Obrazy na stronie

positions, they remind us of the alternate voices in public devotion, to which they were adapted, and help us to connect with the pleasures of taste the higher pleasures of piety.''

Did our limits permit, we would gladly have culled a few more extracts from this fascinating little work. But while cordially recommending it to our readers, we must now conclude with the author's own emphatic peroration: 'I must not close this essay without adding a single sentence to remind the reader, that, much as the Bible is to be valued and admired on account of its fine literary properties, it ought chiefly to be prized by a fallen and sinful creature, not for what it is, but for what it contains. There is much in the Bible that may be used to minister to our sense of beauty-there is much entertaining history, much stirring eloquence, much unrivalled poetry. But, better far than any or all of these, there is salvation in the Bible. And if we allow the former to exclude the latter from our thoughts, what better or wiser are we than the classic traveller who counted the stones in the Appian way, instead of gazing on the monuments of the eternal city? The Bible, let us ever remember, derives its chief claim upon our regard, from its revealing a Saviour and the way of salvation; and we exalt it into an idol, and turn it into an enemy to our highest interests, when we use it merely for the gratification of taste, to the oblivion of Him of whom it testifies. It is designed to be to us what the star was to the wise men of the East; and we mistake its purpose and render it a useless light, when we content ourselves with admiring its brilliancy, instead of taking and following it as a guide to lead us to Christ.'

THE BAG OF GOLD. THERE lived, in the fourteenth century, near Bologna, a widow lady of the Lambertini family, called Madonna Lucrezia, who, in a revolution of the state, had known the bitterness of poverty, and had even begged her bread, kneeling day after day, like a statue at the gate of the cathedral, her rosary in her left hand and her right held out for charity, her long black veil concealing a face that had once adorned a court, and had received the homage of as many sonnets as Petrarch has written on Laura.

But fortune at last relented; a legacy from a distant relation had come to her relief; and she was now the mistress of a small inn at the foot of the Apennines, where she entertained as well as she could, and where those only stopped who were contented with a little. The house was still standing when in my youth I passed that way, though the Sign of the White Cross, the Cross of the Hospitallars, was no longer to be seen over the door-a sign which she had taken, if we may believe the tradition there, in honour of a maternal uncle, a grand-master of that order, whose achievements in Palestine she would sometimes relate. A mountain stream ran through the garden; and at no great distance, where the road turned on its way to Bologna, stood a little chapel, in which a lamp was always burning before a picture of the Virgin, a picture of great antiquity, the work of some Greek artist. Here she was dwelling, respected by all who knew her, when an event took place which threw her into the deepest affliction. It was at noon-day in September that three foot-travellers arrived, and, seating themselves on a bench under her vine-trellis, were supplied with a flagon of Aleatico by a lovely girl, her only child, the image of her former self. The eldest spoke like a Venetian, and his beard was short and pointed after the fashion of Venice; in his demeanour he affected great courtesy, but his look inspired little confidence, for when he smiled, which he did continually, it was with his lips only, not with his eyes; and they were always turned from yours. His companions were bluff and frank in their manner, and on their tongues had many an oath. In their hats they wore a medal, such as in that age was often distributed in war; and they were evidently subalterns in one of those free bands which were always ready to serve in

any quarrel, if a service it could be called, where a battle was little more than a mockery, and the slain, as on an opera-stage, were up and fighting to-morrow. Overcome with the heat, they threw aside their cloaks, and with their gloves tucked under their belts, continued for some time in earnest conversation.

At length they rose to go, and the Venetian thus addressed the hostess:- Excellent lady, may we leave under your roof, for a day or two, this bag of gold ?'

You may,' she replied, gaily. 'But remember, we fasten only with a latch. Bars and bolts we have none in our village; and if we had, where would be your security ?'

In your word, lady.'

[ocr errors]

But what if I die to-night? Where would it be then?' said she, laughing. The money would go to the church; for none could claim it.' Perhaps you will favour us with an acknowledgment.' If you will write it.'

