Page images


verses with magnanimity. At last a distant "The Convert” is rather dull—though it relation leaves her his fortune; and she re- teaches a lesson that may be useful in these turns to the enjoyment of moderate wealth, fanatic times. John Dighton was bred a and the exercise of charity—to all but her blackguard; and we have here a most lively miserable husband. Broken by age and dis- and complete description of the items that go ease, he now begs the waste sand from the to the composition of that miscellaneous char. stone-cutters, and sells it on an ass through the acter; but being sore reduced by a long fever, streets :

falls into the hands of the Methodists, and beAnd from each trifling gift comes an exemplary convert. He is then set Made shift to live--and wretched was the shift." up by the congregation in a 'small stationer's The unrelenting wife descries him creep. adds' worldly literature to the evangelical

shop; and, as he begins to thrive in business, ing through the wet at this miserable employment; but still withholds all relief; in tracts which composed his original stock in spite of the touching entreaties of her com

trade. This scandalises the brethren ; and passionate handmaid, whose nature is as kind John, having no principles or knowledge, falls and yielding as that of her mistress is hard out with the sect, and can never settle in the and inflexible. Of all the pictures of mendi- creed of any other; and so lives perplexed cant poverty that have ever been brought for- and discontented—and dies in agitation and ward in prose or verse-in charity sermons or seditious harangues—we know of none half so

“The Brothers" restores us again to human moving or complete--so powerful and so true sympathies. The characters, though humble, -as is contained in the following passages :

are admirably drawn, and the baser of them,

we fear, the most strikingly natural. An "A dreadful winter came; each day severe, Misty when mild, and icy-cold when clear;

open-hearted generous sailor had a poor, And still the humble dealer took his load,

sneaking, cunning, selfish brother, to whom he Returning slow, and shivering on the road : remitted all his prize-money, and gave all the The Lady, still relentless, saw him come, arrears of his pay-receiving, in return, veheAnd said, I wonder, has the Wretch a home!' ment professions of gratitude, and false pro• A hut! a hovel!' Then his fate appears To suit his crime.'-'Yes, Lady, not his years ;

testations of regard. At last, the sailor is disNo! nor his sufferings—nor that form decay'd.'

abled in action, and discharged ; just as his • The snow,' quoth Susan, falls upon his bed,

heartless brother has secured a small office It blows beside the thatch-it melts upon his by sycophancy, and made a prudent marriage head.'

with a congenial temper. He seeks the shelter ''Tis weakness, child, for grieving guilt to feel.' of his brother's house as freely as he would * Yes, but he never sees a wholesome meal;

have given it; and does not at first perceive Through his bare dress appears his shrivel'd skin, And ill he fares without, and worse within :

the coldness of his reception.—But mortificaWith that weak body, lame, diseas'd and slow,

tions grow upon him day by day. His grog What cold, pain, peril, must the suff'rer know !- is expensive, and his pipe makes the wife Oh! how those flakes of snow their entrance win sick; then his voice is so loud, and his manThrough the poor rags, and keep the frost within ! ners so rough, that her friends cannot visit her His very heart seems frozen as he goes, Leading that starv'd companion of his woes :

if he appears at table! So he is banished by He tried to pray-his lips, I saw them move,

degrees to a garret; where he falls sick, and And he soiurn'd his piieous looks above ;

has no consolation but in the kindness of one But the fierce wind the willing heart opposed, of his nephews, a little boy, who administers And, ere he spoke, the lips in mis’ry clos'd! to his comforts, and listens to his stories with When reach'd his home, to what a cheerless fire

a delighted attention. This too, however, is And chilling bed will those cold limbs retire ! Yet ragged. wretched as it is, that bed

at last interdicted by his hard-hearted parents; Takes half the space of his contracted shed;

and the boy is obliged to steal privately to I saw the thorns beside the narrow grate,

his disconsolate uncle. One day his father With straw collected in a putrid state:

catches him at his door; and, after beating There will he, kneeling, strive the fire to raise, him back, proceeds to deliver a severe rebuke And that will warm him rather than the blaze;

to his brother for encouraging the child in The sullen, smoky blaze, that cannot last One moment after his attempt is past :

disobedience-when he finds the unconscious And I so warmly and so purely laid,

culprit released by death from his despicable To sink to rest !-indeed, I am afraid !'"

insults and reproaches! The great art of the

pp. 320-322. story consists in the plausible excuses with The Lady at last is moved, by this pleading which the ungrateful brother always contrives pity, to send him a little relief; but has no to cover his wickedness. This cannot be ex. sooner dismissed her delighted' messenger, emplified in an extract; but we shall give a than she repents of her weakness, and begins few lines as a specimen. to harden her heart again by the recollection of his misconduct.

