Imagens das páginas

ii sensibly felt in society: for the unmarried men take up too much of the attention of the women, and wealth in general, far from conducing to the pleasure of social intercourse, is necessarily hurtful to it A very considerable fortune is requisite to receive one's friends in the country, which is, however, the most agreeable mode of living in England: fortune is necessary for all the relations of society; not that people are vain of a sumptuous mode of life; but the importance attached by every body to the kind of enjoyment termed comfortable, would prevent any person from venturing, as was formerly the case in the most agreeable societies in Paris, to make up for a bad dinner by amusing anecdotes.

"In all countries the pretensions of young persons of fashion arc engrafted on national defects; they exhibit a caricature of these defects, but a caricature has always some traits of an original. In France the pretenders to elegance endeavoured to strike, and tried to dazzle by all possible means, good or bad. In England this same class of persons wish to be distinguished as disdainful, indifferent, and completely satiated of every thing. This is disagreeable enough ; but in what country of the world is not foppery a resource of vanity to conceal natural mediocrity? Among a people where every thing bears a decided aspect, as in England, contrasts arc the more striking. Fashion has remarkable influence on the habits of life, and yet there is no nation in which one finds so many examples of what is called eccentricity, that is, a mode of life altogether original, and which makes no account of the opinion of others. The difference between the men who live under the control of others, and those who live to themselves, is recognized every where; but this opposition of character is rendered more conspicuous by the singular mixture of timidity and independence remarkable among the English. They do nothing by halves, and they pass all at once from a slavish adherence to the most minute usages, to the most complete indifference as to what the world may say of them. Yet the dread of ridicule is one of the principal causes of the coldness that prevails in English society: people are never accused of insipidity for keeping silence; and as they do not require of you to animate the conversation, one is more impressed by the risks to which one exposes one's self by speaking, than by the awkwardness of silence. In the country where people have the greatest attachment to the liberty of the press, and where they care the least for the attacks of the newspapers, the sarcasms of society are much dreaded. Newspapers are considered the volunteers of political parties, and, in this, is in other respects, the English are very fond of keeping up a conflict; but slander and irony, when they take place in company, irritate highly the delicacy of the women, and the pride of the men. This Vol. HI.

is the reason that people come as little forward as possible in the presence of others. Animation and grace necessarily lose greatly by this. In no country of the world have reserve and taciturnity ever, I believe, been carried so far as in certain societies in England; and if one falls into such companies, it is easy to conceive how a disrelish of life may take possession of those who find themselves confined to them. But one of these frozen circles, what satisfaction of mind and heart may not be found in English society, when one is happily placed there? The favour or dislike of ministers and the court are absolutely of no account in the relations of life; and you would make an Englishman blush, were you to appear to think of the office which he holds, or of the influence he may possess. A sentiment of pride always makes him think that these circumstances neither add to nor deduct in the slightest degree from his personal merit. Political disappointments cannot have any influence on the pleasures enjoyed in fashionable society; the party of opposition are as brilliant there as the ministerialists: fortune, rank, intellect, talents, virtues, are shared among them; and never do either of the two think of drawing near to or keeping at a distance from a person by those calculations of ambition which have always prevailed in France. To quit one's friends because they are out of power, and to draw near to them because they possess it, is a kind of tactics almost unknown in England; and if the applause of society does not lead to public employment, at least the liberty of society is not impaired by combinations foreign to the pleasures which may be tasted there. One finds there almost invariably the security and the truth which form the bases of all enjoyment, because they form their security. You have not to dread those perpetual broils which, in other countries, fill life with disquietude. What you possess in point of connexion and friendship, you can lose only by your own fault, and you never have reason to doubt the expressions of benevolence addressed to you, for they will be surpassed by the actual performance, and consecrated by duration. Truth, above all, is one of the most distinguished qualities of the English character. The publicity that prevails in business, the discussions by which people arrive at the bottom of every thing, have doubtless contributed to this habit of strict truth which cannot exist but in a country where dissimulation leads to nothing but the mortification of being exposed.

"It has been much repeated on the Continent, that the English are impolite, and a certain habit of independence, a great aversion to restraint, may have given rise to this opinion. But I know no politeness, no protection, so delicate as that of the English towards women in every circumstance of life. Is there question of danger, of trouble, of a service to be rendered, there is 'to- 4N

ideas and principles, which have been proved capable of producing every thing that is great and god in human intellect und action, and it is not to be endured that we should part with our heritage. Let those whose reason is too refined to bear with our Gothic pnjudices, fly to the shores of another continent, where they may nave in abundance all physical accommodations, and all that they are pleased to consider as freedom, in the midst of uncut forests and untilled savannahs, —in a land where there are neither castles nor cathedrals,—among men that, puffed up with an ignorant and contemptible vanity, are contented to consider themselves as the aboriginal nnyyt^tfti of a new land, rather than to glory in the recollection that they speak the language of England, and