An acknowledgment was written accordingly, and she signed it before Mr Bartolo, the village physician, who had just called by chance to learn the news of the day; the gold to be delivered when applied for, but to be delivered (these were the words) not to one-nor to twobut to the three; words wisely introduced by those to whom it belonged, knowing what they knew of each other. The gold they had just released from a miser's chest in Perugia, and they were now on a scent that promised more.

They and their shadows had no sooner departed than the Venetian returned, saying, 'Give me leave to set my seal on the bag, as the others have done;' and she placed it on a table before him. But in that moment she was called away to receive a cavalier, who had just dismounted from his horse; and when she came back it was gone. The temptation had proved irresistible; and the man and the money had vanished together.

'Wretched woman that I am!' she cried, as in an agony of grief she fell on her daughter's neck. What will become of us! Are we again to be cast out into the wide world? Unhappy child, would that thou hadst never been born!' and all day long she lamented; but her tears availed her little. The others were not slow in returning to claim their due; and there were no tidings of the thief: he had fled far away with his plunder. A process against her was instantly begun in Bologna: and what defence could she make; how release herself from the obligation of the bond? Wilfully or in negligence she had parted with it to one, when she should have kept it for all, and inevitable ruin awaited her.

'Go, Giannette,' said she, to her daughter, 'take this veil which your mother has worn and wept under so often, and implore the Counsellor Calderino to plead for us on the day of trial. He is generous, and will listen to the unfortunate. But, if he will not, go from door to door; Monaldi cannot refuse us. Make haste, my child; but remember the chapel as you pass by it. Nothing prospers without a prayer.'

Alas, she went, but in vain. These were retained against them; those demanded more than they had to give; and all bade them despair. What was to be done? No advocate, and the cause to come on to-morrow!

Now Gianetta had a lover, and he was a student of the law, a young man of great promise-Lorenzo Martelli. He had studied long and diligently under that learned lawyer, Giovanni Andreas, who, though little of stature, was great in renown, and by his cotemporaries was called the arch-doctor, the rabbi of doctors, the light of the world. Under him he had studied, sitting on the same bench with Petrarch; and also under his daughter Novello, who would often lecture to the scholars when her father was otherwise engaged, placing herself behind a small curtain, lest her beauty should divert their thoughts-a precaution in this instance at least unnecessary, Lorenzo having given his heart to another.

To him she flies in her necessity; but of what assistance can he be? He has just taken his place at the bar, but he has never spoken; and how stand up alone, unprac

[ocr errors]

tised and unprepared as he is, against an array that would alarm the most experienced ?— Were I as mighty as I am weak,' said he, my fears for you would make me as nothing. But I will be there, Gianetta; and may the Friend of the friendless give me strength in that hour! Even now my heart fails me; but come what will, while I have a loaf to share, you and your mother shall never want. I will beg through the world for you.'

The day arrives, and the court assembles. The claim is stated, and the evidence given. And now the defence is called for-but none is made; not a syllable is uttered: and, after a pause and consultation of some minutes, the judges are proceeding to give judgment, silence having been proclaimed in the court, when Lorenzo rises and thus addresses them :

'Reverend Signors-Young as I am, may I venture to speak before you? I would speak in behalf of one who has none else to help her; and I will not keep you long. Much has been said; much on the sacred nature of the obligation-and we acknowledge it in its full force. Let it be fulfilled, and to the last letter. It is what we solicit, what we require. But to whom is the bag of gold to be delivered? What says the bond? Not to one-not to two-but to the three. Let the three stand forth and claim it.'

From that day (for who can doubt the issue?) none were sought, none employed, but the subtle, the eloquent Lorenzo. Wealth followed fame; nor need I say how soon he sat at his marriage-feast, or who sat beside him. -Note to Rogers's Italy.


