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to escape from all necessity of criticism, and political creed by the time he is twenty-five, may indulge ourselves in the pure pleasure while his school or college contemporary of unalloyed admiration. The letter-writer struggles through a profession, and at fifty no longer wishes to approach the great they meet on the arena of public life, the one world, or to ward off those who are ambi. almost a generation younger than the other. tious of its supremacy; there is no humoring Gray was neither wholly in the world nor of the caprices of a narrow set--no seeking wholly out of it. He wrote from the calm to devise means how a system, philosophi- retreat of a Cambridge college, but he had cally commented on, may be sustained and personal friends who mixed in the busy and preserved in its integrity. At the same the fashionable world, and he himself occatime the writer does not write like one of a sionally quitted his retirement to spread his careless generation, anxious to save the tenth wings in the gayety of the metropolis. His post of the day, and inclosing in an adhesive letters reflect his manner of living. They envelope, the crude thoughts and hasty ex- are full of the savoir vivre wbich can only pressions he blots upon a sheet of note-paper be attained by intercourse with society, and the size of a crown-piece. These artless yet they bear constant witness to the digniartists, these consummate performers of the fied reserve of the literary recluse, and the last century, wrote with deliberate dignity grace and knowledge of the student and the and a proper choice of words, although a philosopher. Above all, they delight us by certain natural happiness of expression, and iheir perfect freedom from any thing like a the advantage they derived from following conscious aim. They breathe an elegance more artificial writers, enable them to handle and are inspired with a vivacity such as is their craft so divinely. But when we speak found in the Odes of Horace, where we of their being preceded by the writer whom know how great the art is, but where the we have noticed above, and of this being a sense of art is lost in the sense of its perfecsubsequent stage of the art, we must not let tion. Gray had, indeed, every qualification our readers suppose that we use these terms for a letter-writer, and his letters are, we according to strict chronology. We do not venture to think, unrivalled in the English mean that the historical date of the third language. He is grave and gay, humorous, class of letter writers is necessarily posterior learned, satirical, tender, by turns, and he to that of the second. Gray was a year passes from one mood to another with the older than Horace Walpole, and was long most unfailing ease, and by the most imperoutlived by him. We speak of the one type ceptible transitions. He writes, indeed, as if of letter-writing as subsequent to the other, he knew that he could write a letter well, and because it must have been preceded by the wished to do what he did successfully ; but state of society which only received its ex- the feeling that prompts him to exert himself pression contemporaneously with, or perhaps is not vanity, but merely the consciousness even later than, its own manifestation. Look- of power. ing at the whole history of the century, we Whatever Gray wrote was written with may say that the narrow but highly-trained the utmost labor. He toiled at a verse ; he society of the times of George II. expanded cast and recast it; he criticized it as ruthlessinto the wider and more natural society of ly as if it were the offspring of another's brain; the days of Johnson and Burke, although he let it lie by, and then, years after, took it there were men in the times of George II. from the drawer where it slumbered, and who seem much more akin to those of the dis passionately analyzed its constitution, and later date than to those who were, strictly pronounced judgment upon its defects and speaking, their contemporaries. After the merits. The man who can bear to work so letter-writers of the times of George II., slowly is sure to write nothing inferior to a class succeeded who wrote with more himself ; we get his best when we get any ease and less affectation, and yet received thing. But how few men can thus become from those who had gone before them the their own critics without losing fire, point, traditionary notion that letter-writing was an energy, the rough and unpremeditated graces art. Among these Gray is conspicuous, and of a careless and vigorous scribbler. Perhaps we need not hesitate to adopt him as a repre- we must allow that Gray did, in some measentative. Every day in real life we see how sure, fall short of his possibilities, and unthe accidents of worldly position determine a favorably affect the writings of other poets, man's chronology. The nominee of a peer by the anxious care he cultivated and inculis in Parliament before his beard begins to cated. But in his letters we seem to have grow, and has an official air and an inflexible I all the good and none of the bad attending
his habits of composition. He relaxes his grim watchfulness over himself and his style, and still we may trace, in the most hasty of these effusions, the fruits of his habitual vigilance. He is impelled, by the very nature of his task, to write with speed, and to abandon himself to the impulse of the moment. But in the propriety of every expression, in the restraint be exercises over his pen, so as never to fall into any excess or redundancy, and in the position of self-respect, not to say of authority, which he occupies towards his correspondent, we trace the lima labor, the habits of patience and stern self-denial, the dignity that abhors meretricious effect of every kind, which eminently characterize his more studied compositions.
in which it becomes part of the mental furniture of a literary man whose natural tastes led him to love and cultivate all that was gentle and graceful in thought and language. Criticism seems to resign its envious office when it views these pure effusions of a sweet and loving soul. We may, indeed, find defects in them, but it is hard to feel these defects critically, for the general atmosphere of soft and warm emotion and tenderness prevents us from even noticing what might elsewhere annoy us. The greatest number of readers would find the greatest pleasure in Cowper's letters of any letters in the language, and though we venture to think that the superior manliness apparent in those of Gray is a sufficient reason for withholding our assent to this as a final test of superiority, yet it needs but the perusal of a very few of Cowper's fascinating pages to make us, for the moment, sure that his must be of all letters the best.
