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nor precursor: “it travels in a road so narrow, where but one goes abreast.” It claims a monopoly of sense, wit, and wisdom. All their ambition, all their endeavour is, to seem wiser than the whole world besides. They hate whatever falls short of whatever goes beyond, their favourite theories. In the one case, they hurry on before to get the start of you; in the other, they suddenly turn back to hinder you, and defeat themselves. An inordinate, restless, incorrigible self-love is the key to all their actions and opinions, extravagances and meannesses, servility and arrogance. Whatever soothes and pampers this, they applaud; whatever wounds or interferes with it, they utterly and vindictively abhor. A general is with them a hero, if he is unsuccessful or a traitor; if he is a conqueror in the cause of liberty, or a martyr to it, he is a poltroon. Whatever is doubtful, remote, visionary in philosophy, or wild and dangerous in politics, they fasten upon eagerly, “recommending and insisting on nothing less;” reduce the one to demonstration, the other to practice, and they turn their backs upon their own most darling schemes, and leave them in the lurch immediately. When the reader learns that Mr Landor justifies Tiberius and Nero, speaks of Pitt as a poor creature, and Fox as a charlatan, declares Alfieri to have been the greatest man in Europe, and recommends the Greeks, in their struggles with the Turks, to discard firearms, and return to the use of the bow, he will not deem this general description far from inapplicable in the case. And yet the Imaginary Conversations and other writings of Mr Landor are amongst the most remarkable prose productions of our age, written in pure nervous English, and full of thoughts which fasten themselves on the mind, and are ‘a joy for ever. It would require many specimens from these works to make good what is here said for and against their author; we subjoin one, affording both an example of his love of paradox, and of the extraordinary beauties of thought and expression by which he leads us captive.
[Conversation between Lords Chathan and Chesterfield.]
Chesterfield. It is true, my lord, we have not always been of the same opinion, or, to use a better, truer, and more significant expression, of the same side in politics; yet I never heard a sentence from your lordship which I did not listen to with deep attention. I understand that you have written some pieces of admonition and advice to a young relative; they are mentioned as being truly excellent; I wish I could have profited by them when I was composing mine on a similar occasion. Chatham. My lord, you certainly would not have done it, even supposing they contained, which I am far from believing, any topics that could have escaped your penetrating view of manners and morals; for your lordship and I set out diversely from the very threshold. Let us, then, rather hope that what we have written, with an equally good intention, may produce its due effect; which indeed, I am afraid, may be almost as doubtful, if we consider how ineffectual were the cares and exhortations, and even the daily example and high renown, of the most zealous and prudent men on the life and conduct of their children and disciples. Let us, however, hope the best rather than fear the worst, and believe that there never was a right thing done or a wise one spoken in vain, although the fruit of them may not spring up in the place designated or at the time expected. Chesterfield. Pray, if I am not taking too great a freedom, give me the outline of your plan. Chatham. Willingly, my lord; but since a greater man than either of us has laid down a more comprehensive
one, containing all I could bring forward, would it not be preferable to consult it? I differ in nothing from Locke, unless it be that I would recommend the lighter as well as the graver part of the ancient classics, and the constant practice of imitating them in early youth. This is no change in the system, and no larger an addition than a woodbine to a sacred grove. Chesterfield. I do not admire Mr Locke. Chatham. Nor I—he is too simply grand for admiration—I contemplate and revere him. Equally deep and clear, he is both philosophically and grammatically the most elegant of English writers. Chesterfield. If I expressed by any motion of limb or feature my surprise at this remark, your lordship, I hope, will pardon me a slight and involuntary transgression of my own precept. I must entreat you, before we move a step further in our inquiry, to inform me whether I am really to consider him in style the most elegant of our prose authors. Chatham. Your lordship is capable of forming an opinion on this point certainly no less correct than mine. Chesterfield. Pray, assist me. Chatham. Education and grammar are surely the two driest of all subjects on which a conversation can turn; yet if the ground is not promiscuously sown, if what ought to be clear is not covered, if what ought to be covered is not bare, and, above all, if the plants are choice ones, we may spend a few moments on it not unpleasantly. It appears then to me, that elegance in prose composition is mainly this; a just admission of topics and of words; neither too many nor too few of either; enough of sweetness in the sound to induce us to enter and sit still; enough of illustration and reflection to change the posture of our minds when they would tire; and enough of sound matter in the complex to repay us for our attendance. I could perhaps be more logical in my definition and more concise; but am I at all erroneous? Chesterfield. I see not that you are. Chatham. My ear is well satisfied with Locke: I find nothing idle or redundant in him. Chesterfield. But in the opinion of you graver men, would not some of his principles lead too far? Chatham. The danger is, that few will be led by them far enough: most who begin with him stop short, and, pretending to find pebbles