Obrazy na stronie
[blocks in formation]

The following is amusing, and true- exposed, till a sure aim is taken—and then he strikes, for The nativity of a proverb is a secret guarded by nature

the first and last time. with its usual success : nobody could say who is its au- This, we fear, is but too true a picture of thor, where and when it was born, how it came into cir- modern Italy, where, as in Greece, culation, till it has become the property of all. Everybody applying it to a particular circumstance in conversa

-All, except her sun, is set ! tion, bears upon his countenance a slight shadow of What is the cause of such appalling degenesatisfaction of having uttered something witty, if not strictly new. The only exception to that rule known to

racy? Our author discusses this question, and us is Swift, who had an odd humour of making extem

concludes that it is attributable to the climate; pore proverbs. Observing that a gentleman, in whose but is there any reason to suppose that the cligarden he walked with some friends, seemed to have no mate of Italy has materially altered since the intention to request them to eat any of the fruit, Swift days when the recently-uncovered pavement of observed, that it was a saying of his dear “ Always pull a peach when it is within your reach ;": the via sacra clanged with the tramp of Cæ. and, helping himself

, he induced the company to follow sar's legions, as they defiled in their hero's his example. , At another time he framed “ an old say- triumph; or when the glorious odes of Horace from his horse into the mire«. The more dirt the less sparkled in the banqueting-halls of the nowhurt.” The man rose much consoled ; but as he hap- crumbling villa of Mæcenas ? To our minds, pened to be a collector of proverbs, he wondered he had the superstitions of Rome, and the withering never heard that one before.

tyranny of Austria, are much more probably The second chapter, upon the characteristic " the fiends, that have prevailed mental capacities of different races, is the best

Against the seraphs they assailed." and most original part of the work. Nearly all nations, Spaniards, Germans, English, Hun

It is but just, however, to our author, to state garians, Sclavonians, and Greeks, ancient and that, against this view, he cites the miserable modern, are passed in review before us; and to

failure of Italy, in a political sense, in 1848; each is assigned, often with considerable dis- but is it quite fair, after having educated a cur crimination, their peculiar mental characteris- with kicks and cuffs, to blame it for treachetics. We suspect, however, that if lions were rously snapping at your hand the first time painters, or, in other words, if our author were

you trust it within its reach? any other than an Englishman, our own race

The third chapter, on the intelligence of aniwould not have figured as the type of all moral mals, and its limits, opens a subject of much and intellectual pre-eminence; but we should interest, but is here most meagrely worked out ; have heard something of our cold reserve, of and for this there is less excuse, as the minds our mammon-worship, our “funkeyism,” &c. of some superiormen have been recently We have, however, this consolation, that what brought to bear upon this subject. See, for ever may be our faults as a race, nothing dero- instance, Sydney Smith's lectures on Moral gatory could be said against us containing half Philosophy, and Cornwall Lewis's “Method of as much truth as the following

observation andr easoning on Politics." Any one who has perused these works will scarcely

rest satisfied with our author's definition of the CHARACTERISTICS OF ITALIANS.

limits of animal intelligence-“that it has no There is no other nation in Europe so unlike its ances- consciousness of its own existence, and lacks tors; 60 decayed, degenerated, unmanned, and emasculated, as the Italians of our days. Timidity has ceased

the great faculty of reflection.” to be shameful-cowardice is not despised. They have

We have a chapter on Fools, and the varievices belonging to timid dispositions, fraud and hypo- ties of that very extensive genus are elaborated crisy; and regard with lenity those crimes which require with praiseworthy minuteness. Thus we have cunning, quick observation, knowledge of human nature, the “*Irish innocent,” the “ tip top fool,” the and self-command. Military courage they neither possess nor value; but a young highwayman, when success

pos “blinking idiot,” the “questioning fool,” the ful, is with them a hero, though he is weltering in inno

“ learned fool,” the “simpleton,” the “ninny. cent blood; when entrapped, he excites universal sympa- hammer,” and many others, whose various thy, and is spoken of with endearment as a “poverino." characteristics are admirably described, often

