Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE

QUARTERLY REVIEW.

Art. I. --Letters and Essays, in Prose and Verse. London,

1834. 12mo. pp. 268. THE author of these pages tells us that they were written

during a few short intervals of leisure, which he has employed rather in deriving instruction and amusement from the works of others, than in attempting to afford either by his own.' He adds, that some of his letters had already been published without his knowledge; and that others of them might probably appear hereafter, when he could no longer correct them. There needed no apology for publishing any part of this volume. With the greater number of the pieces in verse which it includes we have for years been familiar; but the form in which these were originally printed must have prevented their circulation from equalling their merits. The new poems are not unworthy of the author's taste; and his prose, to us entirely new, is certainly honourable to him in every respect. We have seldom seen so much wisdom, wit, knowledge of the world, and sound criticism, comprised in so small a space, or expressed in a more nervous and graceful style. The moral tone is throughout delightful: we have constantly before us a pure and generous nature—the warm sympathies, and the calm happiness, of a heart and mind that have come unwithered and unshrunk through the passions of youth and the cares of manhood. As the writer has dated several of his pieces from Fredley Farm, he cannot mean to conceal his name ; and in mentioning that of Mr. Richard Sharp, we do enough to excite the curiosity of all who have known anything of the most distinguished society of this metropolis during the last half century. Old enough to have been the friend of Burke and Johnson, may he long continue to be the instructor and ornament of this our third generation,—for we cannot but think of the great bard's introduction of NestorΤου και από γλώσσης μέλιτος γλυκίων δείν αυδη.

.
Τα δ' ήδη δύο μέν γενεαι μερόπων ανθρώπων
'Εφθίαθ οι δι πρόσθεν άμα τράφεν ήδ' εγένοντο

'Εν Πύλων ήγαθέη-ΜΕΤΑ ΔΕ ΤΡΙΤΑ ΤOΙΣΙΝ ΑΝΑΣΣΕΝ. It is impossible to close this volume without regretting—though not perhaps on account of its author himself—that, with so strong

a passion

VOL. LI. NO, CII.

X

a passion for letters, habits of reflection and composition so early formed, and so many opportunities of observation, he should have published so little as he has done. No one can doubt that but for the possession of external advantages and allurements, Mr. Sharp might have long ere now earned a name and place in English literature hardly inferior to what have been achieved by any of his friends. As it is, however, he has done enough to secure himself with posterity against the fate of so many distinguished tabletalkers. When dozens and dozens of persons who have put

forth books upon books, and been puffed by themselves or their gossips into contemporary notoriety, shall be as entirely forgotten as the lowest heroes of the Dunciad would have been by this time, had they not attracted the killing but preserving touch of Pope's caustic—these · Letters and Essays' will survive in the station to which their modest author has limited his ambition.

With a book of this kind—for the prose part, that is, much the greater part of it, belongs in fact to the class of ana-reviewers have little choice as to their manner of dealing. We affect no more than to justify our general recommendation by a few extracts, selecting, of course, passages in which the traces of the author's peculiar caste of thought or expression seem to us to be especially marked.

Among the earliest Letters, we find the following, addressed to Henderson, the actor, on a remarkable occasion—the début of John Kemble on the London boards. Who can read it without being astonished at the precision with which this gifted observer prophesied, at first sight, the outline of our great tragedian's whole career ?

