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We have dwelt longer on the beauties and defects of this poem, than, we are afraid, will be agreeablc either to the partial or the indifferent ; not only because we look upon it as a misapplication, in some degree, of very extraordinary talents, but because we cannot help considering it as the foundation of a new school, which may hereafter occasion no little annoyance both to us and to the publick. Mr. Scott has hitherto filled the whole stage himself; and the very splendour of his success has probably operated, as yet, rather to deter, than to encourage, the herd of rivals and imitators: but if, by the help of the good parts of his poem, he succeeds in suborning the verdict of the publick in favour of the bad parts also, and establishes an indiscriminate taste for chivalrous legends and romances in irregular rhyme, he may depend upon having as many copyists as Mrs. Radcliffe or Schiller, and upon becoming the founder of a new schism in the catholick poetical church, for which, in spite of all our exertions, there will probably be no cure, but in the extravagance of the last and lowest of its followers. It is for this reason that we conceive it to be our duty to make one strong effort to bring back the great apostle of the heresy to the wholesome creed of his instructors, and to stop the insurrection before it becomes desperate and senseless, by persuading the leader to return to his duty and allegiance. We adınire Mr. Scott's genius as much as any of those wlio may re misled by its perversion ; and, like the curate and the barber in Don Quixote, lament the day when a gentleman of such endowments was corrupted by the wicked tales of knight errantry and enchantment,
We have left ourselves no room to say any thing of the epistolary effusions which are prefixed to each of the cantos. They certainly are not among the happiest productions of Mr. Scott's muse. They want interest in the subjects, and finish in the execution. There is too much of them about the personal and private feelings and affairs of the author; and too much of the remainder about the most trite common places of politicks and poetry. There is a good deal of spirit, however, and a good deal of nature intermingled There is a fine description of St. Mary's loch, in that preksed to the second canto; and a very pleasing representation of the author's early tastes and prejudices, in that prefixed to the third. The last, which is about Christmas, is the worst.
The following is extracted from a reriew of the same poem, in the Literary Panorama.
The Marmion of Mr. Scott, is founded on border manners; but is particularly attached to events which preceded the battle of Flodden Field. By this historical datum Mr. S. has fixed a period of which the customs and practices are within our ken, and of which our historians have left us accounts. His hero, however, is the creature of his own conception, and so are most of his principal characters. He therefore has had full scope for his imagination, and his poem may be considered as deriving every advantage, from liberty of thought, sentiment, and action. Marmion is an English warriour, valiant, heroick, sagacious; but his sagacity is capable of degenerating into craft, and his valour is shaken by conscious guilt. His honour is stained by his having carried off a nun from her convent; who long follows him as his page, yet whom he abandons, through mercenary motives, and offers himself as a suitor to another lady whose lands attract his cupidity. This lady is preengaged ; and Marmion, to wreak his vengeance on her knight, and accomplish his purposes, proclaims him a traitor to the king, succeeds in proving his treason by a forged let
ter, artfully conveyed into a packet addressed to him; meets him in single combat; overpowers him; and by the laws of duel, claims the lady who was the prize of the combat, with the lands of his worsted adversary. Marmion is sent by king Henry of England to demand of the Scottish king James, the reason of his hostile preparations; but, when arrived on the borders, wanting a guide into Scotland, he is furnished with one, who proves to be his former antagonist, in the disguise of a palmer or visiter of holy places. In the course of the poem this knight-palmer overcomes Marmion, at midnight, in the character of an Elfin warriour. The forged letters are also intrusted him under his disguise; he is dubbed again, and performs wonders in the battle of Flodden. In that battle Marmion falls, and is brought a little way out of the conflict, to die at the feet of the lady whose hand he had solicited, from motives of convenience.
The episodes in the main action, are—the punishment of the nun whom Marmion had seduced, by her being immured, according to the sentence of her superiours; and to the laws provided for that transgression, an intrigue of king James with the wife of an English governour, who is at his court, as a pledge for her husband,—and an unaccountable curiosity in Marmion to vanquish an Elfin knight, at midnight, in order to pry into future or distant events. This incident must not be examined too strictly, as to its probability; for we believe that few persons charged with a publick character from sovereign to sovereign, would quit the line of duty for the indulgence of this inquisitive disposition, founded on no higher authority than the chatter of a host, at an inn. The description of the herald sent by king James to meet Marmion, and that of the Scottish camp, previous to its moving southwards, may also be considered as episodes; and together with some excellent specimens of song writing, contribute to diversify the poem. The least pleasing parts, as they stand, are the Introductions prefixed to each canto. Each being half as long, nearly, as the canto itself, and consisting wholly of modern ideas, it has the effect of confusing the mind; it produces too forcible a revulsion, from what is ancient to what is modern ; as the canto recalls the imagination from what is modern to what is ancient. We had occasion to mention this inadvertence when reporting on Mr. Sotheby's Saul; but Mr. Scott has far exceeded Mr. Sotheby in this inconvenience.