You see in Italy no ambition, no pride, no violent de- with excellent touches of racy humour. Then sire of distinction or wealth, no panting after fame, or at least notoriety, or reputation, no high" aspirations. All follows a chapter on the deficiencies of wit, nobility of thought is there withered up. They seem to as instanced in the “pedant,” the “punster, have smothered in their breast all human passions, ex- the “ quibbler,” the “ riddle-maker," the cept hatred, which, after love, is their only cherished and fostered passion ; and the only thing they are longing for

penny-a-liner,” and many others, including is the “ dolce far niente," and revenge. This last is cor

the “ love-sick person,” “ whose indignation, roding the ulcerated heart of an Italian, yet every look is we are told, “spins out a golden string, throws a cordial smile, every gesture a familiar caress ; he never rosy hues over all” (? the string) “and gives excites the suspicion of his adversary by petty provoca- bewitching attraction to every minute action.” is accomplished. His face is unruffled, his speech is We think we can recollect (for our own dancing courteous, till vigilance is laid asleep, till a vital point is days have been long over) what this means,


albeit not expressed so clearly as the subject senses, that he renders the really good parts of merits.

his book needlessly repulsive. Take, for inTurning from the deficiencies of human na- stance, the following sentence selected at ranture, the next three chapters exemplify the cha- dom :racteristics of wit, common sense, tact, and “A sceptic, in the (for “from his ’) love of understanding: The definition of the last paradox, wishes to prove every thing uncer(p. 214) occupies about half a page of as in- tain ; is (for “ he is ’) not inspired (for 'gifted' volved and confused language as we ever re or imbued ') with an intense love of truth, and member to have read, even in a book profess- never (subaudi'is ') in sincere search of it; he ing to be entirely metaphysical. However, prefers refuting (and) re-arguing, instead of let the reader skip this, and he will find a good proving; has (for "he has) no confidence deal worthy of note in these chapters. Take, in the evidence of the or' his ') senses as for example, the following characteristic of well as (meaning probably nor of his ') rea

son; very clever when it comes to call any He is never betrayed into argument, which always thing in question; he is nerer advancing (for makes people more obstinate, even if they are confuted.

never advances') an opinion,” &c. &c.—p. 297. Or, if constrained to reason, he is pitching the whole Again, p. 102, we have Madiar for Magtone of his argument to the capacity, prejudices, and yar, and' Herodote for Herodotus ; p. 115, are passions of those, whom he has to deal with : intent only decreasing for decrease ; indeed, the last soleto govern the action of men by a sagacious calculation of their motives, he always prefers a feeble argument, but

cism of using the participle for the verb, meets readily understood, to a stronger one, but apt to escape us in every page. In p. 128 we have drenchthe appreciation of the common mind.

ing the thirst,” and in p. 197, a man takes A chapter on the female intellect, in which the pains, and did not fail to examine,” &c. : the witty Miss " plays a conspicuous part, is this error, also, is very frequent. But with all amusing, though destitute of any originality. this the work is above mediocrity; and should

We have then the characteristics of scepti- it reach a second edition, we recommend the cism, a part of the book we forbear from criti- author to recollect that, even in a degenerate cising, out of respect to its excellent tendency. age, Statius did not venture to aspire to ManAfter that, our author's ideas, like an Austra tuan fame until he had bestowed an amount of lian river, lose themselves, ere they reach their care and correction on his work that Mr. ocean limit, in the barren sands of metaphysics, Whitecross evidently little dreams of. whither it is certainly not our intention to fol

Thebais, multâ conciata limâ, low them. Kant, Mr. Whitecross tells us, made

Textat, audaci fide, Mantuanæ

Gaudia famæ. "a great discovery," and "levelled with the ground all former philosophical systems.” That We must add, that Mr. Whitecross has not our author has caught no inconsiderable portion been fortunate in some pilfering upon which he of the obscurity of his great master is but too ventured. He has appropriated largely from apparent. But we have a worse fault to find the back Numbers of the “Edinburgh Review,” with him than that. His grammar is frequently and the writers are loudly reclaiming their proso faulty, and he uses words so often in wrong perty.