Cold as he grew, still Isaac strove to show,

By well-feign'd care, that cold he could not grow: " Thus fix'd, she heard not her Attendant glide And when he saw his Brother look distress'd, With soft slow step-till, standing by her side, He strove some petty comforts to suggest; The irembling Servant gasp'd for breath, and shed On his Wife solely their neglect to lay, Relieving lears, then utiered—' He is dead!' And then l'excuse it as a woman's way;

“Dead!' said the startled Lady. Yes, he fell He too was chidden when her rules he broke, Close the door where he was wont to dwell. And then she sicken'd at the scent of smoke! (find There his sole friend, the Ass, was standing by, George, though in doubt, was still consol'd iv Half dead liimself, to see his Master die.'” His Brother wishing to be reckon'd kind :

pp. 324, 325.

That Isaac seem'd concern'd by his distress.


Gave to his injur'd feelings some redress ; ical readers will all be disposed to ibank us. But none he found dispos'd to lend an ear

But considering Mr. Crabbe as, upon the To stories, all were once intent to hear !

whole, the most original writer who has ever Except his Nephew, seated on his knee, He found no creature car'd about the sea; [boy,

come before us; and being at the same time But George indeed—for George they'd called the of opinion, that his writings are destined to a When his good uncle was their boast and joy- still more extensive popularity than they have Would listen long, and would contend with sleep, yet obtained, we could not resist the temptaTo hear the woes and wonders of the deep;

tion of contributing our little aid to the fulfilTill the fond mother cried— That man will teach The foolish boy his loud and boisterous speech.'

ment of that destiny. It is chiefly for the So judg'd the Father-and the boy was taught

same reason that we have directed our reTo shun the Uncle, whom his love had sought." marks rather to the moral than the literary

pp. 368, 369.

qualities of his works;—to his genius at least, “Al length he sicken'd, and this dureous Child rather than his taste-and to his thoughts Watch'd o'er his sickness, and his pains beguil'd; rather than his figures of speech. By far the The Mother bade him from the loft refrain, But, though with caution, yet he went again;

most remarkable thing in his writings, is the And now his tales the sailor feebly told,

prodigious mass of original observations and His heart was heavy, and his limbs were cold! reflections they every where exhibit; and that The tender boy came often to entreat

extraordinary power of conceiving and repreHis good kind friend would of his presents eat : senting an imaginary object, whether physical Purloin'd or purchased, for he saw, with shame,

or intellectual, with such a rich and complete The food untouch'd that to his Uncle came; Who, sick in body and in mind, receiv'd

accompaniment of circumstances and details, The Boy's indulgence, gratified and griev'd! as few ordinary observers either perceive or

“Once in a week the Father came to say, remember in realities; a power which, though George, are you ill ?'—and hurried him away; often greatly misapplied, must for ever entiile Yet to his wife would on their duties dwell,

him to the very first rank among descriptive And often cry, Do use my brother well;' And something kind, no question, Isaac meant,

poets; and, when directed to worthy objects, And took vast credit for the vague intent.

to a rank inferior to none in the highest de. “But, truly kind, the gentle Boy essay'd partments of poetry. To cheer his Uncle, firm, although afraid ;

In such an author, the attributes of style But now the Father caught him at the door,

and versification may fairly be considered as And, swearing—yes, the Man in Office swore, And cried, ' Away How : Brother

, I'm surpris'd, nutely into them, they would afford room for

secondary ;—and yet, if we were to go miThat one so old can be so ill advis'd,'" &c.

pp. 370—371.

a still longer chapter than that which we are

now concluding He cannot be said to be After the catastrophe, he endures deserved uniformly, or even generally, an elegant writer. remorse and anguish.

