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for which foreigners of all classes are generally distinguished, we find them expressing a blind admiration of those parts of our political system which are rather considered as necessary defects, than as at all conducive to the advantage of the whole. Thus, because the popular form of our government gives a wide scope for license at the public meetings and assemblies of the people, in ordinary times, and the utmost freedom of debate in the Commons House of Parliament, our imitators seem to imagine that liberty cannot thrive without tumult and disorder; and, whilst anxious to establish a free press amongst themselves, they shut their eyes to the evils which may arise from the abuse of this freedom. They read our debates with avidity, and watch with impatience every popular movement which takes place in this country; but the secret springs which bring order out of the chaos of conflicting opinions are beyond their comprehension, and they attribute our security, amidst so much apparent danger, to causes very widely removed from the truth.

The increase of public journals in Germany has, of late years, been very considerable. Those newly established are, for the most part, in opposition to the government of the states in which they appear. The best, such as Rhenische Mercur,'' Oppositions Blatt,'Bremer Zeitung,' and 'Neckar Zeitung,' are written with spirit and ability; but to shew how little they are to be depended upon in regard to English affairs, and how small a chance our national character has of being fairly represented in their hands, we extract a few paragraphs, taken at random, from the last named paper, and containing the account of events which are supposed to have happened during the autumn of last year.

The last accounts from London announce that a most dangerous insurrection has broken out there on the 23d October. Already the King of England's throne is considered to be overthrown; and on its ruin will be raised the President's chair of the Brewer Hunt. Lord Castlereagh is assassinated, and the funds are fallen.

It is clear that the revolution is complete. It appears, however, somewhat astonishing that the accounts from London of the 27th do not make the least mention of the revolution which broke out on the 23d! To shew how fearful such an event would be, we have only to give a picture of the state of the country.

The poor are so numerous, that no remedy can be found; for John Bull will not die quietly with hunger, as the East India Company have allowed some millions of Hindoos to do at the door of magazines overflowing with rice.

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The plague cannot well be introduced as a means of diminishing population, because the avarice of the merchants would induce them to reject such a proposal, as it would lead to the destruction of their


trade with other nations: but to suppose such a heartless plan to have entered the heads of English speculators, is by no means preposterous, when we know that, in the West Indies, they have trained thousands of dogs to hunt down the natives; and that between 1795 and 1799, above 100,000 men came in Ireland to a violent end. . .

The roads swarm with robbers, and the cruelty towards beasts is carried to such an extent, that (what will scarcely be believed) it is the practice to cut pieces of flesh from oxen, whilst alive, in order that the meat may be more tender for the table..

The cold blooded cruelty of the children is also peculiarly worthy of remark; and the brutal conduct of the men towards their wives is gone so far that the courts of justice no longer punish for it.'

We presume that this will satisfy our readers; it is not, however, unworthy of remark, that it is from such impure sources as the journal we have quoted, (whose chief resource, we observe, is the Monthly Magazine) that the lower orders abroad derive almost their whole knowledge of Englishmen and of English affairs.

Though in these vehicles for public information the supposed grievances of Germany are dwelt upon at large, little or no notice is taken of the concessions made by the higher powers to the wishes of their subjects, or of the various circumstances which promise a general amelioration in the condition of that country. Besides Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Hanover and Nassau, there are at least half a dozen states of minor importance to which constitutions have been either granted or renewed by their present rulers. Mr. Hodgskin will say, perhaps, that is the semblance only of liberty which is offered; but at all events he will not dispute that they are strong marks of a readiness on the part of the German princes to attend to the just complaints of their subjects; and if he will take the trouble of perusing some of the proceedings of the states, as of Wurtemburg for instance, he will find that the rights and privileges which have been conceded, are not by any means so nugatory as he appears, in his ignorance, to imagine.

Slavery has been abolished in Prussia, and in Mecklenburgh. The example will no doubt be followed by Austria, as indeed it has already been to a limited extent; and it is a fact which ought not to be lost sight of at a time when it is the fashion to extol the purity and liberality of new governments at the expense of the old, that in despotic Russia the emperor is gradually emancipating the peasants on the crown lands, and recommending the same course to the rich proprietors of the empire, whilst in America, that last sacred asylum of freedom and virtue,' the bill for abolishing slavery in the Missouri country (a measure which involves the question as to every other part of the United States) has been thrown out by a majority of the Congress.


ART. VII.-Fables from La Fontaine, in English Verse. 8vo. pp. 368. London. 1820.

THE HE best part of beauty,' says Bacon, in one of his maxims, 'is that which a picture cannot express.' Something like this may be said of La Fontaine. The charm of his style is of so subtle a quality, consisting as much in curious felicity of expression as in justness of thought or tenderness of sentiment, that it seems almost a hopeless task to attempt transfusing into another language his careless and unstudied graces, and especially that naïveté and bonhommie, which are so peculiarly his own.


The characteristic quality of La Fontaine is simplicity ;-not that childishness of thought and guiltlessness of meaning which have often passed current under this title-but that fascinating singleness of expression, which is not inconsistent with the highest refinement of wit, and which communicates a charm to whatever it relates, by saying the oldest and commonest things in so interesting a manner as to give them all the zest of novelty; that air, in short, of unconcern so exquisite,' by which the effect of all the various embellishments of his poetry is heightened and improved. There is indeed throughout his writings an apparent unconsciousness of his own perfections; and (to use a trite expression) he never cackles over the egg that he has laid. His wit seems to escape from him as it were involuntarily, and is poured forth, without parade or display, in careless profusion. But it is not by his wit alone that La Fontaine exerts so powerful an influence over us, for while he delights to amuse the imagination, he knows how to touch the heart. This is the secret of poetry, and this, after all, is the true criterion of a poet.

