Imagens das páginas

the trade of sedition. The few specimens which we have selected of his ethics and his criticisms are more than sufficient to prove that Mr. Hazlitt's knowledge of Shakespeare and the English language is exactly on a par with the purity of his morals and the depth of his understanding."

The collection of essays entitled “The Round Table" is, according to the same authority, “ loathsome trash," "full of vulgar descriptions, silly paradoxes, flat truisms, musty sophistry, broken English, ill humor, and ran. corous abuse," the author being a sour Jacobin, who was personally beneath notice; “but if the creature in his endeavor to crawl into the light must take his way over the tombs of illustrious men, disfiguring the records of their greatness with the slime and filth which mark his track, it is right to point him out, that he may be Aung back to the situation on which Nature designed that he should grow.”

Leigh Hunt is dealt with in a very similar manner.

“ Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries" the Quarterly considered “the miserable book of a miserable man : the little airy fopperies of its manner are like the fantastic trip and convulsive simpers of some poor wornout wanton, struggling between famine and remorse, leering through her tears. ... The most ludicrous conceit, grafted on the most deplorable incapacity, has filled the paltry mind of the gentleman-of-the-press now before us with a chaos of crude, pert dogmas, which defy all analysis, and which it is just possible to pity more than despise.” The reviewer thinks it much too bad that “the glorious though melancholy memory" of Byron

“Must also bear the vile attacks

Of ragged curs and vulgar hacks" whom he fed ; that his bones must be scraped up from their bed of repose “to be at once grinned and howled over by creatures who, even in the least hyena-like of their moods, can touch nothing that mankind could wish to respect, without polluting it.”

Reviewing Shelley's “Revolt of Islam," the Quarterly critic remarks that, with minds of a certain class, notoriety, infamy, anything, is better than obscurity; baffled in a thousand attempts after fame, they will still make one more, at whatever risk, and they end commonly like an awkward chemist who perseveres in tampering with his ingredients till, in an unlucky moment, they take fire and he is blown up by the explosion. “The poem has some beautiful stanzas, but they are of rare occurrence; as a whole, it is insupportably dull and laboriously' obscure ; the story is almost wholly devoid of interest and very meagre ; nor can we admire Mr. Shelley's mode of making up for this defect : as he has but one incident where he should have ten, he tells that one so intricately that it takes the time of ten to comprehend it."

A little farther on in the same article the reviewer goes somewhat out of his way to bestow a passing slap upon his favorite game, Leigh Hunt. Of Shelley he remarks, "Much may be said with truth which we not long since said of his friend and leader, Mr. Hunt; he has not, indeed, all that is odious and contemptible in the character of that person ; so far as we have seen, he has never exhibited the bustling vulgarity, the ludicrous affectation, the factious flippancy, or the selfish heartlessness, which it is hard for our feelings to treat with the mere contempt they merit. Like him, however, Mr. Shelley is a very vain man; and, like most very vain men, he is but half instructed in knowledge and less than half disciplined in reasoning powers ; his vanity, wanting the control of the faith that he derides, has been his ruin; it has made him too impatient of applause and distinction to earn them in the fair course of labor; like a speculator in trade, he would be rich without capital and without delay; and, as might have been anticipated, his speculations have ended only in disappointments."

In Mrs. Gaskell's “Life of Charlotte Brontë” we learn how terribly that proud, sensitive spirit was wounded by the coarse innuendoes indulged in by one of the Quarterly critics in noticing “ Jane Eyre" on its first appearance,

-of course before the secret of its authorship was divulged. We quote what happens to be about the most offensive paragraph, not merely because it illustrates the liberties which only a generation ago were considered as within the limits of gentlemanly criticism in the intellectual capital of Europe, but also because it embodies some curious bits of the current gossip of the town, when speculation was rife as to the identity of this mysterious Currer Bell who had burst with such sudden brilliance into the literary world:

“There seem to have arisen in the novel-reading world some doubts as to who really wrote this book, and various rumors, more or less romantic, have been current in May Fair, the metropolis of Gossip, as to the authorship. For instance, Jane Eyre' is sentimentally assumed to have proceeded from the pen of Mr. Thackeray's governess, whom he had himself chosen as his model for Becky, and who, in mingled love and revenge, personified him in return as Mr. Rochester. In this case it is evident that the author of Vanity Fair,' whose own pencil makes him gray-haired, has had the best of it, though his children may have had the worst, having at all events succeeded in hitting that vulnerable point in the Becky bosom which it is our firm belief no man born of woman, from her Soho to her Ostend days, had so much as grazed. To this ingenious rumor the coincidence of the second edition of Jane Eyre' being dedicated to Mr. Thackeray has probably given rise. For our part, we see no great interest in the question at all. The first edition of Jane Eyre' purports to be edited by Currer Bell, one of a trio of brothers, or sisters, or cousins, by name Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell, already known as the joint authors of a volume of poems; the second edition, the same,-dedicated, however, by the author, to Mr. Thackeray,- and the dedication (itself an indubitable chip of Jane Eyre') signed Currer Bell. Author and editor, therefore, are one, and we are as much satisfied to accept this double individual under the name of Currer Bell as under any other more or less euphonious. Whoever it be, it is a person who with great mental powers combines a total ignorance of the habits of society, a great coarseness of taste, and a heathenish doctrine of religion. ... Without entering into the question whether the power of the writing be above her or the vulgarity below her, there are, we believe, minutiæ of circumstantial evidence which at once acquit the feminine hand. No woman-a lady friend, whom we are always happy to consult, assures us—makes mistakes in her own métier ; no woman trusses game and garnishes dessert-dishes with the same hands, or talks of so doing in the same breath. Above all, no woman attires another in such fancy dresses as Jane's ladies assume,-Miss Ingram coming down, irresistible, in a morning-robe of sky-blue crape, a gauze azure scarf twisted in her hair.' No lady, we understand, when suddenly roused in the night, would think of hurrying on a frock. They have garments more convenient for such occasions, and more becoming, too. This evidence seems incontrovertible. Even granting that these incongruities were purposely assumed for the purpose of disguising the female pen, there is little gained; for if we ascribe it to a woman at all, there is no alternative but to ascribe it to one who, for some sufficient reason, has forfeited the society of her sex.”

For gratuitous wickedness, the insult conveyed in the last sentence of the above quotation cannot be excelled, even in the pages of the Quarterly itself.

In 1833 the Quarterly Review again distinguished itself in its first mention of Tennyson.

The reviewer in an ironic strain talks about introducing “to the admiration of our more sequestered readers a new prodigy of genius,-another and

a brighter star of that galaxy or milky way of poetry of which the lamented Keats was the harbinger.” Then he proceeds through fifteen pages to ridi. cule every idea and every expression which by ingenuity and malice prepense can be tortured into material for his banter. Thus, quoting this verse,

Sweet as the noise, in parched plains,
Of bubbling wells that fret the stones

(If any sense in me remains),
Thy words will be, thy cheerful tones

As welcome to my crumbling bones,he sees a very obvious possibility for jest in the words “If any sense in me remains.” “This doubt,” he says, “is inconsistent with the opening stanza of the piece, and, in fact, too modest : we take upon ourselves to reassure Mr. Tennyson that, even after he shall be dead and buried, as much sense will still remain as he has now the good fortune to possess." " The accumu. lation of tender images in the following lines appears not less wonderful :

Remember you that pleasant day

When, after roving in the woods
('Twas April then), I came and lay

Beneath those gummy chestnut-buds ?
A water-rat from off the bank

Plunged in the stream. With idle care,
Down-looking through the sedges rank,

I saw your troubled image there.
If you remember, you had set

Upon the narrow casement-edge
A long green box of mignonette,

And you were leaning on the ledge. The poet's truth to nature in his gummy chestnut-buds, and to art in the long green box' of mignonette, and that masterly touch of likening the first intrusion of love into the virgin bosom of the miller's daughter to the plunging of the water-rat into the mill-dam,—these are beauties which, we do not fear to say, equal anything even in Keats.” The strain of mockery is kept up throughout the remarks on “The Hesperides,” “The Palace of Art," and“ A Dream of Fair Women.”

Nor did the reviewer do any better with Dickens.

In a notice of the “ Pickwick Papers" on their first appearance, in which blame and praise are pretty equally mixed, he assumed a prophetic strain.

“We are inclined to predict," he says, “ of works of this style, both in England and France (where the manufacture is flourishing on a very extensive and somewhat profligate scale), that an ephemeral popularity will be followed by early oblivion." And again : “ Indications are not wanting that the particular vein of humor which has hitherto yielded so much attractive metal is worked out. ... The fact is, Mr. Dickens writes too often and too fast. ... If he persists much longer in this course, it requires no gift of prophecy to foretell his fate: he has risen like a rocket, and he will come down like the stick.”

The critic in this case was Lockhart, and Dickens is said to have met him at a dinner-party not long after the appearance of the article, when the person who introduced the pair had the bad taste to make an allusion to the prophecy. The author cordially grasped the critic by the hand, and exclaimed, with a sly twinkle in his eye, “I will watch for that stick, Mr. Lockhart, and when it does come down I will break it across your back.”

We have left ourselves small room to speak of the Edinburgh Review. But there is really far less that is outré in the career of that periodical. It was often narrow-minded and unjust. It thought Wordsworth's “Excursion" would never do. It called the same poet's “ White Doe of Rylstone” the

worst poem ever bound in covers. It fell foul of Byron's maiden effort, and provoked the famous rejoinder “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.” It failed to see any merit in Goethe. But at all events Jeffrey, who conducted it, was a gentleman,-a little narrow, a little conservative, sometimes even a little bigoted, as gentlemen are not unapt to be, but always courteous and dignified. Now, the gentleman is never so picturesque an object as the savage. And it is the picturesque savagery of the Quarterly which led us beyond our limits.

