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rious veil of Isis, does so, son corps défendant. The chain may be broken, and the thumb-screw may rest in the cabinets of the curious ; þut influence and detraction are instruments of torture not less effectual: and these are still in their fullest activity. Once for all, then, I declare that there is no miching malicho in these pages, po pretence of curing the incorrigible : and further, whatever reasons may by chance be offered in behalf of forbidden truths, such reasons are fully and freely admitted to be of no avail against authority, whenever authority pleases to declare itself for the other side of the question. Those in possession are acknowledged to have a plenary right to make fair and foul weather, and to place the heart on the right side, if it seems good to them so to do. Whenever it is asserted that “ such a thing must be,” that “ such a consequence flows from such and such undisputed premises,” I beg to be understood as merely declaring the historical fact, that such is the case with respect to the understandings of perverse worldlings and obstinately free-thinking logicians, who insist, like pigs, on going the forbidden way, merely because it is forbidden ; and to show that they will (the devil-diabolus Regis nempe-confound them) bave a will of their own. I neither pretend that such consequences are theologically or legally true, or necessary; nor to bind the consciences or the volitions of the said authorities, so as to force them to believe the evidence of their own senses against that of their instincts or interests,—which is often one and the same thing.
In thus abjuring all intention of writing for the instruction of the species, I must in justice to myself equally disclaim any desire of adding to the amusement of the town. This I take to be the lowest degradation of authorship, to which pen and paper can be made subservient. It is a task wbich belongs of right to those only who are as silly, vapid, and guiltless of meaning, as they for whose service it is updertaken. To amuse the town, a man must put himself on an intellectual level with the town, adopt its jargon, assume its fatuity, echo its no-opinions, and maintain its prejudices; in one word, he must sympathize with the town, have a respect for the town ;—which, if I do, may I
-, but no matter what. In the name of Heaven, is there any thing in that aggregate of money-changers, impostors, and dupes, that should induce an honest man to flatter and cajole it?that he should truckle to its conventional moralities, its gasconading assumptions of virtye, its paltry beggings of questions ?—that he should look grave and solemn, whenever it is qualmish and hypochondriacal; or should hide his light under a bushel, whenever it delights in being owlish and blinking? In forfeiting independence in the service of the powers that be, there is at least the hope of something to be got in exchange. One may obtain the butt of sack, like the Laureate, or be made a secretary like, we all know who. At worst, it is but going into orders, -and a provision for life is certain. But creep, and crawl, and tremble for the public, till your loins are strained, and your heart broken, and you are not even thanked for your pains. Þay, if they would stand neuter on the occasion, it would be something; but they uniformly make common cause with the enemy, and will flock in crowds to John Murray's shop, to see their best servant quartered in the Quarterly; or waste their Sunday mornings in irreligiously laughing at his contortions, when stuck in
the pillory of the John Bull. The public are notoriously ungrateful. Nor talent, nor beauty, nor sacred vice itself is a protection with them. After going six nights in the week to feast their eyes, their judgments, and their imaginations, with a favourite actress, their greatest luxury is a scandalous anecdote on the seventh, at her expence, in the prurient columns of some journal as incapable of truth as of common decency. Of all the modes of amusing the town, authorship is at once the most irksome, and the worst paid. Next to being a prime minister, the best thing in this line is to be a tip-top fiddler, or a musico. When did the most amusing writer, that ever dealt with a fashionable publisher, find diamond snuff-boxes, and pearl necklaces shower upon him from an admiring public ? Sir Walter has, perhaps, made more money by the trade than all the literary rope-dancers of the age put together; yet who would place even his lot in competition with that of a Paganini, a Velluti, or a Liston ? On the score, too, of respect and attention, I have seen duchesses and countesses waiting upon Catalani, like a lady’s-maid; and the first peers of the realm, too, happy to get a look or a nod from a popular ballerina. The most lively author, in the fullest possession of popular notoriety, is rather tolerated in society than admired. He may be in the exclusive circle, but he never can be of it; and even to succeed to that extent, he must purchase his footing by such a course of intrigue aud cringing, as makes the heart sink simply to imagine. Proteus, moreover, never assumed half the shapes which a popular author is obliged to adopt, if he means to keep his place before the public. If John Kemble sometimes played comedy, it was to please himself; and Grimaldi was never called upon by the public to assume the buskin : but your popular scribe is a true servant of all work, and must be ready to change form and substance, style and matter, at the shortest possible notice. The beautiful and the excellent wear out as fast as the worst fashion of the day, and the new alone is sure of a market. The wizard of the north was compelled to abandon his own delightful sphere, in order to write sermons and do the life of Napoleon : and Sheridan himself, if he came to life, would find no longer market either for his speeches or his comedies. To day the town is all for religious novels, to-morrow nothing will go down that is not “fashionable.” One season, autobiography is the rage,--the next, nothing is read but travels. To instruct the public, or to humbug it, nothing more is necessary than to take a decided tone, and to persevere in it; but for the purposes of pleasing, a thousand varying nuances are to be observed, and a thousand temperaments to be adopted; and the worst of it is, that an author can rarely know beforehand what is expected from him. Sometimes a capricious fit of tolerance admits and requires great latitude of handling; and then again, the public turns round on its favourites, and calls them all sorts of names, for scarcely saying " boh! to a goose.
