Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Mr. Garrick to MR. Woodfall..

Upon the subject of the foregoing letter. “ Sir,

Nov. 20, 1771. I am obliged to address this letter to you, and to appeal to your probity: in that, and my own, lies my defence against a most unprovoked and illiberal attack made upon me by your celebrated correspondent Junius. Had you not convinced ine that the letter I received last Monday night was really written by that gentleman, I could not have imagined that such talents could have descended to such scurrility. However mighty the power may be with which he is pleased to threaten me, I trust, with truth on my side and your assistance, to be able to parry the vigour of his arm, and oblige him to drop his point, not for want of force to overcome so feeble an adversary as I am, but from the shame and consciousness of a very bad cause. In one particular, I will be acknowledged his superior, for, however easy and justifiable such a return may be, I will make use of no foul language ; my vindication wants neither violence or abuse to support it; it would be as unmanly to give injurious names to one who will not, as to him who cannot, resent it. Now to the fact, which, till you had explained it to me, had made no impression on my mind. I am told in most outrageous terms, and near a month after the supposed crime was committed (for Junius was exactly informed of my practices the day after), that if the vagabond does not keep to his pantomimes, every hour of his life shall be cursed for interfering with Junius. Is not this rather too inquisitorial for the great champion of our liberty ? Now let us examine into the dreadful cause of this denuneiation. Mr. Woodfall, the first informer, informs me, in a letter in no wise relative to the subject, without any previous impertinent inquiries on my part, or the least desire of secrecy on his, that Junius would write no more. Two or three days after the receipt, being obliged to write a letter upon the business of the theatre to one at Richmond, and, after making my excuses for not being able to obey His Majesty's commands, I mentioned to him that Junius would write no more ; but the triumphs that succeeded this intelligence never reached me till I received Junius's leiter ; and so far was I from thinking there was a crime in communicating what was sent to me without reserve, that I will freely confess that I wrote no letter to any of my friends without the mention of so remarkable an event; I will venture to go further, and affirm that it would have been insensible and unnatural not to bave done it. I beg that you will assure Junius that I have as proper an abhorrence of an informer as he can have, that I have been honoured with the confidence of men of all parties, and I defy my greatest enemy to produce a single instance of any one repenting of such confidence. I have always declared, that were I by any accident to discover Ju. nius, no consideration should prevail upon me to reveal a secret productive of so much mischief; nor can his most undeserved treatment of me make me alter my sentiments.

“ One thing more I must observe, that Junius has given credit to an informer, in prejudice of him who was never in the least suspected of being a spy before : had any of our judges condemned the lowest culprit on such evidence, without hearing the person accused, and other witnesses, the nation would have rung with the injustice! I shall say no more, but I beg that you will tell all you know of this matter, and be assured thut I am, with great regard for Junius's talents, but without the least fear of his threatenings, Your well-wisher and humble servant,

DAVID GARRICK. I have hurt my hand, and have sent you a letter you will be scarce able to read.” Mr. H. S. WOODFALL to Mr. BECKET.

“ Nov. 23, 1771. “ Dear Becket,-I have just received a general letter from Junius, upon private subjects, in which he has returned me Mr. G.'s letter, without the satisfactory answer I had wished to have received with it. I am of opinion some enemy of Mr. Gi's has endeavoured to excite Junius's resentment against Mr. G., and that it does not proceed merely from this little communication, which Mr. G. was not enjoined to keep secret by me. The following passage I have extracted from his letter relating to Mr. G. - If he attacks me again, I will appeal to the public against him. "If not, he may safely set me at defiance. I wish a more favourable construction of what I have sent would have permitted me to have written to Mr. G., so as to have given him the fullest satisfaction: I am not, however, without hopes of still accomplisbing this matter to his mind, and am

Sincerely yours,

H. S. WOODFALL.”-p. 443. Here we must conclude. We were never more puzzled to select letters for extract, where there is so much that is worthy of it. No one will take up the large

volume that contains them, and be disposed to lay it down until he has gone deeply into it. It is one of the most valuable and pleasing collections of correspondence which the public has seen for a long time. We quit it reluctantly.

The Achillead, in Twelve Books. By WILLIAM JOHN THOMAS, M.R.C.S.

