[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

From the Edinburgh Review. LANDOR'S COLLECTED WRITINGS,

The Collected Writings of Walten SavAge LANDoR. With many additions. Two volumes, large 8vo. London: 1846.

There is perhaps no writer of the present age, taken in the whole, more likely to survive and make acquaintance with another, than Mr. Landor. This is often the reward of those writings which, on their first appearance, have neither been much depreciated nor much extolled; for the right balance is as apt to be lost by a sudden jerk upward, as by a stone thrown in. Mr. Landor has avoided both extremes. Wisdom may have feared him as something dangerous; but Folly has avoided him as something incomprehensible. He has been left to take his solitary way; and has omitted no privilege of singularity that belonged to it. With one hand resting near the heart of Southey, he has clenched and thrust the other into the face of every god of Southey's idolatry. A writer of the extremest liberal opinions, he has desired not to be confounded “with the Coxes and Foxes of the age.' A declared Republican,

Wol. VIII. No. II. 46

though the representative of an ancient family, he has rebuked ‘the drunken democracy of Mr. William Pitt.' But of this wayward spirit, we are bound to add, there has been much less of late than of old. The violent and capricious will has not so often run before, and committed, the masculine intellect. The phrases just now quoted, are not even preserved in this edition. And other evidence is here, of abated bitterness, of enlarged and manly tenderness, and of wisdom as generous and cordial as it is lofty and pure. In these volumes are collected, for the first time, the entire works of this remarkable writer. Here are his poems, both English and Latin, with many large and striking additions, (we may instance the series of Hellenics;) his Tragedies, his Dramatic Fragments, and a new five-act Play on the Siege of Ancona, (all which he modestly classes under the general title of Acts and Scenes, describing them as Imaginary Conversations in Metre;) and his Ezamination of Shakespeare; his Pentameron; and his Pericles and Aspasia;—bearing, every one of them, the marks of thorough revision, and enriched, especially the Pericles, with innumerable new passages quite worthy of the old. Of these last-named books it is not our present intention to speak; but we cannot pass them in even this recital, without remarking that in them, more perhaps, than in any other of his writings, (and eminently in the exquisite Pentameron, where Petrarch and Boccaccio converse; and in the Shakespeare Examination, where the great poet speaks as the author of Hamlet and Othello might have spoken;) Mr. Landor's genius has thoroughly subjected itself to those of his characters. Every word they utter in these books, issues out a sense of the beauty and wisdom with which they had affected the writer's soul; nor do we feel surer of the destiny of any existing works with future generations. What remains to be named of the Collection, are those famous Dialogues with which Mr. Landor's name is most extensively associated. It is twenty-two years since the Imaginary Conversations were noticed in this Journal. They consisted then of thirty-six Dialogues, and were comprised in two volumes. In the course of the five following years, the volumes increased to five, and the Dialogues to eighty-two. In number, without uaming their enlargement and increase in other respects, the latter now amount to a hundred and twenty-five, and occupy nearly a volume and a half of this general edition; which, we may remark, is beautifully, clearly, and not too minutely printed, in the form of double columns. Certainly no other book of Conversations, with which we are acquainted, can be said in all respects to compare with them. We do not speak merely of the ‘Dialogues' between Theron and Aspasia, Hylos and Philomous, and other ideal personages;–in which writers, great and small, the Berkeleys and the Harveys, have recommended their respective systems of Metaphysics or Divinity ;-but of Dialogues attributed to real people, such as those by Langhorne, Lyttelton, and Hurd. Of these, Langhorne's little book, in which Charles the Second and his Wits are speakers, is perhaps the liveliest and most in character. Lyttelton is also amusing, and not uncharacteristic. Hurd, though occasionally warmed by recollections of poetry and romance, is on the whole politely cold. If we went abroad to pursue the comparison, we should say, passing Fénélon, Paschal, and Fontenelle, that perhaps the best Dialogues for character, written up to the time of Mr. Landor, since the time of their great European inventor, Plato, (for the Indians were before the


