Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ficiencies, to a whole squadron of the mouthing sentimentalists now in vogue.

We take the following from an Essay on Marriage, in which he is very severe upon a set of gentlemen with whose modes of life and conversation he must be tolerably familiar—the comfortable bachelors of May-Fair.

Haply he seeks in mercenary arms
Love's modest pleasures and mysterious charms;
Presumes to hope its transports can be sold,
Trusting the weak omnipotence of gold.
But these Wealth cannot buy ; Vice cannot know;
Pure are the countless sources whence they flow;
From faith long tried, from lives that blend in one;
From many a soft word spoken, kind deed done;
Too small, perhaps, for each to have a name,
Too oft recurring much regard to claim :
As in fair constellations may combine
The stars that, singly, undistinguish'd shine.
Love, too, is proud, and will not be controllid;
Timid, and must be rather guess'd than told ;
Would be divined, but then by only one,
And fain the notice of all else would shun :
It stays not to forgive-it cannot see
The failings from which none, alas! are free:
Blind but to faults, quick sighted to descry
Merit oft hid from a less searching eye:
Ever less prone to doubt than to believe;
Ever more glad to give than to receive :
Constant as kind, though changing nature, name;
Many, yet one; another, yet the same:
"Tis Friendship, Pity, Joy, Grief, Hope, nay Fear,
Not the least tender when in form severe.
It dwells with every rank, in every clime,
And sets at nought the malice e’en of Time:
In youth more rapturous, but in age more sure,

Chief blessing of the rich, sole comfort of the poor.' After a gloomy picture of the solitary death-bed of an old bachelor, he thus proceeds :

• Start from thy trance, thou fool! awake in time!
Snatch the short pleasures of thy fleeting prime!
While yet youth's healthful fever warms the blood,
And the pulse throbs in vigour's rapid flood ;
While love invites, whose spells possess the power
Ages of bliss to crowd into an hour;
Though to fond memory each blest hour appears
Rich with the transports of eventful years ;
To love alone such magic can belong :
The present still so short! the past so long !

• But

[ocr errors]

• But youth is on the wing, and will not stay;
Fair morn too oft of a foul wint’ry day!
A warm but watery gleam, extinguish'd soon
In storm or vapour, gathering o’er its noon:
And should the unwearied Sun shine on, till night
Quench his hot ray and cloud his cheerful light,
How fast the shadow o'er the dial flies!
While to himself fond man a debtor dies,
Trusting to-morrow still, or misemploy’d,
He leaves the world unknown, and unenjoy’d.

Haste, then, as nature dictates dare to live ;
Ask of thy youth the pleasures youth should give :
So shall thy manhood and thy age confess
That of the past the present learns to bless;
And thou shalt boast, with mingling joy and pride,
The wife, the mother, dearer than the bride,
And own, as on thy knees thy children grow,
That home becomes an early heaven below.

There still an angel hovers o'er the fence,
To drive with flaming sword all evil thence :
There, in a little grove of kindred, rise
Those tender plants, the human charities,
Which, in the world's cold soil and boisterous air,
Withhold their blossoms and refuse to bear,
Or all unshelter'd from the blaze of day,
Their golden fruit falls premature away.

• Hail, holy marriage! hail, indulgent law!
Whose kind restraints in closer union draw
Consenting hearts and minds :-By thee confined,
Instinct 's ennobled, and desire refined.
Man is a savage else, condemned to roam
Without companion, and without a home:
And helpless woman, as alone she strays,
With sighs and tears her new-born babe surveys ;
But choosing, chosen, never more to part,
New joys, new duties blending in her heart-
Endow'd alike to charm him and to mend
Man gains at once a mistress and a friend :
In one fair form obtaining from above
An angel's virtues and a woman's love :
Then guarded, cherish'd, and confest her worth,
She scorns the pangs that give his offspring birth,
Lifts for the father's kiss the laughing boy,

And sees and shares his triumph and his joy.'--pp. 184-9. We have reserved to the last what may be called the critical department of this volume. The letter which we are about to quote was addressed in 1784 to Mr. John Fell, then engaged with his English Grammar, and who, like Mr. Sharp, regarded VOL. LI. NO. CIT.

with

Y

- He

with alarm and regret the pompous stiffness and grandiloquent affectations by which, in those days, so many inferior writers were caricaturing the early style of Johnson.

• In the lighter kinds of writing this affectation is particularly disagreeable ; and I am convinced that in the gravest—aye—and in the sublimest passages, the simple terms and the idioms of our language often add a grace beyond the reach of scholarship, increasing, rather than diminishing, the elegance as well as the spirit of the diction. - Utinam et verba in usu quotidiano posita minùs timeremus." that would write well,” says Roger Ascham, “ must follow the advice of Aristotle, to speak as the common people speak, and to think as the wise think.” In support of this opinion, many of the examples cited by you are amusing, as well as convincing. The following from a great author may be added :—“Is there a God to swear by, and is there none to believe in, none to trust to ?” What becomes of the force and simplicity of this short sentence, when turned into the clumsy English which schoolmasters indite, and which little boys can construe ?- .“ Is there a God by whom to swear, and is there none in whom to believe, none to whom to pray ?” The Doctor is a great writer, and is deservedly admired, but he should not be imitated. His gigantic strength may perhaps require a vocabulary that would encumber feebler thoughts: but it is very comical to see Mr. B. and Dr. P. strutting about in Johnson's bulky clothes; as if a couple of Lilliputians had bought their great coats at a rag-fair in Brobdignag. Cowley, Dryden, Congreve, and Addison, are our best examples; for Middleton is not free from Gallicisms. Mr. Burke's speeches and pamphlets (although the style is too undisciplined for a model) abound with phrases in which homeliness sets off elegance, and ease adds grace to strength. How your neighbour, the “ dilectus Iapis,” will smile to hear Milton's practice appealed to! Yet what can he say to the following specimens, taken at random while I am nowy writing ?