Gray was what would ordinarily be called a cold man he was overshadowed by a perpetual melancholy, and his path, even in youth, was darkened by the faintly revealed presence of the fatal disease which bore him, in the ripeness of his faculties, to the grave. But, though he loved solitude, and resolutely intrenched himself within a hallowed ground of privacy, into which the world was not suffered to intrude, his letters reveal how much there was in his nature that was genial and even gay. On fitting occasions he could write with a tender and manly pathos, and a depth of sympathizing affection, that dispel effectually any notion of his melancholy being of a morbid and selfish cast. Nor are there wanting passages in his correspondence where his sense of the ludicrous, his desire to interest the friend he is addressing, and the animation inspired by near approximation to stirring events, wake him to a light and free gayety, and prompt him to paint the minor details of a subject that tickles his fancy. When we come upon such passages, we experience none of the counterbalancing sensations with which the somewhat parallel writing of Horace Walpole is sure to fill us. Gray is without the air of the petit-maître, and the smallness of mind and purpose which are apparent in all that Walpole ever wrote. When we pass to the letters of Cowper, we pass entirely away from the direct influence of the great world. Gray was on the borders, but Cowper lived altogether in another region. It was the peculiar marvel of his position-the peculiar triumph of his epistolary powers-that from the seclusion of an insignificant country town, where he lived among middle-aged ladies and low-church clergymen, he could find materials for letters so beautiful, so interesting, and so varied. The art of letter-writing has reached the point
Cowper had one advantage that was de nied to Gray. He numbered among his correspondents ladies near enough in kinship to permit complete unreserve, and remote enough to make an air of subdued gallantry sit naturally on him as he wrote. His cousin, Lady Hesketh, drew out all his powers. He could tell her the minutest details of his Olney life; he could freely confide to her the touching incidents of his own melancholy history, and at the same time she was a kind and discerning critic of his poetical efforts. As he built up story after story of his poetical edifices, what so natural as to report progress to this dear cousin, and to find, or pretend to find, in her taste a canon which should regulate Eis performance? Then if she were absent-and if she were not there would be no occasion for a letter at all-how delightful to sketch schemes for a visit, to spend leisure hours in looking for a suitable abode throughout the wide extent of Olney, and to send off graphic pictures of this and that little room which would make a fitting residence for her ladyship when the summer came. Accounts of his advance in translating the Iliad and descriptions of Olney lodgings literally fill page after page of perhaps the most delightful part of his correspondence, and continue to give pleasure to thousands of readers now that the translation is forgotten, and the houses in Olney are, as we may presume, falling or fallen. It is the presence of this admired, this loved, this inspiring cousin that seems to float through the exquisitely-framed periods of the poet, and let all who can picture what such a cousin
must be, confess that they do not wonder | perfect absence of studied effect and a more Cowper outshines himself when he writes i sustained felicity of language in Cowper than to Lady Hesketh.
in Gray. Cowper, too, writes from a home, Perhaps the greatest drawback to our with far more of domestic feeling and domespleasure in Cowper's letters is the display of tic interest than was possible for the isolated vanity, a fault from which it is scarcely pos- student at Cambridge. This lends a charm sible that any one should be free who acquires to correspondence, the absence of which it is fame and lives in a village. Nothing but not easy to compensate. Cowper's letters contact with the world can keep a successful will always be the more popular, and if we author humble. Cowper tried conscientiously wished to show a stranger to the literature of to smother an emotion he thought reprehen- the last century how letters can be written, sible, but it is easy to see that the snake is we should refer him to a chosen volume of scotched and not killed. The imperfection Cowper's correspondence. of his attempts is apparent in his anxiety to With Cowper our list is closed. There impress upon his correspondents that he is were many of his contemporaries, and there utterly careless of literary success. He have been many since, who have written describes himself as a writer sans reproche, a letters that are full of all that makes letters bright example to the tribe, a man proof delightful. But so far as they may have against the stings of sarcasm and the whispers been unconsciously acted on by the notion of flattery. And perhaps in the next sentence of letter-writing as an art worked out by, and he tells us that Olney laurels are worthless, handed down through, a series of successive but that he may perhaps mention what my artists, they may be represented by Cowper neighbor Mr. So-and-so has said of The as far the most emineni and skilful of them. Task, or he acknowledges with fervent After the time of Cowper the art of lettergratitude any scrap of favorable criticism writing may be said to have quickly perished. which his correspondent has communicated How this happened must be obvious to any to him. These are the smallnesses which one who reflects on the change undergone creep over almost every recluse, and we may towards the close of the century throughout say of the life of a genius in a country circle the whole structure of society, and on the what Touchstone remarks of bis shepherd's causes, political and moral, that conduced life, that "in respect that it is solitary it may to this alteration. Society changed, and the be liked very well, but in respect that it is art that suited and belonged to the old private it is a very vile life.”
