Imagens das páginas



The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, late of St.

John's College, Cambridge; with an account of his life. By ROBERT SOUThey. Vol. III. London, 1822. pp. 185, 8vo.

We will own to a feeling of regret on hearing that a new volume was added to the · Remains of Henry Kirke White.' We could not help thinking it would make less valuable what had been published already, and be an injury instead of a fresh ornament to his memory. It seemed a hazardous experiment to try to refresh after the lapse of so many years the interest which was excited at first in the fate, character and productions of a young man, distinguished but for his high early promise. That kind of interest glows but once in the public mind, when there is something of curiosity and novelty in it, and events are recent. It then gives place, and the partiality of friendship and the fondness of family attachment must not be offended or surprised when it does 80. When Mr. Spencer of Liverpool was drowned at the age of twenty years,-a year younger than White, and quite as remarkable as he, -the public received very thankfully a small volume commemorative of one

who possessed such rare qualities and was so deeply lamented. This was what it ought to have been : but how mistaken would be the zeal, which should now try to retouch those impressions of sympathy and admiration, by sending out another volume collected from his papers and correspondence! It is not often that the letters and small writings even of mature and eminent men have any permanent value, or are long read; and what can be expected from the multiplying of such from the pen of a mere youth ?—There seemed too a sort of injustice and indelicacy in being very officious with the juvenile compositions, which by this time, had he lived, he might have wished to destroy out of his own sight;-and in persevering to make the world acquainted with the crude thoughts and unreserved communications, wbich he would himself probably have forgotten. Nothing, we reasoned, requires a more cautious discrimination than the selecting for publication from the papers of the dead, who prepared nothing with reference to such a design: but what application can possibly have been made of this excellent principle in the volume, with which we are now threatened? We thought,


beside, of the art of book-making; and apprehended another spe. cimen of this most common kind of offence,-perpetrated too under the name of one who is not here to answer for himself, or to cry bold. In addition to all this, we acknowledge plainly the opinion, that the two octavo volumes already printed were estracts sufficiently copious,-if not, much more than were good,from the manuscripts of a student of twenty-one, who had not yet completed his preparation for the active services of life. such remains all are ready to be pleased with a few selections ; and if these are well made they are valuable in proportion as they are few: but who would have them grow into a library? Mr. Southey is wrong, we were ready to say. Every one must respect his pure attachment to virtues like White's, and to talents consecrated as his were. But it was time to leave them with Him, before whom alone they shall be held in perpetual remembrance.

With these feelings we took up the present volume, expecting to be wearied and displeased with it. And we wish we could add that the expectation was disappointed.--It is possible that the opportunity of its frontispiece might have contributed a little to the compilation. This is an engraving of the tablet, which was sculptered by Chantrey at the request and expense of our townsman Francis Boott, Esq., and erected in All Saints Church, Cambridge. It bears the following inscription, written by William Smyth Esq. Professor of Modern History:

HENRY KIRKE WHITE. Born March 21st, 1785. Died October 18th, 1806. Warm with fond hope and learning's sacred flame, To Granta's bowers the youthful poet came. Unconquered powers th' immortal mind displayed, But worn with anxious thought the frame decayed. Pale o'er his lamp and in his cell retired, The martyr student faded and expired. O genius, taste and piety sincere, Too early lost 'midst duties too severe ! Foremost to mourn was generous Southey seen, He told the tale and showed what White had been ; Nor told in vain.-Far o'er the Atlantic wave A wanderer came, and sought the poet's grave : On yon low stone he sought his lonely name, And raised this fond memorial to bis fame. The preface contains rather a common place account of the manner in which Henry came to think very seriously on religion. It seems that a Mr. Almond, now rector of St. Peters, Nottingham, who was his school-fellow and one of his most intimate friends, having heard him speak of the book of Isaiah as an epic, and that of Job as a dramatic poem, suddenly broke off his acquaintance without assigning any reason, and carefully shunned him : which certainly was not very generous. When at last Henry called on



him for an explanation, he entered on a long discourse, and concluded by putting into his hands Scott's • Force of truth :'_which certainly was very silly. Henry had, however, too much good sense to be affected by so weak an instrument, and returned the book with disapprobation.' He was now about eighteen; and at this period of his life he became strongly interested in the subject of religion, to which he had probably never been wholly indifferent, and resolved to devote himself to its teaching and service. The truth is, (according to Mr. Southey's own words) he was now old enough to feel that there is no happiness, no rest without religion ;' and when his attention was once fairly engaged in it, he gave himself up to its first influences with the impetuosity and deep sensibility which belonged to his character. This is the amount of his conversion; to the honour of being an instrument in which Mr. Almond and some one else, who was bis tutor for a few weeks, have put in rival pretensions.

