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engravings, and trumpeted with grand flourishes. We really envy the professor of the art scribblative,—to use his phrase,– who can appear in pages so brilliant, and be thus sure of gratifying the eye at least, whatever he may do for the understanding. French literature has been enriched with an elaborate treatise, De la Charlatanerie des Savans. The bibliopolist,--a Murray or a Colburn, adds his charlatanerie to that of the learned dialogist, and together they give to the world volumes like these, tempting both dilettanti and virtuosi.
The Colloquies are between Mr. Southey, calling himself Montesinos, and the ghost of Sir Thomas More; a form for which he acknowledges himself to be indebted to Boethius; but his management of the plan is every where ridiculously awkward. No illusion is maintained; the endeavours at congruity fail utterly; the visitations of the illustrious shade, and the personal references, bear a forced and risible character. Montesinos and Sir Thomas are both as desultory as Montaigne, but far from displaying his merits. Mr. Southey was awakened from a sombrous nap in his library, in the month of November—when he and all Britain were overwhelmed in grief for the death of the Princess Charlotte, -by the sudden entrance of the impalpable though not invisible Sir Thomas, whom he supposes to come from NewEngland, but the defunct chancellor undeceives him, after he is assured of the serious belief of Mr. Southey, that “preternatural impressions are sometimes communicated to us for wise purposes, and that departed spirits are sometimes permitted to manifest themselves.” An attempt is made to sustain this doctrine, in the first colloquy. The accused, who passed through the old ordeals of boiling water, boiling oil, and red-hot iron, must have been assisted by etherial agents. Montesinos afterwards encounters his “spiritual visiter” in other situations, in his morning and evening rambles, and they renew their discussions until they have talked two volumes. At the second rencontre they dwell upon the improvements of the world, about which the ghost is not at all sanguine, but asks, “is there a considerate man who can look at the signs of the times without apprehension, or a scoundrel connected with what is called the public press, who does not speculate upon them, and join with the anarchists as the strongest party ?” whereupon Montesinos insists that the millennium is certain, and that the Prophets and the Evangelists whom he implicitly trusts, have clearly announced the kingdom of God on earth. Sir Thomas intimates his dislike to “liberal opinions,” Sunday schools, Religious Tract Societies, and “the portentous bibliolatry of the age.”
In another part of the work, he is made to inveigh bitterly against newspapers and other journals. “Athens, in the most turbulent times of its democracy, was not more effectually domi
neered over by its demagogues, than you are by the press-a press which is not only without restraint, but without responsibility; and in the management of which those men will always have most power who have least probity, and have most completely divested themselves of all sense of honour and all regard for truth.” The ghost is not a believer in the perfectibility of man on earth; he contends that, undeniably, the worst principles in religion, in morals, in politics, are at this time more prevalent than they ever were known to be in
that even in England, though there may be more knowledge, there is less wisdom than in former times, more wealth and less happiness, more display and less virtue. Montesinos combats these doctrines and others of the same purport, but with an evident design to allow them a victory. The next Colloquy is indexed The Druidical Stones-Visitations of Pestilence, a sample of the coherence which marks the greater part of them. The "ghostly friend” of Mr. Southey rises among the stones, and asks emphatically, “whether a large portion of the British community are in a happier or more hopeful condition at this time, than their forefathers were when Cæsar set foot upon this land?” He adds-“Look at the great mass of your population in town and country -a tremendous portion of your whole community. Are their bodily wants more easily supplied? Are they subject to fewer calamities? Are they happier in childhood, youth and manhood, and more comfortably or carefully provided for in old age, than when the land was uninclosed and half-covered with wood? With regard to their moral and intellectual capacity, you well know how little of the light of revelation has reached them; what if your manufactures, according to the ominous opinion which your great physiologist has expressed, were to generate for you new physical plagues, as they have already produced a moral pestilence unknown to all preceding ages?” To all this Mr. Southey responds—“Your positions are undeniable. Were society to be stationary at its present point, the bulk of the people would, on the whole, have lost rather than gained by the alterations which have taken place during the last thousand years.” The reader who is familiar with the histories of Henry and Hume, must recollect their descriptions of the ancient condition of the English people. One of the traits which the ghost notices as not long since discovered by Sir Richard Hoare, is, that, at the time the Britons were invaded by the Romans, the path from one town to another, in the open country, was by a covered way. Feudal slavery appears to have found favour with our author. It is represented in the best lights, and we are reminded that in the age of the British Revolution one of the sturdiest of the Scotch republicans proposed the re-establishment of slavery, as the best or only means of correcting the vices, and removing the miseries of
