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Upon the whole, we look upon the life and I cess; and has only been found deficient in writings of Dr. Franklin as affording a striking those studies which the learneil have geneillustration of the incalculable value of a rally turned from in disdain. We would not be sound and well directed understanding; and understood 10 say any thing in disparagement of the comparative uselessness of learning of scholarship and science; but the value and laborious accomplishments. Without the of these instruments is apt to be over-rated slightest pretensions to the character of a by their possessors; and it is a wholesome scholar or a man of science, he has extended mortification, to show them that the work the bounds of human knowledge on a variety may be done without them. W
have long of subjects, which scholars and men of sci- known that their employment does not insure ence had previously investigated without suc- l its success.
(September, 1816.) The Works of JONATHAN Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. Containing Addi
tional Letters, Tracts, and Poems not hitherto published. With Notes, and a life of the Author, by WALTER Scott, Esq. 19 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh : 1815.
By far the most considerable change which that they are declined considerably from the has taken place in the world of letters, in our high meridian of their glory,' and may fairly days, is that by which the wits of Queen | be apprehended to be 'hastening to their setAnne's time have been gradually brought ting. Neither is it time alone that has down from the supremacy which they had wrought this obscuration ; for the fame of enjoyed, without competition, for the best part Shakespeare still shines in undecaying brightof a century. When we were at our studies, ness; and that of Bacon has been steadily some twenty-five years ago, we can perfectly advancing and gathering new honours during remember that every young man was set to the whole period which has witnessed the rise read Pope, Swift, and Addison, as regularly and decline of his less vigorous successors. as Virgil
, Cicero, and Horace. All who had There are but two possible solutions for any tincture of letters were familiar with their phenomena of this sort. Our taste has either writings and their history; allusions to them degenerated—or its old models have been abounded in all popular discourses and all fairly surpassed; and we have ceased to adambitious conversation; and they and their mire the writers of the last century, only becontemporaries were universally acknow- cause they are too good for us-or because ledged as our great models of excellence, and they are not good enough. Now, we confess placed without challenge at the head of our we are no believers in the absolute and pernational literature. New books, even when manent corruption of national taste; on the allowed to have merit, were never thought contrary, we think that it is, of all faculties, of as fit to be placed in the same class, but that which is most sure to advance and imwere generally read and forgotten, and passed prove with time and experience; and that, away like the transitory meteors of a lower with the exception of those great physical or sky; while they remained in their brightness, political disasters which have given a check and were supposed to shine with a fixed and to civilization itself, there has always been a unalterable glory.
sensible progress in this particular; and ibat All this, however, we take it, is now pretty the general taste of every successive generawell altered; and in so far as persons of our tion is better than that of its predecessors. antiquity can judge of the training and habits There are little capricious fluctuations, no of the rising generation, those celebrated doubt, and fits of foolish admiration or fástiwriters no longer form the manual of our stu- diousness, which cannot be so easily accountdious youth, or enter necessarily into the in- ed for: but the great movements are all prostitution of a liberal education. Their names, gressive: and though the progress consists at indeed, are still familiar to our ears; but their one time in withholding toleration from gross writings no longer solicit our habitual notice, faults, and at another in giving their high and their subjects begin already to fade from prerogative to great beauties, this alternation our recollection. Their high privilieges and has no tendency to obstruct the general adproud distinctions, at any rate, have evidently vance; but, on the contrary, is the best and passed into other hands. It is no longer to the safest course in which it can be conihem that the ambitious look up with envy, ducted. or the humble with admiration; nor is it in We are of opinion, then, that the writers their pages that the pretenders to wit and who adorned the beginning of the last ceneloquence now search for allusions that are tury have been eclipsed by those of our own sure to captivate, and illustrations that cannot time; and that they have no chance of ever be mistaken. In this decay of their reputa- regaining the supremacy in which they have tion they have few advocates, and no imita- thus been supplanted. There is not, however, tors : and from a comparison of many obser- in our judgment, any thing very stupendous vations, it seems to be clearly ascertained, I in this triumph of our contemporaries; and the greater wonder with us, is, that it was so beth, it