"Twere better to be condemned for life " to suckle fools, and chronicle small beer,” than undertake such drudgery as this. The condition of Goldsmith's Ned Purdon, as a bookseller's hack, was bad enough in all conscience; but to be the public's hack, and obliged to fetch and carry, to bend and double at its most sublime will and pleasure, is a thousand times worse,
But, if neither instruction nor amusement be my aim, for what purpose, it will be asked, can I write? Surely there are many other motives before an author, “ where to choose.” May not the world be“ mine oyster ?” and is not a pen as good an instrument as a sword, for coming at that well guarded esculent? A vast many books (as has been already set down) are written expressly to mislead and deceive; and these are precisely the works that have the greatest vogue and currency. Look at the ten and fifteen edition publications,-look at what are called the stock books of the trade; and if dictionaries and spelling-books be excepted, it will be found that the greater portion of these public favourites are dedicated to the propagation of error. I know no volumes which sell like sectarian tracts; and there has been more money made by Moore's Almanac, with its hieroglyphics and astrological nonsense, than by the best work that wisdom and virtue ever united to inspire. What a tremendous sale has the Wonderful Magazine enjoyed. Did not Burke's incendiary pamphlet on the Revolution, with its inflated bombast, its incongruous metaphors, and flimsy sophistry, find purchasers in all classes,—while the Vindiciæ Gallicæ, with ten times its authorical merit, and a thousand times its philosophy and reason, viare to the general ?” Huntington's Sinner Saved brought more money, pro modulo suo, to the publisher, than the Encyclopædia Britannica; and Swedenborg's New Jerusalem, or the Fortune Teller's Vade Mecum, is a more lucrative speculation, than the best treatise on Political Economy. In short, stuff well your volume (no matter its subject) with fraud, cant, and hypocrisy, and its success is certain and almost unlimited. But without making a general imputation of criminal indifference to right and wrong, the greater number of book-makers may be said to write with the simple view of turning a penny. Provided their book sells, the great end of publishing is answered. The first and great object with such writers, is to fill the requisite number of pages; and they leave it to the publisher to puff their work into notice, and to push their insipidity and du!ness through a long edition. Many books however are written for fame; that is to say, not for reputation, but for that blast from the “ nether trump ” of the many-eared goddess, which is better expressed by the name of notoriety. To have written a book, good, bad, or indifferent, if it be not a distinction, is an advertisement: and whether the aspirant seek professional celebrity, and canvass for “ custom for the shop,” or only desire to procure a ticket for Almack's, his end will in all probability be answered. One good reason for writing, is the discovery of a taking title-page. That, indeed, is more than half the battle; and if a publisher be lucky enough to stumble upon such a commodity, it will go hard with him, if he does not soon procure a book to fit it. A most extensive list might likewise be made of works written merely to fill the upper shelves of book-cases, or to be elegantly bound and gilt for the decoration of Jibrary tables and ladies' boudoirs. Need I specify the numerous and varied class of Annuals, of which the letter-press is merely a makeweight, or ballast, for the engravings? There is also much literature dedicated from its birth to the service of the grocer and truok-maker. Such are the greater part of the works of that laborious editor Cler. Dom. Com., who publishes by order of the House, with a
moral certainty of never being read. To the same category belong the transactions of certain learned societies, and those works which Mr. Babbage celebrates as being printed to enrich secretaries by the sale of the waste paper-an economical mode of paying public functionaries, never sufficiently to be admired. There are many highly respectable volumes written as pendants to others which have already acquired reputation,-" continuations," " commentaries," “ illustrations,” and the like ; besides those flat parodies of works in vogue, which, like the secondary Scotch Novels, are undertaken as riders on the great originals. The Butterfly's Ball was the causa causans of all sorts of animal assemblies; and The Devil's Walk produced an infinity of diabolical excursions, under every possible modification of infernal locomotion. There are likewise volumes which appear for no other discoverable reason than because their time is come, because it is the first day of the week, month, or quarter; works, which are purchased, because the public do not like to break their sets : but this is ticklish ground. Sets of books owe their existence to the apropos, and are written with no view, save that of striking while the iron is hot. It was this motive which made that venerable matron, the Quarterly, miscarry of a two months' child, and produce a preternatural super-fætation, to overtake the occasion of the Reform question. But what say I? what possible motive ever swayed the mind of man, that may not have been the occasion of a book? I am not aware that it is absolutely necessary to put the public in possession of my secret, and inform them which among these various reasons is answerable for the present production : the only point, in which the purchaser is interested, is the value he gets