His style is not dignified-and neither very “ He takes his Son, and bids the boy unfold

pure nor very easy. Its characters are force, All the good Uncle of his feelings told,

precision, and familiarity ;-now and then All he lamented and the ready tear

obsctre-sometimes vulgar, and sometimes Falls as he listens, sooth'd, and griev'd to hear. quaint. With a great deal of tenderness, and

“Did he not curse me, child ?' He never curs'd, occasional fits of the sublime of despair and But could not breathe, and said his heart would agony, there is a want of habitual fire, and of burst:'

(pray ; · And so will mine!' – Then, Father, you must his writings. He seems to recollect rather

a tone of enthusiasm in the general tenor of My Uncle said it took his pains away.'"-p. 374.

than invent; and frequently brings forward The last tale in the volume, entitled, "The his statements more in the temper of a cauLearned Boy," is not the most interesting in tious and conscientious witness, than of a ferthe collection ; though it is not in the least like vent orator or impassioned spectator. His what its title would lead us to expect. It is similes are almost all elaborate and ingenious, the history of a poor, weakly, paltry lad, who and rather seem to be furnished from the efis sent up from the country to be a clerk in forts of a fanciful mind, than to be exhaled town; and learns by slow degrees to affect by the spontaneous ferment of a heated imfreethinking, and to practise dissipation. Upon agination. His versification again is frequently the tidings of which happy conversion his harsh and heavy, and his diction flat and father, a worthy old farmer, orders him down prosaic ;-both seeming to be altogether neg. again to the country, where he harrows up lected in his zeal for the accuracy and comthe soul of his pious grandmother by his in- plete rendering of his conceptions. These fidel prating-and his father reforms him at defects too are infinitely greater in his recentonce by burning his idle books, and treating than in his early compositions. “The Vilhim with a vigorous course of horsewhipping. lage" is written, upon the whole, in a flowing There is some humour in this tale;--and a and sonorous strain of versification ; and “Sir great deal of nature and art, especially in the Eustace Grey," though a late publication, is delineation of this slender clerk's gradual in general remarkably rich and melodious. corruption and in the constant and constitu- It is chiefly in his narratives and curious detional predominance of weakness and folly, scriptions that these faults of diction and in all his vice and virtue—his piety and pro- measure are conspicuous. Where he is warmfaneness.

ed by his subject, and becomes fairly indigWe have thus gone through the better part nant or pathetic, his language is often very of this volume with a degree of minuteness sweet and beautiful. He has no fixed system for which we are not sure that even our poet- or manner of versification; but mixes several

very opposite styles, as it were by accident, i It is no great matter. If he will only write a and not in general very judiciously ;-what is few more Tales of the kind we have suggested peculiar to himself is not good, and strikes us at the beginning of this article, we shall enas being both abrupt and affected.

gage for it that he shall have our praises-and He may profit, if he pleases, by these hints those of more fastidious critics—whatever be -and, if he pleases, he may laugh at them. the qualities of his style or versification.

(Iuly, 1819.) Tales of the Hall. By the Reverend GEORGE CRABBE. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 670. London: 1819.

MR. CRABBE is the greatest mannerist, per-| but their combination—in such proportions at haps, of all our living poets; and it is rather least as occur in this instance—may safely be unfortunate that the most prominent features pronounced to be original. of his mannerism are not the most pleasing. Extraordinary, however, as this combination The homely, quaint, and prosaic style-the must appear, it does not seem very difficult tlat, and often broken and jingling versification to conceive in what way it may have arisen, ---the eternal full-lengths of low and worth- and, so far from regarding it as a proof of sınless characters—with their accustomed gar- gular humorousness, caprice, or affectation nishings of sly jokes and familiar moralising- in the individual, we are rather inclined to are all on the surface of his writings; and are hold that something approaching to it must be almost unavoidably the things by which we the natural result of a long habit of observaare first reminded of him, when we take up tion in a man of genius, possessed of that any of his new productions. Yet they are not temper and disposition which is the usual acthe things that truly constitute his peculiar companiment of such a habit; and that the manner; or give that character by which he same strangely compounded and apparently will, and ought to be, remembered with future incongruous assemblage of themes and sentigenerations. It is plain enough, indeed, that ments would be frequently produced under these are things that will make nobody re- such circumstances—if auihors had oftener membered—and can never, therefore, be re- the courage to write from their own impresally characteristic of some of the most original sions, and had less fear of the laugh or wonand powerful poetry that the world has ever der of the more shallow and barren part of been.