Young readers, you whose hearts are open, whose understandings are not yet hardened, and whose feelings are neither exhausted nor encrusted by the world, would you know whether the tendency of a book is good or evil, examine in what state of mind you lay it down? Has it induced you to suspect that what you have been accustomed to think unlawful may, after all, be innocent, and that that may be harmless which you have hitherto been taught to think dangerous? Has it tended to make you dissatisfied and impatient under the control of others, and disposed you to relax in that self-government, without which both the laws of God and man tell us there can be no virtue, and consequently no happiness? Has it attempted to abate your reverence for what is great and good, and to diminish in you the love of your country and your fellow-creatures? Has it addressed itself to your pride, your vanity, your selfishness, or any other of your evil propensities? Has it defiled the imagination with what is loathsome, and shocked the heart with what is monstrous? Has it disturbed the sense of right and wrong which the Creator has implanted in the human soul? If so if you are conscious of all or any of these effects; or if, having escaped from all, you have felt that such were the effects it was intended to produce-throw the book into the fire, whatever name it may bear in the title-page! Throw it into the fire, young man, though it should have been the gift of a friend. Young lady, away with the whole set, though it should be the prominent

furniture of a rosewood bookcase.-Dr Parr.


foe; but the atheist holds mankind at large in contempt; and would be ready with a jest to blot out all life from the world. Besides, as the atheist cannot expunge from human nature its latent instincts of religious fear and hope, these principles will be always at work to trouble his security, and therefore to provoke his resentment. Let but the day come when it shall be fearlessly and commonly professed that death is annihilation,' and that therefore the pleasures of appetite graced by intelligence are the whole portion of man, and this horrible opinion shall quickly become parent to a giant cruelty, loftier in stature and more malign than any the earth has hitherto beheld. Even the most sanguinary superstitions have had some profession of sanctity to maintain -a reserve, a saving hypocrisy, a balance of sentiments, which has set bounds to their demand for blood. But atheism is a simple element: it has no restraining motive; and must act like itself with a dreadful ingenuousness. And with what vehemence of spite shall this monster, should he ever win the sceptre of the world, turn and search for the residence of those who, by their testimony in favour of the future life, sicken his gust of pleasure, and make pallid his joyous and florid health.Isaac Taylor.



Eternal Father! at whose word
Of majesty and might

The joyous day was born, and burst
On the dark infinite!

Thou Sun of Spirits! in thy light
I clearly light would see:
Oh! shine thou on mine inward sight,
And let me look on thee!

A planet from her path astray,
And lost in darkness dire-
Meet emblem of the soul of man,
If sever d from its sire!

Of HIM that orb of living fire,

But feeble type may be:
Lord! lift to thee my heart's desire,
And put thy life in me!


Who has not experienced the sad revolution of feeling which takes place, when, after an evening spent with an agreeable party, we begin to reflect on what has passed, and perceive that, in the hilarity of the moment, we have been betrayed into errors which conscience condemns. This is a very painful experience. The desire of entertaining induced us to exaggerate, or led us to ridicule those who were really worthy of respect; for the sake of saying something funny or witty, we have sacrificed truth, justice, and charity. The laugh is over, and the companions gone, and we are left alone with a wounded conscience. But if we were to exercise powers in producing the same amount of gaiety by innocent means, how delightful it would be, if, after entertaining the company, we were left with an approving conscience! A very common mode of amusement is, that of turning persons into ridicule, which it requires very little sense or wit to do. It is the cheapest of all kinds of fun, and the meanest. Its effect upon those who indulge in it is, to harden the heart, sear the conscience, and blunt the perceptions of

Moderation is the silken string running through the moral beauty. The pleasure which its most unbridled pearl chain of all virtue.


