Obrazy na stronie


SEPT. the 24th,

Read the 5th. Chapter of Roscoe's Life: consisting chiefly of a critical disquisition on the poetical character of Lorenzo de Medici; injudiciously introduced in the midst of an interesting narrative, and by no means executed with the skill and taste which I expected. His exposition of the great end and object of Poetry-" to communicate a clear and perfect idea of the proposed subject," affords, at the outset, a very unfavourable prognostic; though I admit a man may understand well, what he defines absurdly.-Much of the matter which loads the Appendix, might surely have been spared.

SEPT. the 26th.

Pursued Roscoe's Work. The petty squabbles of the Italian States, detailed in the 6th Chapter, are much too minute and insignificant to interest attention; nor can I think that they are related in the most clear and lively manner. Of Lorenzo's abilities as a statesman, but little is made out; and I begin to question the historical powers of his biographer.-In treating, however, his favourite theme-the rise and progress of Italian Literature-in the two succeeding Chapters, the spirit of the narrative revives: yet an incident is now and then very awkwardly lugged in, under an apparent impression of the necessity of telling whatever has been told, however trivial and uninteresting, of the domestic life of Lorenzo. Distinguishing traits of character and incident, are what we require from the biographer. In the great mass of human actions and occurrences, all mankind so nearly resemble each other, that there can be nothing worth recording.

SEPT. the 29th.

Read the 9th Chapter of Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici; in which the rise (or renovation) and progress of the arts of painting, statuary, engraving, and sculpture upon gems, with the merits of the respective artists in each department, are happily delineated. The account of Michael Angelo-his giant powers—and the concussion with which his advent shook the world of genius and taste-is even sublime.-Roscoe is not always exact in the choice of his expressions: for instance, he uses "instigate" in a good sense; which, where we have another appropriate term, is unpardonable: "compromise", which properly means, the adjustment of


differences by reciprocal concession, he employs, by what authority I know not, to express, the putting to hazard by implication. A catalogue of synonymes, executed with philological skill and philosophical discrimination, would be a valuable accession to English Literature.

Read, after a long interval, with much delight, the first two Books of Cæsar's Commentaries. The States of Gaul are represented as far more advanced in government and manners, than I should have expected him to find them; and it would puzzle the Directory of France, at this moment, to frame a manifesto, so neatly conceived, and so forcibly yet chastely expressed, as the reply of Ariovistus, a barbaric chief from the wilds of Germany, to the embassy of Cæsar.-It is interesting to trace the route of this great commander (and the similitude of names will sometimes fix it with precision) on a modern map.-Nothing can exceed the ease, perspicuity, and spirit, with which this incomparable narrative is conducted.

Dipped into Boswell's Life of Johnson. Boswell, from his open, communicative, good-humoured vanity, which leads him to display events and feelings that other men, of more judgment, though slighter pretensions, would have studiously concealed, has depressed himself below his just level in public estimation. His information is extensive; his talents far from despicable; and he seems so exactly adapted, even by his very foibles, that we might almost suppose him purposely created, to be the Chronicler of Johnson. A pleasing and instructive pocket-companion might be formed, by a judicious selection from his copious repertory of Johnson's talk.

SEPT. the 30th.

Read the 10th, and concluding, Chapter of Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici. The last moments of the hero, whom we have so long accompanied, are always interesting: they are here related, with a due attention to this feeling, minutely and affectingly; and the subsequent fortunes of his family are pursued, in a masterly sketch, till they cease to interest. Finis coronat opus-a work, not only highly creditable to the erudition, the taste, and the judgment of its author; but which even bids fair, in a national point of view, very powerfully to advance our literary reputation on the Continent.

OCTOBER the 1st.

Began, with a view of comparing notes, Macchiavel's Historie Fiorentine. Macchiavel, under the persuasion, or pretext, of maintaining the liberties of his coun


try, was a determined enemy to the family of the Medicis: he was twice concerned in a conspiracy against them; and was once consigned to the torture, but had nerves sufficient to refuse a confession;-his fortunes, however, were not spared. Such a writer may be presumed to be prejudiced: yet, as he dedicates his work to Clement the 7th, the last representative of the Lorenzo branch of the Medicis, there can scarcely be any violent misrepresentation.-His first Book contains a masterly outline of a long series of History, from the first irruption of Alaric, to the final emersion of the Italian States as they presented themselves at the point of time where his immediate narrative commences:-a period nearly commensurate to the three last Vols of Gibbon's History; and the materials for which, must have lain, at his time, very widely scattered. Considering when, and where, he wrote, I am amazed at the freedom with which he treats the successors of St. Peter:-he does not even cast a veil of gauze over their follies or iniquities.

OCT. the 3rd.

Pursued Macchiavel's History of Florence. His talents, and the reader's patience, languish at the recital of the petty factions which convulsed the infancy of the Florentine Republic. Davila, I think, has evidently studied his manner, in the direct narrative: but in the general management of his matter, he is as far superior, as the subject which he treats, nor do I know a more pure and perfect historical composition, than the Historia delle Guerre Civili di Francia. What would we give, for such an account of ours!