thing that they neglect to aid the weaker sex. From the seamen who, amidst the storm, support your tottering steps, to English gentlemen of the highest rank, never does a woman find herself exposed to any difficulty whatever, without being supported; and every where do we find that happy mixture which is characteristic of England, a republican austerity in domestic life, and a chivalrous spirit in the relations of society. "A quality not less am iablc in the English, is their disposition to enthusiasm. This people can see nothing remarkable without encouraging it by the most flattering praises. One act. then very lightly in going to England, in whatever state of misfortune one is placed, if conscious of possessing in one's self any thing that is truly distinguished. But if one arrives there, like most of the rich idlers of Europe, who travel to pass a carnival in Italy, and a spring in London, there is no country that more disappoints expectation; and we shall certainly quit it without suspecting that we have seen the finest model of social order, and the only one which for a long time supported our hopes of human nature."

Upon the whole, we close the work of Madame de Stael with increased admiration for her talents,— with greatly increased regret, that she should have been cut off at a period of life when the direction of these talents had begun to be more strictly useful than ever,—when, if her imagination and enthusiasm might be supposed likely to decline, there might have lain before her so large a prospect of strengthening reason, and improving wisdom. The impression which her work is calculated to produce in her own country, is a sober and salutary one of hope and patience. In ours, we trust it will be read and studied by those whose ignorance renders them unconscious, or whose meanness renders them unthankful observers of the blessings they enjoy. The progress and results of the French Revolution should produce on us no other effect than that of a firm and tranquil joy in the contemplation of our own condition at home. The idea of establishing in modern Europe a system of polity upon any thing like the model or principles of the commonwealths of antiquity, however fascinating the first idea of such a thing might have appeared, has been proved, by the experience of France, to be essentially unprofitable and absurd. It is too late to change the nature of Christendom. We have lived for more than a sixth of the whole age of the world in the cultivation of a set of

"Are sprung From earth's first blood." Let such depart, and let us bid God speed to their journey. But let us not be deceived into any participation of their paltry phrenxy. Let us rejoice in the memory of great and virtuous ages; let us not separate ourselves from our fathers, or be the robbers of our children.

We cannot close our paper more appropriately, than with the following pathetic and sublime sonnet of the most meditative and English of our living pot ts.

"Now that all hearts are glad, all faces bright.
Our aged Sovereign sits;—to the ebb and flow
Of states and kingdoms, to their joy or woe.
Ins nsible;—lie sits deprived of sight,
And lamentably wrapped in twofold night.
Whom no weak hopes deceived,—whose

mind ensued.
Through perilous war, with regal fortitude.
Peace, that should claim respect from law-
less Might.
Dread King of kings! vouchsafe a ray divine
To his forlorn condition! let thy grace
Upon his inner soul in mercy shine;
Permit his heart to kindle, and embrace
(Though were it only for a moment's space)
The triumphs of this hour; for they are

Some Remarks On The Use Of The


Some have thought that, in modern works of fiction, there should be no gratuitous introduction of the preternatural, and that superstitious tales are only to be tolerated when they

form a part of some picture of past ages, during which such things were universally believed. But, even in the most enlightened ages, so desirous is the human mind of an outlet by which to escape from the narrow circle of visible things into the unknown and unlimited world, that surely poets should be permitted to feign all wonders which cannot be proved to be impossible, and which are not contradictory to the spirit of our religion.

To this class belong the re-appearance of the dead, and the struggle of evil beings for an ascendancy over Human nature. The eastern talismanic theory of sorcery supposed that superhuman powers were acquired by discovering and taking advantage of the occult laws of nature to compel the service of spirits; but the notion of a voluntary assistance lent by wicked angels to wicked men is much more sublime, and agrees better with the spirit of modern thought. The one is a childish idea founded on the mechanical operation of causes which have never been proved to exist; but the other has a moral interest, being conformable to our knowledge of character and passion.

That there exists in this country that strength of imagination which delights in the feeling of superstitious horror, is proved by the practice of our ancient dramatists; and of all those authors who wrote in the original English spirit down to the end of last century, when, partly from the revival of old ballads, and partly from the importation of German books, there sprung up rm immense number of romances and fictions, the interest of which was founded almost entirely upon apparitions and the mysteries of haunted castles, or prophecies, dreams, and presentments.