The whole history of man makes it certain that sensuality, frivolity, and cupidity (which are the close companions always of atheism), connect themselves with ferocity, as surely as superstition and fanaticism do so. If false religion has always been sanguinary, so likewise has lust, so has voluptuous levity, so has covetousness; the alliance is deep seated among the very roots of passion in the human heart. Shall we affirm that none but the priest is by nature persecutor; and that the atheist has no fang? Vain conceit! The priest, indeed, curses this or that rival sect, and would fain exterminate his

exercise gives is of a far lower order than that which a quick perception of goodness and moral greatness affords, ing is great and lasting, and can be enjoyed alone; the and the two are incompatible. The happiness of admirpleasure is transient, and requires an audience.—Young

Ladies' Friend.

Printed and published by JAMES HOGG, 122 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh; to whom all communications are to be addressed. Sold also by J. JOHNSTONE, Edinburgh; J. M'LEOD, Glasgow; W. M'COMB, Belfast; J. CLANCY, Dublin; G. & R. KING, Aberdeen; R. WALKER, Dundee; G. PHILIP, Liverpool; FINLAY & CHARL TON, Newcastle; WRIGHTSON & WEBB, Birmingham; GALT & Co., Manchester; R. GROOMBRIDGE & SONS London; and all Booksellers.


No. 21.






who found him in bed at midday, why he was not up, coolly replied,' Young man, I have no motive.' Dr Johnson, too, was indolent, and yet both these indolent men have left behind them several noble, and elaborate, and immortal productions. Alfieri, the Italian, galloped over the greater part of Europe, besides writing tragedies and histories by the score. Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber, were never done with their labours. Wordsworth, the present poet-laureate, has been accused of indolence, and yet he published a huge quarto, called the Excursion, as a small part of a larger poem, the Recluse, which is still in manuscript, but which, if printed, we suppose, would fill folios. Or need we name, in disproof of the vulgar charge, the names of Scott and Brougham, the former of whom wrote sometimes a novel in a fortnight; the latter of whom, as Romilly once said of him, 'has time for every thing,' and as a very bitter enemy once confessed, when he was Chancellor, 'If the fellow did only know a little more law, he would have a smattering of every thing.' So much for the reproach of indolence. We might as easily, in the same way, dispose of the common charges of vanity and irritability, and show that men of genius have not been, on the whole, much vainer, or more touchy, than others. Nay, it could be proved that, in point of happiness, too, this class have ranked as high, or higher, than their fellows. Of Homer's private life we know nothing, but judging of him from the spirit of his works, he appears to have been a serene and sociable spirit. Virgil had much quiet and tranquil happiness; no miserable man could have counterfeited that serene grandeur and cheerful majesty which distinguish his poetry. Horace, again, is all careless hilarity; he runs over his subject with an ease and a grace quite peculiar to himself, and denoting anything but, unhappiness. How cheerful was Shakspere, who was generally saluted by the title of the 'Gentle Willy.' Milton's great injured soul remained serene even under that deep cloud of poverty, and neglect, and blindness, which fell on his later years, and beneath those darkened eyeballs there dwelt within 'a light which never was on sea or shore,' the light of the peace and the joy which are unspeakable and pass understanding. Gay did not belie his name, nor did Tickell. Addison said to the youth who was sent for by him to his deathbed, 'I have sent for you to show you in what peace a Christian can die.' Swift, indeed, was often very unhappy, but who can read his life, particularly his heartless conduct to the unfortunate females who came in connexion with him, without feeling that he had cause to be so? The son of Young, author of the 'Night Thoughts,' told Johnson that his father was gloomy when alone; it might be so, but much of the gloom of his great

