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science and literature within the grasp of all, a society was formed in 1825 for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, at the head of which were several statesmen and leading members of the Whig aristocracy—Lords Auckland, Althorp (afterwards Earl Spencer), John Russell, Nugent, Suffield, Mr Henry Brougham (afterwards Lord Brougham), Sir James Mackintosh, Dr Maltby (then bishop of Durham), Mr Hallam, Captain Basil Hall, &c. Their object was to circulate a series of treatises on the exact sciences, and on various branches of useful knowledge, in numbers at sixpence each. The first was published in March 1827, being A Discourse of the Objects, Advantages, and Pleasures of Science, by Mr Brougham. Many of the works issued by this society were excellent compendiums of knowledge; but the general fault of their scientific treatises was, that they were too technical and abstruse for the working-classes, and were, in point of fact, purchased and read chiefly by those in better stations of life. Another series of works of a higher cast, entitled The Library of Entertaining Knowledge, in four-shilling volumes, also emanated from this society, as well as a very valuable and extensive series of maps and charts, forming a complete atlas. A collection of portraits, with biographical memoirs, and an improved description of almanac, published yearly, formed part of the society's operations. Their labours have on the whole been beneficial; and though the demand for cheap literature was rapidly extending, the steady impulse and encouragement given to it by a society possessing ample funds and large influence, must have tended materially to accelerate its progress. It was obvious, however, that the field was only partly occupied, and that large masses, both in the rural and manufacturing districts, were unable either to purchase or understand many of the treatises of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Under this impression, the publishers of the present work commenced, in February 1832, their weekly periodical, Chambers's Journal, consisting of original papers on subjects of ordinary life, science, and literature, and containing in each number a quantity of matter equal to that in a number of the society's works, and sold at one-fourth of the price. The result of this extraordinary cheapness was a circulation soon exceeding fifty thousand weekly. The Penny Magazine, a respectable periodical, and the Penny Cyclopaedia, were afterwards commenced by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and attained each a very great circulation. There are now numerous other labourers in the same field
of humble usefulness; and it is scarcely possible to enter a cottage or workshop without meeting with some of these publications—cheering the leisure moments of the peasant or mechanic, and, by withdrawing him from the operation of the grosser senses, elevating him in the scale of rational beings. We cannot close this section without adverting to the Reviews and Magazines. The Edinburgh Review, started in October 1802 under circumstances elsewhere detailed, was a work entirely new in our literature, not only as it brought talent of the first order to bear upon periodical criticism, but as it presented many original and brilliant disquisitions on subjects of public importance apart from all consideration of the literary productions of the day. It met with instant success. Of the first number, 750 copies were printed. The demand exceeded this limited supply: 750 more were thrown off, and successive editions followed. In 1808, the circulation had risen to about 9000; and it is believed to have reached its maximum-from which it has declined—in 1813, when 12,000 or 13,000 copies were printed. The Review, we need not say, still occupies an important position in the English world of letters. As it was devoted to the support of Whig politics, the Tory or ministerial party of the day soon felt a need for a similar organ of opinion on their side, and this led to the establishment of the Quarterly Review in 1809. The Quarterly has ever since kept abreast with its northern rival in point of ability, and is said to have at length outstripped it in circulation. The Westminster Review was established in 1824, by Mr Bentham and his friends, as a medium for the representation of Radical opinions. In talent, as in popularity, this work has been unequal. The same improvement which the Edinburgh Review originated in the critical class of periodicals was effected in the department of the magazines, or literary miscellanies, by the establishment, in 1817, of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, which has been the exemplar of many other similar publicationsFraser's, Tait's, the New Monthly, Bentley's Miscellany, the Dublin University Magazine, &c. The New Monthly was conducted for several years by Campbell, the poet, who received for his editorship £600 per annum. These magazines present each month a melange of original articles in light literature, mingled with papers of political disquisition. In
all of them there is now literary matter of merit equal to what obtained great reputations some sixty or eighty years since.
REIGNS OF GEORGE IV, WILLIAM IV., AND QUEEN VICTORIA.