London, 1785.—I went, as I promised, to see the new "HAMLET," whose provincial fame had excited your curiosity as well as mine. There has not been such a first appearance since yours : yet Nature, though she has been bountiful to him in figure and feature, has denied him a voice--of course he could not exemplify his own direction for the players to “ speak the speech trippingly on the tongue,” and now and then he was as deliberate in his delivery as if he had been reading prayers, and had waited for the response. He is a very handsome man, almost tall and almost large, with features of a sensible, but fixed and tragic caste; his action is graceful, though somewhat formalwhich you will find it hard to believe, yet it is true. Very careful study appears in all he says and all he does; but there is more singularity and ingenuity than simplicity and fire. Upon the whole, he strikes me rather as a finished French performer, than as a varied and vigorous English actor; and it is plain he will succeed better in heroic than in natural and passionate tragedy. Excepting in serious parts, I suppose he will never put on the sock. You have been so long without a “ brother near the throne," that it

6

will perhaps be serviceable to you to be obliged to bestir yourself in Hamlet, Macbeth, Lord Townley, and Maskwell; but in Lear, Richard, Falstaff, and Benedict, you have nothing to fear, notwithstanding the known fickleness of the public, and its love of novelty. I think I have heard you remark (what I myself have observed in the History of the Stage) that periodical changes have taken place in the taste of the audience, or at least in the manner of the great performers. Sometimes the natural and spirited mode has prevailed, and then the dignified and declamatory. Betterton, eminent both in comedy and tragedy, appears to have been an instance of the first. Then came Booth and Quin, who were admired for the last. Garrick followed, restoring or re-inventing the best manner, which you have also adopted so fortunately and successfully. Mr. Kemble will be compelled, by the hoarse monotony of his voice, to rely upon the conventional stateliness that distinguished Garrick's predecessors, which is now carried to inimitable perfection by his accomplished sister.'pp. 16-18.

We have only to observe, that Mrs. Siddons outgrew, though John Kemble never did, this conventional stateliness, and was, as we recollect her, the most natural and passionate, as well as the most majestic of performers. Kean’s ambition, of course, was, in adherence to the law of change mentioned by our author, to play Garrick to Kemble's Quin; and, probably, our next great tragedian will affect the Roman grandeur again. The interregnum has now lasted so long, that many people have given up all hope—but we cannot even yet part with the pleasing dream of seeing Macbeth and Hamlet again before we die. But enough of the stage- let us come to the real business of life.

From a very interesting and affectionate series of letters 'to a young friend,' dated in 1806-1809, we must take several specimens. The first is part of a letter to the young man when at Cambridge: we doubt if many young men will listen to the doctrine it sets out with ; but we are quite sure no old man will refuse his hear!

Luckily you have not to overcome the disadvantage of expecting to inherit from your father an income equal to your reasonable desires; for though it may have the air of a paradox, yet it is truly a serious disadvantage when a young man, going to the bar, is sufficiently provided for.

“ Vitam facit beatiorem

Res non parta, sed relicta," says Martial, but not wisely; and no young man should believe him. The Lord Chief Justice Kenyon once said to a rich friend asking his opinion as to the probable success of a son,“ Sir, let your son forthwith spend his fortune; marry, and spend his wife's; and then he may be expected to apply with energy to his profession." case I have no doubts but such as arise from my having observed

that,

In your

X 2

life;

that, perhaps, you sometimes may have relied rather too much on the quickness of your talents, and too little on diligent study. Pardon me for owning this, and attribute my frankness to my regard. It is unfortunate when a man's intellectual and his moral character are not suited to each other. The horses in a carriage should go the same pace and draw in the same direction, or the motion will be neither pleasant nor safe.

Buonaparte has remarked of one of his marshals, “ that he had a military genius, but had not intrepidity enough in the field to execute his own plans ;” and of another he said, “ He is as brave as his sword, but he wants judgment and resources: neither,” he added, “ is to be trusted with a great command.” This want of harmony between the talents and the temperament is often found in private

and wherever found, it is the fruitful source of faults and sufferings. Perhaps there are few less happy than those who are ambitious without industry; who pant for the prize, but will not run the race. Now, this defect, whether arising from indolence or from timidity, is far from being incurable. It may, at least in part, he remedied by frequently reħeeting on the endless encouragements to exertion held out by our own experience and by example. “ C'est des difficultés

que

naissent les miracles." ' It is not every calamity that is a curse, and early adversity especially is often a blessing. Perhaps Madame de Maintenon would never have mounted a throne had not her cradle beer rocked in a prison. Surmounted obstacles not only teach, but hearten us in our future struggles; for virtue must be learnt, though unfortunately some of the vices come, as it were, by inspiration. The austerities of our northern climate are thought to be the cause of our abundant comforts ; as our wintry nights and our stormy seas have given us a race of seamen, perhaps unequalled, and certainly not surpassed, by any in the world.

