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Literary Lotices. Punch's Letters to his Son, by Douglas JerROLD; with Twenty-four Illustra
tions, by KENNY Meadows. London, W. S. Orr & Co. Under the alias of the far-famed and popular peripatetic, Punch, Douglas Jerrold has here produced one of the most cutting, yet best-intentioned satires, that have for many years issued from the press. The performance is evidently suggested by Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son, and the heartlessness, hypocrisy and iniquity of that nobleman's much-followed code of manners, are laid bare with a keen and unsparing hand. The best portions of the book, are the Chapters “ ON THE CHOICE OF A PROFESSION,'' on the philosophy of Borrowing,' and “ How Learning may be obtained by shaving and other means." The following extract will give a good idea of the power and point of Jerrold's satire :
Will you enter the church? Alas! what a prospect lies before you. Can you discipline your mind and body to fulfil the functions of your office? I will at once suppose you a bishop. Can you, I ask it, satisfy your appetite with merely locusts and wild honey? Will you be content with raiment of sack-cloth, or at the best, linsey-woolsey; and can you answer for your conscience that you will, at all times and in all weathers, be ready to make a pilgrimage to the hovels of the poor; to give comfort to the wretched; to pray beside the straw of the repentant guilty ; to show, by your own contempt of the creature blessings of this world, that you look upon the earth as a mere temporary tarrying-place,-a caravanserai, where you are awaiting until called beyond the clouds ? Consider it; as a bishop, you will be expected to take your seat in the House of Lords. When there, shall you be prepared, with the rest of your brethren, to set a continual pattern of piety and self-denial to the lay-nobles? Will you be ever prompt-as bishops always are-to plead the cause of the wretched ; to stand between the sinking poor and the arrogant rich; and with a voice of almost divine thunder wake in the callous hearts of worldlings a slumbering conscience for their fellow-men? Will you be in the House of Lords, a lump of episcopal camphor-a bundle of spikenard-a pot of honey? Can you as all bishops always do-abstain from the lusts of Mammon, and keep your lawn, white and candid as the wings of angels, from the soil of filthy Plutus ?' Thinking only of the broadest, the shortest, and the best way to heaven, -will you (like all bishops) never meddle with turn-pike acts, or job with wooden pavements ? Eschew. ing the vanity of coach and footman (as John the Baptist did, and all bishops do) will you think only of the carriage of Elisha ; and turning from the pomps and vanities of an episcopal palace, can you (as all bishops do) feed humbly, lodge lowly,-hungering only for immortal manna, -waiting only to be called to that home
" Whose glory is the light of setting suns ?" My dear boy, examine yourself, and say, are you equal to all this? I think you are my own flesh and blood, and thinking so, doubt your constancy in this matter. Hence, I would advise you to eschew the church; for unless you could live a life apostolical, as all bishops always do, what disgrace would you bring upon the bench -what slander and a by..word would you be in the mouths of the heathen!
The Chapters on “ Hermetical Philosophy" are also very striking, especially that included in the seventh letter. The remarks contained therein on man's foul abuse of Death, are extremely powerful; and not the less so, we think, for the stern quaintness of their style. Take the following example :
We are content to take up the abuse of the world as truthful censure-to believe in the hard sayings flung in the teeth of Death as well-earned reproach. We con. demn him by hearsay; and join in the halloo of an unthinking, ignorant mob. But invite Death to a tete-a-tete: divesting yourself of vulgar prejudice, sit down in a place like this-for you are in my hermitage, reader,--and calmly and dispassionately chat with him, and you will find the fine old fellow to have been villanously maligned-shamefully scandalised. You will, to your own surprise, and no less
comfort, discover in Death the noblest benefactor—the staunchest, truest friend. All the foul paraphernalia—the shroud, the winding-sheet-the wet heavy clay, the worm and corruption at which serious gentlemen shake their heads, and talk for an hour upon, have no more to do with you than with the hare that may nibble the grass above what once was yours; no more touch you than they touch the red-faced urchins making chains of buttercups and daisies on a falsifying tombstone. When moralising wordmongers seize you by the button, and holding up a skull or old earth-smelling tibia to your eye, look straight down their noses, and tell you that in a short time you will be no more than that they thrust in your face, - tell them, with all reverence, they lie. What will your skull, your bones, be to you, more than your corn that was cut out on Thursday-more than that vile double-tooth which, having tortured you for a fortnight was, a week since, lugged out of your jaw, and left at the dentist's? It is the vile literalness of people's brains that gives an unhandsomeness to the dead bones of men ; that makes them in the grave a part and parcel of the sentinel thing; that would make their foulness and disgrace a humiliation to the soaring man. You show me his lordship's cast-off court-suit of tarnished silver: that it is cast off, proves to me that he has possessed himself of a better. Show me the skull of a dead philosopher--nay, of a defunct pickpocket; commence a dumpish morality on the terrible change of head undergone by sage or thief, and I shall reply to you-It is excellent that it is so; for, depend upon it, the change is for the better; he has obtained a much handsomer article.