Greek in the form, as well as in much of the matter of his reasoning,) are those in the celebrated Cortegiano of Raffaelle's friend, Castiglione; in which Bembo and others are the speakers. There is a good old English translation, with the title of the Court-Gentleman. When this Journal formerly spoke of the Imaginary Conversations, it was pointed out how exquisite the discrimination of character was in many cases, and how strange and wilful the indifference to it in others: How impersect the dramatic appreciation of the intellect of the speakers, and of the literary tone of the age, for example, in such Dialogues as those of Hume and Home;—how perfect in such as Elizabeth and Burleigh, Ascham and Jane Grey, Henry and Anne Boleyn, Burnet and Hardcastle; and in all those of the Men and Women of Antiquity. We might again take up and pursue this contrast. We might show how subtle and exact the art which sets before us the colloquy of Marvel and Parker, of the Emperor of China and his Minister, of Rochefoucault and La Fontaine, of Melancthon and Calvin, of Steele and Addison, of Lucian and Timetheus ; and of other and grander Voices from the graves of Greece and Rome— while we condemned, for mere wilful singularity and want of keeping, the hearty, instead of dry tone of his Washington; the odd retinence of his Abbé Delille, who, being the most talkative Frenchman on record, lets the Englishman have almost all the talk to himself; the mere self-ventriloquizing of his Franklins, Southeys, Romillys, Sheridans, Talleyrands, and even his Galileos and Miltons;—his well-educated language, where no such advantage could possibly have been heard of; and his high reasoning powers, where nothing of the kind existed. In one of the many additions to the old Dialogues which we observe in this Collection, there is indeed an answer attempted on the latter point. Mr. Landor intimates that no one would care for his statesmen and kingly interlocutors of the inferior class, if he were to show them as they show themselves, encrusted with all the dirtiness they contract in public life, in the debility of ignorance, in the distortion of prejudice, or in the trickery of partisanship. He reasons that, principles and ideas being his objects, they must not only be reflected from high and low, but must also be exhibited where peo

ple can see them best, and are most in

clined to look at them; and he implies that wonted fires, and again shoot up into if this is a blemish in his book, it is one warmth and brightness. “Large utteranhis book would be worse without. ces,’ musical and varied voices, ‘thoughts

We doubt this. We have great faith that breathe' for the world's advancement, for what is exact and true in every thing, ‘words that burn' against the world's opand would for the most part leave it to tell pression, sound on throughout these lofty for what it simply is. And we suspect the and earnest pages. We are in the high secret of these perverse departures from and goodly company of Wits and Men of obvious character, to lie no deeper than Letters; of Churchmen, Lawyers, and Mr. Landor's substitution of his own caprice Statesmen; of Party men, Soldiers, and and pleasure for all other considerations. Kings; of the most tender, delicate, and It is very clear to us in such cases, that it noble Women; and of Figures that seem is Mr. Landor himself who is too plainly this instant to have left for us the Agora or visible throughout, whomsoever he makes the Schools of Athens,—the Forum or the the organ of his opinions; and with all our Senate of Rome. At one moment we hearty admiration of him, we must own have politicians discussing the deepest questhat in the special instances adverted to, tions of state; at another, philosophers still we are obstructed and thrown back by an more largely philosophizing;-poets talkamount of this personal wilfulness, far from ing of poetry, men of the world of worldly becoming such an arbiter and universalist matters, Italian and French of their reas we otherwise gladly recognize in him. spective Literatures and Manners. WhethHis opinions are then greatly too much at er such a book obtains its meed now or the command of his predilections;–some- hereafter, will be the least part of the writer's times of his momentary humors. He has ca-) concern: whether it is to be read in the pricious enmities, and unreasonable likings. present age or the next, may occupy his You see assent and dissent occasioned by thought no more than whether in the mornmere regard for one speaker and dislike ing or the asternoon of the present day. for another. He runs into violent hyper- When the young gentleman who fancied

boles both of praise and blame; is a great deal too fond, for a demonstrative critic, of sweeping preserences of this and that, to “all” that “ever’ was written in ‘any’ age or country; is apt to have more images than arguments, owing to the saine exuberance of fancy; sometimes allows his robust

his acquaintance and patronage would be a
comfort to Doctor Johnson, grieved very
much to think that the introduction must
lie over for a little while, the Doctor re-
marked, in his heavy solid way, ‘Why, sir,
I can wait !” So can Mr. Landor.
‘Are you certain that in their inferences

animal spirits to swell to insolence, or to they are all quite sound !"—is one of the degenerate into coarseness; is often too new questions, in one of the old Dialogues. prolix in his jokes and stories; and (to get ‘Indeed,” is Mr. Landor's candid and suf.

rid as fast as we can of these objections on
limited points) is too much tempted, by
the nicety and exactness of his scholarship,
to substitute verbal criticism for spiritual;
and to tire his readers with accumulated
objections to people whom the world have
long ceased to make gods of
But, these drawbacks stated, how little
in reality they affect the great bulk of
these Conversations. What a weighty book
they make How rich in scholarship;
how correct, concise, and pure in style;
how full of imagination, wit, and humor;
how well informed, how bold in speculation,
how various in interest, how universal in
sympathy' In these hundred and twenty-
five Dialogues, making allowance for every
shortcoming or excess, the most familiar
and the most august shapes of the Past are
reanimated with vigor, grace, and beauty.