received a copious infusion of classical Inng delayed, and left for them to achieve. images and ideas: but it was still intrinsically For the truth is, that the writers of the former romantic-serious and even somewhat lofty nge had not a great deal more than their judg- and enthusiastic. Authors were then so few ment and industry to stand on; and were in number, that they were looked upon with always much more remarkable for the few- a sort of veneration, and considered as a kind ness of their faults than the greatness of their of inspired persons; at least they were not beauties. Their laurels were won much more yet so numerous, as to be obliged to abuse by good conduct and discipline, than by en- each other, in order to obtain a share of disterprising boldness or native force ;-nor can tinction for themselves;—and they neither it be regarded as any very great merit in those affected a tone of derision in their writings, who had so little of the inspiration of genius, nor wrote in fear of derision from others. to have steered clear of the dangers to which They were filled with their subjects, and dealt chat inspiration is liable. Speaking generally with them fearlessly in their own way; and of that generation of authors, it may be said the stamp of originality, force, and freedom, that, as poets, they had no force or greatness is consequently upon almost all their producof fancy-no pathos, and no enthusiasm;- tions. In the reign of James I., our literature, and, as philosophers, no comprehensiveness, with some few exceptions, touching rather depth, or originality. They are sagacious, no the form than the substance of its merits, apdoubt, neat, clear, and reasonable; but for pears to us to have reached the greatest perthe most part cold, timid, and superficial. fection to which it has yet attained; though They never meddle with the great scenes of it would probably have advanced still farther nature, or the great passions of man; but in the succeeding reign, had not the great nacontent themselves with just and sarcastic tional dissensions which then arose, turned representations of city life, and of the paltry the talent and energy of the people into other passions and meaner vices that are bred in channels—first, to the assertion of their civil that lower element. Their chief care is to rights, and afterwards to the discussion of avoid being ridiculous in the eyes of the their religious interests. The graces of literawitty, and above all to eschew the ridicule ture suffered of course in those fierce contenof excessive sensibility or enthusiasm-to be tions; and a deeper shade of austerity was at once witty and rational themselves, with thrown upon the intellectual character of the as good a grace as possible; but to give their nation. Her genius, however, though less capcountenance to no wisdom, no fancy, and no tivating and adorned than in the happier days morality, which passes the standards current which preceded, was still active, fruitful, and in good company. Their inspiration, accordo commanding; and the period of the civil wars, ingly, is little more than a sprightly sort of besides the mighty minds that guided the good sense; and they have scarcely any in- public councils, and were absorbed in public vention but what is subservient to the pur- cares, produced the giant powers of Taylor, poses of derision and satire. Little gleams and Hobbes, and Barrow-ihe muse of Milof pleasantry, and sparkles of wit, glitter ton—the learning of Coke-and the ingenuity through their compositions; but no glow of of Cowley. feeling-no blaze of imagination—no flashes The Restoration introduced a French court un genius, ever irradiate their substance. They --under circumstances more favourable for never pass beyond the visible diurnal the effectual exercise of court influence than sphere," or leal in any thing that can either ever before existed in England: but this of lift us above our vulgar nature, or ennoble its itself would not have been sufficient to acreality. With these accomplishments, they count for the sudden change in our literature may pass well enough for sensible and polite which ensued. It was seconded by causes writers,—but scarcely for men of genius; and of far more general operation. The Restorait is certainly far more surprising, that per- tion was undoubtedly a popular act;-and, sons of this description should have maintain- indefersible as the conduct of the army and el themselves, for near a century, at the head the civil leaders was on that occasion, there of the literature of a country that had pre- can be no question that the severities of Cromviously produced a Shakespeare, a Spenser, a well, and the extravagancies of the sectaries, Bacon, and a Taylor, than that, towards the had made republican professions hateful, and end of that long period, doubts should have religious ardour ridiculous, in the eyes of a arisen as to the legitimacy of the title by great proportion of the people. All the emiwhich they laid claim to that high station. nent writers of the preceding period, however, Both parts of the phenomenon, however, we had inclined to the party that was now overdare say, had causes which better expounders thrown; and their writings had not merely might explain to the satisfaction of all the been accommodated to the character of the world. We see them but imperfectly, and government under which they were produced, have room only for an imperfect sketch of but were deeply imbued with its obnoxious what we see.