In a former paper we endeavoured to describe the nature and influence of genius; we may now advert shortly to the supposed aberrations and abuses of this strange power. A great deal of nonsense has been written on this subject. Genius has been often spoken of as allied to indolence, vanity, irritability, melancholy, and insanity. The elder D'Israeli has countenanced some of those charges by writing a large book called the Calamities of Authors, although he could have made just as large a book on the Calamities of Cadgers. The truth is, that men of genius are very much like their neighbours in the qualities and circumstances referred to. With regard to the charge of indolence, what are the facts? Homer seems to have been as active as most ballad-singers, and their trade verily is no sinecure. Eschylus was an actor, a leader of armies, and had written ninety tragedies before the eagle dropped a stone on his bald head, mistaking it for a rock, and crushed out the loftiest intellect of Greece. Demosthenes talked perpetually, and to talk at his pitch for a lifetime was much. Virgil polished away all his life, and the labour of the file is no trifle. On what subject has Cicero not written, and an Encyclopædist is not thought the most indolent of animals. Michael Angelo, and Raffaelle, and all the great painters of Italy, wrought without ceasing. Dante was far too fierce and restless a spirit to be an indolent man. We bought the other day a medallion of the head of Dante, and, certainly, when we look at its stern, withered, yet majestic outlines, we cannot wonder though, after the publication of his poem, he was saluted by the boys in the streets as the man that had been in Pandemonium. Proudest and most sorrowful of human faces, it is not the face of an indolent though it is that of an unhappy man. Erasmus wrote his 'Praise of Folly,' while on a journey. Shakspere wrote thirty plays, and such plays! before he was fifty. Milton felt himself 'ever in his great taskmaster's eye;' need it be added that he laboured? Dryden was one of the most voluminous of writers. Pope wrote much and polished more. Daniel De Foe was one of the most active men of the age, as active as he describes his own Robinson Crusoe in the cave; we never hear of him resting, not even in jailnever except when he stood in the pillory for one of his honest and outspeaking publications. Goldsmith had too much writhing vanity to permit him to be idle. Thomson was indeed an indolent man, so indolent that he was once seen eating peaches off a wall with his mouth, and both hands in his pockets; and when asked by a visiter,

poem is assumed; a man all his life hunting for preferment had scarcely time to accumulate such a load of darkness: though he could hardly be abler than he was, he was evidently much happier than he pretended to be. Dr Johnson's misery was the result of bodily disease: Burns' and Byron's of an irregular life. Scott was a happy man; on the whole so was Cobbett, as real a genius as any we have named; we never saw a fresher, heartier, healthier, happier, more farmer-like old fellow, than when he came down to Edinburgh in the year 1832. Wordsworth is eminently cheerful. Moore is the light and life of every party he enters, gay and brilliant as a butterfly, or, in his own words, playful as Peris let loose from their cages.' Robert Hall said on one occasion, I enjoy every thing,' though suffering often the most intense agony, from a large pebble which lay in his spine, like a literal thorn in the flesh: we are told that happiness was the law of his existence. And what a nice, kindly, warmhearted being, by all accounts, is Charles Dickens. Small almost as his own 'Tiny Tim,' dressed in almost as dandyfied a style as his own 'Lord Frederick Verisoft,' he is yet as full of the milk of human kindness as his own Brothers Cheryble,' and that large heart of his, which loves all it ever looked upon, which can find something to respect even in a Bob Sawyers, and something to pity even in a Ralph Nickleby, and can own even Newman Noggs as a brother, is faithfully mirrored in the good-humoured and mild penetration of his countenance. The spirit of the age is heartily sick of Byron, with all his selfish misery and moody complainings, but it thoroughly appreciates, and will long as well as deeply love, the gentle genius, the unrivalled humour, and the all-embracing charity of Boz.

The reader has often heard the couplet quoted

'Great wit to madness is so near allied,
That thin partitions do their cells divide.'

