« EelmineJätka »
more remarkable, as coming from a man who prides himself on his moral and intellectual independence more than on anything else. Probably the gift of a roving independence is distinct from the above mentioned more Shining qualities.
We had a good deal that was interesting, in as far as personal reminiscences are concerned, in regard to the Schlegels, in the previous “ Recollections,” but in the present work we have a more erudite inquiry into German drama and literature, probably the result of thoughts and researches previously embodied in the pages of the New Monthly, being more impressed with the past than with the present. Michaelis and Gesenius are spoken of, for example, as present evidences of the acknowledged skill of German penetration into Eastern and biblical literature! Mr. Redding never could relish Goethe. He says he wanted soul. “ The man was heartless, and it is difficult to imagine anything very captivating in mere* sentiment-above all, German sentiment." As to Gall and Spurzheim, hating as he does so heartily anything that is without his comprehension, he utterly contemns them. They were demolished, he says, in the Edinburgh, and that by Francis Jeffrey-an able legist it is possible, a fluent and graceful writer it is certain ; but no more qualified, as has been long ago shown, to form an opinion upon an anatomical and physiological question than Mr. Redding himself, who several times returns to the charge that the functions of the mind have remained perfect, after part of the brain has been gonemprobably, he says, from the spirit of the function lingering in the hollow where the brain " did once inhabit !” In the first place, the functions are dual, and, in the second, the lungs and liver, and every other organ, has been known to perform its functions when part has been gone. If, as Mr. Redding states, the brain has been shown to be a mere inert mass, what a want of wisdom has been manifested in endowing man with it at all, giving to it such vast capacity, placing it, as it were, in the most honourable position of the body, in immediate connexion with the senses, and protecting it so carefully on all sides!
Marryat, who purchased the Metropolitan over the heads of Campbell and Cyrus Redding, is naturally not a favourite with the latter. He admits his distinction as a naval novelist, but he says, “ He was not an amiable man. He was moody; at one time being open and apparently candid and generous, at another curt, selfish, and close.” “His sourness and intolerance,” he elsewhere observes, “may be traced to his early training, which all his going about the world failed to alter or to soften. So, too, with an inflexible sternness, which seldom condescended to defer to superior judgment or received opinion, and would not take a lesson from the nature or experiences of men and things. This, indeed, might be traced as much to quarter-deck discipline as to the temper of the individual.”
We were upon civil terms; no one could be in close friendship with Marryat, for he had the man-of-war's man about him in anything touching his will or wish, which you naturally repelled in its own way.
His death was a melancholy one. A rugged nature sometimes, from its rigidity, gives way through the difficulty of bending to the storm. The shock of his son's death, so suddenly coming upon him, struck him down at once. He asked me twice to go down and see him at his place in the country, where
he was hospitable enough, but there was always that je ne sais quoi about him, that the amalgamation customarily found with friends in general seemed impossible-peace to his manes! Tom Campbell, after a glass of wine, would lecture him. “Now, Marryat, I've known you from a boy, none of your quarter-deck with me.” When Marryat sent me an article in favour of flogging, it may be remembered, though thirty years and more ago, the poet seeing it in print, for I had inserted it, sent him from Hastings the well-known jeu d'esprit about editors flogging contributors.
Marryat may have had the bluffness of the quarter-deck, like many more amiable men. Take, for example, the late Sir Francis Beaufort, than whom a better man could not exist; but that does not prove that he was either morose or selfish. He seems, on the contrary, to have been in many instances peculiarly careless of self, and a more indulgent parent could not be met with.
To Davy, also, credit is given for his great scientific acquirements, but we are told that “ of literature and the Belles Lettres he knew little; his style was somewhat pompous, nor had he a taste for the fine arts, though he was not without the affectation of it.” This is hard upon Sir Humphry. His “Salmonia” attests a lively sense of literary beauties, and a perception for “Belles Lettres" beyond the domain of Science. But, after all, it might be asked, what is Literature that is objectless? The field of fiction is entertainment-sometimes with a moral, sometimes an historical, and sometimes even a philosophical object. To Poetry belongs many of the highest aspirations that are given to the mental faculties, but mere “ literature," which we are so perpetually told is on the wane, may, without a purport or a meaning, become also mere “ twaddle.”
Mr. Redding was pleased with Sheridan, although he says he cannot pretend to assign any reason for his admiration of that extraordinary man except it was his conversation--a witchery few could resist:
I remember how I was pleased with his eloquence, and as well, perhaps, bis joviality, the former Moore thought studied as well as the wit in his dramatic pieces. This was not quite correct. He was quick in his repartees. All the world in those days knew George Rose, of the Treasury. Rose was talking to an individual in the lobby of the House of Commons. Sheridan was close to him, when a friend came up, and said, “What news to-day?-anything afloat ?"
“ Nothing, my dear fellow; nothing, except the rumour of a great defalcation in the Treasury-mind, sub Rosa !” replied Sheridan, loud enough to be heard all around. Could this have been studied ?"