£ OME of the great names which illustrated the former period, and have made it famous, still remained # after 1830 to grace our literature. * Their strength, however, was wellnigh spent—their chief honours won; £ and it may be long ere the world see * "again such a cluster of bright and eminent #7 contemporaries! We have no rivals in originality, power, or influence equal to Scott, Byron, or Wordsworth-no philosophical critic equal to Coleridge— no lyrical martial poet equal to Campbell—no such combination of wit, fancy, and poetic art as was seen in Moore. These were the creative masters of the last generation. At present we have vast activity in every department of our national literature, and in some there is unquestioned preeminence. This is seen in the revival of speculative philosophy—corresponding with the diffusion of physical science—in the study of nature, its laws and resources; and in the rich abundance of our prose fiction. The novel has indeed become a necessity in our social life—an institution. It no longer deals with great heroic events and perilous adventures—the romance of history or chivalry. But it finds nourishment and vigour in the daily walks and common scenes of life—in the development of character, intellect, and passion, the struggles, follies, and varieties of ordinary existence. Even poetry reflects the contemplative and inquiring spirit of the age. In history, biography, and art-literature the same tendencies prevail—a desire to know all and investigate all. Every source of information is sought after—every principle or doctrine in taste, criticism, and ethics is subjected to scrutiny and analysis; while literary journals and cheap editions, multiplied by the aid of steam, pour forth boundless supplies. To note all these in our remaining space would be impossible; many works well deserving of study we can barely glance at, and others cannot even receive notice. In the delicate and somewhat invidious task of dealing with living authors, we shall seek rather to afford information and awaken interest than to pronounce judgments; and we must trust largely to the candour and indulgence of our readers.
The chief representative poet of the period is Alfred Tennyson, who, on the death of Wordsworth, by universal acclaim succeeded to the laurel,
Greener from the brows Of him who uttered nothing base,
and #9 has, like his predecessor, slowly won his
way to fame. But before noticing the laureate some other names claim attention.
HART LEY, DER w ENT, AND SARA Co LERIDGE.
The children of Samuel Taylor Coleridge all inherited his love of literature, and the eldest possessed no small portion of kindred poetical genius. HARTLEY Col.ERIDGE (1796–1849) was born at Clevedon, near Bristol. His precocious fancy and sensibility attracted Wordsworth, who addressed some lines to the child, then only six years of age, expressive of his anxiety and fears for his future lot. The lines were prophetic. After a desultory, irregular education, Hartley competed for a fellowship at Oriel College, Oxford, and gained it with high distinction; but at the close of the probationary year, he was judged to have forfeited it on the ground mainly of intemperance. He then attempted a literary life in London, but was unsuccessful. ‘The cause of his failure, says his brother, “lay in himself, not in any want of literary power, of which he had always a ready command, and which he could have made to assume the most popular forms, but he had lost the power of will. His steadiness of purpose was gone, and the motives which he had for exertion, imperative as they appeared, were without force. Hartley next tried a school at Ambleside, but his scholars soon fell off, and at length he trusted solely to his pen. He contributed to Blackwood's Magazine, and in 1832 wrote for a Leeds publisher Biographia Borealis, or Lives of Distinguished Northmen. In 1833 appeared Poems, vol. i. (no second volume was published), and in 1834, Lives of Northern Worthies. The latter years of Hartley Coleridge were spent in the Lake country at Grasmere, and afterwards on the banks of Rydal Water. He was regarded with love, admiration, and pity; for, with all his irregularities he preserved a childlike purity and simplicity of character, and ‘with hair white as snow,” he had, as one of his friends remarked, ‘a heart as green as May. The works of Hartley Coleridge have been republished and edited by his brother—the Poems, with a memoir, two volumes, 1851; Essays and Marginalia (miscellaneous essays and criticism), two volumes, 1851; and Lives of Northern Worthies, three volumes, 1852. The poetry of Hartley Coleridge is of the school of Wordsworth—unequal in execution, for hasty and spontaneous production was the habit of the poet, but at least a tithe of his verse merits preservation, and some of his sonnets are exquisite. His prose works are characterised by a vein of original thought and reflection, and by great clearness and beauty of style. His Lives of the Northern Worthies form one of the most agreeable of modern books, introducing the reader to soldiers, scholars, poets, and statesmen.
The REv. DERWENT Col.ERIDGE (born at Keswick in 1800) is principal of St Mark's College, Chelsea, and a prebendary of St Paul's. He has published a series of Sermons, 1839, but is chiefly known as author of the memoir of his brother Hartley, and editor and annotator of some of his father's writings.
SARA HENRY Col.ERIDGE (1803—1852) was also born at Keswick, and is commemorated in Wordsworth's poem of The Triad. In respect of learning and philosophical studies, she might have challenged comparison with any of the erudite ladies of the Elizabethan period; while in taste and fancy, she well supported the poetical honours of her family. The works of Sara Coleridge are, Phantasmion, a fairy tale, 1837, and Pretty Lessons for Good Children. She translated from the Latin Martin Dobrizhoffer's Account of the Abipones, three volumes, 1822, and enriched her father's works with valuable notes and illustrations. This accomplished lady was married to her cousin, HENRY NELSON CoLERIDGE (1800–1843), who was author of a lively narrative, Sir Months in the West Indies in 1825; of an Introduction to the Study of the Greek Classic Poets, 1830; and editor of the Literary Remains and of many of the writings of his uncle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
[Sonnets by Hartley Coleridge.]
