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ways terse, it is still free, never stiff, never pedantic. His words are singularly choice; and they seem as if they came unsought for, and from every department of our composite language. His composition has less of the air of a student's
less of the disciple's of any school—less of the professed writer's, than that of any other recent English author we can call to mind. For the most part, it is that of one intent merely on uttering his thoughts, which it does after no set or favourite form, but in a varying manner, suited to the matter to be delivered. And with a most remarkable readiness, his diction takes the character of the ideas to be expressed, doing its work always promptly, always effectively, and always with ease, sometimes with admirable gracefulness and beauty. This is high praise, but well deserved, and sincere as great. Some defects, however, must be noted. At times the beauty of the language much surpasses the value of the thought. Not unfrequently the fine mechanism of diction ready at his call has deceived, we think, the writer, as for a time it deceives the careless reader, into the belief that it covers meaning, when the meaning is so faint, obscure, or vague as to be the same as none. Lastly, the author is vain of his mastery in language. And he betrays this failing not only by small oddities of spelling, but by phraseology that is at times more English than the English, employing idiomatic rather than more formal modes, with a frequency unusual in our approved writers; and, therefore, blameable, because a noticeable surplusage of an excellence is an offence against good taste, not much inferior to a noticeable defect of it.
A writer having the gifts which are undeniably Mr. Landor's, having great and varied knowledge, originality and force of thought, many and keen sensibilities, great activity and vivacity of fancy, some wit, humour, and satire, with an admirable style, cannot but present among this large collection many things of real literary value. We have said, indeed, and we repeat with increased confidence, regarding the opinions and general remarks vented by Mr. Landor and his speakers, that they are never deliverances of reason, but always expressions of some mood or state of temper, generally of Mr. Landor's personal mood, sometimes, (when his self-consciousness is asleep) of the mood supposed in the fictitious personage who speaks. It is not meant that his propositions or reflections are always irrational; for often he writes justly, and weightily, and beautifully. But that the course and quality of his thoughts are due to the temper of the moment which, whatever it is, controls the present action of his mind, dictating the topics to be handled, the propositions to be asserted or denied, the opinions of men and things to be professed, with the imagery and diction in which they are clothed. And as the moods through which he passes are numerous, as they
VOL. VI. NO. XI.
rapidly change, and each commands him wholly while it lasts, the fruit of all is such productions as are before us—productions which satisfy reason, imagination, heart, and taste, when some amiable, some generous, or some elevating feeling has possessed their author, but from which this high pleasure is ever meeting with sudden interruptions, while its place is taken by the pain of weariness, dissent, distaste, or disgust arising from the matter effused from the author's mind when under the influence of of a legion of unworthy spirits harbouring within it. Among his better inspirations, the sources of what is praiseworthy in his compositions, we have noticed a veneration for great writers very affectionate and hearty, sensibility to the beautiful in the external world, a discernment and love of the graceful and beautiful in literature, an animosity to despots and the race of warriors, a relish for the delights of friendship, an indulgence in some of the gentler affections of kind, and a disdain of the assaults of fortune and the injustice of men. All these find expression in adequate ideas and words throughout all his works, but most continuously and pleasingly in those of which the plan carried his mind among remote men and things not provocative of his personal feelings; for example, in his Pericles and Aspasia, where his characters and topics are of Greece. On the other hand, caprice the most wilful, desire to be singular, a constant rashness and absoluteness in his judgments, intolerance towards those he differs from, irreverence where he does not adore, contempt for all he does not understand, violent hatreds of men and institutions, inordinate self-esteem, discourtesy, coarseness, and immodesty, have singly or in groups their times of entire dominion over him. The dialogue between Mary and Bothwell, as well as other passages, are very offensively blemished by the evil last mentioned. The degree in which the other faults or vices have alloyed his works can be learned only by perusing