society did not suit the new. That we can There is in this as in other ways an absence thus fix the end as well as the beginning of of thorough self-dependence, force, and en- the period within which the art flourished, ergy, manifested in Cowper's letters, that makes it much easier to ascertain the relation contrasts unfavorably with Gray's resolute, it bore to the general character of the times. reserved, dignified bearing. But with this we have been forced by the narrow limits of
We allowance we see no deduction that has to our space to treat this relation in a somewhat be made in speaking of Cowper as a perfect cursory manner, but we are convinced that letter-writer.' The grace of his English is the more closely the subject is examined, the magical ; it seems hardly possible that a more clearly will the correspondence of its writer should have had such language at great letter writers be recognized as an command without any apparent exertion exponent of much that was most peculiar in requisite for its production. There is a more the eighteenth century.
LITERARY LABOR.—The American author,, de Vega was the most voluminous of writers. Alcott, has written 100 volumes"; Wesley But it is not the quantity so much as the wrote 30 octavo volumes ; Baxter wrote seve quality of literary matter that insures immoreral hundred volumes ; and Lopez de Vega, tality, for long after the millions of Lopez de the Spanish poet, published 21,300,000 lines, Vega's lines are buried in oblivion, the few which is equal to more than 2,660 volumes simple verses of Gray's Elegy will live to deas large as Milton's Paradise Lost! Lopez / light mankind.
From Sharpe's Magazine.
'A TALK ABOUT NEWSPAPERS.
THE modern civilized man, in England, or to imagine what possible use a man could France, or America, regards his newspaper have for such an "intolerable deal" of close as the most important and necessary of the print, as people now-a-days are in conceiving individual contributories to his comfort. How-how it could have been dispensed with. Up ever devoted he may be to pleasure, indo- to the beginning of the eighteenth century, lence, or luxury, it is very probable that he though newspapers-such as they were would sacrifice any one particular indulgence had then been in existence since early in the which could be named, rather than consent seventeenth, a great proportion of country to be deprived permanently of access to a gentlemen and persons living in remote disnewspaper. The journal is in truth become tricts adhered generally to the ancient plan a necessary of daily life-of nearly as much of employing news-writers, who, from time consequence as the quality of the food we to time, sent down written letters advertising eat; of much more consequence than the their patrons of important occurrences. It fashion of the clothes we wear. In like man- took at least a century after the establishment ner, with some other artificially created ne- of the first diminutive printed news-sheet cessities, it seems to have become more es- (which again was a century prior to the first sential to men's comfort than those pointed daily, the Courant just mentioned), before out by nature. Water and bread are plainly the printed paper was substituted for the indicated by nature as staffs and essentials to written one. life; but we will answer for it, that nineteen out of twenty citizens, gentlemen, and Englishmen of all ranks above the very meanest, would dispense with bread and water, that is to say, would put up with any one of the substitutes therefor devised by cookery, rather than lose their newspaper, or submit to any material falling off in the amount and variety of its contents.
Yet this all-important necessity of the nineteenth century is a thing almost wholly of our own day-it scarcely dates from yesterday in the great roll-book of time. The father of a man with a round score years of life now before him, may have been living at a time when a daily newspaper was unknown; nay, a very, very old man-an old Parr or Henry Jenkins-living as this essay is penned, may have been born before the first number of the Daily Courant (the earliest daily newspaper), consisting of a single page of octavo (not printed on the back), appeared.
How folks managed before newspapers were published, forms a somewhat puzzling conjecture to a man who lives in the odor of the dailies, tri-weeklies, weeklies, and monthlies which now so abound. But that they did manage to get on without the ever-recurrent broadsheets is certain enough; and they would probably have been as much puzzled
Many of our readers have doubtless been amused with anecdotes of "the first English newspaper." The English Mercurie, which that fond discoverer of mares'-nests--that most laborious and most credulous of literary antiquaries, George Chalmers, so enthusiastically attributes to "the genius of Elizabeth, and sagacity of Burleigh." The way in which the mistake happened was as follows:-Poking about in the labyrinthal recesses of the old British Museum, Mr. Chalmers alighted on a volume containing some printed papers bearing the 'title of The English Mercurie, and purporting to have been printed in 1588, during the crisis of the Spanish Armada alarm, and to contain accounts of the earlier conflicts between our admirals and the enemy. Chalmers, who was a man of unusually capacious "swallow" for any thing novel or surprising, jumped at the bait, and published his wonderful discovery, which was too hastily taken for granted by the elder D'Israeli and other British writers of note, and from them by literary men abroad, until the English Mercurie became quite a clerum et venerabile nomen as the precursor of that mighty organ, the newspaper press, all over the world.
