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England. He concluded his letter thus:-“ You cannot fight within my jurisdiction, but go to --, and you'll find all right.” Once, as a magistrate entered the crowd to prohibit a fight that was commencing, he was hustled by the thieves, and released of his watch and purse. But thieves and fighters wish to keep in with magistrates, and as soon as they found who and what he was, they apologized, and restored to him his property; and this was actually boasted of in the sporting or fighting paper.
At Whetstone, thieves' fights, fights for 51. or 101., got up exclusively by thieves, without any connexion with the pugilists' ring, or fancy, but on their credit, used to take place in rapid succession. The horrible murder of Thompson, by an Irish mob at a fight, took place at this spot. On one occasion the inhabitants shut up their houses in terror, and a body of hungry thieves surrounded a baker's house, broke it open, and plundered him of every particle of bread on the premises. Notwithstanding this incessant succession of riot, plunder, and murder, it was long before the magistracy attempted to suppress the exhibition.
A fight was to have taken place at Wolverhampton, between a pugilist and Byrne, who killed Mackay, and who was killed at last by Burke. Owing to the interference of the clergy, the fighters and thieves were baulked, and they departed for Shropshire, where a spot was selected for the stage. The stage was five feet high, but whilst it was erecting, the clergyman of the parish, accompanied by a magistrate, entered the ground, to prohibit the brutal fight. They had penetrated the dense mass of Staffordshire colliers, amidst the hootings and blasphemous execrations of these desperate men, and at last came to the crowd of thieves that surrounded the stage. Here they were hustled, robbed, and then permitted, in derision, to approach the stage; but immediately they had arrived at it, some powerful wretches seized the old man, and violently pressed his throat against the edge of the stage or flooring, with a view to strangle him. His face became purple, his
eyes were starting out of the head, and his swollen tongue was forced out of his mouth. Whilst the wretches were thus effecting their horrible purpose, the thieves were thrusting their hands under the arms, or over the shoulders of those who held him, and were tearing out his hair by handsful. The two gentlemen, by the humane assistance of some amateurs, were rescued ; and they escaped with their clothes torn off their backs*.
A pugilist has but three goals to his ambition and cupidity :-to keep a brothel ; to keep a petty hell, or low gambling-house; or lastly, to keep a public-house, the resort of his ring connexions, and the place for concocting fights, &c., with all their collateral villanies. That the magistrates should license such men in such houses is truly wonderfult, but it is almost incredible that they should license them notwithstanding the complaints of the neighbourhood against them, and notwithstanding their impudent violation of the law in advertising every Sunday the hours for meetings, to be held solely to set the laws and magistrates at defiance*. After these advertisements have been repeated very many times, the fight takes place, on the very site of previous murders and robberies,-in the very vicinage where the magistrates themselves have been maltreated and robbed. The fights are described with disgusting ribaldry in the low, profligate, sporting press; the thieves, felons, and pugilists who attended the fights are set forth in pompous array, and new fights are advertised immediately that the plunder of the previous exhibition has been distributed at these public-houses.
* At Worcester, in the fight between Spring and Langhan, a large wooden building was erected for the spectators. It suddenly broke down, when J. Treby, of Covent Garden Theatre, was killed, and an immense number of persons were more or less injured.
+ One of the signs of the times may be observed in the different maxims of the old and new police. It was, and is, the maxim of the old police to license flashhouses, and to let the police-officers have an understanding—a fraternity-with thieves of all sorts. The maxim of the new police is a suppression of flash-houses, and an uncompromising war against thieves of every sort. Police sinecures and licences will soon be suppressed, and their harvest destroyed : this harvest has been immense.
