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will owe us as little as we owe it. Ah, if one could only rise from the grave in 1839, and search the booksellers' shops to see whether anything of Walpole or Gray be still on sale! To poor aspiring authors, posterity is what eternity is to Addison's Cato —a "pleasing, dreadful thought !” I wonder what our great-grandchildren will think of Pope and Arbuthnot, of Brooke's tragedies and Coventry's dialogues. Unless they're greater fools than I suppose they'll be—one may speak disrespectfully of one's juniors, who are not even going to be born for so considerable a time to come—they will cancel many a literary verdict of our day; raising the beggar from the dunghill, where we leave him, to be a companion of princes, and loworing some of our great Apollos to silent contempt. W. Why, plenty of authors have come to this passin our own experience, whom Pope's “Dunciad” has at once stripped of immortality and immortalized. Every generation Produces plenty more—people who make a noise and pother for a few brief moons, and then either die a violent death, like Mr. Pope's victims, by a sort of justifiable homitide, or else perish from natural causes, the most natural in the world. 6. There's rather a dearth at present in our home-literature. Poetry seems to have sunk with the Jacobites— W. Heaven forbid they should rise again together! G. Spoken like thy father's son. The best lings have seen lately is a satire called “Lon. $o," said to be by a young fellow named Johnson, who writes for the magazines. It was published last year, and ought to be better known than it is, being very terse and energetic; every line in it is well-loaded, and goes off with a sharp report that you must listen to. W. The satire's a sort of translation from Juvenal—isn't it ! I've had it in my hands without reading it.
G. Mr. Johnson is no mere translator, I promise you. His poem is rather a transfusion of Juvenalian vis vitae into modern veins; such a satire as the old Roman himself would have written had he been a subject of his most sacred majesty the second George. W. Why, child, you've discovered another star in the heavens. G. A fixed one, depend on’t ; and one that you may see with the naked eye without telescope or glasses. W. Your vision is perhaps too keen. Some eyes, you know, see in the dark; but we’re not all gifted after that feline fashion; and meanwhile, Mr. —a—a—a—Johnson—is it? —must try and wait. If he be no falling star he need not be in a hurry, but can go on shining till we have time to look at him. G. His light won't go out yet, never fear. As for seeing stars in the dark, I don't suppose that faculty is peculiar to me. When else should we notice them? This one will probably be gazetted in the astronomical tables of Parnassus a hundred years hence. W. In that case the year 1839 ought to have a record of Mr. Gray's prediction as well as Mr. Johnson's sign in the zodiac. How would “London” go down here at Paris 2 Is it smart enough to take with the readers of Messieurs Boileau and Voltaire? Mr. Pope is already a prodigious favorite here, and the French are capital judges of satire. G. Mr. Johnson is too smart for them— that is, against them: he rails quite angrily against the “supple Gaul,” declaring that—
“Obsequious, artful, voluble, and gay,
W. Child, child! c'est effroyable Remember the Bastile. Surely you believe in exempts And if stone walls have ears, mercy on us! what must they have?
SoME years have now elapsed since our readers were gratified by the publication of the Correspondence of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, between the years 1744 and the period of his decease in 1797. The letters have now taken their place among the literary treasures that we owe to the distinguished man by whom they were written; and they form an excellent supplement to his great works. They were edited without the least affectation by Earl Fitzwilliam and Sir Richard Bourke, and the public were told, for the first time, the reason why the manuscripts which Burke was known to have left had not sooner been given to the world. Executors, like other men, must pay the tribute of mortality. Dr. Lawrence and the Bishop of Rochester both died before they had finished their labor of love. The manuscripts were then taken into the care of the late Earl Fitzwilliam ; but he, too, died ; and it was not until Burke had been sleeping peacefully for almost fifty years in the church of Beaconsfield, that his letters saw the light. It is needless to say that they confirmed the impression of his character that all judicious readers of his works must have entertained. Thev had, however, scarcely been well read and considered before the world was astonished by another French revolution. From France this democratic spirit spread with the rapidity of electricity over all Europe, and no country was free from its effects. It turned the minds of all thinkers back upon the history of the last seventy years, and kindled a fresh interest in the writings of Edmund Burke. To some peole it might seem that the value of his speculations had diminished, while to others it might appear that his wisdom was more and more proved. It cannot, therefore, be deemed unnecessary, or of little consequence, if after the lapse of many years, we endeavor to give an impartial consideration to the writings of this great man. Edmund Burke was born in a house on
Arran Quay, in the metropolis of Ireland; but his health being very delicate, and a tendency to consumption having shown itself, he was after some years removed to his grandfather's residence at Castle Town Roche. As of nearly all young geniuses, tales have been related about his love of learning, and his superiority to the children among whom he was placed. His brother Richard always declared that Edmund had monopolized all the talent of the family; and that while the other children were always playing, he was always reading. The boy was father of the man; seldom, indeed, it was when the statesman was not busy. How long he remained at Castle Town is not very well known, but it seems probable that five years was the period. He then returned to Dublin, and shortly afterwards was sent to Ballitore. Here his acquaintance with the Shackletons commenced. Nothing is more honorable to Burke than the manner in which he preserved, during all the brilliant scenes of his life, the sacred remembrance of his school-days and of his boyish friendships.