And we are not prepared altogether to deny the truth of the principle involved in it. Often we fear, though not always, the diamond of genius must be taken with this fatal flaw along with it. Frenzy seems to lurk in the neighbourhood of this fine faculty, like a tiger waiting the moment for its terrible spring. Sometimes the poet is blasted with poetic fire.' Sometimes, before the glorious vision, he falls down as a dead man. Thus Lucretius, the greatest of the Roman poets, was mysteriously afflicted. Thus poor Cowper lived and died in darkness, and was saved from suicide by the breaking of a garter. Thus was it with Chatterton, the marvellous boy, the sleepless soul, that perished in his pride.' Thus, too, the man that walked in glory and in joy behind his plough upon the mountain side,' describes himself as blasted ab origine 'with an incurable taint of hypochondria.' Thus Hall, like an angel whose glorious powers had been unhinged by gazing too closely at the Shekinah, had twice, in the language of Scripture, his heart changed from that of man,' twice wandered into the wild land of madness, and yet the light that led astray was a light from heaven. Perhaps such things, after all, are only in unison with the general plan, with the austere and awful compensations of the universe. We find a strict economy always exercised in doling out the precious gifts of the Creator. Thus the thorn and the rose growing on one stem; poison and beauty meeting in the serpent; fidelity, sagacity, and madness, equally characterizing the canine species; sense, mildness, power, and clumsiness, united in the huge form of the elephant; the peacock, with his splendid plumage and hideous scream; the nightingale, with his sober livery and matchless song; the tropical clime, with its magnificent vegetation, its fell diseases, and its loathsome reptiles-these apparent anomalies, as well as that of genius, so often suspended by its single tremulous hair over the gulph of madness, are probably fragments of one wide law, portions of one wise, benevolent, but mysterious arrangement. Nothing is given, all things are sold.' Willingly or unwillingly, men must pay for whatever good or great quality is con

ferred upon them. Still we are slow to believe that genius is merely, as it has been called, a beautiful disease, which, like a certain species of shell-fish, bleeds pearls, or that its structure always stands toppling above the quicksands of frenzy. No; and looking back on the history of the past, we find that many of the very greatest of minds have remained clear and cloudless in the whole course of their development. Such were those of Plato, Dante, Shakspere, Milton, Cervantes, Bacon, Scott, Wordsworth, Schiller, and Goëthe, names which form the first row in the great general gallery of ages, and yet were all as free from the obscuration or eclipse of madness as are the brilliant stars which compose the constellation of the planets from the fogs and foul exhalations which bedim the lamps of the street.

We shall close this paper with a few remarks in reference to the duties and responsibilities of genius. Let it not be imagined that genius and solid knowledge are incompatible. The more knowledge we acquire the more fuel we lay in for the blaze of imagination to inspirit and enkindle. There is a tendency in many minds to attempt to compose rather prematurely, especially in the department of poetry. In the words of Thomas Campbell-words which we well remember hearing him address to the students of Glasgow College- A young mind plunging into the depths of metaphysical research, before it has stored itself with a knowledge of useful facts, may be compared to one explaining the wheels of a watch before he has learned to read the hours upon the dial-plate. Precocious attempts, too, at fine writing, and at colouring language, before we have learned to give shape to our thoughts, have their disadvantage. Yet still,' he added, 'I tremble at the idea of damping the fire of youthful ambition; for in the young student, as in the young soldier, the dashing and daring spirit is preferable to the listless. To the early aspirant at original composition, to the boy poet, I should therefore only say, go on and prosper, but never forget that, in spite of random exceptions, Buchanan is right in the general principle, when in awarding immortality to mighty poets he designates them by the epithet learned.'

Let no one dream that literature is itself an enviable profession. Its profits are very scanty and very precarious. Not one literary adventurer in a thousand succeeds. Literature is a genuine lottery, its prizes are very precious, but they are very few, whereas its blanks are numerous, and many there be that find them. Young men in multitudes, of high promise, who in the path of a regular profession would have risen to eminence and distinction, have, from adopting literature as a profession, dwindled into booksellers' hacks or penny-a-liners, faithfully pictured in the words of Burns, when he describes himself as 'half-mad, half-fed, half-sarkit.' It is told of Hazlitt, himself a man of talents perfectly first-rate, that a little before his death he met Hone, author of the Every Day Book, and said to him, I have carried a volcano in my breast down Pall-Mall for the last two hours; I have striven mortally to quench, to quell it, but it will outCan you lend me a shilling? I have not tasted food for two days.'

