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Monsieur Violet, not satisfied with such a very ordinary fact as five people on horseback leaping harmlessly down a precipice a hundred feet in depth, on the backs of a herd of fying buffaloes, adds the following note, in which he tells us that the precipice was, in fact, three hundred feet high, but that it was filled up to the height of almost two hundred feet by the crowds of buffaloes who had previously taken the leap, but who, it seems, did not all understand the art of escaping on the backs of one another.
I have said, at a venture, that we descended more than a hun. dred feet into the chasm, before we fairly landed on the bodies of the animals. The chasm itself could not have been less than from 250 to 300 feet deep at the part we plunged down. This will give the reader some idea of the vast quantities of bodies of animals, chiefly buffaloes, which were there piled up. I consider that this pile must have been formed wholly from the foremost of the mass, and that when formed, it broke the fall of the others who followed them, as it did our own; indeed, the summit of the heap was pounded into a sort of jelly.'
Upon the whole, it will be seen that we do not think very highly of this effort of Captain Marryatt's pen. Our objections extend to the general conception and plan of the whole book. There is, as our extracts will show, some powerful description occasionally interspersed; but more than this is necessary, both in history and fiction. We have read several of Captain Marryatt's tales with much pleasure and some instruction : we would advise him to stick to the direct form of novel or romance, and to renounce what Monsieur Violet would call · half breeds. If he would also spend a little more time on the construction of his plots, and the invention of his characters and incidents, as well as on style, it would be all the better for his fame. We are convinced that he might take far higher rank as a novel writer than he has yet done, by submitting to the care and elaboration which have distinguished all really first-rate writers of fiction. But the same curse seems to lie on almost all the novelists of the present day : the cacoethes scribendi has infected them all. They pour out their multitud. inous volumes with such haste, that they have no time for maturing their plan, or for the correction and revision of their style. The allotted three volumes must be filled, and the sooner the better. A superfluous word, phrase, or sentence is too precious to be wasted; and hence the style is loaded with heavy commonplaces and mere verbiage. In nothing so much as in modern novels, do we see the force of old Hesiod's paradoxical maxim: “That the half is better than the whole. To the same causes we must attribute the frequent vulgarisms and
solecisms which abound in these writers; and not least in Captain Marryatt. We are surprised that his practice as a writer, and his intercourse with good society, have not long since served to correct them. Thus, in the present work, we observe that extreme vulgarism, 'laid' for 'lay,' occurring twice in the same page (p. 186, vol. iii.) Why does he not purify his style from such debasements ?
Art. VI.—The Existence of Evil Spirits proved; and their Agency, parti.
cularly in relation to the Human Race, explained and illustrated. By
Walter Scott. Second Edition. London: 12mo., pp. 474. It will readily be admitted by all our readers, that impartiality is one of the first duties of a reviewer. But obvious as this is, it is not an easy matter for a public journalist to preserve strict impartiality, for independently of private feelings and personal considerations, he is always under temptation to bestow undue praise on works written by his own party, and undue censure on the compositions of his opponents. Such a course is, however, productive of immense mischief to literature, and must destroy all confidence in criticism. The indiscriminate praise which used to be given by some of the literary organs of nonconformity to all the works of nonconformists, bore its natural fruits: the encomiums so lavishly bestowed soon lost all value, and great injustice was in consequence often done to compositions of real merit. We have, therefore, acted upon the principle of censuring where censure was deserved, as well as of praising where praise was due, irrespective of the party to which the writer might belong, feeling assured that we were thereby promoting the cause of literature in general, and in the dissenting body in particular. For acting in this manner, and for daring to blame where blame was merited, we have more than once been exposed to obloquy and calumny; and attempts have been made to injure the circulation of our Review ; but such attempts have always failed, for the public has appreciated the integrity of our conduct, and steadily continued to us their support.
Acting upon these principles, we considered it our duty in reviewing the first edition of Mr. Scott's work on 'The Existence of Evil Spirits' in our July number of last year, to point out the very serious deficiencies of the book in classical scholarship. This we did with great reluctance, and in as brief a manner as possible (our remarks upon the subject did not exceed a page);
the miled for the lication of a theology
but we felt that justice to the public, to ourselves, and to the literary reputation of the dissenting body, would not allow us to pass over the matter in entire silence. The nature of the case particularly called for the expression of our opinion. The work was not simply the publication of a private individual upon an interesting and difficult subject in theology, in which ignorance in some particulars might be looked upon with indul. gence, but it formed one of the Series of the Congregational Lectures, which are intended to foster a spirit of learning among us, and which are, to quote the words of the committee of the Congregational Library,'to partake rather of the character of academic prelections than of popular addresses.' Bcaring these circumstances in mind, and jealous for the literary honour of our body, which was to some extent compromised by the unscholarlike character of the work, we called attention to its failings in this respect, and respectfully counselled a severe revision of the volume in the matters we alluded to. Instead, however, of following our recommendation, Mr. Scott has carefully retained his old errors, and has devoted the preface of his second edition to an elaborate reply to our strictures. We would willingly have left the subject as it stands at present, feeling sure that the justice of our criticisms would be admitted by all scholars, if we said nothing more; but, as Mr. Scott imputes to us base and unworthy motives in the discharge of our public duty; intimates, with an obvious reference to ourselves, *that reviewers have not unfrequently condemned at first, when afterwards they have been glad, for their own credit's safe, to praise,' and broadly asserts that we evidently condemned con amore, and were glad of an opportunity of showing, by doing so, our supposed critical judgment and extensive information, we consider it due to ourselves, fully convinced as we are of the justice of our criticisms, to make a few remarks upon his reply, lest he should construe silence into an admission of the validity of his statements. At the same time it is with extreme regret that we feel called upon to say any thing which may prove injurious to the literary reputation of Mr. Scott, but he has challenged investigation and criticism, and has only himself to blame if such investigation and criticism prove unfavourable to him.