Vol. I. 8vo. Sherwood & Co. The consciousness that posterity will do justice to present neglect on the part of the public, is not peculiar to Mr. Thomas. That gentleman, in his preface, while lamenting the ingratitude of his countrymen in the treatment of his present epic “ The Achillead,” and while condemning himself for unwise labour by trying to secure the patronage of British princes, seems to feel a presentiment of future immortality-a scintillation of that fame which is to equal old Homer's in duration, and which the author of Solomon's Song might envy. Mr. Thomas has spent years it seems in revising“ the young ideas”of his epic, and has at length taught them “how to shoot," and then to “ march forward” amid the apathetic coolness of patricians and the neglect of princes. Stealing a portion of time from his engagements with the spatula and syringe, (for Mr. Thomas is a disciple of Hippocrates and follower of Averrhoes,) from powdering cortex Peruvianus, and bringing to light the hidden virtues of dandelion and hellebore, he devoted it to a work which, on many accounts, we ourselves would not willingly let die, since the frowns of the most exalted individuals have been unable to damp the spirit of poesy, with which Mr. Thomas imagines himself imbued, and since he himself tells us he has here bent the bow of Ulysses--he alone. The Achillead, its gifted author says, is intended to join together the Iliad and Æneid. These two epics are broken links, the Achillead connects them; or, in other words, Homer and Virgil command the wings, and Mr. Thomas's division is the main force, and occupies the centre of the battle. To use Mr. Thomas's own epi-tropical phraseology, the “Achillead may be compared to a poetical viadnct connecting two everlasting hills together.” The great stream of time may, it is admitted by our poet, possibly sweep away the conjunction, and thus the wings be left as they originally stood, but then-what then? Why the very of such a conjunction, in after ages, may stimulate the fire of genius to dart its refulgent rays from the same foundation !"

We find from Mr. Thomas that Virgil flourished under the reign of Angustus, and he has discovered that this emperor was not regardless of the votaries of literature. One Maro (some other poet, we infer) flourished too under this emperor. Desirous of seeing British princes imitate this Cæsar, he, it appears, offered to consider George IV. as his Augustus, which that monarch unceremoniously declined. Mr. Thomas did not seek the royal patronage for himself-Oh no! he was above that : it was on his majesty's own account solely, to use his own words, that the king might have an opportunity of displaying to the present and to succeeding generations, the paternal affection with which the British people cherish the votaries of literature;” Mr. Thomas considering that the king was “ the visible representative of the invisible commonwealth.” Napoleon, our poet thinks, would have acted differently towards him. Had the great soldier known him, he would have created a laureateship for him no doubt, especially as he disserts so well upon British taxation, while giving battles on the Scamander.

To prepare the reader for the opening of his epic, our British Homer describes the plain of Troy from a map of his own construction. He informs us that he has introduced didactic principles into his work ; and wherever the vices of the present age have appeared, he has applied “the sting of satire” to them. Moral principles have been introduced where they could conveniently, and also events now passing in the political world, but yet not so as to interrupt the unity of the poem. A vast number of comparatively recent events from history are dove-tailed into this continuation of the siege of Troy, because “ before thirty centuries have elapsed, they will have become bistorical fragments of the general narrative;"

“ memory

and the author most modestly expects the poem will at least outlive that period, " anless, indeed, the earth perishes before it arrives.” He has adopted the heathen mythology, but in such a way as not to arouse the odium theologicum, and bring the bishops about his ears—had previously put down the doctrines of materialism and the mortality of the soul, raising “the sword of Achilles” against them in Vol. LX. of the Medical and Physical Journal, when in training for the present immortal poem. Thus the ancient relationship of Æsculapius and Apollo is revived in Mr. Thomas-anomen of promise in his poetical career not to be passed over lightly.

Mr. Thomas having now concluded his preface, leads us into the delicious empire of his epic," where no inconveniences damp our enjoyments, and where no clouds darken our prospects," where the smell of asafætida ceases to exhale, and the lancet lies idle in its case.

Here we cannot forbear commending the patience of Mr. Thomas as to the reward of his labours. The greatest geniuses have displayed similar virtues, and this magnanimity of soul must plead trumpet-tongued the modest merit of our new Homer. To use Johnson's expression respecting a rival, confessedly Mr. Thomas's inferior in many points, amid the censures of the critics, the neglect of George IV., and of princes, and under the claws of the “ vultures and ravens of criticism,” we see him “ not at all dejected, relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and waiting without impatience the vicissitudes of opinion and the impartiality of a future generation." This passage reflects Mr. Thomas's position most accurately; he awaits his reward in the acclamations of posterity, since the present age will not do him justice.

