Imagens das páginas

Who so much more our hate and scourge deserves,

As from the rule of right he wider swerves. Of course the germ of the idea may be found in the almost universal proverb, “A good name is better than riches" (PUBLIUS SYRUS: Maxim 108), equiv. alent to Solomon's “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches" (Prov. xxii. 1).

Resolution and thought. In his famous soliloquy (Act iii., Sc. 1) Hamlet complains,

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all ;
And thus the native bue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. In “Measure for Measure,” Act i., Sc. 4, Shakespeare had already put the same thought in other words:

Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win

By fearing to attempt. Hotspur, in the “ First Part of King Henry IV.(Act ii., Sc. 3), has the right answer to all such balanced doubts and cowardly conscientiousness when he says, commenting on a letter he holds in his hand, “The purpose you undertake is dangerous :'-why, that's certain : 'tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink ; but I tell you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.” Or, as the Marquis of Montrose says,

He either fears his fate too much,

Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch
To gain or lose it all,

My Dear and Only Love.
The last two lines are probably better known in Lord Napier's misquotation :

That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.

Montrose and the Covenanters, ii. 566.
Schiller's phrase is not dissimilar :

Wer gar zu viel bedenkt wird wenig leisten,
(“He who considers too much will accomplish little,")

William Tell, Act iii., Śc. i., which is the basis of much of Carlyle's philosophy, especially in his essays on “Characteristics" and "Signs of the Times.”

Lastly, Cardinal Newman has some fine lines which may appropriately be quoted:

Time was, I shrank from what was right

For fear of what was wrong:
I would not brave the sacred fight,

Because the foe was strong.
But now I cast that finer sense

And sorer shame aside :
Such dread of sin was indolence,

Such aim at heaven was pride. Resurgam (L., “I shall rise again"). This inscription is placed over the south door of St. Paul's Cathedral. According to tradition, when Christopher Wren had marked out the dimensions of the dome and fixed upon the centre, a laborer was ordered to bring a flat stone from the heaps of rubbish, to be laid for a direction for the workmen. It happened to be a piece of a grave. stone, with nothing remaining of the inscription but the single word Resurgam. Sir Christopher accepted the augury and commemorated the incident. We




also know from Fuller (Church History, Book x.) that Bishop John King, who died in 1621, desired in his will that "nothing should be written on his plain gravestone save only Resurgam.” From Dugdale's “ History of St. Paul's Cathedral" it appears that this was done, but that in addition a long moral inscription contained the words “Marmor loquax spirat Resurgam." Now, it is quite possible that the stone found by Wren's workman was one of the two inscribed to Bishop King, and this conjecture is made more probable as this word occurs in no other epitaph in Dugdale.

Resurrection Bone, The. Throughout the Middle Ages it was believed that there exists in man a bone imponderable, incorruptible, incombustible, the necessary nucleus of the resurrection Body. Belief in a resurrection of the physical body, despite St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, had been incorporated into the formula made many centuries after his time and called the Apostles' Creed, and was held throughout Christendom, “always, every. where, and by all.” This hypothetical bone was therefore held in great veneration, and many anatomists sought to discover it; but Vesalius, revealing so much else, did not find it, and was therefore suspected of a want of proper faith. He contented himself with saying that he left the question regarding the existence of such a bone to the theologians. He could not lie, he did not wish to fight the Inquisition, and thus he fell under suspicion. The strength of this theological point may be judged from the fact that no less eminent a surgeon than Riolan consulted the executioner to find out whether, when he burned a criminal, all the parts were consumed ; and only then was the answer received which fatally undermined this superstition. In 1689 we find it still lingering in France, creating an energetic opposition in the Church to dissection. Even as late as the eighteenth century, Bernoulli having shown that the living human body constantly undergoes a series of changes, so that all its particles are renewed in a given number of years, so much ill feeling was drawn upon him, especially from the theologians, who saw in this statement danger to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, that for the sake of peace he struck out his argument on this subject from his works.

Reviews, Curiosities of. The mistakes of the organs of the professed critics, the monthly and quarterly reviews, have long been favorite subjects for the scorned author to point the finger of scorn at.

“Who are the critics?" asks Lord Aldegonde in Disraeli's novel, and he is answered, “ Those who have failed in literature and art."

Their failure, however, in those branches does not always guarantee them success in criticism. Indeed, no more soothing reading could be recommended to the author smarting from unmerited castigation, or, what is just as provoking, castigation which he deems unmerited, than the back numbers of the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, especially the latter.

There he will learn what other authors have suffered, as he has, and will be proud to find into how glorious a brotherhood he has been enrolled. In the Edinburgh will be Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Byron, Goethe, and Ruskin ; in the Quarterly, Shelley, Keats, Lamb, Hunt, flazlitt, Bentham, Disraeli, Tennyson, Macaulay, Hallam, and Charlotte Brontë,-all swelling the noble list of damned authors. Of these two periodicals the Quarterly is undoubtedly the worst, both in wilful blindness to merit and in foul-mouthed abuse. It would be impossible to point to any review, published in any coun: try, more persistent and malignant in its attacks upon men who are now recognized to have been the intellectual princes of their time. This is almost wholly due to the influence of its founder and first editor, William Gifford, and his worthy successor, John Wilson Croker.