their readers. Mr. C., accordingly, has other gifts; and A great talent for observation, and a delight those not less peculiar or less strongly marked in the exercise of it—the power and the practice than the blemishes with which they are con- of dissecting and disentangling that subtle and trasted; an unrivalled and almost magical complicated tissue, of habit, and self-love, and power of observation, resulting in descriptions affection, which constitute human characterso true to nature as to strike us rather as seems to us, in all cases, to imply a contemtranscripts than imitations-an anatomy of plative, rather than an active disposition. It character and feeling not less exquisite and can only exist, indeed, where there is a good searching-an occasional touch of matchless deal of social sympathy; for, without this, the tenderness—and a deep and dreadful pathetic, occupation could excite no interest, and afford interspersed by fits, and strangely interwoven no satisfaction—but only such a measure and with the most minute and humble of his de- sort of sympathy as is gratified by being a tails. Add to all this the sure and profound spectator, and not an actor on the great theatre sagacity of the remarks with which he every of life—and leads its possessor rather to look now and then startles us in the midst of very with eagerness on the feats and the fortunes unambitious discussions ;-and the weight and of others, than to take a share for himself in terseness of the maxims which he drops, like the game that is played before him. Some oracular responses, on occasions that give no stirring and vigorous spirits there are, nc promise of such a revelation ;-and last, though doubt, in which this taste and talent is comnot least, that sweet and seldom sounded bined with a more thorough and effective chord of Lyrical inspiration, the lightest touch sympathy; and leads to the study of men's of which instantly charms away all harshness characters by an actual and hearty particifrom his numbers, and all lowness from his pation in their various passions and pursuits; themes and at once exalts him to a level —though it is to be remarked, that when such with the most energetic and inventive poets persons embody their observations in writing:

they will generally be found to exhibit their These, we think, are the true characteristics characters in action, rather than to describe of the genius of this great writer; and it is in them in the abstract'; and to let their various their mixture with the oddities and defects to personages disclose themselves and their pewhich we have already alluded, that the peculiarities, as it were spontaneously, and withculiarity of his manner seems to us substan- out help or preparation, in their ordinary tially to consist. The ingredients may all of conduct and speech-of all which we have a thern be found, we suppose, in other writers; I very splendid and striking example in the Tales of My Landlord, and the other pieces | originally mingled in his composition.-fet of that extraordinary writer. In the common satirists, we think, have not in general been case, however, a great observer, we believe, ill-natured persons and we are inclined ra. will be found, pretty certainly, to be a person ther to ascribe this limited and uncharitable of a shy and retiring temper—who does not application of their powers of observation to mingle enough with the people he surveys, to their love of fame and popularity,—which are be heated with their passions, or infected with well known to be best secured by successful their delusions—and who has usually been ridicule or invective-or, quite as probably; led, indeed, to take up the office of a looker indeed, to the narrowness and insufficiency on, from some little infirmity of nerves, or of the observations themselves, and the imweakness of spirits, which has unfitted him perfection of their talents for their due confrom playing a more active part on the busy duct and extension. It is certain, at least, we scene of existence.

of his age.

think, that the satirist makes use but of half Now, it is very obvious, we think, that this the discoveries of the observer; and teaches contemplative turn, and this alienation from but half-and the worser half of the lessons the vulgar pursuits of mankind, must in the which may be deduced from his occupation. first place, produce a great contempt for most He puts down, indeed, the proud pretensions of those pursuits, and the objects they seek of the great and arrogant, and levels the vain to obtain-a levelling of the factitious distinc- distinctions which human ambition has estions which human pride and vanity have established among the brethren of mankind;tablished in the world, and a mingled scorn he and compassion for the lofty pretensions under