When the whole world was ringing with the fame of the great orator, his heart still yearned towards the places and the companions of his early days. Proud and unbending to some of the great political leaders of his time, he never was otherwise than kind, frank, and unassuming to the humble Richard Shackleton, the old steward, and his poor relations.
After spending some years at Ballitore, he entered Trinity College, at the age of fifteen. Of his college life not much is known, although some of his admirers will have it that his academical career was highly distinguished. He certainly was elected a scholar in 1746; but it does not appear that he was considered anything more than an ordinary, clever young man, steady in disposition, and ardent in the pursuit of knowledge.
He was of course a dabbler in poetry; and his biographer, Mr. Prior, as usual with biographers, thinks that his verses have great merit. His translation of the conclusion of the second “Georgic” is much better done than most of our college prize translations; but it is ridiculous to consider his poetical effusions as anything more than good academical verses. Every year such rhymes are abundantly poured out; and every year, after being read by admiring friends and relations, they are forgotten, or are only brought out on family anniversaries from the treasuties of kind aunts or of exulting grandmammas.
He seems to have acquired a good stock of miscellaneous knowledge; but he did not differ much from his fellow-students. We are told of his great love for English authors, and it is not our intention to question the sincerity of his love. It is certain, however, that his learning was too much the learning of colleges; that for a thinker so great and original he showed not much discrimination. This even was characteristic of his later years, Burke often quoted Shakspeare, and often praised him; but he never showed much reverence for the greatest of all dramatists. His favorite author was Milton, whom he placed at the head of English literature. With him, however, he classed an author of very inferior merit. He loved Young so much, that he is said to have been able to repeat nearly all the Night Thoughts by heart. Nay, he went even further than this in his admiration. On a fly-leaf of the Volume which he used to carry about with him, he wrote:–
“Jove claimed the verse old Homer sung, But God himself inspired Young.”
On the 23d of April, 1747, his name was entered at the Middle Temple; and in 1750 losest Ireland, with the ostensible purpose of keeping his law terms in London.
A very interesting letter to one of his young friends is in existence, and from it we learn his first impressions of England.
The young adventurer soon found, however, that learning and genius were little patronized, and that he must work his own way. . In rather bombastic language we find him declaring, that the fine arts still flourished; that poetry raised her enchanting voice to heaven; that history arrested the Wings of Time; that philosophy, the queen of arts and daughter of heaven, daily extended her empire; that fancy was sporting on airy wings; and that metaphysics spun her cobwebs. The House of Commons raised strong emotions in his breast. He felt that
there was a theatre as noble as any that Greece and Rome offered in their proudest days. William Pitt was at that time the most brilliant orator; and all that he was he had made himself by his eloquence and patriotism. The political world, indeed, was not very stirring. The reign of the Pelhams was undisturbed. The very name of opposi; tion appeared to be forgotten. Garrick had just become manager of Drury Lane; Reynolds was busy at his easel; Fielding struggling with a broken constitution, and a not very honorable name ; and brave Samuel Johnson residing in a humble dwelling in Gough-square, and writing the Rambler for his daily bread. All the young stranger's enthusiasm for the living did not prevent him from paying more than one visit to the resting-place of the illustrious dead. He stood among the monuments in Westminster Abbey, and unutterable thoughts flashed across his mind. After life's fitful fever, the statesman and author sleep well ! The struggles, the enmities, the heart-breakings, the rivalries, the aspirations influence no longer; poverty, misery, abasement are at length vanquished, and a peaceful halo of glory is resting on their graves. On describing some of his sensations to his early correspondent, two or three sentences, exquisitely characteristic of Burke's habits and feelings, fell from his pen. Even then, with all his ambition and enthusiasm, he had no desire to sleep in the great Abbey; and this love for a more humble grave continued during the whole of his long, arduous, and glorious career. He was always a lover of his household gods and family fireside; and declared that the prospect of a quiet grave among his kinsmen, in a little country churchyard, was to him more pleasing than the proud mausoleum of a Capulet. Little is known about his proceedings during the first year of his residence in London. His declared object, of course, was the study of the law; and, perhaps, for some