Mr. Gifford, as Hazlitt tells us, was originally bred to some handicraft; he afterwards contrived to learn Latin, and was for some time an usher in a school till he became a tutor in a nobleman's family. “The low-bred, selftaught man, the pedant and the dependant on the great, contribute to form the editor of the Quarterly Review. He is admirably qualified for bis position by a happy combination of defects, natural and acquired.” Of Croker, Macaulay has given us the following character, which Miss Martineau says he had earned for himself,-purchased by hard facts : “ Mr. Croker is a man who would go a hundred miles through sleet and snow, on the top of a coach, in a December night, to search a parish register for the sake of showing that a man is illegitimate, or a woman older than she says she is."

These were the men who thought Hazlitt a dull blockhead and Leigh Hunt an imbecile; whose acme of cleverness was reached when they dubbed the gentle Elia the King of the Cockneys; who characterized the " Prometheus Unbound" as "drivelling prose run mad," the “Revolt of Islam" as "insup. portably dull," and the "Endymion” as “gratuitous nonsense ;" who brutally advised John Keats, the author of the latter, to go back to his gallipots; who could not find room in seventy closely-printed pages for "any but the more prominent defects and errors" of Lord Macaulay as developed in the first two volumes of his “ History of England ;” and who sneered with clumsy irony at the “ peculiar brilliancy" of "the gems that irradiate the poetical crown' of that “singular genius,” Mr. Alfred Tennyson.

But the charge of defective taste is not the only one that can be brought against them. A far more serious count in the indictment is the cowardly blackguardism with which they pursued the objects of their dislike. They knew nothing of chivalry, generosity, forbearance, kindliness, courtesy. The qualities of heart and of imagination which noble natures carry into literary and political strife were wanting in these men. Their contests were the con. tests of the streets. Not that English literary controversies have ever been wanting in a certain coarse vitality and vigor. Prelatist and Puritan, Jacobite and Hanoverian, had each known how to call names. Milton had not always been golden-mouthed, and Butler had called a spade a spade. Swift was not nice ; Churchill was sometimes vulgar. But in the worst days of controversy, party rancor had generally spared the weak, left modest merit in the shade, respected household sanctities, and turned its shafts aside from unoffending women. In the palmy days of the Quarterly Review no man's honor, no woman's good name, was safe. Neither rank nor obscurity sheltered the victim from their malice. No life was too blameless for reproach ; no career was too noble for scandal. The men of this school invented foul anec. dotes, and their delight was to blight generous characters. Poetic justice never contented their revenge, and an enemy seldom escaped from under their hands until he had been made to violate every precept in the Decalogue.

It is to be regretted that among the members of this bad school must be reckoned John Wilson, the jovial professor of moral philosophy and cock. fighting, who has elsewhere shown himself to be possessed of such tender sensibility and such kindly, large-hearted geniality.

Still, we may find some excuse for him.

It is true that he did at times indulge in abusive personalities with a reckless disregard as to their applicability. But, before judging him harshly, the impulsive, erratic temperament of the man should be taken into consideration, and it should be remembered that he was one to whom moderation in anything was absolutely unknown,—whose praise and whose blame partook alike of the wildest extravagance, and the horse-play of whose raillery was due mainly to an unrestrained exuberance of animal spirits joined to an in. ability to estimate properly the strength of the blows he was dealing or the amount of pain he was inflicting.

It was a different thing from the venomous malignity which was the actuating motive in the case of Croker, of Gifford, of Lockhart, and of Theodore Hook. Still, after all allowances are made, it is impossible at this day to read some of the abusive passages in the “ Noctes" without a flush of indignation. It is not pleasant, for instance, to find Hazlitt characterized as a "loathsome dunce," or Leigh Hunt described as “holding his stinking breath ;" to see the Rev. C. C. Colton, author of “Lacon,” portrayed as "a clergyman and bankrupt wine-merchant, an E. (. player, dicer, etc.;" Lord Brougham compared with a Billingsgate fish-wife; the philanthropist Martin referred to as

that Irish jackass ;" the then venerable Jeremy Bentham talked of as “Covey Sherry the old shrew;" Northcote, the painter, described as “a wasp,"' William Cobbett as “the old ruffian,” Henry Coleridge as “a conceited manikin," and the political economist McCulloch as "an obscure and insolent lout” and “an infuriated blackguard.” Neither is it agreeable to learn of a certain writer in the Times that he was not only "a liar," but also "a mean eunuch."