Are we a Christian, a civilized people? What a revolting picture is this of our domestic government and public functionaries ! Will foreigners believe it possible that the first nation in Europe can be so thoroughly barbarous in their notions of police, jurisprudence, and moralization? Of what use are our numerous Christian and benevolent institutions to the religion, morals, and well-being of the poor, if— no, not if our magistrates do not suppress such a system, but if they actually encourage it by tacit connivance, or, as we have shown, by open patronage? Can there be a subject which more seriously demands the attention of the Home Department—the care of our bishops in their visitations to their dioceses, and the active exertions of all religious, humane, and honest men—“whose ways are not of blood, and who despoil not the unwary"?
* The actual fights of the landlords of these houses with other stage-fighters, and the fights these landlords get up, between stage-fighters, in their public-houses, will soon be exposed.
TRANSLATIONS FROM THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY,
Board and Lodging.
To Rhodoclea, with a wreath of flowers.
* Go, lovely Rose, &c.—WALLER.
+ κυαναυγές τον.
LITERATURE IN 1834.
If the sophisms of superficial utilitarians were to prevail, that which is called the elegant literature of a civilized country would be ranked amongst its dispensable ornaments. Poetry is not a ploughshare, oratory sows no corn, nor can history be converted into a steam-engine. Nevertheless, even if the creations of cultivated minds be estimated as mere embellishments of human life, we have only to look back at ancient Greece to perceive the unfading renown which, above all other attributes of a nation, they confer upon the people who have given them birth. The memory which has been conversant with the annals of the Grecian States retains few traces of the sanguinary wars in which the Chians were engaged, or of the progress which they made in the arts or in agriculture. But the poems of the Chian bard have come down to us like a path of living light, which connects the present with the past and the future. Who that has ever read the history of Bæotia recollects a single chapter of it beyond the few pages which are dedicated to the life of Pindar? The most polished court of Asia, at one period, was that of Polycrates, at Samos. But if the name of that accomplished prince-for accomplished he was in an eminent degree--happen ever to be mentioned in our time, it is only because he is known as the protector and friend of Anacreon. Strike out from the modern history of Italy the names and the works even of Petrarch, Dante, and Tasso-deprive Spain of Cervantes--France of Molière-Germany of Goethe-England of Shakspeare, Milton, Scott, and Byron—what mighty chasms would be created in the records of those nations !-chasms in which would perish much of their celebrity, and not a little of that moral power which reputation gives in the opinion of the world.
But, in truth, literature, even that which is exclusively composed of the higher effusions of the intellect, is very far from being that kind of bauble which the new school of didactic philosophy would represent, Literature, taken in its most refined sense, might be truly described as the laboratory in which the mental elements are brought forth and shaped for all the purposes of society. The man of letters is not often the inventor of those new combinations in machinery, which are made to work for our profit like so many beings instinct with intelligence : but by his works he creates inventive genius in others; by extending the horizon of thought, he compels mind to enter into conflict with mind, and it is from such collision those original scintillations shoot forth which renovate and augment from age to age the light of the world. If, like New Zealand, we had no literature, it is not too much to say that we should be upon a level with the people of that country in everything that relates to arts and manufactures, and that we should have made little or no progress beyond the old pastoral knowledge and habits of mankind.
It need not be denied that a community of men might go on together for centuries, without being sensible of any want which the forest, the mountain, and the lake might not, in a great measure, supply. By a fair contribution of individual labour, they might even produce, from a friendly soil, an annual store of the necessaries of life, sufficient to satisfy the exigencies of the whole tribe. But whenever that store becomes redundant, it is in the very nature of our kind to desire something beyond the mere gratification of the sensual appetites. We are then impelled, by that heaven-born feeling which ever lifts us upward, to develope the noble gifts of reason to the fullest extent of which they are susceptible. It is only in communities where redundant wealth has been created, and where that wealth is applied in order to enable the mind to feel at ease with respect to the common wants of nature, that the faculties can be encouraged to disclose all their power. Destroy that surplus wealth, or even reduce to a wretched scale of economy the resources which have hitherto left superior intellects at liberty to pursue their own unfettered career, and the consequence must be a slow but certain retrogression to the condition of depravity from which the reform of savage
life commenced. The sparks of future light cease to be struck out-science and the arts are stopped in their progress-and the hope no longer remains of new accessions being made to history, philosophy, poetry, oratory, or any of the grander researches or emanations of mind, which lend a grace to existence here, and prophesy its glories hereafter.
