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prohibited their people from engaging or in any way assisting in it under pain of exclusion. They petitioned parliament against it, in their collective capacity; and six benevolent individuals of their number, in 1783, privately formed the first association that ever existed in England for delivering the Africans from its enormities.
The third class consists of the American quakers, and their coadjutors, among whom Messrs. Whitfield and Wesley and the Moravian brethren are enumerated; the exertions of the earlier members of this class, and especially of John Woolman, and Anthony Benezet, at length resulted in the formation of a society in 1774, which was afterwards enlarged in :787, when Franklin was appointed president. William Dillwyn, an American Quaker, resident in England, and one of the six who first associated there, was the medium of communication between the three classes, of the first of which Granville Sharp and Ramsay were the principal representatives.
The fourth class substantially originates with Mr. Clarkson: but he deduces it from Dr. Peckard, Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, who in discharge of his office as vice chancellor, in 1785, proposed as a subject for the middle-bachelors' prize essay, "Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare." It was this thesis that first directed the attention of Mr. Clarkson to the African slave trade: and the horrible facts, which he discovered in studying the subject, very deeply affected his mind.
It was,' (says he,) but one gloomy subject from morning to night. In the day-time I was uneasy. In the night I had little rest. I sometimes never closed my eye-lids for grief. It became now not so much a trial for academical reputation, as for the production of a work, which might be useful to injured Africa. And keeping this idea in my mind ever after the perusal of Benezet, I always slept with a candle in my room, that I might rise out of bed and put down such thoughts as might occur to me in the night, if I judged them valuable, conceiving that no arguments of any moment should be lost in so great a cause. Having at length finished this painful task, I sent my Essay to the vice-chancellor, and soon afterwards found myself honoured with the first prize. p. 209.
For some months, his mind was continually engrossed with the calamities he had described, and with an anxiety that some person should interfere; he "began to envy those who had seats in Parliament, and who had great riches and widely extended connections, which would enable them to take up this cause. Finding scarcely any one at that time, who thought of it," his attention was turned frequently to himself. And though the task looked so much like one of the feigned la-, bours of Hercules, that" ne supposed his "understanding would be suspected if" he proposed it, he presently resolved
on taking the only step which then appeared practicable, and translated his Latin prize essay into English. Before this was completed, he accidentally met with a quaker, an old acquaintance, who introduced him to William Dillwyn, and James Phillips the bookseller, of George Yard, Lombard Street.
How surprised,' (says Mr. C.) was I to hear in the course of our conversation of the labours of Granville Sharp, of the writings of Ramsay, and of the controversy in which the latter was engaged, of all which I had hitherto known nothing! How surprised was I to learn, that William Dillwyn himself, had two years before associated himself with five others for the purpose of enlightening the public mind upon this great subject! How astonished was I to find that a society had been formed in America for the same object, with some of the principal members of which he was intimately acquainted! And how still more astonished at the inference which instantly rushed upon my mind, that he was capable of being made the great medium of connection between them all. These thoughts almost /overpowered me. I believe that after this I talked but little more to my friend. My mind was overwhelmed with the thought that I had been providentially directed to his house; that the finger of Providence was beginning to be discernible; that the day-star of African liberty was rising, and that probably I might be permitted to become a humble instrument in promoting it.' pp. 215-216.
The fourth class, further continued to 1787, includes the persons who became strongly and effectively interested in the cause of the Africans, through the agency of Mr. Clarkson: among these were Bennet Langton, Lord Barham (then Sir Charles Middleton) Sir R. Hill, &c. &c. But the most important acquisition, in every respect, was the man whose great and persevering exertions, whose united ardour and prudence, whose unreproached and saintly character, whose political influence, and whose pre-eminence of public service to the cause, have associated his name indissolubly with its struggle and its triumph. The dignity which accrued to it from possessing him as its avowed patron, his presiding wisdom, and the invaluable and indispensable services he rendered it in parliament, would alone have justly merited for him that highest rank among its supporters which the public admiration has always given him: in addition, we believe that his actual labours in its behalf have been scarcely second to those of any man, excepting Mr. Clarkson himself. Just before the first interview with Mr. Wilberforce, our author had, in a sudden ebullition of zeal, and among a party of friends to the cause, of Africa, declared himself ready to devote his life entirely to it. The account he gives of his temporary hesitation, when he had an opportunity of calm and solitary reflexion, of the variety of feelings that agitated him, and of his final unalterable decision, is exceedingly interesting. The sacrifice of what he calls his prospects in the church, which on account of his
connections were brilliant, staggered him, he acknowledges, more than any other consideration.
When the other objections, which I have related, occurred to me, my enthusiasm instantly, like a flash of lightning, consumed them: but this stuck to me, and troubled me. I had ambition. I had a thirst after worldly interest and honours, and I could not extinguish it at once. I was more than two hours in solitude under this painful conflict. At length I yielded, not because I saw any reasonable prospect of success in my new undertaking (for all cool-headed and cool-hearted men would have pronounced against it), but in obedience, I believe, to a higher Power. And this I can say, that both on the moment of this resolution, and for some time afterwards, I had more sublime and happy feelings than at any former period of my life.' pp. 229, 220.
On the 22nd of May 1787, Mr. Wilberforce having pledged himself to bring forward the subject in Parliament, the representatives of the four classes, which Mr. C. has so carefully distinguished, united in forming "the Committee for effecting: the Abolition of the Slave Trade". It consisted of twelve members, chiefly of the benevolent Society of Friends, whose names are specified. On their unwearied exertions and vast services, as well as on those of "their parliamentary head," Mr. Wilberforce, the author confers a brilliant eulogium, equally honourable in the bestowment and the desert.