The Lives of the Poets-Laureate. With an Introductory Essay on the Title and Office. By

WILTSHIRE STANTON Austin, Jun., B.A., Exeter College, Oxon, and John RALPH, M.A.,

Barrister at Law. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street. 1853. Thar Laureateship. is “a custom more ho- bard sings the clothes of mean ones : the liveries noured in the breach than the observance" does of Lord Mayors or their flunkeys are now-as not render its history, as it has existed, less days as warmly extolled in verse, as ever the interesting or less instructive. To learn how masquerade dress of a monarch, who appeared merit has stooped, and mediocrity been exalted, decked with virtues, like garments which he might teach a lesson to an age

whose swans

never wore, save in the poet's conception-we are so generally geese--an age that does not so beg pardon, the poet's song. If any thing much spurn genius, since so little exists in it,

were wanting to prove the absurdity of the Lauas it adores mock pretensions ; in fact, an age of reate institution, it would be the fact, that an great appreciation, but with little to appreciate, objection has been made to this work by a yet, when it does, almost infallibly wrong. As somewhat bitter and surly critic, who wrote to to Laureateship in its ancient sense, it has been the effect, that the lives of the giants composing transferred from the palace to the tailor's shop. part of the tuneful crew were too well known Instead of exalted personages, the mercenary to need further illustration; and that the lives

of the pigmies forming the remainder were not somewhat inaccurate memoir of a more recent worth illustrating ; a dictum contradicted often writer. Some elaborate or accidental readers by the reproach, that our authors have not dis- have been amused by the vain and garrulous covered beauties which must certainly exist narrative of Colley Cibber, “ Every one," amid the trash perpetrated by the smaller bards. again, has of late been made aware, by the bookWe ourselves think that the work is by no sellers, of the great bad biographers of Southey means badly executed. The diction is eloquent, and Wordsworth. Sir William Davenant we although, perhaps, too florid, and the compila- knew as the first manager of a theatre, in the tion and ohservation display considerable judg- sense in which we now use the word. Shadment. On the whole, it is an agreeable and well as the petty antagonist of Dryden. Tate satisfactory book, sometimes superior to the as the coadjutor of Brady in Psalmody. Warsubject, and never below it.

ton was well known as the author of the HisAlthough we consider the authors give evi- tory of English poetry, but of the man himself dence of too much leaning towards the Words- little was known, Eusden is damned to fame worthian and Tennysonian schools of poetry, in the Dunciad. We remember "Spartan yet they are by no means bigoted; which is Pye” as the source of much mirth to his conevinced by some very just remarks on the cha- temporaries. Whitehead was but little known racter and mental attributes of the Cockermouth by his “ Roman Father," though he was songster, and by their perfect appreciation of "somebody, by virtue of his Laureateship, in that dullest of all platitudes, the "Prelude," of his own daywhich the author thought so much, and the

“ Next Whitehead came, his worth a pinch of snuff ; world so little. However, when our authors But for a Laureate he was good enough.” say that Wordsworth wrote the “ best and Now Messrs. Austin and Ralph have given us worst poetry in the language,” we beg leave to the best opinion they could of this Laureate

, differ from them as to the first half of their and surely

it is not their fault if they could assertion. As to the last, Wordsworth bears find nothing worth quoting from some of his the palm in triumph from any “ Laureate,” in- brethren. The account of Colley Cibber's cluding even Pye and Eusden. To recur to daughter, Charlotte Cibber, is both new and the character given of him in the “ Lives curious. We cannot refrain from giving it to of the Laureates," we consider the following as both true and happy :-“We shall lent, scant jests, affixed to conspicuous names,

our readers, together with one of those excelbe induced to suppose,” (if considering his which go down to posterity one scarcely knows views on great political and social questions) how. * * * “that, after his wayward boyhood was over, he had passed from youth to age without