in their shoes, throw themselves down upon the ground, and complain of their guide. Chesterfield. What, then, can be the reason why Plato, so much less intelligible, is so much more quoted and applauded ? Chatham. The difficulties we never try are no difficulties to us. Those who are upon the summit of a mountain know in some measure its altitude, by comparing it with all objects around; but those who stand at the bottom, and never mounted it, can compare it with few only, and with those imperfectly. Until a short time ago, I could have conversed more fluently about Plato than I can at present; I had read all the titles to his dialogues, and several scraps of commentary; these I have now forgotten, and am indebted to long attacks of the gout for what I have acquired instead. Chesterfield. A very severe schoolmaster | he allows a long vacation. Chatham. Severe he is indeed, and although he sets no example of regularity, he exacts few observances, and teaches many things. Without him I should have had less patience, less learning, less reflection, less leisure; in short, less of everything but of sleep. Chesterfield. Locke, from a deficiency of fancy, is not likely to attract so many listeners as Plato. Chatham. And yet occasionally his language is both metaphorical and rich in images. In fact, all our great philosophers have also this property in a wonderful degree. Not to speak of the devotional, i.£h"
I hope writings one might expect it, we find it abundantly in Bacon, not sparingly in Hobbes, the next to him in range of inquiry and potency of intellect. And what would you think, my lord, if you discovered in the records of Newton a sentence in the spirit of Shakspeare? Chesterfield. I should look upon it as upon a wonder, not to say a miracle: Newton, like Barrow, had no feeling or respect for poetry. Chatham. His words are these: “I don't know what I may seem to the world; but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of Truth lay all undiscovered before me.’ Chesterfield. Surely nature, who had given him the volumes of her greater mysteries to unseal; who had bent over him and taken his hand, and taught him to decipher the characters of her sacred language; who had lifted up before him her glorious veil, higher than ever yet for mortal, that she might impress her features and her fondness on his heart, threw it back wholly at these words, and gazed upon him with as much admiration as ever he had gazed upon her.
Magnificent words, and the pomp and procession of stately sentences, may accompany genius, but are not always nor frequently called out by it. The voice ought not to be perpetually, nor much, elevated in the ethic and didactic, nor to roll sonorously, as if it issued from a mask in the theatre. The horses in the plain under Troy are not always kicking and neighing; nor is the dust always raised in whirlwinds on the banks of Simois and Scamander; nor are the rampires always in a blaze. Hector has lowered his helmet to the infant of Andromache, and Achilles to the embraces of Briseis. I do not blame the prose-writer who opens his bosom occasionally to a breath of poetry; neither, on the contrary, can I praise the gait of that pedestrian who lifts up his legs as high on a bare heath as in a cornfield.
As the needle turns away from the rising sun, from the meridian, from the occidental, from regions of fragrancy and gold and gems, and moves with unerring impulse to the frosts and deserts of the north, so Milton and some few others, in politics, philosophy, and religion, walk through the busy multitude, wave aside the importunate trader, and, after a momentary oscillation from external agency, are found in the twilight and in the storm, pointing with certain index to the pole-star of immutable truth. * * I have often been amused at thinking in what estimation the greatest of mankind were holden by their contemporaries. Not even the most sagacious and prudent one could discover much of them, or could prognosticate their future course in the infinity of space! Men like ourselves are permitted to stand near, and indeed in the very presence of Milton: what do they see? dark clothes, gray hair, and sightless eyes! Other men have better things: other men, therefore, are nobler ! The stars themselves are only bright by distance; go close, and all is earthy. But vapours illuminate these; from the breath and from the countenance of God comes light on worlds higher than they; worlds to which he has given the forms and names of Shakspeare and Milton."
* A very few of Mr Landor's aphorisms and remarks may be added: He says of fame: “Fame, they tell you, is air; but without air there is no life for any; without fame there is none for the best.’ ‘The happy man, he says, “is he who distinguishes the boundary between desire and delight, and stands firmly on the higher ground; he who knows that ": is not only not possession, but is often to be lost,
EDw1N ATHERSTONE is author of The Last Days of Herculaneum (1821), and The Fall of Nineveh (1828), both poems in blank verse, and remarkable for splendour of diction and copiousness of description. The first is founded on the well-known destruction of the city of Herculaneum by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first year of the Emperor Titus, or the 79th of the Christian era. Mr Atherstone has followed the account of this awful occurrence given by the younger Pliny in his letters to Tacitus, and has drawn some powerful pictures of the desolating fire and its attendant circumstances. There is perhaps too much of terrible and gloomy painting, yet it enchains the attention of the reader, and impresses the imagination with something like dramatic force. Mr Atherstone's second subject is of the same elevated cast: the downfall of an Asiatic empire afforded ample room for his love of strong and magnificent description, and he has availed himself of this licence so fully, as to border in many passages on extravagance and bombast.