time, he may have thought that he was fulfilling his father's wishes by acquiring a good stock of legal knowledge; but, as is the case with many imaginative minds, the charms of literature proved too seductive; and his heart, never much attached to the less engaging mistress, soon forsook her for her more attractive rival. His health, too, was not so robust as it asterwards became ; and this, perhaps, might appear to him a sufficient excuse for allowing many a legal folio to gather dust upon his shelves. His vacations were generally spent in excursions about the country. His terms fast succeeded each other; but whatever may have been the reason, and however much his poor father may have been disappointed, it is certain, that after passing the usual time at his legal studies, he was not called to the bar, and that law was soon afterwards abandoned. Burke became a man without a profession. He cut every cable that bound him to the moorings of his youth; and leaving the common track, by which a safe and sure voyage might be effected, the young adventurer launched out alone, on an unknown sea, without any guidance but his own brave heart, and his ardent and enterprising-soul. It is not known what were the subjects that first employed his pen. They were, doubtless, of little consequence, or they would not have been suffered to pass into oblivion. We hasten to his first important publication. In the year 1756, the Windication of Natural Society was published. This work, the first of Burke's acknowledged productions, deserves a more attentive consideration than it has generally received. It has often been said that the fruits of his mind ripened before the blossoms appeared, that his early works were cold and unimpassioned, while, as he grew older, his style became more declamatory, and his eloquence more gorgeous. This is, undoubtedly, in some respects true; although this imitation of Bolingbroke proves it not to be so unreservedly true as it has been asserted. Burke did not resemble Bacon so much in this mental characteristic, as in others of much more importance. If we look only at the Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, and compare it with the Reflections on the French Revolution, there is, indeed, a most striking difference in the style of the two celebrated works. The first was written in the author's youth, the latter in his old age; how strange, then, it has been said, is the mental phenomenon that is here exhibited | Youth is generally the time of imagination, of passion, of love, of poetry, of eloquence; old age the period when the judgment is matured, when the passions have subsided, when poetry, rhetoric, enthusiasm, and all the glittering dreams of early days, charm us no longer, when the world has lost its attractions, when the freshness of its colors has passed away, when one illusion after another has left us, and we smile bitterly and sadly at many things that once appeared noble, beautiful, and true.
Yet Burke was more enthusiastic, more chivalrous, more imaginative, more impassioned at seventy than at twenty-five. All the splendid visions of youth played round the death-bed of the gray-haired old man. To him the world was still beautiful, life was a noble drama, love and truth were not mere names. At all times he was open, straightforward, and manly; but it was only as years rolled on, and time marked the wrinkles on the philosopher's brow, that his sterling qualities were richly decorated with the graces of humanity. At twenty-five, he had to fight his way to power and glory; at seventy, honor and fame were his in an abundant measure. He had had rather an earnest game to play, yet he had played it like a man : he had seen much of baseness, cowardice, and perfidy, yet his heart had not become cold, his sympathies for his fellowman were not languid. Around the bed on which he was dying, the echoes of a mighty earthquake were heard, a great change was coming upon the nations, and each man seemed determined to do that which was right in his own eyes. The fire of the old statesman glowed in its ashes. Over the whole world his voice resounded, and all ears were turned to listen, some in wonder, some in fear, some in admiration at the brilliant death-notes of that “old man eloquent.” Circumstances undoubtedly have a great effect upon men. A minute's delay at a railway station may permanently influence the history of years. It would be a great error to imagine that Burke's eloquence, passion, and declamation were the effect of some mental growth, that only attained perfection during his later years. This Windication of Natural Society is not, in many passages, different from the Letters on a Regicide Peace, so far as mere style is considered, It would seem to indicate that Burke had several styles which he could wield at will; and that he sometimes adopted one, and sometimes another, as he thought it might best answer his present purpose. No author could ever write with more fervid eloquence, no author could ever write with more purity and simplicity. Of his simple style, the Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, written, it has been said, about the age of