THE ACCOMPLISHED YOUNG LADY. the intervening period of manhood; that he

In very early life she gave indications of an excitable was an old man, at the time of life when others temperament, and an unruly will, Among her juvenile are young, and an old woman when he should pranks, she relates how one morning, when but four years have been an old man.” This is severe enough herself as well as she could in male attire, and, mimicing

old, she got up early, put on her father's wig, dressed from admirers. We think it deserved, because the paternal strut, went out to receive the obeisances of Wordsworth was essentially of the emasculated the passers-by : how, on another occasion, her father was twaddling school. When we consider, how. awoke by deafening acclamations, and on looking out of ever, that this butter-cup and daisy-sentimen- the window, beheld his hopeful daughter making a tritalist “exulted in the destruction of the troops ass, and attended by a retinue of screaming urchins,

umphal entry into the village, sitting astride upon an of his own country”— when he chose to sympa- whom she had bribed to take part in the procession. At thise with the sans-culottes of the first French eight years of age she was sent to school, and deroted revolution-we are by no means inclined to

herself to her studies with passionate vehemence. The shew mercy to his gentle beneficence, or to

needle-woman's ordinary weapon against inactivity

she could never learn to manage ; but every masculine abstain from flinging a stone, as we pass by, pursuit or amusement had for her an irresistible attracinto the placid waters of that solitary lakeling tion. She would hunt, shoot, ride races, dig, drink beer

, - the Wordsworthian mind. With regard to At fourteen'she went to live with her mother at a house the general scheme of the work, let us consider near Uxbridge. There she became a capital shot

, would what we knew, previous to its appearance, of rise early, spend the whole day at her sport, and return the fifteen Poets and Poetasters whose lives home, laden with spoil. Her gun, at the suggestion of a are here chronicled. Every one (which means good-natured friend, was soon taken away from her

, and the select few who are what is called well-read neys of the house, by firing at them with a huge fowling

she revenged herself by attempting to demolish the chinpersons) has perused, or glanced at, Dryden's piece that had hung over the kitchen mantel-piece. Iife, as written by Dr. Johnson or Sir Walter To the gun succeeded the curry-comb, and she became Scott; the same “every one” is, or was, ac- an adept in all the mysteries of the stable. She nest quainted with Gifford's defence of “rare 'Ben applied herself to the study of physic, obtained some drugs,

and with formal gravity practised among those poor Johnson;" and a few have, perhaps, met with the people who were credulous enough to swallow her concoc