The following passage, descriptive of the splendour of Sardanapalus's state, may be cited as happy specimens of Mr Atherstone's style:
The moon is clear—the stars are coming forthThe evening breeze fans pleasantly. Retired Within his gorgeous hall, Assyria's king Sits at the banquet, and in love and wine Revels delighted. On the gilded roof A thousand golden lamps their lustre fling, And on the marble walls, and on the throne Gem-bossed, that high on jasper-steps upraised, Like to one solid diamond quivering stands, Sun-splendours flashing round. In woman's garb The sensual king is clad, and with him sit A crowd of beauteous concubines. They sing, And roll the wanton eye, and laugh, and sigh, And feed his ear with honeyed flatteries, And laud him as a god. * * Like a mountain stream, Amid the silence of the dewy eve Heard by the lonely traveller through the vale, With dream-like murmuring melodious, In diamond showers a crystal fountain falls. * * Sylph-like girls, and blooming boys, Flower-crowned, and in apparel bright as spring, Attend upon their bidding. At the sign, From bands unseen, voluptuous music breathes, Harp, dulcimer, and, sweetest far of all, . Woman's mellifluous voice. Through all the city sounds the voice of joy And tipsy merriment. On the spacious walls, That, like huge sea-cliffs, gird the city in, Myriads of wanton feet go to and fro: Gay garments rustle in the scented breeze, Crimson, and azure, purple, green, and gold; Laugh, jest, and passing whisper are heard there; Timbrel, and lute, and dulcimer, and song; And many feet that tread the dance are seen, And arms upflung, and swaying heads plume-crowned. So is that city steeped in revelry. * * * * Then went the king, Flushed with the wine, and in his pride of power
and always to be endangered by it. Of light wit or sarcasm, he observes: “Quickness is amongst the least of the mind's properties. I would persuade you that banter, pun, and quibble are the properties of light men and shallow capacities; that genuine humour and true wit require a sound and capacious mind, which is always a grave one.”
Glorying; and with his own strong arm upraised From out its rest the Assyrian banner broad, Purple and edged with gold; and, standing then Upon the utmost summit of the mount— Round, and yet round—for two strong men a task Sufficient deemed—he waved the splendid flag, Bright as a meteor streaming. At that sight The plain was in a stir : the helms of brass Were lifted up, and glittering spear-points waved, And banners shaken, and wide trumpet mouths Upturned; and myriads of bright-harnessed steeds Were seen uprearing, shaking their proud heads; And brazen chariots in a moment sprang, And clashed together. In a moment more Up came the monstrous universal shout, Like a volcano's burst. Up, up to heaven The multitudinous tempest tore its way, Rocking the clouds: from all the swarming plain And from the city rose the mingled cry, ‘Long live Sardanapalus, king of kings! May the king live for ever!’ Thrice the flag The monarch waved; and thrice the shouts arose Enormous, that the solid walls were shook, And the firm ground made tremble. Amid the far-off hills, With eye of fire, and shaggy mane upreared, The sleeping lion in his den sprang up; Listened awhile—then laid his monstrous mouth Close to the floor, and breathed hot roarings out In fierce reply. * * * He comes at length— The thickening thunder of the wheels is heard: Upon their hinges roaring, open fly The brazen gates: sounds then the tramp of hoofs— And lo! the gorgeous pageant, like the sun, Flares on their startled eyes. Four snow-white steeds, In golden trappings, barbed all in gold, Spring through the gate; the lofty chariot then, Of ebony, with gold and gems thick strewn, Even like the starry night. The spokes were gold, With felloes of strong brass; the naves were brass, With burnished gold o'erlaid, and diamond rimmed; Steel were the axles, in bright silver case; The pole was cased in silver: high aloft, Like a rich throne the gorgeous seat was framed; Of ivory part, part silver, and part gold: On either side a golden statue stood: Upon the right—and on a throne of gold— Great Belus, of the Assyrian empire first, And worshipped as a god; but, on the left, In a resplendent car by lions drawn, A goddess. * xt Behind the car, Full in the centre, on the ebon ground, Flamed forth a diamond sun; on either side, A horned moon of diamond; and beyond The planets, each one blazing diamond. Such was the chariot of the king of kings.