Great, therefore, was the astonishment, and not less the reluctance, with which, after forty or fifty years' currency, the discovery turned
out to be a delusion, and the English Mer- | posed on by Mr. Chalmers's "discovery," obcurie a forgery of the most impudent kind. serves, "I witnessed fifty years ago that It was not even a dexterous or clever forgery; laborious researcher (George Chalmers) buit was as clumsy and palpable a piece of sied along the long, dusty shelves of our pebotching as ever was seen. A man of aver- riodical papers, which then reposed in the age care and perspicacity, which Chalmers antechamber of the former reading-room of was not when his antiquarian enthusiasm was the British Museum. To the industry which inflamed, would have detected the fraud in an I had witnessed I confided, and such positive instant. The paper and printing of the docu- and precise evidence could not fail to be acceptments turned out to be of the eighteenth, noted of all. In the British Museum, indeed, George Chalmers found the printed English Mercurie; but there also, it now appears, he might have seen the original, with all its corrections before it was sent to the press, written on paper of modern fabric." The truth is, the "positive and precise evidence" was "accepted by all," merely because it was not tested, and, being a lie, circumstantiated; and, moreover, being just one of the kind which people would feel more pleasure in believing than in disbelieving, went down with much unction. If it had been one less palatable and interesting, it would have been scarcely accepted on the mere opinion of Mr. Chalmers. That it should have gone on so long imposing on the world, described so minutely on hearsay by antiquarians living within halfan-hour's walk of the Museum, but who did not think it necessary to step in there and
the sixteenth century. The orthography and other matters of detail contain internal evidences of the attempt, and frequent failure, of a modern forger to simulate ancient peculiarities; and the pretended items of news contained blunders about dates and places, which could not possibly have been made by a contemporaneous writer. The very manuscripts from which some of the "numbers" had been evidently printed were found, and the paper on which it was written bore the water-mark of the royal arms, with the initials "G. R."
To Mr. Thomas Watt, whose name is well known in association with the British Museum, belongs the merit of having detected this, one of the most flagrant frauds, though for a long time one of the most successful, in the history of forgery. It had passed into acceptance all over the world; and in the cy-pass a few minutes in examining that which clopædias of every nation, from St. Peters- they held up to the admiration of their readburg to Madrid, from Warsaw to Washington, ers, is a circumstance which suggests the might be found articles mentioning the "ven- necessity of caution as a general rule in the erable English Mercurie, or the patriarch of recognition of "venerable relics" of the kind. printed Journals." It was by the merest The real date of the first newspaper apchance, while prosecuting another inquiry, pears, beyond all doubt, to belong to the reign that Mr. Watt happened to consult its veracious of King James the First; and the patriarch pages, and he saw through the imposture at of the extensive and important family of Like many other objects of curi- journalists was Nathaniel Butler, who, having osity, it had previously been more written long plied the avocation of a writer of manuabout and described than inspected, and had script letters, or packets of news, to persons thus escaped detection. Subsequent inquiries who paid him for his trouble, hit off the idea rendered it probable that the forgery origin- of printing such intelligence periodically, and ated in a whim of the second Lord Hardwicke, selling it to all comers for a fixed sum. Occawho, it is to be hoped, for the sake of his mem- sional sheets of "news" of a status almost ory, intended it merely for a toy to amuse or equal to that of those which in our days are mystify his private friends for a while, and sometimes, on the occurrence of a remarkable then be cast aside. The nobleman in question murder or execution, hawked about the streets died suddenly, perhaps before he had time to for a halfpenny, were known before this time; show the paper, and to explain the manner but he and his associates were the first periof its "getting up;" and so, at last, it found odical chroniclers in print. The speculation its way, with other books and manuscripts, was called The Weekly News, and appeared amongst which it was overlooked, to the Bri- in May, 1622; numerous rivals soon started tish Museum, whence it, in course of time, up to compete with it, and the little flimsy was unearthed, and dragged into false repute periodical sheets, seldom or never consisting by the plodding and dupeable Chalmers. of more matter than is contained in half a page of Sharpe's Magazine, were pretty freely circulated during the reign of James, though the works of certain poets and dra
Mr. D'Israeli, in explaining a little before his death the way in which he, in common with all the literati of his time, had been im