Rhopalic verse, or Wedge verse, a line in which each succeeding word has more syllables than the preceding,

Hope ever solaces miserable individuals. The term is derived from the Greek pónahov, "a club,” which gets larger from handle to tip.

Rhymes, Eccentricities of. From time to time it has been boldly asserted by the unwary that there is no rhyme for some particular English word. In 1865-66 the whole subject was resolved into a sort of symposium in the Athenæum and afterwards in the Notes and Queries. Word after word was suggested as a strictly baccalaureate one, obstinately refusing to be led to the altar, but the symposiacs eventually succeeded in fitting all with a mate, though frequently a halt and ungainly one. In the words of Mr. W. W. Skeat, who proved himself the greatest of these verbal match-makers, “It is easy for any one to assert that there exists no rhyme to such and such a word. Whoever makes such an assertion should remember that he only means that he does not know of one himself; but it is unfair to assume that therefore one cannot be found."

Some of the hardest nuts to crack were the following: porringer, polka, orange, silver, chimney, whiskey, Lisbon, window, widow.

An anonymous poet, it was found, had already produced the following beautiful verses which wrestle with the difficulties of the first word :

The second James a daughter had,

Too fine to lick a porringer;
He sought her out a noble lad,

And gave the Prince of Orange her. Mr. Skeat suggested another, though he acknowledged that it did not reach the masterly perfection of the first :

When nations doubt our power to fight,

We smile at every foreign jeer,
And with untroubled appetite

Still empty plate and porringer. Mr. Skeat also proposed two rhymes for polka,--doll-car, which he, however, dismisses as cockney and unmusical, and the following, which he deems entirely permissible :

Our Christmas-tree produced a doll, ca

parisoned to dance the polka.
The same authority perpetrated this harmonious quintet:

I gave my darling child a lemon,
That lately grew its fragrant stem on;
And next, to give her pleasure more range,
I offered her a juicy orange.

And nuts, she cracked them in the door-hinge. An Indian correspondent of the Athenæum gave this, which sought to dispose of two refractory rhymes in one quatrain :

From the Indus to the Blorenge

Came the rajah in a month,
Eating now and then an orange,
Conning all the day his Grunth.

The Blorenge, it appears, is a hill near Abergavenny. The Grunth is the sacred book of the Sikhs. Unfortunately, the latter, correctly pronounced, does not quite rhyme with month. But Mr. Skeat comes again to the rescue, and suggests,

Search through the works of Thackeray, you'll find a rhyme for month :

He tells us of Phil Fogarty of the fighting Onety-oneth.
And then it was found that Dr. Whewell, or, as others asserted, one Dr.
Donaldson, of Cambridge, had already responded to a similar challenge with
an anticipatory variation of the idea :

Youths who would senior wranglers be
Must drink the juice distilled from tea,
Must burn the midnight oil from month to month,

Raising binomials to the n + Ith (n plus oneth). Another gentleman, signing himself “ Lemuel Lithper,” sent the following solution and explanatory notes through an amanuensis :

When I wath at churth latht month,
I thaw thikthty-theven nunth,
And they entered all by oneth,
Blething all the little thonth ;
Worthe than Vandalth. Gothth, and Hunth

Would be he who'd hunt the Nunth.
Notis.-A witwallitht, a ritualist; nunth, nuns; all by oneth, all by ones ; thonth, sons;
Gothth, Goths.

Here are two other efforts which only vary the theme. In one of them a lisping little girl is made to say,

I can get a rhyme for a month;

I can chay it now, I thed it wunth. The second explains itself :

“ You can't," says Tom to lisping Bill,

“ Find any rhyme for month."
“A great míthtake,” was Bill's reply;

I'll find a rhyme at wunth.' Christina Rossetti has done better in the admirable book of nursery rhymes which she has published under the title of “Sing-Song :"

How many weeks in a month?

Four, as the swift moon runn'th. For a rhyme to chimney reference was made to the “Rejected Addresses," where slim knee is adopted, and to the following, which had already been published in the Welcome Guest (November 9, 1861):

Sir, I hope it's no crime

To send you the rhyme,
Though you say there is none, for chimney :

To prove it's not true,

As stated by you,

Know this, sir, I found it in Rhymney. This refers to some mines bearing the name. Lisbon was disposed of by quoting an impromptu by the Earl of Rochester when Charles II. challenged him to this very feat of rhyming :

Here's a health to Kate,

Our master's mate,
Of the royal house of Lisbon :

But the devil take Hyde,

And the bishop beside,
That would make her bone his bone.

« AnteriorContinuar »