Its long dead ashes rekindle suddenly their

ficient answer, “I do not know perfectly that they are; but they will give such exercise in discussing them, as always tends to make other men's healthier.' Nothing can more truly indicate what is probably, after all, their greatest charm. Mr. Landor's genius has a wonderfully suggestive quality. Even where he most offends against taste or judgment, he rarely fails to stimulate thought and reflection. Paradoxes, in him simply wilful and preposterous, will often be sound to contain very profound truths for us. We may assent or we may oppose, but we must think when in company with him; and we shall always find ourselves the wealthier for what thought germinates within us. How much the more when, in his higher and nobler compositions, we see Suggestion drop its richest fruit in perfected and consummate Truths; and when every thought and feeling are

such, as he who writes must have been the better for having entertained and uttered, and we who read are certainly the better and the happier for being permitted to partake. There are differences in the Dialogues as striking as between the summer air on a mountain top and the crowded atmosphere of a busy city. But the reader will make his choice according to his temper; for in both, as Jacques hath it, there is “much matter to be heard and learn'd.’ Nor need he fear that his temper will be ruffled, here, by the eccentric spelling which prevailed in former editions of the Imaginary Conversations. In the book before us, to reverse a reproach we have heard levelled against his orthographic infidelities, Mr. Landor spells like a Christian. It would be difficult to guess why, unless some friend has been at the pains to assure him that a popular appreciation of his writings had been somewhat intercepted, by a prevalent notion that he had not been taught spelling. A conversion it certainly is not. It is a mere tribute to fashion, a kind of sacrifice to ignorance; for we observe evidence in the additions to the old dialogue of Johnson and Horne Tooke, of even the strengthening and deepening of his orthographic heresy; and, beside these multitudinous additions, there is an entirely new Dialogue on the same subject, between the same speakers. We will quote the concluding sentences of it. It seems to us, that, under Johnson's self-defence against his critic, the writer conceals a personal reference sufficiently free from intemperance or vanity, to be read with pleasure. There is that in it which would go far to reconcile many otherwise jarring opinions in these volumes, and justify the half-aristocratic, half-republican cast of Mr. Landor's creed. He is, after all, ‘more an antique Roman than a Dane;’ and his democracy is rather classical than of northern growth. Horne Tooke warns the Doctor against his prejudices, and receives this answer—

‘Prejudices I may have; for what man is without them 7 but mine, sir, are not such as tend to the relaxation of morals, the throwing down of distinctions, the withholding of tribute to whom tribute is due, honor to whom honor. You and your tribe are no more favorable to liberty than 1 am. The chief difference is, and the difference is wide indeed, that I would give the larger part of it to the most worthy, you to the most unworthy. I would exact a becoming deference from inferiors to superiors; and I would not remove my neighbor's landmark, swearing in open court that there never

was any but an imaginary line between the two parties. Depend upon it, if the time should come when you gentlemen of the hustings have persuaded the populace that they may hoot down and trample on men of integrity and information, you yourself will lead an uncomfortable life, and they a restless and profitless one. No man is happier than he who, being in a humble station, is treated with affability and kindness by one in a higher. Do you believe that any opposition, any success, against this higher, can afford the same pleasure ? If you do, little have you lived among the people whose cause you patronize, little know you of their character and nature. We are happy by the interchange of kind offices, and even by the expression of good-will. Heat and animosity, contest and conflict, may sharpen the wits, although they rarely do; they never strengthen the understanding, clear the perspicacily, guide the Judgment, or improve the heart.

It would be too curious a labor to indicate all the additions and interpolations to the old Dialogues that have been made in this collection. In amount, we imagine, they would form little less than a sixth or seventh of the original; yet so skilfully are they interwoven, that to track and follow them is difficult. We find them in no case, for instance, interfere with that remarkable tact in the conduct of the Dialogues by which a singular variety of topics is akways sustained in each, without undue or violent transition; or any thing more of abruptness than should characterize the freedom and strength of conversation, and convey that mingled tone of study and society, which David Hume lays down to be the master-art of this style of composition. But though we cannot describe the whole of Mr. Landor's labors in this respect, we will endeavor, before we pass to those which are here printed for the first time, to indicate some few of the principal additions to the more prominent of the old Conversations.