The poet has disposed of his characters with the most laudable attention to morals. Marmion perishes in fight: his paramour, Constance de Beverley, is immured, and dies miserably. King James, losing time and opportunity by dalliance, loses the battle, and his life. The Palmer Wilton, in recompense for the disgrace he had undeservedly incurred, regains his estates and honours, together with his troth-plight, Clara, who gives proofs of unchangeable constancy in her affection for him, notwithstanding she is, for a time, in the power of Marmion, his rival. The versification of this poem has been solicitously constructed. It is varied to relieve the ear, and is generally harmonious and forcible. The conduct of the story is regular; and in short, the author has felt throughout the whole, that he had a character to lose; and was determined that it should not be lost, for want of circumspection. If Marmion had been published before the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel,” it might, perhaps, have taken the place of that poem in the opinion of the publick. As it is, we apprehend that there may be readers who will discern in this poem more art than in the former; and will imagine that what it gains in dignity, it loses in ease. It is less sprightly, and less fanciful, but it is more heroick, and more stately.
We confess, that we regret the dreadful death of Constance, whose attachment merits a better return from Marmion, even while we acknowledge that her transgressions deserve adequate punishment. In quitting her convent she sinned against duty and decorum, against modesty and sanctity ; but, it does not appear, whether her seclusiori was forced or voluntary. We cannot help wishing that some of the darker shades of her guilt had been softened, and that a less terrible fate might have been allotted to her with justice. A hero who is all perfection,
A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw, will never be imagined or adopted by a poet of genius; but the disparage'ments of that character, which is to raise our sympathy, should be rather defects than crimes. That conduct, which demands the axe of the executioner, is too lightly punished by undistinguished sufferings; the common fate of all, or of many, is no just retribution for uncommon guilt. That criminals of the deepest die have exhibited striking marks of heroism, we allow; but that it would be judicious to select such a one for the hero of a dignified poem, we deny. We feel more resentment and indignation against forgery and the evils it induces, than compassion for the pravity by which it has been committed. Open enmity may become an honest and a respectable foe ; but the dark arts of insidious malevolence, are shocking to upright minds. The balance of opinion ceases to vibrate, which vibration marks our tremulous sympathy, when guilt not incident to general nature, is thrown into the scale of a character, whatever be its merits. We, therefore, could have wished the English knight had exhibited failings not so abhorrent to virtue, and that his excellences had been counterbalanced by weakness rather than wickedness. Mr. Scott professes,
Not to rhyme to that dull elf,
He was the living soul of all Yet we cannot help thinking, that, as he was to be the prosperous character of the piece, Wilton might have met the eye more prominently ; his previous history might have been more developed, and his original connexion with Clara, which, no doubt, had, according to rule, something extraordinary for its basis, might have increased our interest for him, and for her too. We know too little of his real history, to judge of his merits. We might have learned his character more fully from admissions of Marmion himself, or even from the Abbess, by a few additional stanzas, with scarcely any perceptible digression. To point out specks in a work of merit is invidious; yet, when a few strokes with the pen may amend them, it is due to justice. The speech of the host, in which he describes the appearance of the “ wizard strange," is sufficiently learned for Mr. Scott himself, and therefore too learned for this character. His mention of “Pharaoh's Magi,”-his allusion to the wizard's zone,
Of virgin parchment thin,
Bore many a planetary sign,
Combust, and retrograde, and trine, sounds to us rather above mine host's degree of knowledge. Also, if king James assisted in a dancing party with his spurs on
(White were his buskins ; on the heel
His spurs inlaid of gold and steel) we remit him for his reprimand to the boor of Russia, Peter 1. who boxed the ears of one of his courtiers in the royal ball room, before all the company, for a like offence against gallantry. Neither can we approve of connecting the late bombardment of Copenhagen with visions foreshowing the invasion of Scotland by Edward I. The interval is too vast, without one connecting link; and the idea it raises in the mind is modern-therefore exceptionable.
A royal city, tower, and spire,
FROM ÀIKIN'S ANNUAL Review. the Life of George Morland; with Remarks on bis Works. By G. Dawe. 8vo. pp. 238.