CHARLES LA M B.
CHARLEs LAMB, a poet, and a delightful essayist, of quaint peculiar humour and fancy, was born in London on the 10th February 1775. His father was in humble circumstances, servant and friend to one of the benchers of the Inner Temple; but Charles was presented to the school of Christ's Hospital, and from his seventh to his fifteenth year he was an inmate of that ancient and munificent asylum. Lamb was a mervous, timid, and thoughtful boy: “while others were all fire and play, he stole along with all the self-concentration of a monk.” He would have obtained an exhibition at
school, admitting him to college, but these exhibitions were given under the implied if not expressed condition of entering into the church, and Lamb had an impediment in his speech, which in this case proved an insuperable obstacle. In 1792 he obtained
an appointment in the accountant's office of the East India Company, residing with his parents; and ‘on their death, says Sergeant Talfourd, “he felt himself called upon by duty to repay to his sister the solicitude with which she had watched over his infancy, and well, indeed, he performed it. To her, from the age of twenty-one, he devoted his existence, seeking thenceforth no connection which could interfere with her supremacy in his affections, or impair his ability to sustain and to comfort her.’ A sad tragedy was connected with the early history of this devoted pair. There was a taint of hereditary
"madness in the family; Charles had himself, at the
close of the year 1795, been six weeks confined in an asylum at Hoxton, and in September of the following year, Mary Lamb, in a paroxysm of insanity, stabbed her mother to death with a knife snatched from the dinner-table. A verdict of lunacy was returned by the jury who sat on the coroner's inquest, and the unhappy young lady was placed in a private asylum at Islington. Reason was speedily restored. “My poor dear, dearest sister, writes Charles Lamb to his bosom-friend Coleridge, ‘the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty's judgments on our house, is restored to her senses; to a dreadful sense and recollection of what has past, awful to her mind and impressive, as it must be, to the end of life, but tempered with religious resignation and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which, in this early stage, knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a transient fit of frenzy, and the terrible guilt of a mother's murder. In confinement, however, Mary Lamb continued until the death of her father, an imbecile old man; and then Charles came to her deliverance. He satisfied all parties who had power to oppose her release, by
his solemn engagement that he would take her under his care for life, and he kept his word. “For her sake he abandoned all thoughts of love and marriage; and with an income of scarcely more than £100 a year, derived from his clerkship, aided for a little while by the old aunt's small annuity, set out on the journey of life at twenty-two years of age, cheerfully, with his beloved companion, endeared to him the more by her strange calamity, and the constant apprehension of the recurrence of the malady which caused it.” The malady did again recur at intervals, rendering restraint necessary, but Charles, though at times wayward and prone to habits of excess—or rather to over-sociality with a few tried friends-seems never again to have relapsed into aberration of mind. He bore his trials meekly, manfully, and with prudence as well as fortitude. The first compositions of Lamb were in verse, prompted, probably, by the poetry of his friend Coleridge. A warm admiration of the Elizabethan dramatists led him to imitate their style and manner in a tragedy named John Woodvil, which was published in 1801, and mercilessly ridiculed in the Edinburgh Review as a specimen of the rudest state of the drama. There is much that is exquisite both in sentiment and expression in Lamb's play, but the plot is certainly meagre, and the style had then an appearance of affectation. The following description of the sports in the forest has a truly antique air, like a passage in Heywood or Shirley:
To see the sun to bed, and to arise,
In 1802 Lamb paid a visit to Coleridge at Keswick, and clambered up to the top of Skiddaw. Notwithstanding his partiality for a London life, he was deeply struck with the solitary grandeur and beauty of the lakes. ‘Fleet Street and the Strand, he says, “are better places to live in for good and all than amidst Skiddaw. Still, I turn back to those great places where I wandered about participating in their greatness. I could spend a year, two, three years among them, but I must have à prospect of seeing Fleet Street at the end of that time, or I should mope and pine away. A second dramatic attempt was made by Lamb in 1804. This was a farce entitled Mr H., which was accepted by the proprietors of Drury Lane Theatre, and acted for one night; but so indifferently received, that it was never brought forward afterwards. “Lamb saw that the case was hopeless, and consoled his friends with a century of puns for the wreck of his dramatic hopes. In 1807
* #" Memorials of Charles Lamb, by T. N. Talfourd. .