What was’t awakened first the untried ear
The soul of man is larger than the sky,
Address to Certain Goldfishes. [By the same.]
Restless forms of living light
Fleet are ye as fleetest galley
Was the sun himself your sire?
And yet, since on this hapless earth
We are tempted to add a few sentences of Hartley Coleridge's graceful and striking prose:
[History and Biography.]
In history all that belongs to the individual is exhibited in subordinate relation to the commonwealth; in biography, the acts and accidents of the commonwealth are considered in their relation to the individual, as influences by which his character is formed or modified—as circumstances amid which he is placed—as the sphere in which he moves—or the materials he works with. The man with his works, his words, his affections, his fortunes, is the end and aim of all. He does not, indeed, as in a panegyric, stand alone like a statue; but like the central figure of a picture, around which others are grouped in due subordination and perspective, the general circumstances of his times forming the back and fore ground. In history, the man, like the earth on the Copernican hypothesis, is part of a system; in biography, he is, like the earth in the ancient cosmogony, the centre and final cause of the system.
[The Opposing Armies on Marston Moor.]
Fifty thousand subjects of one king stood face to face on Marston Moor. The numbers on each side were not far unequal, but never were two hosts speaking one language of more dissimilar aspects. The Cavaliers, flushed with recent victory, identifying their quarrel with their honour and their love, their loose locks escaping beneath their plumed helmets, glittering in all the martial pride which makes the battle-day like a pageant or a festival, and prancing forth with all the grace of gentle love, as they would make a jest of death, while the spirit-rousing strains of the trumpets made their blood dance, and their steeds prick up their ears: the Roundheads, arranged in thick, dark masses, their steel-caps and high-crowned hats drawn close over their brows, looking determination, expressing with furrowed foreheads and hard closed lips the inly-working rage which was blown up to furnace heat by the extempore effusions of their preachers, and found vent in the terrible denunciations of the Hebrew psalms and prophecies. The arms of each party were adapted to the nature of their courage; the swords, pikes, and pistols of the royalists, light and bright, were suited for swift onset and ready use; while the ponderous basket-hilted blades, long halberts, and heavy fire-arms of the parliamentarians were equally suited to resist a sharp attack, and to do execution upon a broken enemy. The royalists regarded their adversaries with that scorn which the gay and high-born always feel or affect for the precise or sour-mannered: the soldiers of the Covenant looked on their enemies as the enemies of Israel, and considered themselves as the elect and chosen people—a creed which extinguished fear and remorse together. It would be hard to say whether there was more praying on one side or more swearing on the other, or which to a truly Christian ear had been the most offensive. Yet both esteemed themselves the champions of the church; there was bravery and virtue in both; but with this high advantage on the parliamentary side—that while the aristocratic honour of the royalists could only inspire a certain number of gentlemen, and separated the patrician from the plebeian soldier, the religious zeal of the puritans bound officer and man, general and pioneer together, in a fierce and resolute sympathy, and made equality itself an argument for subordination. The captain prayed at the head of his company, and the general's oration was a sermon.
[Discernment of Character.] I know it well, Yet must I still distrust the elder brother; For while he talks-and much the flatterer talksHis brother's silent carriage gives disproof Of all his boast : indeed I marked it well, &c. Mason's Caractacus.
This is beautifully true to nature. Men are deceived in their judgments of others by a thousand causes—by their hopes, their ambition, their vanity, their antipathies, their likes and dislikes, their party feelings, their nationality, but, above all, by their presumptuous reliance on the ratiocinative understanding, their disregard to presentiments and unaccountable impressions, and their vain attempts to reduce everything to rule and measure. Women, on the other hand, if they be very women, are seldom deceived, except by love, compassion, or religious sympathy—by the latter too often deplorably; but then it is not because their better angel neglects to give warning, but because they are persuaded to make a merit of disregarding his admonitions. The craftiest Iago cannot win the good opinion of a true woman, unless he approach her as a lover, an unfortunate, or a religious confidant. Be it, however, remembered that this superior discernment in character is merely a female instinct, arising from a more delicate sensibility, a finer tact, a clearer intuition, and a natural abhorrence of every appearance of evil. It is a sense which only belongs to the innocent, and is quite distinct from the tact of experience. If, therefore, ladies without experience attempt to judge, to draw conclusions from premises, and give a reason for their sentiments, there is nothing in their sex to preserve them from error.
