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Biographical Sketches of Celebrated Persons, lately deceased,
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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
A FEW WORDS FROM THE PROPRIETOR.
The Farewell Address of Mr. Bulwer is still fresh in the recollection of our readers; and now that the editorial duties of that gentleman have ceased, and the New Monthly Magazine begins to pursue its career under a new direction, the Proprietor feels that he also has a duty to perform. To the late Editor his acknowledgments are first due; and could he have devoted to the work his undivided energies--had not the pressure of public business, and a multitude of other pursuits interfered with the increasing demands which it made upon his time and talents-Mr. Colburn could not but have regretted his retirement.
The readers of the New Monthly Magazine, previously to Mr. Bulwer's undertaking the task of Editor, are aware that its chief claim upon public patronage was founded, not on its political, but on its literary character; that politics were by no means prominent in its pages; that when occasionally introduced they were in no sense of the term ultra, yet always adhering to liberal and constitutional principles, while studiously avoiding the heats and animosities of party. During the late political fermentation, it was both natural and excusable that its Editor, a Member of Parliament, and strongly imbued with a political bias, should have stamped much of the character of his own views upon the Periodical under his control; and his Political Essays form, in the opinion of many, an exceedingly valuable portion of the work. But, with a change of management, it is the intention of the Proprietor to effect a change of plan, and to deviate less in future from the quiet and pleasant paths of literature into the “ fumum, strepitumque," the smoke and turmoil, of politics. He feels, moreover, that the undisturbed energies of more than one master-mind may be advantageously directed to the
Sept.--V01.. xxxix. NO. CLIII.
Publication, in order that the result may be commensurate with the growing spirit of the age, which demands, in a Magazine, not only articles connected with criticism and other portions of the belles-lettres, but whatever can amuse, instruct, and refine; narratives of life and adventure -illustrations of personal character-anecdotes—the appy sallies of humour--and the loftier exercise of imagination.
The Proprietor has accordingly taken measures to secure, by a concentration of minds suited to every department of the work, all that the public can possibly desire--all that is requisite to render the Publication deserving of the continued support of the different classes of the community, to whom this species of literature is at once a necessity and a luxury; and it will be the aim of those who have the honour of conducting it, to raise its character to a yet higher point than it has hitherto attained.
ON THE ANONYMOUS IN PERIODICALS.
WHETHER it be from the obtuseness of our understanding or the inveteracy. of our prejudice, we confess we are not yet converts to Mr. Bulwer's arguments * against preserving the anonymous in periodicals. It appears to us that he confounds the abuses of the thing with the thing itself, and that, after his admissions, his objections may be easily neutralized, if not refuted. We think that the anonymous, as it more especially regards periodical criticism, ought to be the rule, and affixing the name of the writer to any particular article the exception ;--nay, we advance a step farther, and, notwithstanding recent and splendid examples to the contrary, we maintain that the editorial function itself should be sustained anonymously,—at least, that the name of the editor, if known at all, should be rather understood than avowed ; and though at present we cannot enter into the question at large, we shall assign-a few reasons in support of the views we entertain upon the subject. : Of course, when we speak of periodical criticism, we must be understood to mean those reviews and literary notices which regard books, and not men, which point out fairly and fearlessly the excellencies and faults of writers, the good or evil principles, the nature and tendency of
• England and the English. By Edward Lytton Bulwer, Esq: M.P., Author of * Pelham," “ Devereux," and "Eugene Aram." 2 vols. London.