them. A cause of much tedious writing is his love of story-telling, in which he is almost always uninteresting, and often indistinct and obscure. He sins also by jocularities. He has some measure of pleasantry and of satirical humour, but trying to raise more than a smile, he soon becomes extravagant and foolish, and utters cachinnations rather than honest laughter. One defect, very serious and remarkable in an Englishman writing on morals and politics in this nineteenth age, is a want of interest in the grand movement now in progress for elevating the working classes to economical comfort and political influence. One would not know by these writings that it was going on. Perhaps he does not like it. The ascendancy in society of the strong-minded and unsubmissive artizan class must offend a man of his tastes as much as the ascendancy of kings, nor can he hope that it will ever render the
preposterous honour he claims for men of genius. Perhaps he is ignorant of its nature and importance. He informs us that he is well-born and of plentiful estate; but he early in life withdrew from England, and has passed his time in retirement in Italy. He has thus missed the advantage of witnessing on the spot a most wonderful development of the tendencies and capacities of man, and missed, too, the wholesome discipline which nurtures great actors and great thinkers ; a frank and frequent collision between equals, that kills the nonsense ever growing up within
We will, before concluding, present to such of our readers as have not seen his works, some farther specimens of Mr. Landor's powers. They shall be of his powers under their worthier influences, for with any more of the freaks and perversities of his genius we wish not to deform our pages. He often adverts to the subject of literature, and always speaks interestingly and well upon it. We give in this passage, taken at random from a great number, a sample of his manner. There is in it a passing allusion to his compositions. It is Barrow who speaks to Newton :
“ You will become an author ere long; and every author must attend to the means of conveying his information. The plainness of your style is suitable to your manners and your studies. Avoid, which many grave men have not done, words taken from sacred subjects and from elevated poetry: these we have seen vilely prostituted. Avoid, too, the society of the barbarians, who misemploy them; they are vain, irreverent, and irreclaimable to right feelings. The dialogues of Galileo, which you have been studying, are written with much propriety and precision. I do not urge you to write in dialogue, although the best writers of every age have done it; the best parts of Homer and Milton are speeches and replies, the best parts of every great historian are the same; the wisest men of Athens and of Rome converse together in this manner, as they are shown to us by Xenophon, by Plato, and by Cicero. Whether you adopt such a form of composition, which, if your opinions are new, will protect you in part from the hostility all novelty (unless it is vicious) excites; or whether you choose to go along the unbroken surface of the didactic; never look abroad for any kind of ornament. Apollo, either as the god of day or the slayer of Python, had nothing about him to obscure his clearness, or to impede his strength. To one of your mild manners, it would be superfluous to recommend equanimity in composition, and calmness in controversy. How easy is it for the plainest things to be misinterpreted by men not unwise, which a calm disquisition sets right! And how fortunate and opportune is it to find in ourselves that calmness which almost the wisest have wanted on urgent and grave occasions. If others for a time are preferred to you, let your heart lie sacredly still! and you will hear from it the true and plain oracle, that not for ever will the magistracy of letters allow the rancid transparencies of coarse colourmen to stand before your propylæa. It
is time that philosophy should have her share in our literature; that the combinations and appearances of matter be scientifically considered and luminously displayed. Frigid conceits on theological questions, heaps of snow on barren crags, compose at present the greater part of our domain ; volcanoes of politics burst forth from time to time, and vary, without enlivening the scene.—Do not fear to be less rich in the productions of your mind at one season than at another. Marshes are always marshes, and pools are pools; but the sea, in those places where we admire it most, is sometimes sea and sometimes dry land; sometimes it brings ships into port, and sometimes it leaves them where they can be refitted and equipt. The capacious mind neither rises nor sinks, neither labours nor rests in vain. Even in those intervals when it loses the consciousness of its powers, when it swims as it were in vacuity, and feels not what is external nor internal, it acquires or recovers strength, as the body does by sleep." Vol. i. pp. 487-8.