THIS is the third life of Morland which has come before us. In our last volume we announced a pompous quarto by Mr. Blagdon, who made a miserable hodge-podge from magazines and newspapers. In the preceding volume (Vol. IV. p. 504.) we noticed at considerable length a biography of Morland, by Mr. Collins, who challenged our confidence, by asserting that he had been twenty years in habits of intimacy, not only with the artist himself, but with his family and connexions. If credit is due to Mr, Dawe, however, Collins must have been wilfully or ignorantly guilty of many misrepresentations; for several of the anecdotes he tells of Morland, are here flatly contradicted. Mr. Dawe's claim to credit is this : his father was articled to the father of Morland, became intimate with the son from his childhood, and kept up a familiar intercourse with him during the greater part of his life. Some letters from the artist testify to this intimacy. From his father principally, and from other friends of Morland, ! including his own brother, the present writer has collected his materials. He has made a very entertaining and instructive volume. We shall cor. rect those errours into which Mr. Collins has led us, and subjoin a few anecdotes illustrative of poor Morland's character.
Morland was apprenticed to his father, who was a painter in crayons. George gave very early indications of genius. He used to draw objects on the floor, and when his father stooped to pick up the scissars or tlie crayons, the laugh was very fairly against him. These, and a thousand other monkey tricks, made George the favourite child. His father saw the germs of future excellence in his own favourite art; but he was probably alarmed at a vivacity of disposition which might prove incompatible with the necessary application to attain it; and adopted a mode of education which was very likely to disgust the boy with his profession, and which certainly hurried him into those excesses which overwhelmed him with disgrace and ruin. In endeavouring to preserve the morals of young MorJand from contamination, a system of restriction and seclusion was adopted both by father and mother, so severe that he was never permitted to associate with other children, or to engage in their customary amusements,
He was kept in perfect solitude, and till the age of eighteen, was never permitted to spend an evening abroad, except at the house of Mr. P. Dawe, the father of our biographer. To this system of restraint his parents added deception. Instead of exciting in him an aversion to immo. rality, by inspiring him with the love of virtue, they endeavoured to reconcile him to confinement, and deter him from the vices of the town by exaggerated accounts, and bug-bear stories concerning its dangers. These tales could not long be implicitly believed. About his nineteenth year, he began to evade all restraint, and fell into those very errours, from which his parents had endeavoured to deter him by ill-judged means. Like a loose, high-metuled steed, he is now seen “ fetching mad bounds." It is now that he gave play to all those passions which eventually impaired his intellects, and destroyed his constitution. So much for his moral education. As to his professional, that also he received from his father. Perhaps it may be thought that with so marked a genius, but little application or instruction would be required. But genius, as it is called, is not instinct. The well-bred pointer will stand, the very first time he snuff's the scent of game, and all that he is afterwards taught is subordinate to that quality, which he already possesses in perfection. But what native genius ever stamped perfection on an untutored artist ?
“ At the age of fourteen, he was articled to his father for seven years, during which his application was incessant. His days were devoted to painting, his sum. mer evenings to reading, and those of winter to drawing by lamplight. It was during this happy period of uninterrupted study, as yet undisturbed by the passions and cares of life, that he gained nearly his whole knowledge, acquired correctness of eye, with obedience of hand, and those principles which laid the foundation of his future excellence. This, therefore, was not, as has been imagined, a natural endowment; nor is it necessary to recur to occult and inexplicable causes, in order to account for that ability which was the result of long and persevering application, united to a quick conception, a retentive memory, and activity of mind ; assisted also by considerable means for study, and directed by a parent who had some know. ledge of the art. From an over anxious regard to his morals, he was not permitted
to study at the academy. He, nevertheless, once, about his twentieth year, unknown F
to his father, showed some of his drawings to the keeper, and obtained permission : to draw as a candidate for becoming a student; yet, whatever some of his biograe phers have advanced to the contrary, he drew there only three nights; thougla he
occasionally attended the lectures.
“ He paid some attention to the anatomy of the human figure, and executed many s
drawings, both of the skeleton and muscles. He also drew from small casts of seve1,
ral antique statues. Some of these productions, including the only one he ever made 5. at the academy, which was from the statue of Meleager, are in the possession of the
writer of these memoirs.
“ The anatomy of the horse he studied from the excellent work of Stubbs, whose prints he copied in Indian ink, and wrote the names of the bones and muscles on his drawings. He likewise made clay models from Gainsborough's horse, and other casts of a similar kind. What he knew of perspective was acquired from the Jesuit's treatise on that subject."
If one considers the total seclusion from society in which this youth
was brought up, "no competitor to emulate, no companion to cheer hiin c in the toilsome path of study," it will be acknowledged, that his love of the y, art he pursued was almost unquenchable In the extract above given h it is said that Morland never drew at the academy more than three nights. 2
Mr. Collins, on the contrary, states that in very early life he became acquainted with some loose and vulgar students at the academy, and that these fellow students, in their way to and from Somerset House, enticed him to
frequent a gin shop near Exeter-change. Mr. Collins also tells us, that ich Morland, while in his father's house, used to supply his extravagances by 30° the sale of his paintings, which he used to lower from his window, in a 15. VOL. 1.