After the preface we have a few letters, or fragments of letters, of which it is not enough to say that they are altogether ordinary. There is a spirit about them that we do not like, and a certain tone of the elect;' which, however, we do not consider so much his own as a part of the religious manner and language of his sect. Neither did it promise well, his proposing on his outset in the study of the scriptures to show how exactly they correspond with the articles of the church of England ; nor his summing up the .extraneous learning' necessary for a clergy, man in 'knowing the Latin tolerably,' and being able to read bis Greek Testament. Complacency with his own attainments and prospects is brought continually, though he was probably unconscious of it, into view; and he writes to his older brother quite as if he were John the Presbyter. He speaks with all dread of the pride of learning, and the pride of reason,' of being deluded by proud logic and proud inquiries ;' and lays down as a sufficient and indispensable foundation such explanations as these : · We are all sinners even from the womb; we are intent ever on sinful objects, and every thought of our heart is evil. In this state, we are justly liable to God's wrath and everlasting damnation, and in this state must every man naturally be, since we are born under the curse, and so destitute of good that we cannot of ourselves forsake sin or pursue virtue. But God, of his great mercy, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, has offered redemption to mankind, and has promised to afford them the capacity of following the good and eschewing the evil, on the simple condition of faith in his Almighty Son. We may be abandoned. we may be depraved and

unprincipled, but God will still adhere to the letter of his promises; and when we turn to him, acknowledge our utworthiness, and oppressed with the sense of our deplorable corruptions cry out for salvation by the blood of the Redeemer alone, He will then unquestionably hear us.' pp. 26, 27We see God visiting the earth, promulging doctrines which the world had never any idea of before ; laying the foundation, in a few ignorant fishermen, of a religion which was to spread over the whole civilized world; and finally sealing his testament with his blood, and ransoming by that sacrifice the fallen race of map from the curse due to his disobedience.' p. 29. In truth these letters show neither knowledge nor acuteness of any kind, and his amiable mind seems to be overshadowed by the superstitious and dark system of faith, ander which his strong feelings without examination drove and subjected him.-Let us not be understood as speaking reproachfully of him by pointing out these faults. They were the faults of a young man, and he would have outlearned and outlived them. But we do protest against publishing thus to the world the weaknesses of piety and genius, under the appearance of doing them honour.

• Early Poems, and Poems of later date,' follow the Letters, and are of little interest ; except two of the Hymns: of one of which these are the three first verses :

• The Lord our God is full of might,

The winds obey his will :
He speaks, and in his heavenly height

The rolling sun stands still.
Rebel, ye waves, and o'er the land

With threatening aspect roar!
The Lord uplifts his awful hand,

And chains you to the shore.
Howl, winds of night, your force combine!

Without his high behest,
Ye shall not in the mountain pine

Disturb the sparrow's nest.' The hymn is found entire in the New York Collection. There are two amatory songs among these effusions, which every mo. tive should have excluded from the collection ; and which could scarcely have obtained admission if the editor had not determined to insert every thing he could find. Not that there is any very great harm in them, but they are utterly out of tune with all our recollections of the author; and besides, we do not know how to forgive them, they are so extremely poor. It would be unjust to think the worse of the youth for writing them :-both Grotius and Beza wrote much more exceptionable things in good classical Latin without scandal :--but there is a

righteous displeasure due to the editor, whose own poetry is chaste as the marbles of the statuary, and free-almost beyond parallel-from all but poetical licentiousness.

The last part of the volume consists of prose compositions. These are mere miscellaneous fragments on the most common themes, not superior in point of thought and manner to the productions of most young men of his standing in our own schools. Chief of them are the beginnings of essays, broken off just when something is intended to be reasoned on or proved. Whether they were never finished, or whether the editor considered the rest as best omitted, we are nowhere told.

The former supposition is the more probable. But however the case may be, we must acknowledge a feeling of disappointment in finding ourselves thus suddenly left at the very opening of a subject, and sometimes before getting any clear apprehension of what the subject is meant to be. There can be no use in such dismembered or rather unformed limbs of compositions. They have neither expression nor life, and look as they occupy their little room on the well-starred page like relics, treasured up for some heavenly but entirely hidden virtues. Several of the pieces however are less imperfect, and afford specimens of the writer's way of thinking. In the last fragment he boldly contends, against all . vain philosophy,' that the heathen gods were manifestly the very devils themselves, who governed the greater part of the ancient world, assisted miracle-mongers, and inspired oracles. • The course of all history,' he says, “sacred and profane, countenances the idea ; and after the body of evidence afforded by the ancient writers on this point, to express unqualified and unhesitating disbelief can only argue an utter ignorance of the grounds, on which we can alone judge in this mysterious subject.

There is a letter addressed to the editor of some public jour! nal on the nicknames of controversial disputants,' from which we are disposed to give an extract, though the letter as a whole is written with no great clearness or closeness of thinking. I have observed among some persons an attachment to names in the church of Christ, which bodes no good to its interests. I begin to fear lest religion should be brought to consist in names alone, and lest the too frequent use of doctrinal terms should degenerate into a mere repetition of words without meaning or effect. From the answers to correspondents in your last number, I find a writer, whose signature is Theodosius, disapproves of the biographical sketches, which have recently appeared in your work, as unevangelical. Permit me to remark, Mr. Editor, that every thing which tends to the establishment of virtue and

« AnteriorContinuar »