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·tion had been softened away. The lay of Britomart, in twelve
cantos, in praise of Chastity, would have been received with a smile at the court of Ferrara, which would have had almost as little sympathy with the justice of Arthegal.
The allegories of Spenser have been frequently censured. One of their greatest offences, perhaps, is that they gave birth to some tedious and uninteresting poetry of the same kind. There is usually something repulsive in the application of an abstract or general name to a person; in which, though with some want of regard, as I have intimated above, to the proper meaning of the word, we are apt to think that allegorical fiction consists. The French and English poets of the Middle Ages had far too much of this ; and it is to be regretted that Spenser did not give other appellations to his Care and Despair, as he has done to Duessa and Talus. In fact, Orgoglio is but a giant, Humiltà a porter, Obedience a servant. The names, when English, suggest something that perplexes us; but the beings exhibited are mere persons of the drama, men and women, whose office cr character is designated by their appellation.
The general style of the Faery Queen is not exempt from several defects, besides those of obsoleteness and redundancy. Spenser seems to have been sometimes deficient in one attribute of a great poet, the continual reference to the truth of Nature, so that his fictions should be always such as might exist on the given conditions. This arises in great measure from copying his predecessors too much in description, not suffering his own good sense to correct their deviations from truth. Thus, in the beautiful description of Una, where she first is introduced to us, riding
“Upon a lowly ass more white than snow,
Herself much whiter."
This absurdity may have been suggested by Ovid's“ Brachia Sithonia candidiora nive;" but the image in this line is not brought so distinctly before the mind as to be hideous as well as untrue ; it is merely a hyperbolical parallel. A similar objection lies to the stanza enumerating as many kinds of trees as the poet could call to mind, in the description of a forest,
"The guiling pine, the cedar proud and tall,
The vine-prop elm, the poplar never dry,
The aspine good for staves, the cypress funeral;" with thirteen more in the next stanza. Every one knows that a natural forest never contains such a variety of species ; nor indeed could such a medley as Spenser, treading in the steps of Ovid, has brought together from all soils and climates, exist long if planted by the hands of man. Thus, also, in the last canto of the second book, we have a celebrated stanza, and certainly a very beautiful one, if this defect did not attach to it; where winds, waves, birds, voices, and musical instruments are supposed to conspire in one harmony. A good writer has observed upon this, that “to a person listening to a concert of voices and instruments, the interruption of singing-birds, winds, and water-falls, would be little better than the torment of Hogarth’s enraged musician.” But perhaps the enchantment of the Bower of Bliss, where this is feigned to have occurred, may in some degree justify Spenser in this instance, by taking it out of the common course of nature. The stanza is translated from Tasso, whom our own poet has followed with close footsteps in these cantos of the second book of the Faery Queen-cantos often in themselves beautiful, but which are rendered stiff by a literal adherence to the original, and fall very short of its ethereal grace and sweetness. It would be unjust not to relieve these strictures, by observing that very numerous passages might be brought from the Faery Queen of admirable truth in painting, and of indisputable originality. The cave of Despair, the hovel of Corceca, the incantation of Amoret, are but a few among those that will occur to the reader of Spenser.
The admiration of this great poem was unanimous and enthusiastic. No Academy had been trained to carp at his genius with minute cavilling ; no recent popularity, no traditional fame (for Chaucer was rather venerated than much in the hands of the reader), interfered with the immediate recognition of his supremacy. The Faery Queen became at once the delight of every accomplished gentleman, the model of every poet, the solace of every scholar. In the course of the next century, by the extinction of habits derived from chivalry, and
the change both of taste and language, which came on with the Civil Wars and the Restoration, Spenser lost something of his attraction, and much more of his influence over literature ; yet, in the most phlegmatic temper of the general reader, he seems to have been one of our most popular writers. Time, however, has gradually wrought its work; and, notwithstanding the more imaginative cast of poetry in the present century, it may be well doubted whether the Faery Queen is as much read or as highly esteemed as in the days of Anne. It is not perhaps very difficult to account for this : those who seek the delight that mere fiction presents to the mind (and they are the great majority of readers), have been supplied to the utmost limit of their craving, by stores accommodated to every temper, and far more stimulant than the legends of Faeryland. But we must not fear to assert, with the best judges of this and of former ages, that Spenser is still the third name in the poetical literature of our country, and that he has not been surpassed, except by Dante, in any other.
