class of works which, in one form or another, seems to have become a sort of indispensable necessity to the fashionable world. When we speak of the improvement that is thus beginning to be developed in these gorgeous publications, we must not be understood to include within the application of the term all the new, fantastic, and high-priced quartos for which we are indebted to the frippery genius of our millinery artists. The utmost liberality of criticism cannot embrace more than two of the grander order of annuals as being deserving of unmixed approbation -- and to one of these we shall presently draw the attention of the reader.

potent, perhaps, of the period just finished, there cannot arise a law for the wise men of our days. It is a magnificent tree, that grew up on the border between two worlds, whose aspect is glorious and inspiring, but whose shade is fatal. It can, it should furnish us with a subject of study, fruitful and immense in results, not in example. We have already sketched our opinion of Goethe in this periodical ; but the matter is important, and we shall beg permission to recur to it.

The decline of the annuals in their original shape, and at their original comparatively moderate price, is conclusive of their ephemeral and fugitive character. The taste to which they administered required to be pampered by a constant succession of novelties. People do not buy annuals as they buy the Mirror of Parliament — nobody dreams of completing a set of the "Friendship’s Offering" - continuity is not only never thought of in works of this kind, but it is really the last thing desired. The readers of annuals are the most capricious and inconstant of all readers. They look for variety and excitement alone, and wherever there is something striking or strange, the tide of their patronage is sure to flow. Wearied to tedium by looking over the plates of the “ Forget Me Not” of last year, they run after the next announcement that promises something fresh and new, and so on making the round of the picture-books “ in search of a sensation” to revive their jaded spirits. To this rage for novelty must be attributed the extraordinary competition during the last few years amongst the speculators in this description of production : and hence the annuals have grown up out of their miniature cases of green and gold to the dignity of splendid quartos printed on vellum paper, or rather the original annuals have been supplanted by a new race, before whose dazzling glories their primitive simplicity fades into insignifi

If they continue to advance in the same ratio, they will at last become so exclusive as to be limited in circulation to the aristocracy; for it may be reasonably asserted, that the charge which must be set upon them to yield a remunerating profit will act as a prohibition to the great multitude of book-buyers -- a consummation which general readers would have no great reason to regret. The natural and proper atmosphere for the majority of the annuals is the region of perfume and ennui.

But excellence, in whatever externals it may be decorated, must always command success, and such of the annuals as have put forward solid claims to the support of the public, may hope to subsist independently of all meretricious aids or lucky accidents. Those that possess true merit must always be popular; not because they are annuals, but in spite of their being annuals. In any other shape they would be equally successful, and perhaps more so at a less extravagant price. Of all the annuals we have seen, the only one we shall make special reference to, as standing out in marked superiority from the rest, is “ Fisher's Drawing-room Scrap-Book."1 of the illustrations to this work we have little to say, except that they are much more numerous and diversified than those of any of its contemporaries; and if some excel it in rich specimens of art, none of them will bear comparison with it on the score of liberality and profusion. But it is to the poetry of this volume that we desire, more particularly, to advert.

Miss Landon edited this publication for several years — we believe from its commencement; and we have heard (for this is the first volume of the series that has come into our hands) that her most thoughtful and finished poems appeared in its pages. She had already prepared several pieces for the present volume, when her melancholy death arrested the progress of her labours; and if her former contributions to the “ Scrap-Book” may be

cance.

| Fisher's Drawing-room Scrap-Book, 1840. With Poetical Illustrations by L. E. L. and Mary Howitt. London: Fisher, Son, & Co.

as she

estimated by those which are now before us, there can be no doubt that she bestowed upon this publication the most matured productions of her fertile and graceful genius. There are evident traces in these poems of a mind gradually realising to itself a world of truthful and deep impressions, and clearing itself from those morbid clouds of sentiment in which Miss Landon suffered her teeming intellect to be too long obscured and misled. Had she endeavoured earlier to think — or had she been able to feel thinks and feels in these very exquisite compositions, she might yet have lived to embellish with still nobler triumphs the literature of her country.

The task of completing and continuing the work Miss Landon had conducted for so many years, has been delegated to Mary Howitt, a writer whose elevated moral feelings and felicitous talents entitle her to an eulogium similar to that which Dr. Johnson bestowed upon Goldsmith, when he said of him, that he always seemed to do best that which he was doing. The expectations which the association of the name of Mary Howitt with a publication of this nature may reasonably excite, will be abundantly fulfilled by its contents; and the prospect every year of a volume of poetry, such as Mary Howitt can write, is something upon which the lovers of pure English verse may be unaffectedly congratulated.

A tribute to the memory of “ L. E. L.,” by William Howitt, opens the volume, and in this piece of generous and sound criticism, we have the most complete analysis that has yet appeared of the character of Miss Landon's genius. Several posthumous poems of Miss Landon's follow, and the rest of the volume is contributed by Mary Howitt, with the exception of two or three beautiful snatches of picturesque verse by William Howitt. The subjects are varied and attractive, and even the least promising derives some unexpected point of interest from the skill of the poet. The miscellaneous character of these productions precludes the possibility of entering into minute criticism, but an enumeration of some of the titles will show the diversity of topics they embrace. Amongst the most successful, we may mention Miss Landon's poem on the “Mosque at Cordova," a dancing lyric, crowded with images and traits of the old time in Spain, when the Moors held authority in that land of romance; Mary Howitt's beautiful and most touching lines entitled “Household Treasures ;” her playful and picturesque poem on the “ Source of the Jumna;” the lines on a “City Street;" on the “Burial Ground at Sidon,” and on the “ Tomb of St. George;” and William Howitt's “Sacred Fair at Hurdwar.” We do not select them as the best, for others remain behind that are quite as good, and some even of a more ambitious cast; but we merely note them in passing as favourable specimens of the materials chosen by the artists and the writers. The following little poem is a fair exemplar of that exquisite feeling and fine humanity which invariably characterises the productions of Mary Howitt:

HOUSEHOLD TREASURES. What are they? gold and silver,

Or parchments setting forth Or what such ore can buy?

Broad lands our fathers held ? The pride of silken luxury;

Parks for our deer, ponds for our fish,
Rich robes of Tyrian dye?

And woods that may be fell’d ?
Guests that come thronging in
With lordly pomp and state ?

No, no, they are not these ! or else,
Or thankless, liveried serving men

God help the poor man's need! To stand about the gate ?

Then, sitting 'mid his little ones,

He would be poor indeed ! Or are they daintiest meats

They are not these ! our household wealth Sent up on silver fine ?

Belongs not to degree ; Or golden, chased cups o'erbrimmed

It is the love within our soulsWith rich Falernian wine?

The children at our knee !

« ZurückWeiter »