the poor. With regard to pauperism and crime, the ghost thinks that those evils are more widely extended, now, in Great Britain, more intimately connected with the constitution of society, and therefore more difficult of cure, than they were in the feudal ages. This topic leads to a disquisition concerning London, wherein the miseries and disadvantages of that overgrown capital are strongly and instructively painted; it is called “the heart of the commercial system, but also the hot-bed of corruption; at once the centre of wealth and the sink of misery; the seat of intellect and empire, and yet a wilderness wherein they who live like wild beasts on their fellow creatures find prey and cover." We are struck with the justness of the following remark as to capital punishment, so frequent in London. “Every public execution, instead of deterring villains from guilt, serves only to afford them opportunity for it. Perhaps the very risk of the gallows operates upon many a man among the inducements to commit the crime whereto he is tempted; for, with your true gamester, the excitement seems to be in proportion to the value of the stake.”
With these high matters, Mr. Southey has mixed some local delineations and family scenes, which exhibit him in a more amiable point of view than his political and religious theories, and we shall therefore select one of the first pictures in order to show him to most advantage.
“It is no wonder that foreigners, who form their notions of England from what they see in its metropolis, should give such dismal descriptions of an English November ; a month when, according to the received opinion of continental writers, suicide comes as regularly in season with us as geese at Michaelmas, and green peas in June. Northing, indeed, can be more cheerless and comfortless than a common November day, in that huge overgrown city; the streets covered with that sort of thick greasy dirt, on which you are in danger of slipping at every step, and the sky concealed from sight, by a dense, damp, oppressive, dusky atmosphere, composed of Essex fog and London smoke. But in the country, November presents a very different aspect; there, its soft, calm wea. ther, has a charm of its own), a stillness and serenity unlike any other season, and scarcely less delightful than the most genial days of spring. The pleasure which it imparts, is rather different in kind, than inferior in degree; it accords as finely with the feelings of declining life, as the bursting foliage and opening flowers of May, with the elastic spirits of youth and hope.
“But a fine day affects children alike at all seasons, as it does the barometer. They live in the present, seldom saddened with any retrospective thoughts, and troubled with no foresight. Three or four days of dull sunless weather had been succeeded by a delicious morning ; my young ones were clamorous for a morning's excursion. The glass bad risen to a little above change, but their spirits had mounted to the point of settled fair. All things, indeed, animate and inani. mate, seemed to partake of the exhilarating influence. The blackbirds, who lose so little of their shyness even when they are most secure, made their appearance on the green, where the worms had thrown up little circles of mould during the night. The smallest birds were twittering, hopping from spray to spray, and pluming themselves; and as the temperature had given them a vernal sense of joy, there was something of a vernal cheerfulness in their song. The very flies had come out from their winter quarters, where, to their own danger and my annoyance, they establish themselves behind the books, in the folds of the
curtains, and the crevices of these loose window-frames. They were crawling up the sunny panes, bearing in their altered appearance the marks of uncomfortable age; their bodies enlarged, and of a greyer brown; their wings no longer open, clean, and transparent, but closed upon the back, and, as it were, encrusted with neglect. Some few were beginning to brush themselves, but their motions were slow and feeble ; the greater number had fallen upon their backs, and lay unable to recover themselves. Not a breath of air was stirring ; the smoke ascended straight in the sky, till it diffused itself equally on all sides and was lost. The lake lay like a mirror, smooth and dark. The tops of the mountains, which had not been visible for many days, were clear and free from snow; a few light clouds, which hovered upon their sides, were slowly rising and melting in the sunshine.