The general complaint which we made respecting the scholarship of the book was as follows: His (Mr. Scott's) information is obviously derived from secondary sources, and is, in consequence, unsatisfactory and meagre; his scholarship is far from being rigidly accurate, and the principles of historical criticism are, to say the least, disregarded. Our evidence in proof of these statements must necessarily be brief :'--and we then pro
ceeded to mention a few facts in confirmation of our opinion. Before, however, entering upon this part of the subject, we must say a few words respecting a general complaint which Mr. Scott makes as to our remarks. He evidently regards them as hypercritical, and seems to consider that attention to such minor points as we noticed, savours of pedantry rather than of learning. But we beg to assure Mr. Scott, that these points, however insignificant they may appear to him, are not so in reality; and that it is the neglect of such matters, rather than the commission of serious mistakes, which betrays want of scholarship. We do not complain that Mr. Scott has made mistakes; the most accomplished scholar is liable to do that; but we complain, and we think with justice, that Mr. Scott has on all points connected with Greek and Roman history and antiquities displayed an ignorance of the writings of modern scholars, of which a boy in the upper forms of a public school would be ashamed. The number of positive blunders in the work is probably not very great; but every page in the lecture, which treats of the subject of ancient oracles, clearly shows, not simply that the information is derived from secondary sources, but that these sources are antiquated works, which have long ceased to be of any authority, and that the author is far behind the scholarship of the day, and ignorant of the labours and researches of modern philologists and antiquarians. This judgment, though severe and painful for us to record, will be confirmed, we are sure, by every competent scholar who will take the trouble to read the latter half of Mr. Scott's fourth lecture.
As some of our readers may probably not have by them the July number of our Review for the year 1844, we subjoin the proofs we adduced, in confirmation of the truth of our statements :
1. In Appendix I., Mr. Scott says, It does not come within the plan of these lectures to give a history of oracles. A brief view of some of the chief of them, abridged from Rollin, must suffice.' One would hardly have imagined that Rollin would be referred to as an authority in one of the learned works of the congregational body. He was a worthy, excellent man, but in the present day is of no value whatever as a historian. The abridgment, too, is meagre, occupying but one page. Only four oracles are mentioned, and the general impression left on the learned reader is most unsatisfactory, whether regard be had to the complete exhibition of the subject, or to the literary reputation of the dissenting body.
2. In the chapter on ancient oracles, Mr. Scott speaks of the oracle of Delphos, instead of Delphi, an inaccuracy which we should have attributed to mere oversight, had it not been uniformly committed.
"3. He maintains, in our opinion justly, that the ancient oracles were not given by Satanic agency, but remarks, page 312, “The famous story which occurs in the history of Croesus, presents, it must be owned, considerable difficulties ,' and then proceeds, like the rationalists of Germany, to account for it by supposing that the priests had some of the king's servants in their pay, &c. A modern writer should have asked himself the prior question, What is the authority for the truth of the story ? The fact of the case is, that it was first told by Herodotus, who wrote about a hundred years after the alleged event. It was clearly a floating story which Herodotus heard in the course of his travels, which may have been originally based on some fact, but which certainly should not be regarded as an historical event.'
cupiese oracle aunty two per racle of art of but of
In reply to our first observation, Mr. Scott remarks, that we have misrepresented him. "The Abridgment,' he alleges, 'occupies one page of small print, in the appendix; and the account of the oracle at Delphos fills more than another page in the text; and nearly two pages more are appropriated to a detail of the way in which the oracle of Trophonius was consulted; so that there are four pages, instead of but one ; and at least five oracles are briefly described. He then proceeds to use some very hard language, and makes merry at the great mistake, the gross blunder,' of 'the accurate investigator of ancient facts, the accurate reviewer,' &c. If we had misrepresented Mr. Scott, it would certainly have been contrary to our intention, and we should unhesitatingly have apologised for our mistake; but we have not done so; and Mr. Scott's reply is nothing to the point. We were speaking of the Appendix I., and of that only; and we stated that the Abridgment of Rollin in that Appendix occupied but one page; and such is the fact, as any one may see, by referring to the book. Surely none of our readers will think that we ought to have added that it occupied one page of small print, but this omission seems to Mr. Scott to have been a very grave one. We readily admit that the oracle at Delphi, and that of Trophonius, are mentioned in the text of the work ; but we were dealing at that time with the Appendix, which was expressly intended to give a brief view of the most important of the ancient oracles; and we complained that this Abridgment occupied only a page. But this matter is of no particular consequence. Mr. Scott, aware, we suppose, of the meagreness of his account, declares that it was no part of his object to give a history of oracles, and that he was repeatedly urged by the committee of the Congregational Library to confine his work within a specified number of pages. Granting this, though five or six pages would not have materially increased the size of the book, we ask why did he give an account at all of ancient oracles, if it