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never has written, never will write, a really great work: the want of logical movement in his mental processes must ever render it impossible for him to do so. . But if any one else furnished him with a good plan, we know no author who could fill it up with more grace and liveliness of detail ; and we venture to suggest to him, that he might yet earn high distinction by a Dictionary of English Literary History, after the fashion of Bayle. The alphabetical arrangement would supply the place of logical ordonnance: and the constant variety of persons and topics, with the perfect liberty of lengthening or shortening every article at pleasure, would, we think, be found admirably suited to his taste and talents.
We ought to observe, in closing this book, that it contains a highly interesting and beautiful series of letters from Mr. Southey -and some others by th late Lord Tenterden, who was Sir Egerton's constant friend from childhood to the hour of death. That great judge, in point of fact the law-reformer of his age, had, it seems, retained to the last a warm pedilection for the classical studies of his youth.
ART. IV.-Philip van Artevelde; a Dramatic Romance, in Two
Parts. By Henry Taylor, Esq. 2 vols. 1 2mo. London.
1834. THIS is an historical romance, in consecutive dramatic scenes ;
a species of composition not uncommon among the Germans, which has, as adopting the language of poetry, some great and obvious advantages over the prose narrative form recently adorned among us by the highest genius of the age. Its inherent disadvantages, as respects the chances of immediate popularity, must be nearly as obvious. We shall not, at present, enter upon the relative merits of the two methods: we have here before us something too attractive to admit of a preliminary dissertation on a cold question of criticism. On such now rare occasions as the present, we experience a gratification which none but those who have been teazed and wearied with the incessant appeals of clamorous mediocrity and impatient affectation can fully understand. We know not that there is any better description of genius than that of Mr. Crabbe
– I recognise that,' says the old bard, wherever there is to stimulate the thoughts of men, and command their feelings.' If this be true, the author of Philip van Artevelde may take his place at the bar with the sure hope of a triumphant verdict.
The groundwork of his design is the idealized portraiture of a revolutionary age; and his motto, from the Leviathan, sufficiently points out the leading characteristics of every age in which the revolutionary spirit is the prime mover of things - No arts, no letters, VOL. LI. NO. CII.
no society,—and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short!' The scene is laid in Flanders, at the close of the fourteenth century; and those who desire to study the new poet with the care which he deserves, may find the real personages and events of which he makes use recorded, in all the naked force of their vitality, by the prince of chroniclers, and father as well of all historical romancers, Froissart. No reader of that most captivating conteur can have forgotten the two Van Arteveldes, father and son, citizens of revolted Ghent, each of whom swayed for a season almost the whole power of Flanders against their legitimate prince-and each of whom paid the penalty of ambition by an untimely and violent death. The younger of these, Philip, has been adopted for the centre figure in our author's elaborate and deeply tragic panorama of the existence of a revolutionary period; and there is much to be admired in the whole conception and delineation of this character.
The poet's purpose, if we read him aright, has been to make Artevelde at once true enough to his age not to disturb our sense of the probable, and yet sufficiently above his age to admit of his forming, without reference to times and degrees of civilization, a real • Mirror of Magistrates. He has desired, in this person, to represent a combination-rare, but not unnatural-of the contemplative powers of the mind with the practical- of philosophy with efficiency. That there is anything unuatural or impossible in the union of these attributes, no one surely can aver who has read Bacon's book de negotiis ; and that the actual circumstances of Artevelde's life were in so far compatible and congenial with such a combination appears from genuine history. Froissart tells us that to angle in the Scheldt had been his chief pleasure and occupation, up to the day when he was abruptly called to a predominant political station. Notwithstanding the advantageous introduction to public life which his birth might have insured to him, he had been entirely content to continue in privacy, till the difficulties of the times almost compelled him forth of it. During this leisure of his earlier life, his mind seems to have been more cultivated than was at all usual in that age: in the words of the chronicler, he was moult bien enlangagé et bien lui advenoit ;' and the career and fate of his father must have supplied ample food for meditation to a naturally thoughtful mind. It is sufficiently obvious that Mr. Taylor has never intended to present in Philip's person a literal specimen of the ordinary heroes of that time.
Had such been the design of such an artist, Artevelde's language, throughout many of these scenes at least, must have been less rhetorical; the habitual strain of thought ascribed to him more crude and rude. In short, having in view the eminent endowments which history ascribes to Philip, and the singular course of his life from first to last, beginning and ending in such opposite extremes of contemplative tranquillity and energetic action, the author has evidently thought himself justified in considering him, upon certain points, rather as a substantive product of nature, than as the creature of contemporary circumstances, or as strictly in conformity with the times in which he lived.
Again, as regards Philip's competency for the business of life and the management of men, there is ample evidence, that, when at length induced to interfere in public affairs, he was found to be largely possessed of every necessary qualification. He spake kindly to all whom he had to do with ; and dealt so wisely that every man loved him.' So says Froissart, who certainly had no partiality for demagogues in general, or for him. The whole of his recorded career shows that, although deficient in technical military skill, he had extraordinary power over the minds and affections of his followers, and that this power was acquired by judgment, promptitude, and stern decision on the one hand-by generosity and clemency, whenever these could be safely indulged, on the other; in other words, that he aimed equally at being feared and loved, and was successful on both points. Froissart represents him as saying briefly, previous to his bold measure of taking off the two chiefs of the opposite faction in Ghent, unless we be feared among
commons it is nothing. Yet the same author records that he had
much pity for the common people;' and describes him as willing, on a momentous occasion, to sacrifice himself with a heroism equal to that of Regulus, solely for their sakes. He entreated the people kindly and sagely, we are told, wherefore they would live or die with him. Kindness alone could not have thus attached such a people in such times: great practical abilities must have been at least as essential.