CAROLINE ANNE Bowl.Es (1787–1854) was the daughter of a retired officer, Captain Charles Bowles, of Buckland, near Lymington, Hants. She was, when young, deprived of both her parents, and was left almost wholly to the care of the nurse, to whom she makes grateful reference in her writings. In her country retirement, she early cultivated literature, and produced successively Ellen Fitz-Arthur, a poem, 1820; The Widow's Tale, and other Poems, 1822; Solitary Hours, Prose and Verse, 1826; Chapters on Churchyards—a series of tales and sketches in prose, originally published in Blackwood's Magazine, and reprinted in two volumes, 1829. A long and affectionate intimacy subsisted between Southey and Miss Bowles, and on the 5th of June 1839 they were married. “No sacrifice,’ writes one of the lady's friends, “could have been greater than the one she was induced to make on the occasion. It can be placed beyond all doubt that she was fully prepared for the distressing calamity which impended over both. She could have had no mercenary motive in the matter, for she resigned a larger income on her marriage, than she knew she could receive at her husband's death; indeed, the sum bequeathed to her in his will did not amount to anything like the income she had sacrificed. She consented to unite herself to him, with a sure prevision of the awful condition of mind to which he would shortly be reduced—with a certain knowledge of the injurious treatment to which she might be exposed—from the purest motive that could actuate a woman in forming such a connection; namely, the faint hope that her devotedness might enable her, if not to avert the catastrophe, to acquire at least a legal title to minister to the sufferer's comforts, and watch over the few sad years of existence that might remain to him l’” The laureate himself, in writing to his friend Walter Savage Landor on the subject of this second marriage, said, he had, according to human foresight, ‘judged well, and acted wisely; but to his family it was peculiarly distasteful, except to one of its members, Edith May Southey, married to Mr Warter, the editor of the posthumous edition of Southey's Doctor and Commonplace Books. To this lady, Mrs Southey, in 1847—four years after the death of the laureate—dedicated a volume bearing the title of Robin Hood: a Fragment, by the late Robert Southey and Caroline Southey; with other Fragments and Poems by R. S. and C. S. So early as 1823, Southey had projected a poem on Robin Hood, and asked Caroline Bowles to form an intellectual union with him that it might be executed. Various efforts were made and abandoned. The metre selected by Southey was that of his poem of Thalaba—a measure not only difficult, but foreign to all the ballad associations called up by the name of Robin Hood. Caroline Bowles, however, persevered, and we subjoin two stanzas of the portion contributed by her.
Majestically slow The sun goes down in glory— The full-orbed autumn sun; From battlement to basement,
* Athenacum, August 5, 1854.
From flanking tower to flanking tower, The long-ranged windows of a noble hall Fling back the flamy splendour. Wave above, wave below, Orange, and green, and gold, Russet and crimson, Like an embroidered zone, ancestral woods, Close round on all sides: Those again begirt In wavy undulations of all hues To the horizon's verge by the deep forest.
The holy stillness of the hour, The hush of human life, Lets the low voice be heard— The low, sweet, solemn voice Of the deep woods— Its mystical murmuring Now swelling into choral harmonyRich, full, exultant; In tremulous whispers next, Sinking away, A spiritual undertone, Till the cooing of the wood-pigeon Is heard alone; And the going in the tree-tops, Like the sound of the sea And the tinkling of many streamlets.
The poem was never completed: ‘clouds were gathering the while, says Mrs Southey, ‘and before the time came that our matured purpose should bear fruit, the fiat had gone forth, and “all was in the dust.” The remaining years of the poetess were spent in close retirement. She left behind her, it is said, upwards of twelve hundred unpublished letters from the pen of Southey, a selection from which, on literary topics, should certainly be given to the world. The writings of Mrs Southey, both prose and verse, illustrate her love of retirement, her amiable character, and poetical susceptibilities. A vein of pathos runs through most of the little tales or novelettes, and colours her poetry.
There—let the ingots go. Now the ship rights; Hurra! the harbour's nearLo ! the red lights!
Slacken not sail yet
Once upon a Time.
I mind me of a pleasant time,
I’ve never heard such music since,
Yon moory down, so black and bare,
Such cutting winds came never then
And blackberries—so mawkish now-
The Pauper's Death-bed.
Tread softly—bow the headIn reverent silence bow
No passing bell doth toll
Yet an immortal soul
Stranger! however great,
There’s one in that poor shed
One by that paltry bed-