Read the 4th Book of Cæsar's Commentaries. There is nothing to determine the point at which Cæsar embarked from Gaul, on his first expedition; but there appear sufficient indications to afford a probable conjecture of the spot where he landed in Old England, were the coast examined for the purpose. Curiosity seems to have been his leading motive in the adventure.

Looked over the last Monthly Magazine. Though conducted with considerable ability, this miscellany declines in general interest. The medical, mathematical, and agricultural departments, encroach; and there is little of literary anecdote or disquisition, the most tempting bait to such sort of reading. It is tainted, too, with the bigotry of party; so far as to induce (what is unpardonable) a misrepresentation, by. heightenings and softenings, even in the narrative department.-A narrow, virulent, heady zeal, usually infests the underlings, it rarely pervades the chiefs and leaders, of any respectable party: they see too much on both sides; and are often compelled, I believe, to affect greater acrimony than they feel.-The European Magazine,


though less ably conducted, and not without its bigotry of an opposite cast, has considerable attractions from its literary anecdote; with which it is principally supplied by Mr. Read, whose mind is a rich quarry of such matter.

OCT. the 4th.

Read the 5th Book of Caesar's Commentaries. He names the port from which he sailed on his second expedition to England-Itius-: probably, as affording the shortest passage, Ambleteuse; which, though now choaked up, might then have furnished shelter to his galleys. Nothing can be determined from the distance, which he loosely guesses at "30 millia passuum", but that it was somewhere between Gravelines and Boulogne. From Calais to Dover Pier-Head is 23 miles; from Boulogne to Folkstone 29; and, midway between these ports, the two coasts approach within less than 20 miles of each other.-As Cæsar was carried by the tide in the night, till he found, in the morning, Britain left, sub sinistra, he must have drifted beyond the South Foreland.-Where did Cæsar ford the Thames in pursuit of Cassivellaunus? Stukely. I think, but on slender documents, fixes the place to Chertsey-Bridge.—I am glad he found our predecessors so impatient of submission; and could well wish to mortify his insatiable ambition, by exhibiting to him Rome and London in their present condition.

Finished the 2d Book of Macchiavel's History of Florence. The account of the adoption and expulsion of the Duke of Calabria, is admirably given; and most seasonably enlivens the dull variety of his narrative.

OCT. the 5th.

Pursued Boswell's Life of Johnson.

Johnson's coarse censure of Lord Chesterfield, "that he taught the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master", is as unjust as it is harsh. Indeed I have always thought the noble author of Letters to his Son, hardly dealt with by the Public; though to public opinion I have the highest deference. How stands the case? Having bred up his son to a youth of learning and virtue, and consigned him to a tutor well adapted to cultivate these qualities, he naturally wishes to render him an accomplished gentleman; and, for this purpose, undertakes, in person, a task for which none surely was so well qualified as himself.--I follow the order he assigns (L. 168), and that which his Letters testify he pursued. Well! but he insists eternally on such frivolous points--the graces--the graces!-Because they were wanting, and the only thing


wanting. Other qualities were attained, or presumed to be attained to correct those slovenly, shy, reserved, and uncouth habits in the son, which as he advanced in life grew more conspicuous, and threatened to thwart all the parent's fondest prospects in his child, was felt, and justly felt, by the father, to have become an imperious and urgent duty; and he accordingly labours at it with parental assiduity -an assiduity, which none but a father would have bestowed upon the subject. Had his Lordship published these Letters as a regular System of Education, the common objection to their contents would have had unanswerable force: viewing them however in their true light, as written privately and confidentially by a parent to his child-inculcating, as he naturally would, with the greatest earnestness, not what was the most important, but most requisite-it must surely be confessed, there never was a popular exception more unfounded. But he—I admit it: he touches upon certain topics, which, a sentiment of delicacy suggests, between a a father and son had better been forborne: yet those who might hesitate to give the advice, if they are conversant with the world, and advert to circumstances, will not be disposed to think the advice itself injudicious.

In the 26th Letter there is a very remarkable prediction, which, as we have lived to see it fully accomplished, is worth curtailing and transcribing. "The affairs of "France grow more and more serious every day. The King is irresolute, despised, "and hated; the ministers, disunited and incapable; the people, poor and discon"tented; the army, though always the supporters and tools of absolute power, are "always the destroyers of it too; the nation reasons freely on matters of religion and government-in short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in history, previous to great changes and revolutions in government, now exist, and daily "increase, in France." This was written Dec. 25th, 1753; and, considering the clearness with which the causes are unfolded, and the consequence foretold, I am surprised that it has not been noticed.

[ocr errors]

Regarding Lord Chesterfield's Letters as not intended for the public eye, they are probably the most pregnant and finished compositions that ever were written.

OCT. the 6th.

Pursued Boswell's Life of Johnson. The distinguishing excellence of Johnson's manner, both in speaking and writing, consists in the apt and lively illustrations by example, with which, in his vigorous sallies, he enforces his just and acute remarks on human life and manners, in all their modes and representations: the character and charm of his style, in a happy choice of dignified and appropriate expressions,


« PoprzedniaDalej »