Though verse seems to be the natural language of a poet, yet La Fontaine would have been equally deserving of that title if he had written in prose. Rhyme is the dress which fashion and custom have made it almost necessary for poetry now to wear,—but it is only the dress; and it adds little to the genuine offspring of the Muses, though it may often serve to assist the imposition of a counterfeit; for it is not prose, but prosing that is destructive of poetry, and this is a fault which is by no means excluded from rhyme. But Fontaine never proses; he is, as he describes himself, the Butterfly of Parnassus, volage en vers comme en fleurs,' passing lightly from flower to flower, extracting the sweets of each, and never dwelling on any subject long enough to be tiresome.

No one ever understood more completely the art of narration; the secret of which perhaps consists less in what is directly told than in what is suggested by those incidental hints and passing reflections, which awaken a train of associations in the mind of the reader, VOL. XXIII. NO. 46.-Q. R. 58


as he follows the tale to its conclusion, While he is thus lively and brilliant in his narrative, he commands our interest, and excites our sympathy by the deep interest which he seems to feel himself for the creatures of his fancy; for he has always the air of being in downright earnest; and it would be almost as ill-natured to resist the illusion of his fables, as to obtrude a doubt of the reality of their entertainment upon a party of children engaged in a game of pretending. He who is unable to derive any gratification from taking a part in such infantine pastime, will but half relish the fables of this 'Fancy's child;' for there is something in La Fontaine that transports us back to the innocent thoughts of childhood; and when he introduces himself amongst the characters of his scene, we seem to read the unpremeditated effusions of a heart absolutely without guile, breaking out in those occasional touches of tenderness, which, seemingly without design but never without effect, are scattered through his pages. But in addition to all this, we recognize everywhere a prevailing tone of good sense, however embellished by imagination and sentiment; and he is continually suggesting an excellent lesson of morality, without any of the usual dulness of a


One might fancy that Pope took his definition of wit-' What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed,'-from studying the fables of La Fontaine. Nothing can be more exquisitely finished than his versification; and yet polished as his lines are, there is no appearance of effort or labour,-nothing forced or affected; he never seems to be com, osing,—all is easy and natural; and he exhibits in perfection that charming flow and facility of style, which Horace recommends as the object of attainment—

Ut sibi quivis

Speret idem, sudet multùm, frustràque laboret
Ausus idem :-

But it would be almost as easy to imitate, as to analyze the style of La Fontaine, and explain why it is that his poetry gives us so much pleasure.

It is not however only in graces of style or elegancies of manner that La Fontaine excels; for he is no less admirable in the management and dramatic keeping of his characters. His beasts and his birds never forgot their parts, nor transgress the boundaries assigned them by nature. In fact, if he had passed his youth in the service of Polito, and attending regularly the Peacocks At Home, he could not have been more familiar with the manners of the personages amongst whom his scene is laid. The difficulty of preserving this consistency of character, was well put by Goldsmith, in a conversation with Johnson on the nature of this species of composition. 'I could write,' he said, a good fable upon the


story of "the little fishes, who envied the birds flying over their heads ;" and its merit should consist mainly in making them talk like little fishes.' Here Johnson laughed- Why, Doctor,' said Goldsmith, somewhat piqued, this is not so easy a matter as you seem to think, for if you were to attempt it, all the little fishes would talk like whales."


The author before us has not attempted a translation of La Fontaine, nor do we say, or, indeed, think, that he has given us an improvement of him; but he has presented a lively and spirited imitation of his style and manner in an English dress. La Fontaine could not perhaps have easily fallen into better hands ;-for the imitator, whoever he is, appears to possess many of the leading features of his original. We trace much of La Fontaine's naïveté, -or of that slyness which apes simplicity,-exhibited with much neatness of allusion, much happiness of illustration, and much sportiveness of satire; and there is also a sprinkling of that playfulness of wit, that delicate wantoning of imagination, which are so prominent in the pages of the French poet. In other points the comparison would be less favourable. We miss almost entirely the tenderness of La Fontaine ; and something of his bonhommie. It is true that the want of the latter is chiefly discernible in the fables on political subjects;-and we may find an apology for the warmth of feeling excited in a liberal mind, at the bare idea of subjection to the brutal sway of the populace; of all tyrannies the most intolerable and the most hopeless.

But it is time to let our author speak for himself. He has explained the nature of his attempt in a sensible and well written preface.

The writer of the present collection by no means imagines that he is destined to give his country the boast of possessing a La Fontaine. Taking the French poet as a master, rather than as a model, he has endeavoured to put those fables which most struck his fancy into English verse of various measures; without always copying the thoughts, or attempting the manner of the original; and he has introduced some aliusions to the events of the times, where they were suggested by the subject. This, it is hoped, will not incur the same animadversion which Dr. Warton has made on the second volume of Gay,-that his fables read like political pamphlets. The allusions here inserted are for the most part very concise. A little more latitude is taken in some of the notes. Though decidedly hostile to jacobinical-or as the cant term now isradical principles, the writer trusts no sentiment will be found adverse to the true spirit of British constitutional liberty.'-p vii.

We proceed to give a few specimens of the manner in which the author has executed the task he has proposed to himself; and we will begin with the first Fable, which is prefaced by an introductory


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