If a book is wanted, or thought to be wanted, and if it stops the gap it is intended to till, the printing is justified. Generally speaking, the motive ostentatiously put forth in a preface is any thing but the real cause for setting the author to work. Most writers, if they lie nowhere else, contrive to put a fib or two into their preface; and “ this is of them.” Since, however, we have stumbled on the subject, it may be as well to make a clean breast of the matter, and let the secret pass. The reader is then most humbly entreated to believe, that the following pages were put together under the prescription of an eminent physician. Writing is, to some constitutions, an alterative preferable to calomel, and better for the bile than Epsom salts and bitters. For my part, I write to get rid of the peccant humours engendered by the sight of all I see, and the sound of all I hear. If by accident the public like the book, so much the better for the public. But if they be fretted and annoyed, which I rather hope may be the case, they have no reason to complain ; for d but return on their hands their own damaged goods, or, in the words of the proverb, pay them in their own coin.” Let the inditers of good matter for Tract Societies enlighten the world, and the penny-a-line compounders of cockney news amuse it, in God's name : a man of sense and spirit will only put pen to paper to spite the public, to laugh at the public, and to put the public into one of its finest superfine passions.
for his money.
ADAM MICKIEWICZ AND HIS POETRY. Our present object is by no means to lay before the reader a history of Polish literature, or even to give an account of cotemporary authors, further than is necessary to the remarks which we purpose to make on the author of Wallenrod, and on his poems. In this design we must begin by stating, that towards the end of the 18th century the classical literature of France reigned paramount at Warsaw, Racine and Boileay were all in all, on the stage and in the cabinet. Stanislas Augustus gathered around him the men of letters, while his throne was tottering under him ; and partly by his patronage, partly by the sympathy which has always existed between the French and Polish nations, and the individual communications of their most distinguished literary characters, the press of Poland was completely inoculated by the stiff classicism of the Parisian drawing-rooms. While Goethe and Schiller had already emancipated the poetry of Germany from the yoke which seemed to repress the rich current of the thoughts and feelings of the heart of maş throughout Europe ; and while the calculating theories of æsthetics, and the artificial rules of style and versification, which assumed the title of the laws of poetic art, were falling before the strength and genius of the young spirits of the present age ; Poland was still sunk in an apathetic admiration of foreign beauties : and if any translations were attempted from the more modern authors of England and Germany, they were cut into the orthodox shape, and trimmed by some unrelenting hand ere they were allowed to meet the eye of the Polish public.
The world is well acquainted with the history of that unfortunate country during the first ten years of this century. We most of us remember how her soldiers followed the car of the victorious emperor, and sued for their national existence, which they had more than purchased with their blood ; and all know how by a breach of faith, no less than by a fault of policy, the boon was refused till it could no longer be granted. Those years of blighted hope and generous devotion were not fit times for the poet; the genius of the Poles was turned into a different channel: the campaigus of Italy, Spain, and Russia, are the grand poems of that period.
But the spirit which was then abroad, and which is still, to use the expression of a late authoress, “trying, with Ithuriel's wand, the strong places of the earth,” stops not in its course. Le romanticisme, says Hugo, c'est le liberalisme en litérature ; and while all around was changing—while free institutions were gathering strength, and the grand principles of political justice were professedly acknowledged by the sovereigns of Europe-above all, while the day of the regeneration of Poland was preparing in the distance of the future, it would have been a gross incongruity for the drowsy chant of the bards of routine to have
rung in the ears of an awaking people, whose understandings were gaining light and knowledge, and whose hands were about to grasp the sword of Liberty.
In every grand crisis' of humanity there has been some poet to give the watchword; some mind gifted with more than common powers to stand as the sentinel of the times: and while he sings of days long gone by, and of the actions of men who have long been swept from the surface of the earth, he embodies himself, and his own age, and his conceptions of the future, and his sensations of the present, in his record of the past. Such is the tendency of Konrad Wallenrod. But before we lay before our readers any account of this poem, we ought perhaps to say something of the earlier works of Mickiewicz.
It was in the year 1822 that he first published a volume, consisting chiefly of ballads, to which he prefixed an historical poem, entitled Gra
1 This excellent man, is now in England, an exile, we believe.