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mour, very much of which depends on the imposing gravity with which it is delivered, and on the various turns and heightenings it may receive from a rapidly shifting and always appropriate expression. Almost all his works, after the Tale of a Tub, seem to have been written very fast, and with very little minute care of the diction. For his own ease, therefore, it is probable they were all pitched on a low key, and set about on the ordinary tone of a familiar letter or conversation; as that from which there was little hazard of falling, even in moments of negligence, and from which any rise that could be effected must always be easy and conspicuous. A man fully possessed of his subject, indeed, and confident of his cause, may almost always write with vigour and effect, if he can get over the temptation of writing finely, and really confine himself to the strong and clear exposition of the matter he has to bring forward. Half of the affectation and offensive pretension we meet with in authors, arises from a want of matter,-and the other half, from a paltry ambition of being eloquent and ingenious out of place. Swift had complete confidence in himself; and had too much real business on his hands, to be at leisure to intrigue for the fame of a fine writer;--in consequence of which, his writings are more admired by the judicious than if he had bestowed all his attention on their style. He was so much a man of business indeed, and so much accustomed to consider his writings merely as means for the attainment of a practical end-whether that end was the strengthening of a party, or the wounding a foe-that he not only disdained the reputation of a composer of pretty sentences, but seems to have been thoroughly indifferent to all sorts of literary fame. He enjoyed the notoriety and influence which he had procured by his writings; but it was the glory of having carried his point, and not of having written well, that he valued. As soon as his publications had served their turn, they seem to have been entirely forgotten by their author; and, desirous as he was of being richer, he appears to have thought as little of making money as immortality by means of them. He mentions somewhere, that except 300% which he got for Gulliver, he never made a farthing by any of his writings. Pope understood his trade better,--and not only made knowing bargains for his own works, but occasionally borrowed his friends' pieces, and pocketed the price of the whole. This was notoriously the case with three volumes of Miscellanies, of which the greater part were from the pen of Swift.
In humour and in irony, and in the talent of debasing and defiling what he hated, we join with all the world in thinking the Dean of St Patrick's without a rival. His humour,
though sufficiently marked and peculiar, is not to be easily defined. The rearest description we can give of it, would make it consist in expressing sentiments the most absurd and ridiculous-the most shocking and atrocious--or sometimes the most energetic and original-in a sort of composed, calm, and unconscious way, as if they were plain, undeniable, commonplace truths, which no person could dispute, or expect to gain credit by announcing and in maintaining them, always in the gravest and most familiar language, with a consistency which somewhat palliates their extravagance, and a kind of perverted ingenuity, which seems to give pledge for their sincerity. The secret, in short, seems to consist in employing the language of humble good sense, and simple undoubting conviction, to express, in their honest nakedness, sentiments which it is usually thought necessary to disguise under a thousand pretences-or truths which are usually introduced with a thousand apologies. The basis of the art is the personating a character of great simplicity and openness, for whom the common moral or artificial distinctions of society are supposed to have no existence; and making use of this character as an instrument to strip vice and folly of their disguises, and expose guilt in all its deformity, and truth in all its terrors. Independent of the moral or satire, of which they may thus be the vehicle, a great part of the entertainment to be derived from works of humour, arises from the contrast between the grave, unsuspecting indifference of the character personated, and the ordinary feelings of the world on the subjects which he discusses. This contrast it is easy to heighten, by all sorts of imputed absurdities; in which case, the humour degenerates into mere farce and buffoonery. Swift has yielded a little to this temptation in the Tale of a Tub; but scarcely at all in Gul liver, or any of his later writings in the same style. Of his talent for reviling, we have already said at least enough, in some of the preceding pages.
ART. II. Christabel: Kubla Khan, a Vision. The Pains of Sleep. By S. T. COLERIDGE Esq. London. Murray, 1816.
THE HE advertisement by which this work was announced to the publick, carried in its front a recommendation from Lord Byron,-who, it seems, has somewhere praised Christabel, as a wild and singularly original and beautiful poem.' Great as the noble bard's merits undoubtedly are in poetry, some of his latest publications dispose us to distrust his authority, where the question is what ought to meet the public eye; and the works
before us afford an additional proof, that his judgment on such matters is not absolutely to be relied on. Moreover, we are a little inclined to doubt the value of the praise which one poet lends another. It seems now-a-days to be the practice of that once irritable race to laud each other without bounds; and one can hardly avoid suspecting, that what is thus lavishly advanced may be laid out with a view to being repaid with interest. Mr Coleridge, however, must be judged by his own merits.