"Bares the mean heart that lurks beneath a Siar." which men so often disguise the nothingness of their chosen occupations. When the many. --and destroys the illusions which would coloured scene of life, with all its petty agi- limit our sympathy to the forward and figurtations, its shifting pomps, and perishable ing persons of this world—the favourites of passions, is surveyed by one who does not fame and fortune. But the true result of obmix in its business, it is impossible that it servation should be, not so much to cast down should not appear a very pitiable and almost the proud, as to raise up the lowly ;-not so ridiculous affair; or that the heart should not much to diminish our sympathy with the echo back the brief and emphatic exclama- powerful and renowned, as to extend it to all, tion of the mighty dramatist

who, in humbler conditions, have the same, “ Life's a poor player,

or still higher claims on our esteem or affecWho frets and struts his hour upon the stage,

tion. It is not surely the natural consequence And then is heard no more !".

of learning to judge truly of the characters of Or the more sarcastic amplification of it, in about them all;—and, though we have learned

men, that we should despise or be indifferent the words of our great moral poet

to see through the false glare which plays “Behold the Child, by Nature's kindly law, round the envied summits of existence, and

Pleas'd with a ratile, rickld with a straw! to know how little dignity, or happiness, or
Some livelier plaything gives our Youth delight, worth, or wisdom, may sometimes belong to
A little louder, but as empty quite :
Scarfs, garters, gold our riper years engage ;

the possessors of power, and fortune, and And beads and prayer-books are the toys of Åge ! learning and renown,-it does not follow, by Pleas'd with this banble still as that before, any means, that we should look upon the Till tir'd we sleep and Life's poor play is o'er!" whole of human life as a mere deceit and

This is the more solemn view of the sub- imposture, or think the concerns of our species ject:—But the first fruits of observation are fit subjects only for scorn and derision. Our most commonly found to issue in Satire-the promptitude to admire and to envy will indeed unmasking the vain pretenders to wisdom, be corrected, our enthusiasm abated, and our and worth, and happiness, with whom society

distrust of appearances increased;—but the is infested, and holding up to the derision of sympathies and affections of our nature will mankind those meannesses of the great, those continue, and be better directed-our love of miseries of the fortunate, and those

our kind will not be diminished--and our in

dulgence for their faults and follies, if we read “Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise,"

our lesson aright, will be signally strengthenwhich the eye of a dispassionate observer so ed and confirmed. The true and proper effect, quickly detects under the glittering exterior therefore, of a habit of observation, and a by which they would fain be disguised-and thorough and penetrating knowledge of human which bring pretty much to a level the intel- character, will be, not to extinguish our sym. lect, and morals, and enjoyments, of the great pathy, but to extend it—10 turn, no doubt, mass of mankind.

many a throb of admiration, and many a sigh This misanthropic end has unquestionably of love into a smile of derision or of pity; been by far the most common result of a habit but at the same time to reveal much that of observation; and that in which its effects commands our homage and excites our aflechave most generally terminated : -- Yet we tion, in those humble and unexplored regions cannot bring ourselves to think that it is their of the heart and understanding, which never just or natural termination. Something, no engage the attention of the incurious, -and 10 doubt, will depend on the temper of the indi- bring the whole family of mankind nearer 10 vidual, and the proportions in which the gall a level, by finding out latent merits as well as and the milk of human kindness have been latent defects in all its members, and com

pensating the flaws that are detected in the terises sufficiently the satirical vein of our boasted ornaments of life, by bringing to light author: But the other is the most extensive the richness and the lustre that sleep in the and important. In rejecting the vulgar sources mines beneath its surface.

of interest in poetical narratives, and reducing We are afraid some of our readers may not his ideal persons to the standard of reality, at once perceive the application of these pro- Mr. C. does by no means seek to extinguish found remarks to the subject immediately be the sparks of human sympathy within us, or fore us.