principles, which were those of their respectOur first literature consisted of saintly le- ive authors. When the restraints of authority gends, and romances of chivalry,—though were taken off, therefore, and it became proChaucer gave it a more national and popular fitable, as well as popular, to discredit the character, by his original descriptions of ex- fallen party, it was natural that the leading ternal nature, and the familiarity and gaiety authors should affect a style of levity and of his social humour. In the time of Eliza- | derision, as most opposite to that of their opponents, and best calculated for the purposes and to this praise they are justly entitled. they had in view. The nation, too, was now This was left for them to do, and they did it for the first time essentially divided in point well. They were invited to it by the circumof character and principle, and a much greater stances of their situation, and do not seem to proportion were capable both of writing in have been possessed of any such bold or vigorsupport of their own notions, and of being in- ous spirit, as either to neglect or to outgo the tiuenced by what was written. Add to all invitation. Coming into life immediately after this, that there were real and serious defects the consummation of a bloodless revolution, in the style and manner of the former gener- effected much more by the cool sense, than ation; and that the grace, and brevity, and the angry passions of ihe nation, they seem vivacity of that gayer manner which was now to have felt that they were born in an age of introduced from France, were not only good reason, rather than of feeling or fancy; and and captivating in themselves, but had then that men's minds, though considerably diall the charms of novelty and of contrast; vided and unsettled upon many points, were and it will not be difficult to understand how in a much better temper to relish judicious it came to supplant that which had been es- argument and cutting satire, than the glow tablished of old in the country,—and that so of enthusiastic passion, or the richness of a suddenly, that the same generation, among luxuriant imagination. To those accordingly whom Milton had been formed to the severe they made no pretensions; but, writing with sanctity of wisdom and the noble independ- infinite good sense, and great grace and vience of genius, lavished its loudest applauses vacity, and, above all, writing for the first on the obscenity and servility of such writers time in a tone that was peculiar to the upper as Rochester and Wycherly.
ranks of society, and upon subjects that were This change, however, like all sudden almost exclusively interesting to them, they changes, was too fierce and violent to be long naturally figured, at least while the manner maintained at the same pitch; and when the was new, as the most accomplished, fashionawits and profligates of King Charles had suf- ble, and perfect writers which the world had ficiently insulted the seriousness and virtue ever seen; and made the wild, luxuriant, and of their predecessors, there would probably humble sweetness of our earlier authors aphave been a revulsion towards the accustomed pear rude and untutored in the comparison. taste of the nation, had not the party of the Men grew ashamed of admiring, and afraid of innovators been reinforced by champions of imitating writers of so little skill and smartmore temperance and judgment. The result ness; and the opinion became general, not seemed at one time suspended on the will only that their faults were intolerable, but of Dryden-in whose individual person the that even their beauties were puerile and bargenius of the English and of the French school barous, and unworthy the serious regard of a of literature may be said to have maintained polite and distinguishing age. a protracted struggle. But the evil principle These, and similar considerations, will go prevailed! Carried by the original bent of far to account for the celebrity which those his genius, and his familiarity with our older authors acquired in their day; but it is not models, to the cultivation of our native style, quite so easy to explain how they should to which he might have imparted more steadi- have so long retained their ascendant. One ness and correctness—for in force and in cause undoubtedly was, the real excellence sweetness it was already matchless—he was of their productions, in the style which they unluckily seduced by the attractions of fash- had adopted. It was hopeless to think of ion, and the dazzling of the dear wit and gay surpassing them in that style; and, recomrhetoric in which it delighted, to lend his mended as it was, by the felicity of their exepowerful aid to the new corruptions and re- cution, it required some courage to depart finements; and in fact, to prostitute his great from it, and to recur to another, which seemed gifts to the purposes of party rage or licentious to have been so lately abandoned for its sake. ribaldry.
The age which succeeded. too, was not the The sobriety of the succeeding reigns al. age of courage or adventure. There never layed this fever of profanity; but no genius was, on the whole, a quieter time than the arose sufficiently powerful to break the spell reigns of the two first Georges, and the greatthat still withheld us from the use of our own er part of that which ensued. There were peculiar gifts and faculties. On the contrary, two little provincial rebellions indeed, and a it was the unfortunate ambition of the next fair proportion of foreign war; but there was generation of authors, to improve and perfect nothing to stir the minds of the people at the new style, rather than to return to the old large, to rouse their passions, or excite their one;-and it cannot be denied that they did imaginations-nothing like the agitations of improve it. They corrected its gross indecen- the Reformation in the sixteenth century, or cy—increased its precision and correctness of the civil wars in the seventeenth. They --made its pleasantry and sarcasm more pol- went on, accordingly, minding their old busiished and elegant--and spread through the ness, and reading their old books, with great whole of its irony, its narration, and its re- patience and stupidity: And certainly there flection, a tone of clear and condensed good never was so remarkable a dearth of original sense, which recommended itself to all who talent—so long an interregnum of native gehad, and all who had not any relish for higher nius-as during about sixty years in the beauties.