It is remarked, by the writers upon the Bathos, that the true profound is surely known by one quality-its being wholly bottomless; insomuch, that when you think you have attained its utmost depth in the work of some of its great masters, another, or peradventure the same, astonishes you, immediately after, by a plunge so much more vigorous, as to outdo all his former outdoings. So it seems to be with the new school, or, as they may be termed, the wild or lawless poets. After we had been admiring their extravagance for many years, and marvelling at the ease and rapidity with which one exceeded another in the unmeaning or infantine, until not an idea was left in the rhymeor in the insane, until we had reached something that seemed the untamed effusion of an author whose thoughts were rather more free than his actions-forth steps Mr Coleridge, like a giant refreshed with sleep, and as if to redeem his character after so long a silence, (his poetic powers having been, he says, from 1808 till very lately, in a state of suspended animation,' p. v.) and breaks out in these precise words
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And hark, again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew. '
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
From her kennel beneath the rock
She makes answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say she sees my lady's shroud. '
Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.' p. 3, 4.
It is probable that Lord Byron may have had this passage in his eye, when he called the poem wild' and original;' but how he discovered it to be beautiful,' is not quite so easy for us to imagine.
Much of the art of the wild writers consists in sudden trans
itions-opening eagerly upon some topic, and then flying from it immediately. This indeed is known to the medical men, who not unfrequently have the care of them, as an unerring symptom. Accordingly, here we take leave of the Mastiff Bitch, and lose sight of her entirely, upon the entrance of another personage of a higher degree,
The lovely Lady Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well '—
And who, it seems, has been rambling about all night, having, the night before, had dreams about her lover, which made her moan and leap.' While kneeling, in the course of her rambles, at an old oak, she hears a noise on the other side of the stump, and going round, finds, to her great surprize, another fair damsel in white silk, but with her dress and hair in some disorder; at the mention of whom, the poet takes fright, not, as might be imagined, because of her disorder, but on account of her beauty and her fair attire
I guess, 'twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she-
Christabel naturally asks who she is, and is answered, at some length, that her name is Geraldine; that she was, on the morning before, seized by five warriors, who tied her on a white horse, and drove her on, they themselves following, also on white horses; and that they had rede all night. Her narrative now gets to be a little contradictory, which gives rise to unpleas ant suspicions. She protests vehemently, and with oaths, that she has no idea who the men were; only that one of them, the tallest of the five, took her and placed her under the tree, and that they all went away, she knew not whither; but how long she had remained there she cannot tell
• Nor do I know how long it is,
For I have lain in fits, I wis;'
-although she had previously kept a pretty exact account of the time. The two ladies then go home together, after this satisfactory explanation, which appears to have conveyed to the intelligent mind of Lady C. every requisite information. They arrive at the castle, and pass the night in the same bed-room; not to disturb Sir Leoline, who, it seems, was poorly at the time, and, of course, must have been called up to speak to the chambermaids, and have the sheets aired, if Lady G. had had a room to herself. They do not get to their bed, however, in the poem, quite so easily as we have carried them. They first cross the moat, and Lady C. took the key that fitted well,' and opened a little door, all in the middle of the gate.' Lady G. then sinks down
belike through pain;' but it should seem more probably from laziness; for her fair companion having lifted her up, and carried her a little way, she then walks on as she were not in pain. ' Then they cross the court-but we must give this in the poet's words, for he seems so pleased with them, that he inserts them twice over in the space of ten lines.
'So free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court-right glad they were.'
Lady C. is desirous of a little conversation on the way, but Lady G. will not indulge her Ladyship, saying, she is too much tired to speak. We now meet our old friend, the mastiff bitch, who is much too important a person to be slightly passed by
• Outside her kennel, the mastiff old
For what can ail the mastiff bitch? '
Whatever it may be that ails the bitch, the ladies pass for ward, and take off their shoes, and tread softly all the way up stairs, as Christabel observes that her father is a bad sleeper. At last, however, they do arrive at the bed-room, and comfort themselves with a dram of some home-made liquor, which proves to be very old; for it was made by Lady C.'s mother; and when her new friend asks if she thinks the old lady will take her part, she answers, that this is out of the question, in as much as she happened to die in childbed of her. The mention of the old lady, however, gives occasion to the following pathetic couplet.Christabel says,
'O mother dear, that thou wert here!
I would, said Geraldine, she were!'
A very mysterious conversation next takes place between Lady Geraldine and the old gentlewoman's ghost, which proving extremely fatiguing to her, she again has recourse to the bottle and with excellent effect, as appears by these lines.
'Again the wild-flower wine she drank;
She was most beautiful to see,
Like a Lady of a far countrée.'
From which, we may gather among other points, the exceeding great beauty of all women who live in a distant place, no