their works, --without meddling with their private history, or referring to them in any other light than as they are exhibited in their productions; and thus our attention is confined wholly to “the advantage of the anonymous in literary criticism ;” and to that advantage chiefly as it affects the public. Far be it from us to advocate positive deception under any of its forms; but there are illusions which are entirely exempt from mischievous intention,- which are allied to good rather than to evil,—which are “ shadows of beauty and shadows of power." One of these happily pervades the public mind on the subject of periodical criticism. Our leading reviews are supposed to be the united efforts of some of the greatest names in our literature; hence the influence they exert over the opinions, tastes, and pursuits of so large à portion of our countrymen. We may ask-would they be better conducted, or would the articles be better written, if Mr. Bulwer's suggestion were adopted ? With the anonymous, too, the illusion would vanish. Criticism, by unveiling its mysteries, would sacrifice its power over others, and would itself degenerate into feebleness; the decisions of the imaginary areopagus would be exchanged for the una supported nothings of individual opinion; all the jealousies and enmities, the partialities and sycophancies, which are now concealed behind " the curtain of periodical criticism,” would then be revealed to the public eye; the literary profession would become odious and cona temptible; authors would flatter critics,-critics would return the compliment with interest; or the bitterness of malice between contending rivals, which now flows in an under-current, and which is scarcely known to exist but to the parties themselves, would then rise up to the surface, and become the object of universal disgust. Mr. Bulwer maintains that "nearly all criticism at this day is the public effect of private acquaintance." We scarcely know how to reconcile his assertion with what he says in the very next page. It is an odd acquaintanceship which gives such proofs of affection. “Were a sudden revelation of the mysteries of the craft now to be made, what, oh! what would be the rage, the astonishment of the public! What men of straw in the rostra, pronouncing fiats on the immortal writings of the age! what guessers at the difference between a straight line and a curve, deciding upon the highest questions of art! what stop-watch gazers lecturing on the drama! what disappointed novelists, writhing poets, saletess historians, senseless essayists, wreaking their wrath on a lucky rival! What Damons heaping impartial eulogia on their scribbling Pythias! what presumption! what falsehood! what ignorance! what deceit! what malice in censure! what dishonesty in praise ! Such a revelation would be worthy a Quevedo to describe !" We humbly cona ceive that it is better for the public to be without such a revelation, because; in our opinion, it would be extremely partial and unjust. For
even Mr. Bulwer, in another part of his second volume, tells us that the reason'we have no great works, though we' abouind in great writers, is that they have devoted so much of their talents to periodical miscellanies--and chiefly, as it appears, to periodical criticism." " It is in these journals," he observes, "that the most eminent of our recent men of letters have chiefly obtained their renown. "It'is here that we find the sparkling and sarcastic Jeffrey; the incomparable humour and transparent logic of Sydney Smith; the rich and glowing criticism of Wilson, the nervous vigour and brilliant imagination of Macaulay (who, if he had not been among the greatest of English orators, would have been among the most commanding of English authors), it is in periodicals (that is, in reviews) that many of the most beautiful evidences of Southey's rich taste and antique stateliness of mind are to be sought.” The whole case therefore is not so bad as Mr. Bulwer's first enunciation might lead us to apprehend; and perhaps the public will suffer no very serious inconvenience if they be left to imagine, when they are dissatisfied with a critical article; that it is the production of some insignificant underling of the craft: and when they are instructed and delighted, that they are receiving the lessons of wisdom and the decisions of taste from the first savans of the age." Why dissolve the illusion? for, after all, talent will find its own level, whether with or without a name. Anonymous opinion on literary subjects, unsupported by the requisite qualifications which entitle it to respect, goes for very little with the thinking part of the community, and a responsible name would add nothing to its weight or importance. A well-written article will make its own way on the strength of its intrinsic value, as "good wine needs no bush ;” while the fact of the writer being “núknown will be so far an advantage, that every render: who admires it will ascribe # to his fayourite author. Thus, to one it will come recommended with all the interest attached to the genius of Campbell, while another will imagine himself to be charmed with the wit of Bulwer or the eloquenee of Macaulay.to be
We question whether the great writers, whose names Mr. Bulwer thus associates with our periodical criticism, would have attained that renown which it has conferred upon them, if they had been compelled to affix their signatures to their respective contributions. Had this been the case, we are persuaded that the works in which those contributions appeared would have materially suffered, both in circulation and influz ence. The anonymous threw them just so far into the distance as to render them a constellation, each contributing to the splendour of each, forming to appearance one grand: luminary in the literary heavens. Though anonymous, they were not unknown;--there were those who could discern and call them all by their names; there was enough of mystery and revelation to awaken curiosity and to satisfy inquiry. This