twenty, and the Observations on a late State of the Mation, written about the age of thirty-nine, are examples. The Vindication of Natural Society, written at twenty-five, and the Letter to a Noble Lord, written at sixty-six, are specimens of his more brilliant and rhetorical composition. No man better understood the art of writing. He on one occasion said, that “without much pretension to literature himself, he had aspired to the love of letters.” The reason of this humility was obvious. Burke had a fine sense of the becoming; but he was, indeed, a master of style. Whoever wants to know the various capabilities of the English language, should study Swift and Burke. They are both great English writers, perhaps the only authors of whom we can say with truth, that their prose is perfect. For Addison, with all his idiomatic graces, seldom has much vigor; and Johnson, though forcible enough, has his dignified strut everywhere intruding upon the scene, and disturbing the emotions he would excite. Hume loved Frenchmen and French literature so much, that while he attained in his own writing much of the precision and polish of Woltaire, he never stirs the blood with true English eloquence; and Gibbon, with more real English feeling than Hume, has all the pomposity of Johnson, and all the Frenchified affectation of his brother historian and skeptic. True English writing is really a Very scarce article; and, what with orators and German philosophers, it seems every day getting scarcer than ever. Oh, for the ;: of Shakspeare, and of our good old 10|e But it is not the style alone that makes this little piece of philosophical irony so pe. culiarly interesting. Burke appears here Very much in the same light as he does in his Reflections on the French Revolution. When he thus in his youth ridiculed the paradoxes of Bolingbroke, he little knew what was fermenting in men's minds, what terrible events were approaching, what a hideous shape this miscalled philosophical spirit would assume. The old saw tells us that the playthings of children are neglected in boyhood, and laughed at in manhood; but the philosophic toy of Burke's youth Waxed great, and became the bloody monster that made him tremble as he descended in a green old age to the tomb. How little we know what the revolution of seasons may mature! how little cause we have to put faith in our boasted reason 1 Fifty years! ifty years! where shall we all be-where shall the world be in fifty years? What a spectacle Europe presented when this nineteenth century commenced A different jama, and yet the same, is now in progress. Monarchs, dynasties, statesmen, generals,
authors have been born, grown to maturity, died, been wept, and been nearly forgotten. The golden balls have been tossed from hand to hand, yet the angels may weep and the fiends chuckle, to see us still playing at our little game. Burke has been 6ften accused of inconsistency. The principles of his youth and of his manhood have been considered directly opposed to those of his old age. Some of his admirers themselves, while admitting this, have endeavored to justify him for standing aghast at the spectacle that France presented as the snows of age were falling upon his head. As far as it relates to his political opinions, this inconsistency will be afterwards considered, but the Vindication of Natural Society is itself sufficient to show that the philosophy and metaphysics of the young writer were the same as those of the old statesman. This pamphlet breathes the same spirit as the Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, and, indeed, of all the most brilliant writings of his later years. It is true, that the deistical opinions of the French philosophers were not so prevalent in 1756 as they were in 1794, that the Contrat Social and the Nouvelle Héloïse had not yet borne fruit; but the state of nature that Rousseau panegyrized, and the evils of civilization that he exaggerated, are ridiculed in this masterly essay with as much sincerity, if not with the same passionate energy, as when his mind was full of frightful presentiments, at the sin, misery, and bloodshed that seemed destined to devastate the world. As an imitation, too, the essay is perfect; it is the very mind of Bolingbroke. It is well known, that it was for some time believed to be the production of the versatile peer, and that Mallet, the editor of his works, went to Dodsley's shop, at a time when it was crowded with literary men, to disavow it as the authorship of his patron. A few months after the publication of this essay, an unpretending little volume, at the price of three shillings, was advertised. This was the famous Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime and Beautiful. It did much to advance his reputation as a writer. In his own times, it was considered even by such men as Johnson as a model of philosophical criticism; while in ours, it has been often spoken of with contempt, as quite unworthy of the great political philosopher. Yet it is still published in collections of English classics, and uneducated people who have never heard anything of the Reflections on the French Revolvtion, at least know that