The well-known Beau Brummel too often got the lash from him, yet the beau liked the company of the wit who played upon him.
“My brain, Sherry, is swimming with being up all night-bow can I cure it? I am not myself this morning."
“ Then what are you?” said Sheridan. “But no matter. You have mistaken your complaint; there can be no swimming in a caput mortuum.”
The estimate of Moore is remarkable, but it was surely uncalled for to upbraid him with allowing a noble lord io indite his biography. Are the pleasant fields of literature tabooed to all but professionals ?
He had passed his early years in the social circle, and out of his study he sought company ratber than companionship with the wildness of Nature's beauty or majesty. His political independence of spirit early engendered partisanship. Few men, indeed, are able to support a dominion of mind alone. The gay circles of Dublin to which youth was accustomed to look up, as to something "great,” in vulgar parlance, particularly by the class from which the poet sprung, gave him a bias through life. He clung honestly to his early political principles, but he was evidently fonder of the patrician por. tion of his party than of any exhibition of an independence of the world's bearing in this respect. He was not a man to stand by a friend calumniated by what is called the “respectable” portion of society, for which read fashionable. He had, with all his political independence, a shrinking deference for the "mode.” He was fearful of being scandalised by alliances of small repute even among fashionable noodles, no matter whether it was calumny or truth. His moral courage could not confront rank and fashion, the flatteries of wbich were grateful to him. Too full of good sense to exhibit this feeling in his writings, it was seen in his actions when, perhaps, he was insensible to it himself. He crowned all by leaving his manuscripts to a noble lord for selection and editorship. This was a weakness, no doubt originating in the early deference of the poet for patrician connexion. To have it said that a noble lord, eminent as a politician, edited his biography, was a consideration that overweighed the good cr ill fulfilment of the bequest. It was characteristic of the man.
So, again, of Rogers. What we have is in no small degree depreciatory—the specimen given of his punning, perhaps, the most so:
Speaking of Rogers, to whom credit was given for witty things he did and did not say, Luttrel observed that a City alderman, naming him, had just been knighted. “I fear I shall not address him by his Sir name when we meet," said Rogers; "he will never look it.” “I shall wonder if you do not," observed Luttrel, “ for he has been beknighted ever since he was born. He has just brains for a costermonger, and no more.” “Oh! I see, you would make a barrow-knight of him,” said Rogers.
Rogers now and then exhibited the feeling and caution of the trader. Did not this arise from his profession and early habits ? He would not offend any body. This was a species of that selfishness which Swift would designate when he called a nice man a nasty man. There was a fear of a recoil if the resentment of another were aroused, which might be offensive or inconvenient to sustain. The old poet would have been a bad champion in any cause if it became necessary to beard an opponent. He was ever ready for a truce if the argument got upon the ground, that in the view of the third party there was no material question at issue. "If the truth must be told," says Sancho, in Don Quixote, * nobody transcribed the letter because there was no letter to transcribe." Yet would Rogers hit hard at him who was not present, to whose regard he was far from indifferent. He hated Lady Holland, which his regard for Lord Holland never made him restrain from showing. “Men," he said, "sometimes committed singular mistakes in regard to what they coveted. Yes, there is Lord Holland might confirm this by the fact that his marriage was one of the most extraordinary wilful mistakes a man could commit, it was no short step in abusing matrimony."
We have a long but interesting sketch of the “ Reign of Terror" from the journal of a M. St. Meard, in which Cazotte is alluded to as one of the martyrs—revolutionary, as well as crown despots, having, we are told, a similar dislike to men of literature and free thought. This Cazotte, who is spoken of as a mere enthusiast, was, in reality, an elegant and accomplished poet, a little given to mysticism, but who moved in the best society of Paris. It was at the Marchioness of Vaudreuil's that he prophesied that the noble and brilliant circle by whom he was surrounded would all fall beneath the knife of the guillotine.
Of William Henry Curran, Mr. Redding speaks in strong terms of admiration. “He was,” he says, “ one of the truest-hearted men I ever knew, with some of the finest qualities.
6.Sic abit nostræ comedia vitæ.' We do not make new acquaintance when we get into years—it would be wise to do so, but they who do never find the new fill the place of the old. When I used to walk down Regent-street, I did not fail to meet in a forenoon half a dozen individuals I knew. I pass up and down now ten times, and not a single fellow-being is recognised, but the highway appears re-peopled. Is there, since then, a generation already entombed?
“The publications of William Henry Curran are few, the principal being the life of his celebrated father, who treated him so harshly, but of which his filial piety and good spirit forbade even the remembrance, and bis collected papers in the New Monthly."