As a wholesome, and unflinching satirist, we think that Jerrold stands first amongst the writers of the day. There is no moral truckling in him; he aims his shafts at high and low alike, and though they are keen and piercing, they are never tipped with venom. In the employment of irony, we know of no writer that excels him; and there is a seriousness-a dignity in his morals, that cannot fail to impress the reader with a deep sense of the purposes he has ever in view.
It is a source of great pleasure to us to perceive, that Mr. Jerrold is about to launch a new Magazine upon the great ocean of literature. We heartily wish him a safe and prosperous voyage. The Banished Lord: A Tragedy in Five Acts. London, C. Mitchell, Red
Lion Court. It is not often that the critic has so pleasing or so difficult a duty to perform as is ours on reviewing this Tragedy. It is a pleasing task, because we have to bestow warm praise upon great merit; it is a difficult task, because we have to follow the writer through a very derious course; and to trace to their sources many excellencies and some errors.
Our first words shall be of praise. We like this Tragedy much. We find Nature, Vigour, and Truth in it, and these are somewhat rare virtues now-a-days. There is an honesty-a simplicity of purpose and of passion in this Tragedy that we thoroughly admire.
The plot is as follows. Lord de Mortimer has lost, through Court intrigue, the favour of his Sovereign, and is living in banishment. Being an exceedingly proud Patrician, he maintains great state in his exile, and falls largely in debt. Galbraith a retired merchant, possessed of immense wealth, but of mean extraction, is desirous of swelling himself into note by forming a friendship with De Mortimer. The “ Banished Lord" however disdains the overtures of the Merchant, and treats him with studied contempt. Galbraith, to be revenged, buys up certain bonds given by De Mortimer, in order to have a hold upon him. The Son of Galbraith gains the affections of Agnes, Lord de Mortimer's daughter, and secretly marries her. At this juncture, Galbraith offers to cancel the bonds he holds against De Mortimer, if that nobleman will look upon him as a friend. The pride of the “ Banished Lord” revolts at this proposition, and he disdains the overture. Out of revenge, Galbraith throws De Mortimer's Son into prison, on a charge of murder: the crime is sworn to by false witnesses, and the young nobleman is condemned to death. This completes De Mortimer's degradation, and his reason which has long tottered-falls completely prostrate. His pride, however, bears him up to the last, and he dies in his son's cellgrasping his sword and defying death.
It will be seen that this plot gives room for some fine and striking dramatic situations; and we feel bound to say that the author has taken full advantage of them. The scene in which Galbraith and the Sheriff wait upon the proud De Mortimer to offer him freedom from debt if he will acknowledge them his friends, is highly dramatic;—so, too, is the Prison scene, which is very powerfully and affectingly wrought. Still the plotis somewhat involved and confused, and seems to us to be encumbered by many unnecessary circumstances which mar that unity of purpose which ought to be one of the chief considerations in the mind of the dramatic author.
De Mortimer is of course the principal character in the play, and we hesitate not to say that the proud Banished Lord is drawn with consummate ability. The pride of noble birth never met with a more distinct and effective delineation. And the author has shown with great power the increasing effects of renewed disappointment on haughtiness of mind. The proud nobleman first loses the favour of his sovereign; this raises a spirit of bravado in him—“his castle becomes a palace-a very reservoir of all sorts of grandeur." Then comes poverty; and he is reduced to the humiliation of borrowing money of a friend, and forsaking his splendid state for comparative retirement; this makes him sick at heart; and though he tries to persuade himself that he shall experience calm content, he clearly shows the misery he feels :
Oh, what it is, to rot upon the shore,
That slime earth with contaminating clay.
(Bows to LADY DE MORTIMER.)
Gal. My Lord! This visit speaks its own design,
Sheriff. My Noble Lord! your roof ne'er covered one
De Mor. (turning aside). Endurance should be framed of adamant.
(GALBRAITH and SHERIFF converse apart.)
Piper (abstractedly). E-h ?
De Mor. (aside). How pleasant 'tis to feel supreme contempt.
Sheriff. Your knee, my Lord !
De Mor. Ay, Sir! my sinews heave the gorge at it,
Sheriff. My Lord! I ne'er expected that your knee-
De Mor. Indeed! but you expected thanks and welcome?
[Exit. The ebb of his passion is finely pourtrayed; when his anger subsides, his reason begins to wander, and he feels that madness is coming. Here occurs a striking soliloquy :What's that I said ? -Wy wife! That opens all!
My grandsire's old infirmity of mind !
(Stopping before a portrait.)
He discovers that the love of his daughter is given to Galbraith's son: this adds fearfully to his torment. Then comes the accusation, trial, and sentence of his son, and the poor old Lord's proud heart is broken, and he becomes mad. There is great power in the delineation of De Mortimer's insanity: the flashing reminiscences of his exploits in battle--the offer of his castle's hospitality to perfect strangers—his care for stately burial
When I am buried, the funeral rites being o'er,
The tide it flowed in, flows for ever more. his dying advice to his son-
Richard ! Before they died,