he published a series of tales founded on the plays of Shakspeare, which he had written in conjunction with his sister, and in the following year appeared his Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who lived about the time of Shakspeare, a work evincing a thorough appreciation of the spirit of the old dramatists, and a fine critical taste in analysing their genius. Some of his poetical pieces were also composed about this time; but in these efforts Lamb barely indicated his powers, which were not fully displayed till the publication of his essays signed Elia, originally printed in the London Magazine. In these his curious reading, nice observation, and poetical conceptions, found a genial and befitting field. “They are all, says his biographer, Sergeant Talfourd, ‘carefully elaborated; yet never were works written in a higher defiance to the conventional pomp of style. A sly hit, a happy pun, a humorous combination, lets the light into the intricacies of the subject, and supplies the place of ponderous sentences. Seeking his materials for the most part in the common paths of life—often in the humblest—he gives an importance to everything, and sheds a grace over all. In 1825 Lamb was emancipated from the drudgery of his situation as clerk in the India House, retiring with a handsome pension, which enabled him to enjoy the comforts, and many of the luxuries of life. In a letter to Wordsworth, he thus describes his sensations after his release: ‘I came home FoR EVER on Tuesday week. The incomprehensibleness of my condition overwhelmed me. It was like passing from life into eternity. Every year to be as long as three; that is, to have three times as much real time-time that is my own—in it! I wandered about thinking I was happy, but feeling I was not. But that tumultuousness is passing off, and I begin to understand the nature of the gift. Holidays, even the annual month, were always uneasy joys, with their conscious fugitiveness, the craving after making the most of them. Now, when all is holiday, there are no holidays. I can sit at home, in rain or shine, without a restless impulse for walkings. I am daily steadying, and shall soon find it as natural to me to be my own master, as it has been irksome to have had a master. He removed to a cottage near Islington, and in the following summer, went with his faithful sister and companion on a long visit to Enfield, which ultimately led to his giving up his cottage, and becoming a constant resident at that place. There he lived for about five years, delighting his friends with his correspondence and occasional visits to London, displaying his social racy humour and active benevolence. In 1830 he committed to the press a small volume of poems, entitled Album Verses, the gleanings of several years, and he occasionally sent a contribution to some literary periodical. In December 1834, whilst taking his daily walk on the London road, he stumbled against a stone, fell, and slightly injured his face. The accident appeared trifling, but erysipelas in the face came on, and in a few days proved fatal. He was buried in the churchyard at Edmonton, amidst the tears and regrets of a circle of warmly attached friends, and his memory was consecrated by a tribute from the muse of Wordsworth. His sister survived till 1847. A complete edition of Lamb's works has been published by his friend Mr Moxon, and his reputation is still on the increase. For this he is mainly indebted to his essays. We cannot class him among the favoured sons of Apollo, though in heart and feeling he might sit with the proudest. The peculiarities of his style were doubtless grafted upon him by his constant study and lifelong admiration of the old English writers. Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Jeremy Taylor, Browne, Fuller, and others of the elder worthies (down to Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle), were his chosen companions. He knew all their fine sayings and noble thoughts; and, consulting his own heart after his hard day's plodding at the India House, at his quiet fireside (ere his reputation was established, and he came to be “over-companied’ by social visitors), he invested his original thoughts and fancies, and drew up his curious analogies and speculations in a garb similar to that which his favourites wore. Then Lamb was essentially a town-man—a true Londoner—fond as Johnson of Fleet Street and the Strand—a frequenter of the theatre, and attached to social habits, courtesies, and observances. His acute powers of observation were constantly called into play, and his warm sympathies excited by the shifting scenes around him. His kindliness of nature, his whims, puns, and prejudices, give a strong individuality to his writings; while in playful humour, critical taste, and choice expression, Charles Lamb may be considered among English essayists a genuine and original master.
When maidens such as Hester die,
Their place ye may not well supply,
Though ye among a thousand try,
A month or more she hath been dead,
Yet cannot I by force be led
To think upon the wormy bed,
A springy motion in her gait,
A rising step, did indicate
Of pride and joy no common rate, That flushed her spirit.
I know not by what name beside
I shall it call:—if 'twas not pride,
It was a joy to that allied,
Her parents held the Quaker rule,
Which doth the human feeling cool;
But she was trained in Nature's school; Nature had blest her.
A waking eye, a prying mind,
A heart that stirs, is hard to bind,
A hawk's keen sight ye cannot blind, Ye could not Hester.
My sprightly neighbour ! gone before
To that unknown and silent shore,
Shall we not meet, as heretofore,
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray
Hath struck a bliss upon the day,
A bliss that would not go away,
The Old Familiar Faces.
I have had playmates, I have had companions,
I have been laughing, I have been carousing, Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom-cronies; All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.