In order to elucidate the origin, distinct progress, and con fluence of these classes, Mr. C. has delineated them in a map as so many streams uniting in a mighty river..
Our account of this part of the work has been the more ample, because it describes the origin of that inestimable Committee whose proceedings and success the remainder is devoted to record, because it refers peculiarly to individual his. tory, and is new to the public. We owe it to Mr. Clarkson to say something more of his personal labours; and both our duty and our feelings require of us some further reflections, while attending, in the discharge of our office, on the complete extinction of the most monstrous combination of crime and suffering that ever disgraced and afflicted human nature.
(To be concluded in the next Number.)
Art. IX. Aggiunta ai Componimenti Lirici de' piu illustri Poeti d'Italia, scelti da T. J. Mathias. 3 vols. 12mo. pp. 700. Price 11. 11s. 6d, bds. Becket. 1808.
THE study of Italian literature, after being neglected, if
not disdained, during the greater part of the eighteenth century, has lately been revived in England. The Tuscan muses were the delight of our elder poets; the pages of Chaucer and Spenser, and even of Milton and Dryden, sparkle with Italian graces; Fairfax's Godfrey of Boulloigne, from Tasso, is the fourth translation in our language, and only
ranks below the Homers of Pope and Cowper, and the Virgil of Dryden. Prior and Pope, with reverence be it spoken, being writers of brilliant taste, but cold imagination, formed their style after French models; the former was a tolerable imitator of Fontaine, the latter a disciple of Boileau, whom he transcended in almost every excellence that was common to both. The works of these two masters became the lessons in a school of English poetry, which lasted till the days of Cowper, who, with a spirit truly British, overleaped every limit of precedent, and stood forth, like his own Adam whom he saw in a dream,* a plain, uncouth, unfashionable figure, compared with Pierian petits maitres, but a man of might, and muscle, and majestic stature, worthy to be the progenitor of a new and nobler race. We do not say that the imitators of Cowper have been superior to those of Pope, or any other of the herd; but we affirm, that since the publication of "The Task," there has appeared more good: poetry than had been seen before it from the death of Pope; for Cowper's successful sallies of unfettered genius have inspired a generation of bards, far superior to the Whiteheads, and Wartons, and Langhornes of the last age, to follow the impulse of their own independent minds in the paths of originality. In this resumption of poetical powers, the Italian language has again been cultivated, as a field containing inestimable treasures, which enriched our earlier, but were hidden from our later forefathers.
The names of Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, are well known in this country; but those who have only read their works in our popular translations, are little aware of their merits. Of Petrarch there neither is, nor can be, a good translation in our language, or any other; and of Ariosto and Tasso, done into English by Hoole, though the interest and ingenuity of the narratives may command attention, we must say that in every page we find the silver tongue of Italy transmuted into lead. There are several translations of Dante's Inferno of respectable merit.
Among the living promoters of Italian literature, the editor of these volumes deserves the highest rank. He has published a series of elegant and useful works in this negfected language, and in the "Componimenti lirici de' piu illustri Poeti d'Italia," and in these "Aggiunta," which form a supplement to the former, he has collected six volumes of lyric poetry, which perhaps could not be equalled in any other modern language. In these he has introduced to his countrymen poets, whose names had scarcely been heard before in England, yet were worthy to be enrolled with the
*We do not recollect in which of his letters Cowper relates. this incident of a dream.
most illustrious of antiquity. It would perhaps be impossible to select, from all our poets of former days, six volumes of English lyrics, (for we confine the superiority of Italy to lyric poetry alone) in every respect equal to these. Dryden, Collins, and Gray, are unquestionably before all our other writers of odes, yet all their pieces of permanent and unchangeable value might be comprehended in the compass of one of these little volumes; and we might almost safely defy any editor to make up two more of similar worth, among all the works of all the other dead. We would not depreciate either our countrymen or their language; their mothertongue and their mother-wit are at least equal to those of Italy and her modern sons; but we would stimulate our living poets' to study these models of lyric excellence, and endeavour, not to imitate them, but to rival and transcend them, if possible, by original models of their own, of equal : | or surpassing grace, freedom, eloquence, and energy, combining all the beauties of thought with all the harmonies of expression. All this is possible in the English language, but it has, perhaps, only once been accomplished,—in “Alex- . ander's Feast."
Our limits neither permit us to particularize the contents of these volumes, nor to distinguish the merits, or even enumerate the names of the authors, from whose well-cultured fields, "nelle piagge di Pindo," these flowers of poesy have been gathered with curious and exquisite taste, by Mr. Mathias; who is himself not only a zealous and almost enthusiastic admirer of the muses of Arno, but who can add with great justice," Ed io anche son Poeta." The Componimenti lirici consisted of "Canzoni di maggior carmi e sono," and "Sonetti:" in these Aggiunta, "Canzonette" and "Ariette" aré admitted.
The Italian Canzone, or greater Ode, consists of any series of regular stanzas, composed principally of lines of eleven and seven syllables, diversified and disposed according to the pleasure of the writer; and on account of the ricliness of the language in rhymes, the latter are allowed more frequently to recur, and the stanzas may be constructed of greater length, than would be tolerable in English; but corresponding rhymes are not permitted to be repeated in any two stanzas, however distant, of the same piece. The Canzone, after the example of the elder writers, is often concluded with a portion of a stanza, in which the subject is either summed up, or the poem itself is addressed by the author, and commissioned whither to go, or what to perform. Petrarch's fine ode, intitled the "Visions," is thus gracefully terminated;