tions. Her next employment was gardening, which she players. Tired of wandering, it would seem, she settled pursued with her usual enthusiasm, and after two or at Chepstow, and opened a pastry-cook's shop. When she three hours hard work would not allow herself rest even had built her oven, she had not wherewithal to heat it, for her meals, but with some bread and bacon in one and when she had obtained the fuel, she was without the hand, and a pruning knife in the other, continue, unre- necessary materials for her trade; but every obstacle mittingly, her self-imposed labour. At this time her gave way before her ingenuity and perseverance. After father was abroad, and the man who acted in the double a short trial, she removed her business to Pell, a place capacity of groom and gardener was for some irregularity near Bristol, received a small legacy, with which she paid dismissed. Charlotte was in ecstacies, as she was now off her debts, and commenced life afresh. She wrote a short arch-empress of his two-fold domain, and unceasing were tale for a newspaper, and obtained thereby a situation as her maneuvres to prevent the engagement of a successor. corrector of the press ; but her earnings at this toilsome The dismissed servant having been seen straying near the occupation being insufficient to support her, she obtained house one evening, suspicions were aroused, which Char- employment as prompter at the theatre at Bath. She lotte skilfully inflamed by her dark suggestions, and then afterwards returned to London and kept a public-house at boldly undertook the defence of the leaguered house. The Islington ; but as we here lose the aid of her narrative, her plate was carried up into her room, which she garnished movements at this epoch are uncertain. She finally had with all the weapons of war the establishment could recourse to her pen for subsistence, and began the publiafford, and then sent the household to bed. After a long cation of her memoirs. Her next production was a novel, vigil, to her great mortification no attack was made, and a graphic picture has been given of her home at this universal silence prevailed, when luckily a cur began to period. When the publisher, with a friend, called for bark, Up went the window, and volley after volley was the purpose of purchasing her manuscript, she was living poured into the unoffending void, while her mother and in a wretched hut near the Clerkenwell prison. The furthe domestics lay below in trembling consternation. niture consisted of a dresser, extremely clean, ornamented While still a girl, she married Mr. Charke, an eminent with a few plates, and a fractured pitcher stood undercomposer on the violin, but he was a worthless libertine, neath it. A gaunt domestic guarded the establishment, and, after the birth of a daughter, they separated. She while on a broken chair by the grate sat the mistress in then obtained an engagement on the stage, and relates her strange attire. A monkey was perched on one hob, with childish simplicity, how, for a whole week, she did a cat on the other, at her feet lay a half-starved cur, and nothing but walk from one end of the town to the other, a magpie chattered from her chair. The remains of a to read her name on the bills. Her success was such as pair of bellows laid upon her knees served as a desk, her to justify expectations of her becoming a most accom- inkstand was a broken teacup, and her solitary pen was plished actress, and as Lucy in "George Barnwell" she worn to the stump. On her visitors seating themselves on attracted considerable attention ; but she soon quarrelled a rough deal board, for there was not a second chair in with the manager, and afterwards satirized him in a the room, she began, with a beautiful clear voice, to read farce she wrote, termed, “ The Art of Management." from the manuscript before her, and asked thirty guineas She then tried a new sphere, and opened a shop in Long for the copyright. The grim handmaiden stared aghast Acre, as oil-woman and grocer, and her whole soul was at the enormity of the demand. The iron-hearted pubabsorbed in the fluctuations of sugar. The shop did not lisher proposed five pounds, but finally doubled the sum, pay, and she quitted it to become the proprietress of a and offered in addition fifty copies of the work. The puppet-show, by which she lost all she had, and was bargain was struck, and the authoress was left in temarrested for a debt of seven pounds. Her release was porary affluence. From this time Mrs. Charlotte Charke effected by the contributions of some acquaintances, when disappears from our view, and she died shortly aftershe dressed herself in male attire, and assumed the name wards, on the 6th of April 1760. of Mr. Brown. Under this disguise, she engaged the affections of a young heiress, to whom, in order to escape We must now dismiss the “Lives of the a private marriage urged by the amatory damsel, she was Laureates," with the remark, that both pleasure compelled to disclose her secret. Shortly afterwards, she and profit are to be derived from its pages. exhibited her valorous spirit by knocking a man down The chief fault we have to find is, that it is not with a cudgel for having fabricated some story at her expense. She next obtained a situation as valet-de- a two-volume work; and that the authors, in chambre to a nobleman, where she appears for a short their anxiety not to exceed their proposed time to have known something like comfort ; but on limits, do not give sufficient illustrations of the reduced, her child fell ill, and ruin stared her in the face. writings of the fifteen bards. We think they A timely supply from a friend relieved her from her have, on the whole, performed their task well; more immediate necessities, and with some small re- and while stating our opinion that the “ Lives of mainder she set up as an itinerant sausage-seller. This, Laureates," as Laureates, will want no re-writand we next hear of her as a singer at some musical en: ing, we may be permitted to add, that we hope tertainment, then as a performer at Bartholomew fair, in future there will be no lives of Laureates to be then as assistant to a master of legerdemain. She next, written. The only men fit for such an office by means of some advances made by an uncle, opened a are the writers of national songs. Dibdin, in public-house in Drury Lane, the first she saw vacant, our opinion, was a much more eligible man a waiter in a tavern at Marylebone. Here she made than Wordsworth or Southey for some such herself so useful, that a kinswoman of the landlady inti- distinction and remuneration; whilst, of all the mated that her hand would not be refused if applied for ; writers of the past age, none perhaps had so and the captivating waiter, to escape a second involuntary

We believe it was marriage, was obliged again to reveal the secret of her good a title as Campbell, sex. She next engaged herself to manage Punch at a offered to him in his old age, and refused; but puppet-show, and afterwards joined a band of strolling of this we are not certain.

Life and Times of Madame de Staël. By MARIA NORRIS. D. Bogue. 1853.