“ Am I not sung and proverb’d for a fool

In every street ? Do they not say how well

Are come upon him his deserts ?
“ Here rather let me drudge and earn my bread.”
“ Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake

My sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint.,

At distance I forgive thee-go with that.”
" Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Nipt with the lagging rear of winter's frost."

" I was all ear,
And took in strains that might create a soul

Under the ribs of death."
" So! farewell hope ; but with hope farewell fear,

Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost:

Evil be thou my good." * Shakspeare I need not quote, for he never writes ill, excepting

when

[ocr errors]

when he means to be very fine and very learned. Fortunately our admirable translation of the Scriptures abounds with these native terms of expression; and it is admitted to be almost as pure an authority for English as for doctrine.'-pp. 2-4.

Mr. Sharp returns to the same subject, in a preface which he drew up a little while after for his friend's Grammar. It must be owned that there was some boldness in publishing what follows, during the life of the great lexicographer. • Our elegant and idiomatic satirist ridicules that

easy Ciceronian style,
So Latin, yet so English all the while.”

Some men, whose writings do honour to their country and to mankind, have, it must be confessed, written in a style that no Englishman will own: a sort of Anglicized Latin, and chiefly distinguished from it by a trifling difference of termination; yet so excellent are these works, in other respects, that a man might deserve well of the public who would take the trouble of translating them into English. As I do not notice these alterations in our language in order to commend them, I shall not produce any particular instances. I shall content myself with supporting the fact by the evidence of a truly respectable critic, now living. In the preface to his excellent dictionary, he says, “So far have I been from any care to grace my page with modern decorations, that I have studiously endeavoured to collect my examples and authorities from the writers before the Restoration, whose works I regard as the wells of English undefiled; as the pure sources of genuine diction. Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its ancient Teutonic character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology, from which it ought to be our endeavour to recall it, by making our ancient volumes the groundwork of our style, admitting among the additions of later times only such as may supply real deficiencies ; such as are readily adopted by the genius of our tongue, and incorporate easily with our native idioms.”

'In his preface to the works of Shakspeare, we also find the following very applicable sentiments :-—“I believe there is in

every

nation a style that never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant and congenial to the principles of its respective language, as to remain settled and unaltered. The polite are always catching modish innovations; and the learned depart from established forms of speech, in hopes of finding or making better; those who wish for distinction, forsake the vulgar when the vulgar is right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below refinement, where propriety resides, and where Shakspeare seems to have gathered his comic dialogue. He is therefore more agreeable to the ears of the present age than any other author equally remote, and among his other excellences deserves to be studied as one of the original masters of our language.”

Y 2

These

These passages I have inserted, because such a testimony from this great man will at least be thought impartial.'—p. 7-9.

After all, our critic has not quoted the strongest testimony which Johnson might have afforded him. When he put forth his early writings he was a poor scholar, a total stranger to cultivated society; and he framed a purely artificial standard of elegance for himself. In after days, when his genius had raised him to universal honour, and he moved habitually among men and women of the world, Burke, Reynolds, Mrs. Thrale, &c. &c., he had too much good sense and good taste, (which, indeed, is only one application of good sense, not to see that his young academical fancy had misled him; and we may easily trace the effects of this in all his later works. Compare, for example, such of the · Lives of the Poets,' as were written in his years of toil and penury, with those of the same series that bear the date of Streatham. We venture to say that these last are not only, in substance, the most valuable specimens of the combination of biography and criticism ever yet given to the world, but entitled to adiniration for the vigour and elasticity of their idiomatic English.

We cannot conclude without 'expressing our hope that Mr. Sharp may be stimulated to further efforts, by the success which is sure to attend this publication. It is impossible, in particular, to read the names of his correspondents, without thinking what rich materials he must have for a volume of literary and political Reminiscences.

Art. II.-Geschichte der Hohenstuufen und ihrer Zeit; von

Friedrich von Raumer. Six volumes. 8vo. Leipzig. 1925. THE

IE recent advertisement of a translation of Letters from

Paris, illustrative of the history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,' seems like a tacit reproach upon our neglect, in not having made known to our readers the important work which established nearly ten years ago their author's (Von Raumer) reputation as an historian."

It is not, perhaps, too late ; for, except within a small, though, we trust, expanding circle, even the most distinguished names in Germany obtain as yet but a slow and precarious circulation in this country. The commencement of another historical composition from the same able hand, which we may take an early opportunity of introducing to the notice of our readers, warns us to lose no more time in giving some account of a work which fills up an important chasm in the annals of Europe, and embraces a highly interest

« AnteriorContinuar »