Every sort of machinery of this kind was put in requisition; till, by the unskifrulness ot the artists, and the unsparing manner in which their resources were employed, the superstitious branch of romance writing fell gradually into disrepute; and probably among the immense number of novels published, there are now six that represent modern manners, for one that resorts to the old machinery of spectres and mysteries. The great■ est poets of the present time, however, have not disdained to continue the use flf it; and indeed some of Scott's

wo; ks excite the feelings of supcrsti-) tious fear and traditional awe in a degree that has never been surpassed. . Wordsworth's fictions in this lint Tiaveexquisite beauty, and may be said to represent the spontaneous and creative , superstition of the human mind, when / acted upon by impressive circum-' stances. The poems of the Thorn, Lucy Gray, and Hartleap Well, are instances of this. The poem of the Danish Boy is a beautiful superfluity of fancy, but is too entirely poetical, to please common readers. Lord Byron s strength lies in a different direction; and the spectres which appear in his poetry are not the product of imagination working upon what is unknown and invisible, but are created by the passions of the heart striving to embody their own objects. The world of spirits is not an object of interest to him for its own sake, and when he resorts to it, he does so only for the images of what he loved or hated on earth. Mr Coleridge has perhaps the finest superstitious vein of any person alive. The poem of Christabel is the best model extant of the language fit to be employed for such subjects. It was the greatest attempt, before Walter Scott's poems, to turn the language of our ancient ballads to account in a modern composition, and is perhaps more successful in that respect than the Lay of the Last Minstrel itself. Indeed Christabel may be considered as a test by which to try men's feeling of superstition, and whoever does not perceive the beauty of it, may rest assured that the world of spectres is shut against him, and that he will never see " any thing worse than himself"

To make the marvellous a means of producing the ludicrous; that is to say, to arrive at new and diverting situations, by feigning a suspension of the laws of nature, has not been much attempted in English literature, and is perhaps rather a cheap species of wit, since it supposes more fancy than knowledge or penetration. At the same time it has its attractions; for it gives the mind a pleasing respite from the inexorable tyranny of facts, and flatters us for a time with the appearance of vivid and immoveable nature relaxing from its severity, and ceasing to present the usual barriers to our wishes. The tale of Vathek, in which these things are well exemplifled, has never been very popular in this country It would appear that such painted air-bubbles are too childish for our taste, and that the marvellous is only relished here when linked to the higher and more serious feelings. Macbeth is deeply and universally understood; but there is reason to suspect that the Midsummer Night's Dream is more talked of than read, and talked of chiefly by persons who wish to lay claim to an uncommon share of fancy.

The ancients had their fauns, satyrs, ^nd nymphs, with which they peopled the more sequestered retreats of nature; and whose casual intercourse with mortals supplied a thousand beautiful fables. The fairies and mermaids of modern times cannot be compared with them. To be sure, some very pretty stories are told of mermaids drawing nigh to solitary shores, under the guidance of tender impulses, and making their sentiments known to the favoured mortal in the form of a song; but surely their long fish-tails are insufferable, whatever may be thought of them by the young Highlanders in the Island of Skye, or the shepherds of the Orkneys. The whole conception of a mermaid is displeasing, and savours of the coarse taste' of Northern mythology. On the other hand, nothing can be more beautiful than the ancient conception of wood nymphs, whose tenderness was by no means so obtrusive as that of the northern mermaids; so that persons taking a walk in a forest were frequently shunned by them, and left to find their way home again without ever having a second sight of them. The fairy tribe of later times is a fiction without interest, and seems hardly capable of answering any purpose as a species of poetical machinery.

It is evident that gay and lively fictions, founded on popular . superstitions, admit of much greater variety than serious and terrible ones. The objects by which superstitious terror is excited, being always obscure and indefinite, present but a limited range to the poet, and should be sparingly used, in order to avoid monotony, and prevent the disgust which is always sure to be felt, when they are no longer regarded with astonishment. Observation and reflection can be fed for ever by the infinite variety of particulars and their relations; and the sen

timent of love possesses the divine privilege of dwelling upon its objects with increasing delight; but fear and wonder are transitory movements of the mind, and depend for the most part on the suspension of curiosity.

Upon the whole, romance writers ought to look jealously after their privileges, and prevent the use of apparitions from incurring prescription in these latter days of the scoffers, who think it no great matter to take the bread out of the mouths of an hundred industrious persons in Grub Street, for the sake of shewing themselves above vulgar prejudices. Surely romance writers are far more numerous than philosophers, and might be well able to mob any prating son of Epicurus who attempted to undermine the credit of their machinery.


No I.

[the learned need not be told wb» Athcn&'UM was, though the English reader has hitherto had but very little opportunity of knowing much about turn. His " Deipnosophists, or the Sophiss discoursing at Table," is the only one, among his numerous works, that remains; it contains a vast fund of amusement and information concerning the customs, the manners, and the sentiments of the Greeks, with a multitude of valuable facts and anecdotes, illustrative of the history of their literary and moral character; besides many elegant specimens of ancient poetry, and quotations from old Greek and Roman authors, whose writings have long been lost.