middle of the last century. The dramatic This is the praise of Queen Anne's wits- | art was dead fifty years before-and poetry seemed verging to a similar extinction. The which it gave occasion—the genius of Ed. few sparks that appeared, too, showed that mund Burke, and some others of his land of the old fire was burnt out, and that the altar genius—the impression of the new literature must hereafter be heaped with fuel of another of Germany, evidently the original of our quality: Gray, with the talents, rather of a lake-school of poetry, and many innovations critic than a poet—with learning, fastidious- in our drama-ihe rise or revival of a more ness, and scrupulous delicacy of taste, instead evangelical spirit, in the body of the people of fire, tenderness, or invention-began and --and the vast extension of our political and ended a small school, which we could scarce-commercial relations, which have not only ly have wished to become permanent, admir- familiarized all ranks of people with distant able in many respects as some of its produc- countries, and great undertakings, but have tions are—being far too elaborate and artifi- brought knowledge and enterprise home, not cial, either for grace or for fluency, and fitter merely to the imagination, but to the actual to excite the admiration of scholars, than the experience of almost every individual.--All delight of ordinary men. However, he had these, and several other circumstances, have the merit of not being in any degree French, so far improved or excited the character of and of restoring to our poeiry the dignity of our nation, as to have created an effectual seriousness, and the tone at least of force and demand for more profound speculation, and energy. The Whartons, both as critics and more serious emotion than was dealt in by as poets, were of considerable service in dis- the writers of the former century, and which, crediting the high pretensions of the former if it has not yet produced a corresponding race, and in bringing back to public notice supply in all branches, has at least had the the great stores and treasures of poetry which effect of decrying the commodities that were lay hid in the records of our older literature. previously in vogue, as unsuited to the altered Akenside attempted a sort of classical and condition of the times. philosophical rapture, which no elegance of Of those ingenious writers, whose characlanguage could easily have rendered popular, teristic certainly was not vigour, any more but which had merits of no vulgar order for than tenderness or fancy, Swift was indisthose who could study it. Goldsmith wrote putably the most vigorous--and perhaps the with perfect elegance and beauty, in a style least tender or fanciful. The greater part of of mellow tenderness and elaborate simplici- his works being occupied with politics and ty. He had the harmony of Pope without his personalities that have long since lost all inquaintness, and his selectness of diction with- terest, can now attract but little attention, out his coldness and eternal vivacity. And, except as memorials of the manner in which last of all, came Cowper, with a style of com- politics and personalities were then conductplete originality;-and, for the first time, made ed. In other parts, however, there is a vein it apparent to readers of all descriptions, that of peculiar humour and strong satire, which Pope and Addison were no longer to be the will always be agreeable—and a sort of models of English poetry.
heartiness of abuse and contempt of mankind, In philosophy and prose writing in general, which produces a greater sympathy and anithe case was nearly parallel. The name of mation in the reader than the more elaborate Hume is by far the most considerable which sarcasms that have since come into fashion. occurs in the period to which we have al- Altogether his merits appear to be more unique luded. But, though his thinking was English, and inimitable than those of any of his conhis style is entirely French; and being natu- temporaries; and as his works are connected rally of a cold fancy, there is nothing of that in many parts with historical events which it eloquence or richness about him, which char- must always be of importance to understand, acterizes the writings of Taylor, and Hooker, we conceive that there are none, of which a and Bacon—and continues, with less weight new and careful edition is so likely to be acof matter, to please in those of Cowley and ceptable to the public, or so worthy to engage Clarendon. Warburton had great powers; the attention of a person qualified for the and wrote with more force and freedom than undertaking. In this respect, the projectors the wits to whom he succeeded—but his of the present publication must be considered faculties were perverted by a paltry love of as eminently fortunate—the celebrated perparadox, and rendered useless to mankind by son who has here condescended to the funcan unlucky choice of subjects, and the arro- tions of an editor, being almost as much gance and dogmatism of his temper. Adam distinguished for the skill and learning re. Smith was nearly the first who made deeper quired for that humbler office, as for the reasonings and more exact knowledge popu- creative genius which has given such unexlar among us; and Junius and Johnson the ampled popularity to his original compositions first who again familiarized us with more -and uniting to the minute knowledge and glowing and sonorous diction—and made us patient research of the Malones and Chalfeel the tameness and poorness of the serious merses, a vigour of judgment and a vivacity style of Addison and Swift.