Such being the ideal of Van Artevelde, intellectually considered, the poet has endeavoured to keep his moral attributes and his temperament in harmony with it. He represents him as naturally kind and good, but, bearing in view the leading characteristic, he never carries his feelings so far, or his virtuous principles so high, as materially to interfere with his efficiency. He seems, in a word, meant to be, under all circumstances, a statesman and a man of business. The dramatist has not wished to paint him as an example of pure and scrupulous morality, such as might befit an equally considerate moral agent of modern times; but as exhibiting some broad features of humanity and virtue—as being in the main a high-minded, strong-minded, just, and merciful man. We speak at present, be it observed, of Philip van Artevelde as 2 c 2
appears in the first of these dramas : in the second we have hiin, after a considerable interval of time, moving among different persons, and in a state of moral decline, as well as with adverse fortunes to encounter.
As regards the temperament of Artevelde, the aim seems to have been to represent the combination of energy with equanimity; the energy chiefly, indeed, intellectual; the composure, in a great degree, matter of mere temperament. It is here that the author, as indeed he hints in his preface—we wish he had spared that preface altogether-has been most desirous of opposing himself, point-blank, to the practice of one of the most popular of recent poets, Lord Byron. Artevelde is, indeed, as unlike any one of Byron's heroes as they are all, in the main, like each other. Our author in this preface daringly describes them as 'creatures abandoned to their passions, and, therefore, weak of mind;
beings in whom there is no strength except that of their intensely selfish passions—in whom all is vanity; their exertions being for vanity under the name of love, or revenge, and their sufferings for vanity under the name of pride.' This language is over-pitched, but it is quite intelligible, and contains truth, though not the whole truth; and Artevelde is accordingly pourtrayed as having indeed a large fund of feeling and even of passion in his nature, but as minded and nerved so as to command his passion. It is not superficially excitable, nor liable to escape in sudden ebullitions or uncontrollable sallies. He is, though not strictly and completely, yet, having regard to the circumstances in which he is placed, very adequately self-governed. His generosity, like his severity, is always well-considered; his acts of vigour proceed in no instance from a restless or superfluous activity of disposition ; they are evoked by the occasion, and commensurate with it; and his administration of affairs is not more signalized by them, than by a steady diligence and attention to business-the watchfulness and carefulness of a mind calmly and equably strong.
The love of such a man, though partaking of the fullness and largeness of his nature, was not to be inordinately passionate. It belonged to him to be rather the idol than the prey of such a passion. His heroines devote themselves to him with as ardent a sentiment as the poet has been able to pourtray; he, on the other hand,
smiles with superior love;' and may be imagined to have looked on the daughters of Eveeven in his earlier and better day both of heart and of fortune-in the spirit of that admonition which was conveyed to the lover of Eve herselfmas
• Fair, no doubt, and worthy well His cherishing, his honouring, and his love,
Not his subjection- i Such is a general sketch of this character, according to our understanding of the poet's meaning and design. The effect of it, as contrasted by the surrounding groups of vain, narrow, and barbarous men, reminds one of the noblest feature in the aspect of your old Flemish city—its tall massive tower rising into the clear air above a wilderness of black roofs and quaint gables. It is time, however, to come to the story of the Romance itself.
We must pass rather hastily over the First Part, in which the youthful Philip, being suddenly tempted out of his calm and sequestered course of life, and happy, though as yet unspoken, love, becomes captain of Ghent by the election of the prevailing war-faction of the White-hoods;' develops the magnificent talents for command which had hitherto slumbered within him; and, Ghent being reduced at length to extreme misery by the closened lines of the Earl of Flanders, persuades the citizens to make a bold sally; guides them to the gates of the Earl's capital, Bruges ; defeats the forces of the sovereign, seizes his metropolis, and all but masters his own person in a midnight sack. Of this part, in itself a performance of great beauty and interest, we can afford our readers but a few brief specimens. We select passages in which we have been particularly struck with the style of our author's execution; the nervous vigour of his language; the stately ease of his versification; and his extraordinary skill in introducing profoundly meditative ywuar, without interrupting the tlow of passion or action.
The immediate cause of Artevelde's elevation is the depressed condition of Ghent, after the defeat and death of one of her captains, Launoy; and the necessity which the White-hoods then perceive of either yielding to the peace-party within the city, and submitting to the earl—or summoning to the post of power some one of high name, whose interference (he being, as yet, personally uncompromised in the rebellion) shall overawe the populace by the impression that it must needs be purely patriotic. The fate of Launoy is told, closely after Froissart, in these energetic lines :• Second Dean. Beside Nivelle the earl and Launoy met.
Six thousand voices shouted with the last