We would say, moreover, to every reader, cherish with the utmost ardour a literary taste. It will become to you its own 'exceeding great reward.' It will mingle sweetly with your daily toils. It will shed an interest over, and impart a beauty and a grace to, your evening recreations. It will cement your early friendships. It will deepen the pleasure of your solitary or your social walks. It will preserve the tone of your morals, and fan the flame of your religion.

Let it ever be borne in mind, in fine, that all talents are a trust from God, and involve serious responsibilities. "To whom much is given, of him also much shall be required." The servant that knows his Lord's will and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.' Many stripes! it is an expression of dreary strength and terrible significance. It represents the fate of a great guilty being who has prostituted noble powers to the worst of purposes; who, from

the vantage-ground of a universal reputation, has mouthed blasphemies against the highest, or hurled firebrands, arrows, and death, into the midst of the crowds of his fellowmen whom his genius had gathered around him, and who, when too late, feels, as in a burst of thunder, the immensity of the guilt he has contracted, the immensity of the mischief he has done, and the immensity of the misery he has laid up in store. Let us, from the very conception of such a case-a case, alas! not hypothetical, but which has occurred, is occurring, and may again occur -learn this lesson, that whether intrusted by our munificent Creator with ten talents, or two, or even one, it is our duty so to cultivate, so to guard, so to consecrate those precious powers, that when the Master comes we may be able to say, 'Lord here is thine own, and with usury.'



'Nature's sternest painter, yet the best.' GEORGE CRABBE, the Hogarth of poets, was born at Aldborough, Suffolk, on the Christmas eve of 1754. Some kinds of scenery are clearly better fitted than others for nursing the poetic temperament. The wild grandeur of the scenes among which Byron spent a portion of his childhood had no small influence, we know, in moulding his own character, and that of his poetry. We detect in most of his poems, and in the whole complexion of his mind, a spirit of gloom which carries the imagination back to the time when he'roved a young Highlander o'er the dark heath.' The same remark holds true of Crabbe. There is the health and freshness of the sea-breeze about the man and his poetry. The gales from the German ocean, that braced his youthful nerves, seem also to have imparted a clearness and vigour to his mind and verse. The staple ingredients of his poetry, moreover, were derived from the materials that lay around him in his boyhood. He is pre-eminently the poet of the poor. The obscure villager; the amphibious fisherman; the tarryfisted, generous, superstitious sailor; the simple-minded, honourable peasant; the smuggler and the wrecker; the lowly inmate of the workhouse-these, and such as these, were the characters he most loved to delineate; they were, in truth, his favourite heroes.

Our poet's grandfather had been a burgess of Aldborough, and, in his latter days, collector of the customs in that seaport. His father filled the same office, though, in earlier life, he had been schoolmaster and parish clerk. The young poet got his first lessons at the school of an old dame, and very early discovered those tastes and predilections which characterized his after-life. He eagerly devoured whatever books he could lay his hands on; but romances, old ballads, tales of ghosts, witches, and fairies, were his special favourites. His father had penetration enough to perceive the native bent of his mind; and it is to his honour to add, that he spent more money on his education than could have been expected from a person in his circumstances. He was sent to a school at Bungay, on the borders of Norfolk, and afterwards, when he was about twelve years of age, to one where higher branches were taught, at Stowmarket. The medical profession was, at this period, his destination; and having noticed an advertisement in the newspapers for a surgeon's apprentice, he applied for and obtained the situation. His master was a practitioner at Wickham Brooke, a small village near Bury St Edmunds. His engagement, however, with his first master was soon dissolved. Indeed, he never relished this situation. Poets, as a class, are peculiarly sensitive; and the remark, perhaps we should call it the taunt of his master's daughters, when they first saw him cross their father's threshold, uttered amidst a peal of laughter, 'La, here's our new 'prentice,' stung him to the quick. While here, too (for his master was farmer as well as surgeon), he was frequently called to perform tasks not