To be serious-we did not expect such a work, so confidently put forth, and so utterly deficient in judgment, could have emanated from the modern press. It is an imitation of Pope's Homer, often beyond all comprehension, and with an utter contempt for sober reason :confused images, anachronisms, metaphors without meaning, abound. The writer seems to aim at making lines which shall sound well without sense, and jingle, like tinkling cymbals, from their own empti

ness.

Of the judgment that projected a work to join the names of Homer and Virgil by historical allusions, ancient and modern, and disserting on British taxation, we say nothing to our readers. If the writer be a youth, though he would, he says, scorn that as an excuse for publishing, he is the most forward and confident of his years of whom we ever heard. If he be arrived at years of maturity, we are utterly out of all hope of him. Old he cannot be, for years, if they do not always teach wisdom, inculcate prudence.

Of the verse we will give a specimen or two. • The following describes a spirit with a metaphor appended thereunto :

The phantoms frown'd, strong blew the gusty wind,
The hail, careering, thunder'd from behind;
Full in their front the kindling lightnings flew,
And pierced the shadows of the spirits through :
As when from ocean mounts the purple morn,

Faint, glimmering, gloomy, desolate, forlorn, We say nothing of the second line describing whence hail thunders. It is as magnificent and lucid as if penned by Mr. Omnipresence Montgomery himself. Aquario tells Iris in one place to fold her “ tail” and take a ride with him, and that a draught of salt sea-water is superior to the "wine of gods,” !--no great specimen of Mr. Thomas's taste at all events. The whole of this affair between Aquario and Iris is the best bit of mock-heroic we ever read. See pages 27-31.

At page 35. Mr. Thomas smacks of professional knowledge. “ Earth's organs,”

he says,

on a somewhat larger scale Are like an animal's-suppose a whale; The whale being now universally admitted among the animal and not the piscatory tribe by physiologists, Mr. Thomas shows his knowledge thereof, and proceeds:

Like the aorta, see the oceans boil;
From side to side the tumbling torrents toil, &c.

Then the mountains are "absorbents;" the fountains flow through“ veinous chana, nels,” to glad the “ earth's womb." All this, it must be granted, is “ very like. the shop!” and winds up:

Take it in toto :---see the mighty soul,
Which waving round re-animates the whole :
Behold the stars ! the universe, behold!

Within his vast capacity is rollid! Mr. Thomas is botanical in page 39, enumerates flowers and plants, and hints at their generative process. He is astronomical too and philosophical, and in these respects, as well as in his multiplicity of knowledge, he fulfils the cbaracter of the poet, and seems to possess all the qualities of one enumerated in Rasselas.

Our friend Mr. Sotheby must be jealous of this our island Homer. What Christopher North will say we cannot conjecture, when he finds Mr. Thomas so superior to Pope, Sotheby, Cowper, Chapman, Hobbes, &c. in his descriptions. Let us take an extract which our readers will recollect, but they will bear in mind that Mr. Thomas is an original Homer-no translator, no critic, like North, but a spick and span British Homer, neglected by British princes, happy in the consciousness of immortal fame, and possessing a bold opinion of his own abilities, which carries him, a high-mettled hunter, over all proprieties and criticisms. In Pope's Homer, the description of the night-scene, by the Xanthus, is familiar to everybody. Now North, in his admirable criticism on Sotheby, in his July Number, dissects the various translators of this passage. Our British Homer tran scends them, original and all. Let us quote :

Yon stream of light the morn's approach denotes,
Each radiant beam from her in silence floats;
The conquer'd clouds to distant regions flow,
And vivid stars around the planet glow;
The lunar beams the distant hills affect,
Their silver'd summits back the light reflect :
Camps, shields, and spears, now shine in silent day,
And beam before the soft nocturnal ray;
The forest tops reflected lights absorb,
Now fans with flame the distant glowing orb;
Then living sapphires, flowers of heav'nly hue,
In spangles gild the vast expanded blue
Of subtle azure ; pure expansion, where

Unnumber'd worlds illume the fragrant air. Now we ask Kit North if the ancient Homer could have equalled this? Old Scio must pale his poetic fires before the modern poet. What a fine exposition the first lines about the moon's rising with a stream of light for a herald, and every beam (and there must be millions) all floating in silence; not one prattling, or bissing, or whistling, or sighing. The “conquer'd clouds” flowing to distant regions, is a great improvement on Pope :

And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene. Our original Homer says,

The vivid stars around the planet glow. Pope :