of style to which they had no pretensions. This brings us down almost to the present In the exercise of these comparatively humble times-in which the revolution in our litera- functions, he has acquitted himself, we think, ture has been accelerated and confirmed by on the present occasion, with great judgment the concurrence of many causes. The agita- and ability. The edition, upon the whole, is tions of the French revolution, and the discus- | much better than that of Dryden. It is less sions as well as the hopes and terrors to loaded with long notes and illustrative quotations; while it furnishes all the information ' fax; and, under that ministry, the members that can reasonably be desired, in a simple of which he courted in private and defended and compendious form. It contains upwards in public, he received church preferment to of a hundred letters, and other original pieces the value of near 4001. a year (equal at least of Swift's never before published-and, among to 12001. at present), with the promise of still the rest, all that has been preserved of his farther favours. He was dissatistied, howcorrespondence with the celebrated Vanessa. ever, because his livings were not in England; Explanatory notes and remarks are supplied and having been sent over on the affairs of with great diligence to all the passages over the Irish clergy in 1710, when he found the which time may have thrown any obscurity; Whig ministry in a tottering condition, he and the critical observations that are prefixed temporized for a few months, till he saw that to the more considerable productions, are, their downfal was inevitable; and then, withwith a reasonable allowance for an editor's out even the pretext of any public motive, partiality to his author, very candid and in- but on the avowed ground of not having been genious.
sufficiently rewarded for his former services, The Life is not every where extremely well he went over in the most violent and decided written, in a literary point of view; but is manner to the prevailing party; for whose drawn up, in substance, with great intelli- gratification he abused his former friends and gence, liberality, and good feeling. It is quite benefactors, with a degree of virulence and fair and moderate in politics; and perhaps rancour, to which it would not be too much rather too indulgent and tender towards indi- to apply the term of brutality; and, in the viduals of all descriptions-more full, at least, end, when the approaching death of the of kindness and veneration for genius and Queen, and their internal dissensions made social virtue, than of indignation at baseness his services of more importance to his new and profligacy. Altogether, it is not much friends, openly threatened to desert them also, like the production of a mere man of letters, and retire altogether from the scene, unless or a fastidious speculator in sentiment and they made a suitable provision for him; and morality; but exhibits throughout, and in a having, in this way, extorted the deanery of very pleasing form, the good sense and large St. Patrick's, which he always complained toleration of a man of the world—with much of as quite inadequate to his merits, he counof that generous allowance for the
selled measures that must have involved the “ Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise,”
country in a civil war, for the mere chance
of keeping his party in power; and, finally; which genius too often requires, and should on the Queen's death, retired in a state of therefore always be most forward to show. despicable despondency and bitterness to his It is impossible, however, to avoid noticing, living, where he continued, to the end of his that Mr. Scott is by far too favourable to the life, to libel liberty and mankind with unrepersonal character of his author; whom we lenting and pitiable rancour—to correspond think, it would really be injurious to the cause with convicted traitors to the constitution they of morality to allow to pass, either as a very had sworn to maintain--and to lament as the dignified or a very amiable person. The truth worst of calamities, the dissolution of a minisis, we think, that he was extremely ambi- try which had no'merit but that of having tious, arrogant, and selfish; of a morose, vin- promised him advancement, and of which dictive, and haughty temper; and, though several of the leading members immediately capable of a sort of patronizing generosity indemnified themselves by taking office in towards his dependants, and of some attach- the court of the Pretender. ment towards those who had long knownı and As this part of his conduct is passed over a flattered him, his general demeanour, both in great deal too slightly by his biographer; and public and private life, appears to have been as nothing can be more pernicious than the far from exemplary. Destitute of temper and notion, that the political sins of eminent permagnanimity-and, we will add, of principle, sons should be forgotten in the estimate of in the former; and, in the latter, of tender their merits, we must beg leave to verify the ness, fidelity, or compassion.
comprehensive sketch we have now given, by The transformation of a young Whig into a few references to the documents that are to an old Tory—the gradual falling off of pru- be found in the volumes before us. Of his dent men from unprofitable virtues, is, per- original Whig professions, no proof will prohaps, too common an occurrence, to deserve bably be required; the fact being notorious, much notice, or justify much reprobation. and admitted by all his biographers. Abundant But Swift's desertion of his first principles evidence, however, is furnished by his first was neither gradual nor early—and was ac- successsul pamphlet in defence of Lord So. complished under such circumstancesas really mers, and the other Whig lords impeached in require to be exposed a little, and cannot well 1701 ;—by his own express declaration in be passed over in a fair account of his life another work (vol. iii. p. 240), that " having and character. He was bred a Whig under been long conversant with the Greek and Sir William Temple-he took the title pub- Latin authors, and therefore a lover of liberty, licly in various productions; and, during all he was naturally inclined to be what they call the reign of King William, was a strenuous, a Wlig in politics ;“—by the copy of verses and indeed an intolerant advocate of Revolu- in which he deliberately designates himself tion principles and Whig pretensions. His "a Whig, and one who wears a gown;" —by first patrons were Somers, Hortland, and Hali- his exulting statement to Tisdal, whom he