We observe not a few in the exquisite Dialogue intituled Brooke and Sidney. The stately, romantic, metaphoric tone of their friendship, as we find it in Sir Fulke Greville's (Lord Brooke) Life of Sir Philip, seems to us happily caught in what follows:

‘Brooke. I come again unto the woods and unto the wilds of Penshurst, whither my heart and the friend of my heart have long invited ine.

‘Sidney. Welcome, welcome! How delightful it is to see a friend after a length of absence How delightful to chide him for that length of absence, to which we owe such delight.

* Brooke. I know not whether our names will be immortal; I am sure our friendship will. For names sound only upon the surface of the earth, while friendships are the purer, and the more ardent, the nearer they come to the presence of God, the sun not only of righteousness but of love. Ours never has been chipt or dimmed even here, and never shall be.

‘Sidney. Let me take up your metaphor. Friendship is a vase which, when it is flawed by heat or violence or accident, may as well be broken at once ; it can never be trusted after. The more graceful and ornamental it was, the more clearly do we discern the hopelessness of restoring it to its former state. Coarse stones, if they are fractured, may be cemented again; precious ones, never.’

There is another fine interpolation on Chivalry, and on those subtle compensations for supposed failure in this world, which fall to the lot of pure and high imaginations. It is better to suffer, reasons Philip with Brooke, than to lose the power of suffering. The life has not been idly spent, which has been mainly spent in conciliating the generous affections; and he who can bring before his death-bed even the empty image he has long, though in vain, adored, has not wholly lived in vain. The friends indulging throughout these tender, solemn, and romantic themes, Sidney filly closes the conversation (as if he had come to it from the reading of Ariosto) with a comparison of the sound of a distant sea, breaking heavily on the pauses of conversation, in the stillness of midnight, to what he could imagine the sound of a giant might be, who, coming back from travel to some smooth, still, and solitary place, with all his armor and all his spoils about him, casts himself down to rest.

In the Dialogue headed Porson and Southey there are novelties we less admire, but also some that strongly, and some that pleasantly, appeal to us. When the poet of Keswick tells us with what a delightful ‘summer murmur of fostering modulation' his friend of Rydal Mount is apt to read his own verses aloud, we can fancy few things more happily said. When he describes himself far from confident that any of us ever speak quite correctly of those who differ from us essentially in taste, in opinion, or even in style, it seems to us well worth consideration if that be not so. Where we may even cordially wish to do it, true it is, that we are apt to lay restraint on ourselves, and to dissemble a part of our convictions. There is also a sound objection by Porson, to what we think a fal

lacy as to the object of criticism, that ‘the aim of an author being such or such, the only question is whether he has attained it.” The real matter of consideration should surely be, not whether a foolish man has succeeded in a foolish undertaking, but whether his production is worth any thing, and why it is, or why it is not. We like also the rough, quaint, Professorial touch, in the comparison of Crabbe and Young, where it is said that in some parts of his writings our modern Hogarth ‘wrote with a two-penny nail, and scratched rough truths and rogue's facts on mud walls.’ And all readers will admire, whether in all respects assentingly or not, the picturesque distinction which the talkers strike out between Bacon and Shakspeare.

“Porson. At Cambridge we rather discourse on Bacon, for we know him better. He was immeasurably a less wise man than Shakspeare, and not a wiser writer: for he knew his fellow-man only as he saw him in the street and in the court, which indeed is but a dirtier street and a narrower: Shakspeare, who also knew him there, knew him every where else, both as he was and as he might be.

* Southey. There is as great a difference between Shakspeare and Bacon, as between an American forest and a London timber-yard. In the timber-yard the materials are sawed, and squared, and set across: in the forest we have the natural form of the tree, all its growth, all its branches, all its leaves, all the mosses that grow about it, all the birds and insects that inhabit it; now deep shadows absorbing the whole wilderness ; now bright bursting glades, with exuberant grass and flowers and fruitage; now untroubled skies; now terrific thunderstorms; every where multiformity, every where immensity.’

There is nothing Mr. Landor so freely indulges (we say it to his honor) as this impassioned admiration of the greatest of poets. It breaks from him in this revision of his writings, on all possible occasions. All that he had said of old he says afresh, enlarges it, adds to it, multiplies it fifty-fold. ‘Glory to thee in the highest, thou confidant of our Creator l’ is one of his daring but not irreverent exclamations. And this glory he seeks to render, with all his prose and with all his verse, breaking into verse when prose fails him.

* Delille. And yet how enthusiastic is your admiration of Shakspeare ‘Landor. He lighted with his golden lamp on high The unknown regions of the human heart,

« VorigeDoorgaan »