i "Mother," said a Spartan lad going to battle, “ my sword is too short." “Add a step to it,” she replied: but it must be owned that this was advice to be given only to a Spartan boy. They should not be thrown into the water who cannot swim: I know your buoyancy, and I have no fears of your being drowned.”—pp. 24-27.

Again he writes to the same favoured person :

• There are few difficulties that hold out against real attacks; they fly, like the visible horizon, before those who advance. A passionate desire and an unwearied will can perform impossibilities, or what seem to be such to the cold and the feeble. If we do but go on, some unseen path will open among the hills. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged by the apparent disproportion between the result of single efforts and the magnitude of the obstacles to be encountered. Nothing good nor great is to be obtained without courage and industry ; but courage and industry must have sunk in despair, and the world must have remained unornamented and unimproved, if men had nicely compared the effect of a single stroke of the chisel with

the

the pyramid to be raised, or of a single impression of the spade with the mountain to be levelled. All exertion, too, is in itself delightful, and active amusements seldom tire us. Helvetius owns that he could hardly listen to a concert for two hours, though he could play on an instrument all day long. The chase, we know, has always been the favourite amusement of kings and nobles. Not only fame and fortune, but pleasure is to be earned. Efforts, it must not be forgotten, are as indispensable as desires. The globe is not to be circumnavi. gated by one wind. We should never do nothing.

" It is better to wear out than to rust out,” says Bishop Cumberland. 6. There will be time enough for repose in the grave,” said Nicole to Pascal.

• As a young man, you should be mindful of the unspeakable importance of early industry, since in youth habits are easily formed, and there is time to recover from defeats. An Italian sonnet justly, as, well as elegantly, compares procrastination to the folly of a traveller who pursues a brook till it widens into a river and is lost in the sea. The toils as well as risks of an active life are commonly overrated, so much may be done by the diligent use of ordinary opportunities; but they must not always be waited for. We must not only strike the iron while it is hot, but strike it till " it is made hot." Herschel, the great astronomer, declares that ninety or one hundred hours, clear enough for observations, cannot be called an unproductive year.

The lazy, the dissipated, and the fearful should patiently see the active and the bold pass them in the course. They must bring down their pretensions to the level of their talents. Those who have not energy to work must learn to be humble, and should not vainly hope to unite the incompatible enjoyments of indolence and enterprise, of ambition and self-indulgence. I trust that my young friend will never attempt lo reconcile them.'-Pp. 28-30.

We are afraid a great many of Mr. Sharp's 'young friends' have, to his sorrow, and the curse of their country, made the attempt he bere denounces. Posterity will note with admiration the audacious and successful ambition of our shallow and voluptuous states-boys and states-dandies. What insects have been allowed to eat away the heart of oak !

To a' law-student,' smitten with a premature ambition for a seat in parliament, Mr. Sharp writes as follows, in 1817:—

· The House of Commons is so different a body in its construction and in its purposes from any, either ancient or modern, that its idioms, both of thought and of language, must be caught before a man can talk in such a manner as to be liked, or even understood. It is a place of serious business ; and all ostentation, if perceptible, is ridiculous. Perhaps one or two individuals may be tolerated, and allowed to amuse, merely by ornament or by wit and humour; but an attempt to succeed in this way is ruinous to a new member. It is unfortunately necessary to have something to say, and facts or striking arguments the House will always listen to, though delivered in

any

« AnteriorContinuar »