It is an admitted literary axiom, that in order native country, she paid her first visits to Eng. to give the true delineation of a woman's land and Germany, both of which are pleacharacter, a female hand must guide the pen ; santly described, and eagerly returned to Paris and further, that the mind and temperament of on the re-establishment of something like a biographer must correspond, in some degree, orderly government. Here, however, her evil to that of the subject of the biography. Both genius soon declared himself in the person of these conditions are fulfilled in the present the redoubtable Napoleon. He who strode on volume, which, accordingly, affords a striking from one victory to another in unbroken sucand interesting picture of one of the most re- cession, till he laid all the Continent at his feet, markable women of the age in which she lived. trembled before the influence of a woman. The incidents of her life, and the scenes she The antipathy he conceived against his fair passed through, present hues as strongly con- adversary, which ultimately vented itself in the trasted, as those of the political world during most relentless persecution, dated from an early the same period. The general European peace, period, and manifested its beginnings in malion the close of the American war, which had cious banter. every appearance of permanence, and, in the “Whom do you consider the greatest woman living or estimation of the most eminent statesmen of dead ?" inquired Madame de Staël of General Bonaparte

, the day, promised the happiest results, was

at a party given by Monsieur de Talleyrand. “Her, ma

dame, who has borne the most children,” curtly replied suddenly broken up by convulsions reducing the soldier. “ It is said,” she resumed, a little discomthe nations of the Continent to a state of de- fited, “ that you are not very friendly to the ser." "I pression and misery unexampled in the history am passionately fond of my wife,” he ans of civilization. In like manner, magnis com. abruptly away to converse with some one else.

He forgot that Madame de Staël, in any combat of wit, ponere parva, the brilliant career of Madame de Staël in her beloved Paris, where she he made himself an enemy, who, woman though she was,

was likely eventually to be the winner, and by his rebuffs reigned the literary and social cynosure, was and the victim of his arbitary power, kept him at bay doomed to be exchanged for exile, perilous notice of her ?" said some one to Napoleon, long subse

“Why do you take any wanderings, and distresses of every kind, quently: - surely you need not mind a woman. bringing her to a premature grave. It might dame de Staël,” replied the emperor, “ has shafts which have been expected that this idol of the haut would hit a man were he seated on a rainbow.” ton would be amongst the first of those over- At what, indeed, did she aim these her farwhelmed by the revolutionary torrent. Not reaching shafts ? At that giant despotism so, however. Madame de Staël was “armed which she beheld establishing itself, far more at all points, and fit for either fray;", whether grinding and oppressive than that which her the war of wits in the refined abandon of the father had striven, unhappily without success, salons, or the ferocious onslaught of the de- to modify, under the legitimate monarchy; mon Jacobins. Without a thought of flying She had even warmly sympathised with, and from their fury, she busied herself, amid the vigorously advocated, the constitutional prinmurderous din, in concealing or aiding to ciples maintained by her father, adverse alike escape those of her friends who were in the most to irresponsible arbitrary power, and to repubimminent danger. When the emissaries of the lican or democratical licence. These principles bloody tribunal presented themselves at her the frowns neither of the First Consul nor of house, boldly facing them, she asserted the the Emperor could induce her to disavow. inviolability of the Swedish Embassy with so Hence his ever-increasing malignity towards much of dignity and courage, as to gain time her. When first he saw reason for taking prefor securing the safety of those who had sought cautions against the hostile influence she was refuge under her roof. Subsequently, in pre- exerting, he surrounded her with spies, from sence of the dread Robespierre himself

, she whom he received intimation that she had inmaintained the same undaunted bearing, bearded stigated Benjamin Constant to the lion in his den, and owed her escape from attack made by him in the Senate on the amthe death that impended over her, partly to the bitious projects of the First Consul. His disrespect thus inspired into her savage judges, pleasure quickly became known among her partly to the assistance of one of the leading friends :l'evolutionists, Manuel, who thus requited the She was to entertain several persons on the evening habitual solicitude of her father, Necker, to following Monsieur Constant's speech. Five o'clock came, supply the Faubourg St. Antoine and other and with it a note of excuse ; the disappointing billets poor quarters . with bread during periods of continued to flow in, and she spent her evening alone. scarcity. While the storm from whose fury to bear such things calmly. Whatever men profess, we she thus escaped, was raging throughout her cannot believe in such a thing as perfect indifference to

« PoprzedniaDalej »