After Sir John Milley Doyle-most kindly spoken of, but the only interest connected with whom was his keeping up his spirits after having lost all he possessed by his reliance on Portuguese honour-we have a word or two more concerning the well-hated Croker:
A word more of Croker-how well-known names have been rapidly depart. ing from amongst us! It is natural to us all, it may be replied, and must be felt by those who have the largest circle of acquaintance. I had often met Croker, who was one of a certain circle of which the Smiths, Withers, Hook, and Hill, were a part. I do not think Croker ever had a friend beyond the common measure of 'usage of that abused term. One of his first literary engagements was on the Pic Nic paper, in which Sir J. B. Burgess, Colonel Greville, and Cumberland wrote. Combe also was concerned as editor. Croker was introduced by Greville as a young Irishman of talent, who would edit the whole paper, prose and verse, for two guineas a week. Croker at once made a show of his powers in conversation, full of Irish ardour. When he went away-the story has been before promulgated-Greville asked Cumberland what he thought of the young man. " Thought? why he talks enough; he is a talking potato," Greville engaged the young Irishman, for he was the principal proprietor. It need scarcely be said that the paper, as the Pic Nic and the Cabinet-to which latter name it was changed-did not succeed even under the Talking Potato; it expired in 1803. Some of the articles had considerable merit. Cumberland, Bland Burgess, Peltier, J. C. Herries, James and Horace Smith, Combe, Rogers, and Croker, were all contributors. No publication will succeed in England without puffing. Formerly the Monthly, Critical, Edinburgh, and Quarterly, decided for a time in turn the fate of books; then came Colburn's system of puffing, and since that the newspaper critical paragraphs and articles.
And then brief notices of Sir Alexander Johnstone and of Sir John Malcolm, the latter of whom, he says, was neither so agreeable a man, nor did he impart information in the same way as the former. The fact is, there was no further similarity between them than that they had both travelled in the East: the one was a quiet unpretending gentleman and scholar, the other a blunt, boisterous soldier, whose manners the Persians imitate to the present day. We have next a sketch of Sir James Mackintosh :
In private life he was exceedingly amiable, and in person well-looking. His voice was not over good for a public man, being somewhat attenuated; and he had about him that peculiar character, or something which, in one form or another, always distinguishes the inhabitant of the northern part of the island from the southern, and is never obliterated. Meeting one daynot a great while before his death-his tall person and sedate countenance, impressed with a feebleness that was evident at the first glance, it spoke that a crisis was approaching, although only in his sixty-sixth year. Soon afterwards he was no more. He latterly carried in his waistcoat-pocket a small bottle with, I presume, some kind of medicine, which he occasionally tasted. The last speech he made-where the writer was present-took place in the City, and was the first public meeting for the purpose of establishing a university in London. Sir James spoke as a strong friend to the measure; but there was nothing in his speech at all calculated to support the general idea of the abilities of the man. These were most visible in private conversation, and mingled with his dialectics, which showed, from the manner of their delivery and arrangement, that they were the produce of northern culture in a Scotch seminary; dwelling too much on logical points, in place of moving the passions. The same thing pervaded most of his public addresses-a virtue, perbaps, if an auditory would be ruled by reason, but against the intended effect, as it is because reason is, and will long be, the exception in religion and politics, let their government be of what nature it may. If we would prevail over our kind, we must use the right key for the purpose. It is as vain to regret the prevalence of social contrarieties in the world as it is to regret that of evil itself. It is, after all, no unpleasing reflection to have known Sir James, and still more, to have heard one of the most delightful con. versationalists this country ever produced.
Mr. Redding's acquaintance with Lady Morgan was of a long, enduring, and intimate character; and the specimens given of her private correspondence are not only entertaining and characteristic, but they bear the stamp that at once distinguishes natural from assumed genius. Our author (will he pardon us?) is not always safe in his recollections : for example, he says of Lady Morgan, at p. 38, vol. iii., “She was an excellent story-teller;" and at p. 48, same volume, he says, “ Lady Morgan, it is true, was an ill-narrator of a story, and made great mistakes." Again, in this and in a previous work, he is much given to repetition. Thus, at p. 38, vol. iž., he says, “It was the character of Colburn to pay a fashionable author, no matter what, even if he saw he should lose money, because he could not bear that another of the trade should reap in his field;" and again, at p. 79, he says, “ Colburn would never suffer another trader in literature to get a fashionable writer from him if he could avoid it.” Mr. Redding is uncompromising in his denunciations of the decadence of modern literature, and he is equally unsparing in his condemnation of the spirit of modern criticism ; but the latter can, at all events, be charitable at times.
Writing of Colburn, there are some strange tales related of that great bibliopolist : two of the most amusing of which detail the manner in which he did Lady Morgan out of her copyrights, and how he ordered and obtained from Mr. Redding a work which he never published or accounted for. As literature is becoming so degraded, perhaps the day will come when, like any other trade, it will claim payment for its “ goods,” if not for its “good things,” according to amount delivered. What a day that will be for authors ! Lady Morgan's articles on Italy, in the New Monthly, earned to that periodical the distinction of being prohibited from the Austrian dominions, yet when her friends and allies left the New Monthly for that unlucky speculation the Metropolitan, her ladyship could criticise the old periodical :