It was overstepping the amenities of criticism to call Mr. T. B. Macaulay "an insolent puppy," and it was ludicrously inappropriate to add that he was “one of the most obscure men of the age," at a time when his brilliant contributions to the Edinburgh Review were attracting such attention as had never before been accorded to periodical literature. The facts that Macaulay was a Whig and Southey a Tory were not sufficient reason for calling his review of the latter's “ Colloquies on Society” “a contemptible critique," writ. ten “in an insolent spirit.” Nor is the following a fair criticism of the Byron article: “It reads very like a paper in one of the early numbers of the Édin. burgh Review,-much the same sort of excellencies,—the smart, rapid, pop-gun impertinence, the brisk, airy, new-set truisms, mingled with cold, shallow, heartless sophistries, the conceited phlegm, the affected abruptness, the unconscious audacity of impudence; the whole lively and amusing, and much commended among the dowagers, especially the smut.” A writer's personal appearance is hardly fair game for animadversion, especially when the animadversion takes the form of describing him as “an ugly, cross-made, splay. footed, shapeless little dumpling of a fellow, with a mouth from ear to ear.”

All this is bad enough, but it is mildness itself when compared to the torrent of filthy Billingsgate which disgraced the earlier numbers of “Maga,” before John Wilson had assumed full control of the editorial reins, and when Lockhart was in reality the presiding genius, though Blackwood himself was the nominal editor. Indeed, it should be remembered to Wilson's credit that the withdrawal of Lockhart to the congenial field afforded by the London Quar. terly, with the consequent increase of the Wilson influence, was the signal for an almost immediate alteration in the tone of the magazine, which, however far from perfection, was a distinct and marked improvement. During the Lockhart period, Blackwood was the vehicle for such revoltingly coarse personalities as never before and never since found a place in a magazine of any authority or standing. The writers of “The Cockney School," by which facetious epíthet these critics designated such men as Lamb, Keats, Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt, were the objects of their special fury, and against them they directed all the resources of their foul vocabulary.

“Our hatred and contempt of Mr. Leigh Hunt,” they explained in one place, “is not so much owing to his shameless irreverence to his aged and afflicted king; to his profligate attacks on the character of the king's sons ; to his low-born insolence to that aristocracy with whom he would in vain claim the alliance of one illustrious friendship; to his paid panderism to the vilest

passions of that mob of which he is himself a firebrand; to the leprous crust of self-conceit with which his whole moral being is indurated ; to that loathsome vulgarity which constantly clings round him like a vermined garment from St. Giles's; to that irritable temper which keeps the unhappy man, in spite even of his vanity, in a perpetual fret with himself and all the world besides, and that shows itself equally in his deadly enmities and capricious friendships ;-our hatred and contempt of Leigh Hunt, we say, is not so much owing to these and other causes as to the odious and unnatural harlotry of his polluted muse. We were the first to brand with a burning iron the false face of this kept-mistress of a demoralizing incendiary. We tore off her gaudy veil and transparent drapery, and exhibited the painted cheeks and writhing limbs of the prostitute.”

Imagine the Atlantic Monthly talking of Mr. Stedman in this strain, or Mr. Gilder using the pages of the Century to pour out scurrility of this sort upon some rival author who differed with him in politics !

Elsewhere we are told that Mr. Hunt “is the meanest, the filthiest, and the most vulgar of Cockney poetasters." He is apostrophized as “You exquisite idiot !” “Sensualist that you are !" He is informed that “Even in those scenes of wickedness where alone, unhappy man, your verses find willing readers, there occur many moments of languor and reniorse wherein the daughters of degradation themselves toss from their hands, with angry loathing, the obscene and traitorous pages of your · Rimini.' In those who have sinned from weakness or levity, the spark of original conscience is not always totally extinguished. To your breast alone, and to those of others like you, the deliberate, pensive, and sentimental apostles of profligacy, there comes no visiting of purity, no drop of repentance.”

Mr. Hazlitt, on the same authority, is “a mere ulcer; a sore from head to foot; a poor devil so completely fayed that there is not a square half-inch of healthy Hesh on his carcass; an overgrown pimple, sore to the touch.” “He feels that he is exiled from decent society," and " has never risen higher than the lowest circle of the press-gang; reporters fight shy, and the editors of Sunday newspapers turn up their noses at the smell of his approach.” His works are "a vocabulary of vapid pollution,” and his "dirty imagination is always plunging into some dirty scrape.”

Now let us turn to the Quarterly Review, and we shall find that, although its blackguardism is not perhaps quite up to the early Blackwood standard, it has nevertheless managed to reach a goodly elevation of its own, and that, on the other hand, the number of great names which the Quarterly has attempted to damn into oblivion is larger than can be found on the records of any other periodical of similar standing.

All of Hazlitt's critical works were attacked with the utmost virulence as fast as they came out. Because the author differed in politics from the reviewers, they strove, and not unsuccessfully, to obscure his literary reputa. tion in the eyes of his readers. Hazlitt himself tells us that the sale of his "Characters of Shakespeare's Plays," which had reached nearly a thousand copies in a few weeks, was instantly stopped by the appearance of a "slashing” critique in the Quarterly. “Not even the Whigs," he complains, “could stomach it." And yet one would have thought that the dullest public might have discerned the rancorous spite which had alone dictated the article. Here is the concluding sentence: “ We should not have condescended to notice the senseless and wicked sophistry of this writer, or to point it out to the con. tempt of the reader, had we not considered him as one of the representatives of a class of men by whom literature is more than at any former period dis. graced, and therefore convinced that it might not be unprofitable to show how very small a portion of talent and literature were necessary for carrying on

« AnteriorContinuar »