[ocr errors]

He left

at all congenial to his tastes and former habits. his service, in short, and finished his apprenticeship with a Mr Page, surgeon, at Woodbridge. The society he obtained here was more to his mind. One of his acquaintances, Levett by name, introduced him to a Miss Sarah Elmy, with whom he fell violently in love, and to whom, at a subsequent period of his life, he was married. Mathematics, botany, poetry, and, we may add, Miss Elmy, were now his favourite studies.

In the year 1775, when his apprenticeship was at an end, Crabbe returned home, but with the view of repairing to the metropolis to complete his medical education. His father's worldly circumstances, however, were scarcely such that he could satisfy this inclination; but at last he made an effort to send him to London to walk the hospitals. On his return he engaged himself as assistant to a Dr Maskill; but soon after this gentleman's removal from Aldborough, he set up for himself. It is, in most cases, difficult for a young surgeon to work himself into a respectable practice. Crabbe's professional education was but indifferent, owing to the circumstances of his family. He was poor, a lover, a botanist, and a poet: Miss Elmy had gained upon him more than the cure of bodies; his desk was filled with verses, and at last, vibrating betwixt hope and fear, but manfully and religiously, he embarked on board a sloop for the Great City; his fortune, a box of clothes, a small case of surgical instruments, and three pounds in money.'

Many were the difficulties he had to contend with in the metropolis before he got his foot fairly on the ladder of fame; but, like the bee that sucks honey from the hemlock-weed, his genius converted them to the improvement of his character and mind. His three pounds were soon exhausted; but he rhymed and read away, strolling into the country occasionally with Horace, Ovid, or Catullus in his pocket, and once he had to pass the night on a rick of hay, having wandered too far, and being unable to pay either for lodgings or refreshment. He transcribed his poems for the booksellers, and submitted them to their judgment; but it takes a fine eye to perceive the beautiful butterfly before it has got its wings. He wrote to Lord North, Lord Shelburne, and other eminent individuals, but in these quarters he was not more successful. He kept up his spirits by writing a journal for his Sarah, transmitting her an account of his daily life. At last, in desperation, and with the horrors of a jail before him, he addressed a letter, accompanied with some of his verses, to Edmund Burke, who, with the sagacity of a prophet, detected the genius of the man, and with the kindness of a parent took the poem of the Library' to Mr Dodsley, and gave it the benefit of his own elocution and comments. Dodsley had previously declined publishing Mr Crabbe's poems, and did so still, but with a gentler grace. Nevertheless, the Library' was published under the patronage of Burke, and formed the turning point of the Aldborough dreamer's life. From that day he was famous-from that day fortune smiled upon him. It was no imaginary spirit that he heard addressing him, as related at the close of the poem :

'Go on, then, Son of Vision! still pursue

Thy airy dreams; the world is dreaming too.
Ambition's lofty views, the pomp of state,
The pride of wealth, the splendour of the great,
Stripp'd of their mask, their cares and troubles known,
Are visions far less happy than thy own;
Go on and while the sons of care complain,
Be wisely gay, and innocently vain ;
While serious souls are by their fears undone,
Blow sportive bladders in the beamy sun,
And call them worlds! and bid the greatest show
More radiant colours in their worlds below;
Then, as they break, the slaves of care reprove,
And tell them-Such are all the toys they love."


While Crabbe was residing at the hospitable mansion of the famous Edmund Burke, the orator had drawn from the poet that with regard to a settled profession, his views were strongly in favour of the church. Crabbe had got a little Latin at his second school; his character was irreproachable; and having passed a very decent examina

« PoprzedniaDalej »