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imposed on by the confidence of his manner, and some resolved to give it all chances of imposing on others, they joined in one clamour of approbation, and proclaimed a triumph for a mere rash skirmisher, while the leader of the battle was still doubtful of the victory. The book, thus dandled into popularity by bishops and good ladies, contained many piecas of nursery eloquence, and much innocent pleasantry: it was not fatiguing to the understanding; and read less heavily, on the whole, than most of the Sunday library. In consequence of all these recommendations, it ran through various editions, and found its way into most well regulated families; and, though made up of such stuff, as we really believe no grown man who had ever thought of the subject could possibly go through without nausea and compassion, still retains its place among the meritorious performances, by which youthful minds are to be purified and invigorated. We shall hear no more of it, however, among those who have left college.
We turn with pleasure from Dr Beattie's philosophy to his poetry; though this is by no means of the highest order. There is a degree of tenderness and solemnity in some passages of the Minstrel, that recommend it irresistibly to all good minds; and some specimens of large and animated description, which belong to the higher order of poetry : but there is, in general, an air of feebleness and constraint, both in the diction and conception, that continually destroys the illusion of inspiration, and, instead of the fine enchantments of fancy, shows us the laborious artist, with all his scholastic tools about him, exhausting himself in vain efforts of imitation. There is throughout a miserable barrenness of invention, much disjointed and misplaced composition, and innumerable patches of silliness, pedantry, and vulgarity. His other poems are scarcely deserving of notice. The Battle of the Pigmies and Cranes is by far the best versified; and shows a freer use of poetical language than any of his other compositions. The Hermit is also very smooth and mellifluous; the odes and elegies are laborious reading; and the pieces in which he has aimed at pleasantry, are beyond all endurance abominable. The Liter editions of his poems are improved by the omission of much trash; but a reader of any nerves must still look with horror on a volume, which may assail him on its opening with sueh verses as these.
• A Spaniard reach'd the moon, upborn* by geefe;
! Much fam'd the fhoe Jack Giant-killer wore;
And Fortunatus' hat is fam'd much more.
Such vehiclea were common ones uo doubt;
But modern verfemen muft e'en trudge on foot.' &e. . It is as a writer of essays, critical and philological, that we think Dr Beattie most uniformly excellent. There is much acuteness, neatness, and delicacy in many of these performances. They are written in a very pleasing and popular style; generally elegant, and always perspicuous and flowing. His judgment of authors is commonly correct and candid; his illustrations lively and amusing; and his praises bestowed with considerable elegance and felicity of expression. There is much more originality in those works, than in any of his other productions; and though occasionally feeble and affected, they entitle him, we think, to the praise of the most pleasing and ingenious writer on the Belles Lettres of his day. By an extraordinary fatality, they are less heard of than any of his other writings; and his reputation is commonly rested, we must think very injudiciously, upon performances, which must ultimately take their station in the third and fourth ranks of literary excellence.
,A.RT. XIII. A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, addressed to the Freeholders and oilier Inhabitants of Yorkshire. By W. Wilberforce Esq. 8vo. pp. 396. London. Cadell & Davies. 1807.
Tt is with very sincere pleasure, that we congratulate our read* ers on the final and complete triumph of the great cause, so often pleaded in this Journal; and which we have had the satisfaction of bringing forward, upon every lawful occasion, from the commencement of our undertaking to the present day. * Of late, indeed, conceiving that the merits of the question were sufficiently known, we have only noticed such new matter as occurred from time to time; and having thus followed the progress of the abolition historically, our labours would be incomplete were we to pass over the present opportunity of bringing this great subject once more before our readers, happily in its very last stage, and, we may be permitted to hope, for the last time. The interesting publication of Mr Wilberforce, the distinguished leader in the contest, was the last work of any note that appeared before its termination. As such, it claims our attention, pre
N 4 vious
* See No. I. Art. XXI.
vious to the remarks with which we purpose to close our humble efforts in this department.
Mr Wilberforce has exhibited, in the shape of an address to his constituents, a very full and faithful view of the whole arguments which bear upon the question of the slave trade. He takes it up in Africa, and describes at length the evils which this nefarious traffic has entailed upon that continent. He examines minutely the grounds on which his adversaries have disputed the evidence of the abolitionists; exposes the misrepresentations which have enabled them to blind and to mislead the public upon these points; and shows, by a full discussion of the proof, not only that it preponderates on the side of abolition, but that, when rightly sifted, its whole weight lies there. By a similar examination of the evidence, relating both to the middle passage - and the West Indian branch of the subject, he extends his conclusions to those points also; and handles, in detail, and with irresistible force, the various arguments, whereby the abolitionists prove, from the mouths of the slave traders themselves, that the prosperity of our marine, and the safety of our colonies, require the extinction of the traffic, as plainly as those common feelings of humanity and justice on which it has been a constant outrage-;
To afTert that, in the courfe of this expofition, our author has not adduced many new arguments, or even many novel illuftrations of his fubject, would be only to remind the reader, that Mr Wil-. berforce is here repeating in print what he has by his parliamentary labours already laid before the country. We have learned thefe things from him upon former occafions, otherwife we fhould prize them for their novelty as much as for their importance. Yet great talents will every now and then throw new light, even upon topics which their own efforts had long ago rendered trite. And, fo much more inexhauftible is a man's genius than the mod extenfive fubject to which he can apply It, that, when new fa'cts and arguments are no longer to be found, after nineteen or twenty years of conftant difcuffion, we fhall' find him ftriking out fome happy and unexpected view of the moft familiar things. This we have frequently experienced in perufing the tract now before us. It not only gives a luminous ftatement of all the known arguments for the abolition, with a careful expofition of the evidence on both fides, but it contains feveral happy allufions and remarks, which diffufe a new light over fome of the beft known parts of the queftion, and make us for a while forget that we had feen them before.