“On such a day, a holiday having been voted by acclamation, an ordinary walk would not satisfy the children,-it must be a scramble among the mountains, and I must accompany them; it would do me good, they knew it would; they knew that I did not take sufficient exercise, for they had heard me sometimes say so. One was for Skiddan Dod, another for Causey Pike, a third proposed Watenlath ; and I, who perhaps would more willingly have sate at home, was yet in a mood to suffer violence, and making a sort of compromise between their exuberant activity and my own inclination for the chair and fireside, fixed upon Walla Crag. Never was any determination of sovereign authority more willingly received; it united all suffrages; Oh yes ! yes ! Walla Crag! was the unanimous reply. Away they went to put on coats and clogs, and presently were ready, each with her little basket to carry out the luncheon, and bring home such treasures of mosses and lichens as they were sure to find. Off we set; and when I beheld their happiness, and thought how many enjoyments they would have been deprived of, if their lot had fallen in a great city ; i blest God 'who had enabled me to fulfil my heart's desire, and live in a country such as Cumberland.
“Of all sights which can soften and humanize the heart of man, there is none that ought so surely to reach it, as that of innocent children enjoying the happiness which is their proper and natural portion.
“Of that portion, these shall never be deprived or curtailed by any act of mine. Whatever may be their allotment in after life, their childhood at least shall be as happy as all wholesome indulgence can render it."
The ghost accompanies Montesinos on this excursion, and they fall into deep discourse, as usual. They agree that no scruples should be entertained concerning the use of animal food, for, observes the latter, the law is plainly benevolent which multiplies life by rendering death subservient to it; and it is plainly merciful also, inasmuch as the creatures whose existence is suddenly and violently cut off, suffer less than those who die of disease or inanition—such being the alternative. There is a solemn corollary in defence of butchers and their trade. Dr. Beddoes, it seems, remarked that pulmonary consumption is rarely or never known in a butcher's family, and the reason he assigned for it was, that they had always plenty of animal food. From the slayers of lambs and calves, the transition is not the easiest or most regular to Owen of Lanark, but à propos de rien, and à propos de bottes are Mr. Southey's privileges. He praises the benevolent man, and regrets that no trial has been made of the good which his schemes might probably perform. An experiment has certainly been made in the United States, and not less certainly it is not hopeful. Mr. Southey dwells, through many pages, upon parts of Owen's plans, as practicable and desirable for tradesmen, even
in large towns. He deems it hard that the Bible Society has every year levied large contributions from the public, while Owen, "with all his efforts and all his eloquence, has not been able in ten years to raise funds for his enterprise;" and he supposes that if the philosopher of Lanark had connected his scheme with any system of religious belief, however absurd or visionary, the money would have been forthcoming. This is a hint, of which the worthy enthusiast—to judge from his recent public disputations in the west—is not likely to profit. Fortunately for the world he is not in the least a hypocrite—he rides his hobby without a mask, and tilts against all the denominations of Christianity.
The manufacturing system is one of those themes which our author has most frequently and ably handled. No book had disclosed so fully the effects which it has produced on the population of Great Britain as his Letters of Espriella, re-published more than twenty years ago in the United States. His seventh Colloquy, of fifty pages, is devoted to this topic, and he returns to it in the second volume, full of hideous images and dark presages. As he has long enjoyed and improved the best opportunities of personal observation, his testimony is entitled to some weight; or at least it is curious and sincere. We are much inclined to favour his maxim that they are miserable politicians who mistake wealth for welfare in their estimate of national prosperity; and that “none have committed this great error more egregiously than some of those who have been called statesmen by the courtesy of England.” He entertains a particular antipathy to the employment of children in manufactories, of which the English) he declares the moral atmosphere to be “as noxious to the soul as the foul and tainted air which they inhale is to their bodily constitution.” He contends that the ordinary and natural consequences of commerce are every way beneficial, “humanizing, civilizing, liberalizing,” compassing sea and land for the purpose of gain, but wasting with it industry, activity, and improvement, and bringing back wealth ; whereas the immediate and home effect of the manufacturing system, carried on as it now is upon the great scale, is to produce physical and moral evil, in proportion to the opulence which it creates.” This is akin to Goldsmith's theory, which is so beautifully and pathetically expressed in the Deserted Village
“Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey
Between a splendid and a happy land," &c. Mr. Southey avers further, that the point of emulation between rival manufacturers, is not so much who shall send forth the best goods, but who the cheapest, and that flimsy articles are thus