We had marked some passages of descriptive writing, and some passages of good thoughts, illustrated by original and striking fancies : but we refrain from transcribing more, in order to have room for as much as possible of the conversation between Essex and Spenser. It is one of Mr. Landor's masterpieces, and shows high dramatic art, is exquisite in composition, felicitous in thought, overflowing with feeling, and most powerful and touching in impression. Among innumerable beauties, let the reader observe the long avoidance by Spenser of a plain mention of his frightful calamity, and then, when he is forced to name it, the uncontrollable burst of heart-rending anguish followed by the weeping calmness of desolation and despair. Observe, also, the fine conduct of Essex, his friendly and cheerful contest with Spenser's grief, till its cause is told him- and then his reverence for that sacred agony, and deep sympathy with the sufferer. But these remarks are intrusive; and the piece shall speak for itself:
“ Essex.—Instantly on hearing of thy arrival from Ireland, I sent a message to thee, good Edmund, that I might learn from one so judicious and dispassionate as thou art, the real state of things in that distracted country; it having pleased the Queen's majesty to think of appointing me her deputy, in order to bring the rebellious to submis
Spenser.-Interrogate me, my lord, that I may answer each question distinctly, my mind being in sad confusion, at what I have seen and undergone. Essex.-Give me thy account and opinion of these very affairs as thou leftest them ; for I would rather know one part well, than all imperfectly; and the violences of which I have heard within the day surpass belief.-- Why weepest thou, my_gentle Spenser ? Have the rebels sacked thy house? Spenser. They have plundered and utterly destroyed it. Essex.I grieve for thee, and will see thee righted. Spenser.-In this they
In the per
have little harmed me. Essex.—How! I have heard it reported that thy grounds are fertile, and thy mansion large and pleasant. Spenser. -If river, and lake, and meadow-ground, and mountain, could render any place the abode of pleasantness, pleasant was mine, indeed!—On the lovely banks of Mulla I found deep contentment. Under the dark alders did I muse and meditate. Innocent hopes were my gravest cares, and my playfullest fancy was with kindly wishes. Ah! surely of all cruelties, the worst is to extinguish our kindness. Mine is gone; I love the people and the land no longer. My lord, ask me not about them; I may speak injuriously. Essex.-Think rather, then, of thy happier hours and busier occupations; these likewise may instruct me. Spenser.—The first seeds I sowed in the garden, ere the old castle was made habitable for my lovely bride, were acorns from Penshurst. I planted a little oak before my mansion, at the birth of each child. My sons, I said to myself, shall often play in the shade of them when I am gone, and every year shall they take the measure of their growth, as fondly as I take of theirs. Essex.- Well, well; but let not this thought make thee weep so bitterly. Spenser.—Poison may ooze from beautiful plants; deadly griefs from dearest reminiscences.—I must grieve, I must weep: it seems the law of God, and the only one that men are not disposed to contravene. formance of this alone do they effectually aid one another. Essex.-Spenser! I wish I had at hand any arguments or persuasions of force sufficient to remove thy sorrow; but really I am not in the habit of seeing men grieve at anything, except the loss of favour at court, or of a hawk, or of a buckhound. And were I to swear out my condolences to a man of thy discernment, in the same round roll-call phrases we employ with one another upon these occasions, I should be guilty not of insincerity, but of insolence. True grief hath ever something sacred in it; and when it visiteth a wise man and a brave one, is most holy-Nay, kiss not my hand: he whom God smiteth, hath God with him. In his presence, what am I? Spenser.—Never so great, my lord, as at this moment, when you see aright who is greater. May He guide your counsels, and preserve your life and glory! Essex.—Where are thy friends ? Are they with thee? Spenser.Ah! where indeed! Generous, true-hearted Philip, where art thou ? whose presence was unto me peace and safety ; whose smile was contentment, and whose praise renown. My lord ! I cannot but think of him among still heavier losses : he was my earliest friend, and would have taught me wisdom. Essex.—Pastoral poetry, my dear Spenser, doth not require tears and lamentations. Dry thine eyesrebuild thy house ; the Queen and Council, I venture to promise thee, will make ample amends for every evil thou hast sustained. What! does that enforce thee to wail yet louder! Spenser.—Pardon me, bear with me, most noble heart! I have lost what no council, no queen, no Essex can restore. Essex. We will see that. There are other swords, and other arms to wield them, beside a Leicester's and a Raleigh's. . Others can crush their enemies, and serve their friends. Spenser.-O my sweet child! And of many so powerful, many so