Around her throne the vivid planets roll. We need only compare rolling” and “glowing,” to sound the depth of Mr. Thomas's superiority. Then the pathos in the “lunar beams ” affecting the distant hills, or making them sorrowful, is fine; and they reflected back again to the moon by the hill-tops in return, is sympathetical. But that which follows is more novel, if not more sublime : “ Camps, spears, and shields" shine in the soft nocturnal beams in silent day--a most happy quality in these weapons of war, possessed only by those of this poet's fertile fancy. Then we have the mystery of absorption explained, of which the ancient Homer knew nothing, and Pope very little, we believe. This Mr. Thomas owes to his universality of education! The foresttops are dark from absorbing the reflected light, says our poet. This reminds us that Mr. Thomas might have borrowed it from his modern rival, Milton :

Dark with excessive light, &c.

The next line, “Now fans," &c. from the use of the singular number, to, answer the “ forest-tops,” being the things which fan, is a grace beyond the reach of art; perhaps “ orb " is the nominative, and then the passage reads well, making the lady-like orb fan itself. The last four lines read thus, and Kit North may parallel them in Pope or Chapman if he can :-“There living blues gild the vast expanded blue in spangles of subtle blue-pure expansion."

Taxation in England is appositely brought in, while describing the deeds of Achilles. Mr. Thomas is peculiarly happy in connecting the remote with the near, the ancient with the modern, Even an obscure allusion to steam-carriages is ingeniously dove-tailed into the poem, which, had the Trojans possessed together with Perkins's steam-gun, we have our doubts whether Achilles would not have run away. Now, though the Trojans had not these, the modern Homer had, and knew better than to let them lie idly by him. We do not observe that Political Economy, Gunpowder, Phrenology, Reform, Colburn's and Co.'s pufts, Dr. Eady's, the Marquis of Londonderry, Nicolas of Russia, Hallam's Pills, or the New London Bridge, are alluded to in Mr. Thomas's Achillead; but metaphysics and the Duke of Wellington figure with Achilles, Hector, and Babylonian astrology, in this modern tale of “Troy divine.”

We trust we have now said enough to make our readers acquainted with the existence of this work. We should not, perhaps, have analyzed it at such a length, but it was sent us, with a letter from the author, denouncing cotemporary critics for ungenerous treatment. We perused it carefully, and are bound to say, that we never before heard of a charge more groundless, nor, allowing for all the love authors naturally feel for their offspring, have we met a more singular instance of perverted affection than the present, heightened not a little in its singularity by the excessive vanity and presumption of the author, that he is destined to form the link between the two great writers of antiquity, and that his work is neglected by princes !

Thoughts on Man, his Nature, Productions, and Discoveries, &c. By

WM. GODWIN. 8vo. E. Wilson.

Write what Mr. Godwin will, we may be sure he is honest in what he writes. The reader has the satisfaction of feeling that the author is not repeating other people's sentiments by rote-he is no parrot at all events. He may not always tell us what is now, or, if it be new, it may not be very valuable ; but what he does tell us comes from his own mind—it is the transcript of home feelings, and his own convictions. Mr. Godwin is habitually a thinker; but we suspect he sets himself down sometimes doggedly for thinking, and does not always wait for spontaneous springs and floods of thought, to catch them as they rise, or as they strike upon the strings of consciousness and tell him— These are novelties. These results of set and laborious thinking he frequently, or perhaps habitually, records; and he values them often, we think-we may mistake-precisely because they appear thus to be pieces of self-generation, independently of any intrinsic price. We come to this conclusion, because it so often occurs that his thoughts are of an unlicked caste, or, if not, of a comparatively common one ; such as present themselves to common minds, and have been written and printed over and over again ; if not in the very words, or to the precise shade, yet in language and colour near enough to be pronounced the same in substance. They are too often again the result of contrast; as if the opposite of wrong must be right. This occasionally urges him on in the very teeth of common sense, without any strong or overmastering reasons for his attempting the contradiction. If Mr. G. met with a person, in a book we mean-no where else of course—asserting every thing to be black, in defiance of the common consent of mankind, he would be prompted, seeing the gross absurdity of the thing, to fly to the other extreme, and maintain that all was white. Very much in this spirit, because some religionists with whom he has come in contact affirm we are all sin, and nothing but sin, he insists upon the fact of universal innocence; or which comes to the same thing, because he finds many asserting the predominance of malignity among men, he can, search as diligently as he may, find little but

« AnteriorContinuar »