If we place Tasso and Spenser apart, the English poetry of Elizabeth's reign will certainly not enter into competition with that of the corresponding period in Italy. It would require not only much national prejudice, but a want of genuine æsthetic discernment, to put them on a level. But it may still be said that our own Muses had their charms; and even that, at the end of the century, there was a better promise for the future than beyond the Alps. We might compare the poetry of the one nation to a beauty of the court, with noble and regular features, a slender form, and grace in all her steps, but wanting a genuine simplicity of countenance, and with somewhat of sickliness in the delicacy of her complexion, that seems to indicate the passing away of the first season of youth ; while that of the other would rather suggest a country maiden, newly mingling with polished society, not of perfect lineaments, but attracting beholders by the spirit, variety, and intelligence of her expression, and rapidly wearing off the traces of rusticity, which are still sometimes visible in her demeanour.
LORD MACAULA Y.
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY was born at Rothley Temple, in Leicestershire, in the last year of the eighteenth century. His father, Zachary Macaulay, a native of Scotland, had removed early in life to England, and had applied himself to commerce. He was a zealous Presbyterian, and identified himself with a local religious party known as “the Clapham Sect," and was honourably distinguished for his labours in the anti-slavery cause, in which he was a fellowworker with Buxton and Wilberforce. Thomas B. Macaulay, his son, graduated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was highly distinguished for his classical attainments, and where also he made his first essay as a speaker, being a prominent member of the Union Debating Society.
On leaving the university he entered upon the study of law. He found time, however, for literary composition; and after writing a few ballads and occasional pieces, he became in 1825 a contributor to the Edinburgh Review. The reputation which his contributions brought bim led to his appointment as Commissioner of Bankruptcy. Soon afterwards, through the influence of Lord Lansdowne, he was returned to Parliament for the borough of Calne, and amongst his earliest parliamentary efforts were his speeches in favour of Reform, delivered when Lord J. Russell's Bill was before the House.
When the Reform Parliament was elected after the passing of that Bill in 1832, Macaulay was chosen Member for the newly-enfranchised borough of Leeds, and afterwards became Secretary to the Board of Control.
In 1834 he went out to India as Member of the Supreme Council and its legal adviser. One of the results of his residence there was the compilation of a new code of law, the chief fault of which was that it was found to be impracticable. At the end of three years he returned to England, and in 1839 was elected for Edinburgh. He then became Secretary at War under Lord Melbourne's Administration, and held office till 1841, when the Whigs gave place to Sir R. Peel's Government. A few words in a speech on the Maynooth grant lost him his seat for Edinburgh ; but in 1852 he was re-elected without effort or solicitation on his own part, and retained his seat till 1856. From that time he was chiefly employed on his History of England, the first two volumes of which had appeared in 1849. This great work was, however, destined to remain a fragment, for he did not live to issue more than two additional volumes. After hav. ing been raised to the peerage in 1857, he died on the 21st of December 1859, and was buried, to use his own words, " in that Great Abbey, which has during many ages afforded a quiet resting-place to those whose minds and bodies have been shattered by the contentions of the Great Hall."
Macaulay has won high fame as poet, orator, essayist, and historian. His ballads on Ivry and The Armada, and his Lays of Ancient Rome, if not in the bighest vein of poetry, are at least full of fire and animation, rich in imagery, and brilliant with word-painting, rolling down with something of Pindaric rush, or rather with that impetuous flow which is popularly supposed to be characteristic of Pindar. The Essays, consisting of the papers contributed by him, through a long series of years, to the Edinburgh Review, are splendid compositions. Those written by him early in life-especially the first, on Milton-have wany of the faults of immaturity; but the whole collection is replete with evidences of the most varied knowledge, with large and enlightened views on history, with striking and pointed thoughts, with brilliant descriptions, and mnost felicitous illustrations and comparisons. His oratory was very much in the same style. His Speeches, indeed, were essays as carefully elaborated as his written compositions, and their effect was in some degree weakened by a somewhat harsh voice and a too rapid delivery. His Speeches on Reforni may be referred to as affording the best specimens of his efforts in this line.
It is on his History of England that his fame may be expected mainly to depend.
This magnificent work has already been described as a fragment. The author purposed to write the history of his country from the accession of James II. to a time within the memory of persons still living. But a higher will forbade, and the fifth volume, published after his death, only brings the narrative down to the close of William the Third's reign. The merits of this History are unquestionably very great. Few writers have taken more pains to accumulate materials, and none ever made a more effective use of them. The work exhibits evidence of the most multifarious reading and the most laborious research. Whatever would illustrate the social and political condition of the times,-contemporary letters, pamphlets, journals, sermons, ballads, have all been laid under contribution. There is breadth of view, acuteness of insight, and a philosophic spirit pervading the whole composition. The narrative is full of life and fire. Nothing can be more graphic or brilliant than some of the descriptive scenes.