But there are others, we doubt not, to throw any damp on the curiosity with which who do not need to be told that they are we naturally explore the characters of each intended to explain how Mr. Crabbe, and other other. On the contrary, he has afforded new persons with the same gist of observation, and more wholesome food for all those proshould so often busy themselves with what pensities—and, by placing before us those may be considered as low and vulgar charac- details which our pride or fastidiousness is so ters; and, declining all dealings with heroes apt to overlook, has disclosed, in all their and heroic topics, should not only venture to truth and simplicity, the native and unadulseek for an interest in the concerns of ordinary terated workings of those affections which are mortals, but actually intersperse small pieces at the bottom of all social interest, and are of ridicule with their undignified pathos, and really rendered less touching by the exaggeendeavour to make their readers look on their rations of more ambitious artists—while he books with the same mingled feelings of com- exhibits, with admirable force and endless passion and amusement, with which-unnat- variety, all those combinations of passions and ural as it may appear to the readers of poetry opinions, and all that cross-play of selfishness --they, and all judicious observers, actually and vanity, and indolence and ambition, and look upon human life and human nature. - habit and reason, which make up the intelThis, we are persuaded, is the true key to the lectual character of individuals, and present greater part of the peculiarities of the author to every one an instructive picture of his before us; and though we have disserted neighbour or himself. Seeing, by the perupon it a little longer than was necessary, we fection of his art, the master passions in their really think it may enable our readers to com- springs, and the high capacities in their rudiprehend him, and our remarks on him, some- ments—and having acquired the gift of tracing ihing better than they could have done with all the propensities and marking tendencies out it.

of our plastic nature, in their first slight indiThere is, as everybody must have felt, a cations, or even from the aspect of the disstrange mixture of satire and sympathy in guises they so often assume, he does not all his productions—a great kindliness and need, in order to draw out his characters in compassion for the errors and sufferings of all their life and distinctness, the vulgar deour poor human nature, but a strong distrust monstration of those striking and decided of its heroic virtues and high pretensions. actions by which their maturity is proclaimed His heart is always open to pity, and all the even to the careless and inattentive ;-but milder emotions--but there is little aspiration delights to point out to his readers, the seeds after the grand and sublime of character, nor or tender filaments of those talents and feelvery much encouragement for raptures and ings which wait only for occasion and opporecstasies of any description. These, he seems tunity to burst out and astonish the world, to think, are things rather too fine for the said and io accustom them to trace, in characters poor human nature: and that, in our low and and actions apparently of the most ordinary erring condition, it is a little ridiculous to pre- description, the self-same attributes that, untend, either to very exalted and immaculate der other circumstances, would attract univirtue, or very pure and exquisite happiness. versal attention, and furnish themes for the He not only never meddles, therefore, with most popular and impassioned descriptions. the delicate distresses and noble fires of the That he should noi be guided in the choice heroes and heroines of tragic and epic fable, of his subject by any regard to the rank or but may generally be detected indulging in a condition which his persons hold in society, lurking sneer at the pomp and vanity of all may easily be imagined ; and, with a view to such superfine imaginations - and turning the ends he aims at, might readily be forfrom them, to draw men in their true postures given. But we fear that his passion for oband dimensions, and with all the imperfec- servation, and the delight he takes in tracing tions that actually belong to their condition :- out and analyzing all the little traits that inthe prosperous and happy overshadowed with dicate character, and all the little circumpassing clouds of ennui, and disturbed with stances that influence it, have sometimes led little flaws of bad humour and discontent-him to be careless about his selection of the the great and wise beset at times with strange instances in which it was to be exhibited, or weaknesses and meannesses and paltry vexa- at least to select them upon principles very tions—and even the most virtuous and en-different from those which give them an inlightened falling far below the standard of terest in the eyes of ordinary readers. For poetical perfection—and stooping every now the purpose of mere anatomy, beauty of form and then to paltry jealousies and prejudices-- or complexion are things quite indifferent ; or sinking into shabby sensualities--or medi- and the physiologist, who examines plants tating on their own excellence and import- only to study their internal structure, and to unce, with a ludicrous and lamentable anxiety. make himself master of the contrivances by

This is one side of the picture; and charac- which their various functions are performed,

« PreviousContinue »