We confider this publication as valuable in another point of view- Mr Wilberforce is certainly" one of the moft eloquent
fpeakers fpeakers of whom, alas! our fenate can now boaft. His pamphlet is a written fpeech; and, with mod of the defects, retains many of the beauties which eminently diftinguifh his oratory. His ftyle is eafy and flowing; rather clear than condenfed; altogether free from bombaft, and, indeed, from any ornament of a falfe tafte; never failing to reach what it attempts, though it may not often point at the higheft marks; varying with the nature of the topics, and, from being fo natural, void of what is called 'manner ;' almoft always animated, and its ftrength chiefly impaired by want of correcting and curtailing. It is the manner of one who has written little and fpoken much, who has always ftudied his fubject more than his oratory, who now makes a fpeech to his amanuenfis, and has it printed without a careful revifal. Such, indeed, we prefume to be, in a good meafure, the fact; and, even if verbal criticifm were not out of the queftion on this occafion, the unavoidable bafte in which we conceive the pamphlet null have been prepared, would be an ample excufe for many more inaccuracies than we have difcovered in its compofition.
"We fhall extract one or two paffages which ftruck us in the perufal,—premifing that little more than the merits of the ftyle can be eftimatcd by any fuch fpecimens; for the chief excellence of the work confifts in the acutenefs with which the evidence is commented upon, the uniform foundnefs of the author's views, both on his own fubject and on queftions incidentally connected with it, and rhe unabating vigilance which he fhews in taking up every little point that comes acrofs him, and turning it to his object, without breaking down the body of his argument. Thcfe things can only be judged of by a perufal of the whole tract. The livelinefs of manner, by which he keeps our attention awake for an unneceffary length of time on a very beaten fubject, may be feen in fuch paflages as the following.
. After citing various ftatements from Mr Long's Hiftory of Jamaica, to prove that this author viewed the negroes as a race of men radically inferior to the whites, he continues,
'Such is Mr Long's portrait of the negro character; fuch was the ftate of contempt into which the whole race had fallen, in the eftimation of thofe who had known them chiefly in that condition of wretchednefs and degradation into which a long continued courfe of flavery had deprefTed them. Can any thing (hew more clearly, with what ftrong prejudices againft the negro race, the minds not only of low uneducated men, but of a Weft Indian, whofe authority is great, and whofe name Hands high among his countrymen, were, fome years ago at leaft, infected? Confequently they prove with what fpirit and temper, even wellinformed men, among the colonifts, entered on the confideration of the various queftions involved in the large and complicated difcuffion concerning the abolition of the Slave Trade.
'Bat the fubjett is of the very firft importance in another View; for it is a truth fo clear, that it would be a mere wafte of time to prove it in detail—that our eftimate of the intellectual and moral qualities, of the natural and acquired tempers, and feelings, and habits, of any clafs cur fellow creatures, will determine our judgment as to what is necelTary to their happinefs, and lliil more as to the treatment they may reafonably claim at our hands. Now let it be remembered, the author, whofe account of the Africans has been juft laid before you, was the very beft informed of thofe on whofe views and feelings, refpe£ling the negroes, our opponents would have had us entirely rely. Muft not the representations of fuch witnefies againft the negroes be received with large abatement, and ought we not to lend ourfelves to their fuggeftions with confiderable diffidence? What judgment would they be likely to form of the confideration to which, whether in Africa, on (hip-board, or in the Weft Jndies, the negro flaves were entitled? By how fcanty a nveafure would their comforts be difpenfed to them! And when, in aofwer to our inquiries, we were afTured that in thefe feveral fituations, their treatment was fujjidently mild and humane, and that due attention 'was paid to their wants and feelings, might we not reafonably receive thefe aflurances with fome referve, on calling to mind that they proceeded fiom perfons whofe eftimate of fujficitncy was drawn from their calculations of what was due to the wants and feelings, the pleafures and pains of a being little above the brute creation; not of a being of talents and paffions, of anticipations and recolle&ions, of focial and domeftic feelings fimilar to our own?" p. 6l. 62.
The above paffage alfo draws, from a well known topic, a new illuftration of the fubject, and fkilfully turns againft the adverfary, Come of his own facts, in an unexpected way. The next example •which we fliail take, places fome of the prevailing prejudices refpecting Africa in a new and ftrong light. He fhews, by a gene'ral hiftorical fketch, that while other nations were communicating to each other the bleffings of civilization, and while no real pro•grefs was ever made by any one, except by intercourfe with others, Africa was left to itfelf, and had only fuch a communication with the reft of the world as tended to perpetuate its barbarifm. .
'It may therefore be boldly affirmed, that the interior, to which may be added the weftern coaft of Africa to the fouth of the great defert, never enjoyed any of that intercourfe with more polifhed nations, without which no nation on earth is known ever to have attained to any high degree of civilization; and that, conteniptuoufly as we and the other civilized nations of Europe now fpeak of the Africans, had we been left in their lituation, we Ihould probably have been not more civilized than themfelves.
• Let the cafe be put, that the interior of Africa had been made by the Almighty the cradle of the world—that ifTuing thence, inftead of from the north-weftern part of Afia, the feveral dreams of nations had