Athemeus was born at Naucratis, in Egypt, in the second century of the Christian era. He was considered as a man of great learning—had read much, and possessed an extraordinary memory, as the numerous anecdotes he relates, and the pieces of poetry he quotes, abundantly testify. Several editions of his Deipnosophists have appeared on the Continent; the last in fourteen volumes octavo, by Schweighamser of Stjasburgh, in 1807.

The translation of select passages from this entertaining author, from which we mean occasionally to give a certain portion, was the work of an elegant scholar, and an amiable man, who, alas! is no more: he occasionally entertained and instructed his countrymen, but never intruded his name on public notice; and it is from that con. sideration alone we feel it right now to withhold it EniToa.]

Txmociates asks Athenseus, whether he was present at the banquets of the learned, or whether he trusted to the report of others, in the account he had given of them? Atheneeus assures him that he was present, then speaks warmly of Laurentius, and the elegant entertainments given at his house, during which the most curious questions were proposed and discussed. He likewise informs him, that Laurentius had been appointed to superintend the religious ceremonies and sacrifices, by that excellent prince, Marcus Aurelius, because he was acquainted with the customs of the Greeks and Romans, and spoke both languages with equal purity ; on which account he had the name given him of Artprn,* or ambidexter.

He then speaks of the library of Laurentius, which contained such a number of the best Greek authors that it would bear a comparison with the most celebrated public collections of antiquity. He was so distinguished for his urbanity, that at his table every one felt himself at his ease, and Home appeared to be the country of the human race. The hospitality of his house was such, as to justify the application of the following description from the comic poet, Apollodorus:t "Approaching a friend's bouse, we see at

once A welcome at the gate. The porter stands With open cheerful face to meet the guests; Old Keeper wags his tail: as he proceeds, Some kind domestic, with officious zeal, Places his chair unbidden ;—all is done Prompt, and at once, from feeling, not direction.'^

To Laurentius might be applied these lines of Antiphanes:

• In allusion to this line in Homer's Iliad, f L 163.

"H(*< Art(rr*7n Itii a-i(i}i;i«( m-" Hera Asteropscus, ambidexter enim crat

+ Apollodorus, a comic poet of Gela, in Sicily, of the age of Menander. He is said to have written forty-seven plays. Donatus intimates that Terence took from him his Pliormio and Hccyra.

* This fragment of Apollodorus reminds us of the fallowing beautiful passage in the Heauton of Terence.

"Domum revortor meatus, atque animo fere
Perturbato, atque incerto prs» agritudinc;
Adsido; accumint servi i soccos detrahunt;
Video alios festinare; lectos stemcre;
I 'crnam apparare; pro se quisque sedulo
Paciebat, quo illani milii lenirent miscriam."
Act 1. & 1.

"Books, and the Muse's love, his sole delight: With them true wisdom lies."

As well as the following from the Theban bard:

"As in the sweet society of friends
We feel true pleasure, so his joy was found
Within the Muse's garden; there to stray.
And cull the sweetest Bowers."

The author then gives the examples of other great men who had distinguished themselves by their liberality and magnificence—such as Alexander, Conon, Alcibiades, &c. and cites the following passage from Antiphanes :* "Good gods! why seek we riches and

abundance. If not to succour our poor friends withal, And show Heaven's bounties in the fairest

light? To eat and drink are but the common wants That Nature warrants, and all feel alike: We need no splendid feast to satisfy Such appetites as these."

The Cynic (Cynulcus), who had acquired the name of T(i£«Ju*m. or the Supper-hunter, said, that Clearchaa related, that Charmus of Syracuse applied mottos to almost every dish that was served up. For instance, if a fish:

* " Antiphanes of Smyrna, or, as some say, of Rhodes, was bom in or about the ninety-third Olympiad. His father's name was Dcmophanes, and his mother's .Enoc; people of servile degree. However, he so signalized himself by his genius, and was held in such respect by his Athenian patrons, that a public decree was made for the removal of his remains from the Isle of Chios, where he died at the age of seventy, four, and for depositing them in the city of Athens, where his funeral honours were sumptuously performed at the charge of the state.

"He ranks very high in the middle comedy. The lowest list of his plays amounts to two hundred and ninety; and some contend that he actually composed three hundred and sixty five. He is said to have obtained the prize for thirty comedies. Several fragments of his have been selected by various authors of the lower ages; but they do not comprise such a portion of the dialogue, as to open the character, style, and manner of this writer, so as to enable us to pronounce upon his comparative excellence with any critical precision."—Cumberland's Otuervtr, vol. iv. p. 78.

T It is not mentioned from what author this is taken. It appears to be a parody on the first hnt of the Hecuba of Euripides:

Haw tu^M KliJfunm ttiu tnvn wvXac

Aisfsn. Poison refers, in his note upon this passage, to two other parodies in Athenoua, hut not to this.

« AnteriorContinuar »