The multiplying powers of the press must, indeed, prevent the darkness of ignorance from ever again coming upon the world. But it is not enough that we should be incapable of actually destroying or forgetting all the knowledge we now possess. We do nothing in our generation unless we advance beyond the generation whose place we occupy. The discoveries of Newton, and the investigations of Locke, are, in our age, little better than common-place. We begin where they ended, and unless we go on extending the sphere of the intellect, the passions crowd in upon us, and corruption becomes the order of the day. It is possible for men—as was proved by the revolution of France-to be really as barbarous in the eighteenth or the fiftieth century as they were before the flood. It is of the very essence of true civilization that it should be progressive. The moment it ceases to go forward, it is left behind by Time, the great arbiter of fashion, and the novelty of to-day to-morrow becomes obsolete.
The state of English literature, at this moment, seems to us to be anything but progressive. In the department of poetry we have had nathing for several years worth mentioning. A desultory effusion now and then finds its way into the periodical journals, as if to show that the fire of genius is not as yet wholly extinct amongst us.
of any length or character has lately seen the light in this country.
As to oratory, it seems to have altogether fled from the senate and the bar. Mr. Macauley, whose genius promised to renew the days, or rather the nights, of the Burkes and the Cannings, in the House of Commons, has been shipped off to India, where he is to sit as one of the members of a kind of conclave, and his sentiments, if they are to be expressed at all, must be delivered in a sotto voce not very favourable to elocution. He has left behind him many sensible and even able men in the House, who seem, however, much more anxious to eat a good dinner, or to go to bed early, than to cultivate either in themselves or in others the art of rhetoric. The double daily meetings have produced, of necessity, such an additional quantity of talk, that the business of the only House which appears to have anything to de, (for the upper House has scarcely sat at
But no poem
all since the commencement of the session,) is conducted in a prosaic style, seldom elevated above the tone of ordinary conversation.
It is much the same at the bar. The eminent counsel of the present day are perfectly well skilled in all the subtleties of the law, but there is not amongst them even the shadow of a Demosthenes or an Erskine. We know, indeed, more than one of those gentlemen to whom a course of lectures from “ Murray's Grammar” would be not a little serviceable. Sentences tolerably well begun, but most abominably ended-repeated infractions of every rule of syntax, tense, and mood, characterize our present forensic displays, as perhaps the least enviable among the nations which possess open courts of justice. The eloquence of our pulpit is very generally correct; but, alas! it is truly formidable for the icy coldness with which it falls upon the hearts of the audience.
The world seems to have been exhausted by our travellers, and in this respect it may be said, almost literally, that there is nothing new under the sun. Europe has been beaten quite flat by the swarms of tourists, whose volumes are now enjoying imperturbable repose in every wellregulated library. We know of nothing doing amongst us in the shape of history, if we except Colonel Napier's brilliant Commentary on the Peninsular War. Some fragments, indeed, of Sir James Mackintosh's long-promised Magnum Opus have been announced for publication, as if to render our disappointment more complete, by indicating how little, after all, there is to remain of the lucubrations of a mind which appeared adequate to any undertaking, had only health and industry been added or rather, had the years wasted on fleeting politics been husbanded for permanent fame.
We need only write the words“ British Drama ” to be sensible at once of the utterly hopeless condition into which that department of our literature has fallen. We are indebted to France for a pleasant comedy which is now rapidly fretting away its ephemeral existence upon our stage. A few domestic melodramas have also attracted some little attention; but the theatres are altogether, we may say, out of fashion, notwithstanding the recent somewhat increased degree of resort to them, which, indeed, cannot be considered in any other light than as a mere passing caprice on the part of the public. It forms no part of the ordinary routine of life now to go to the play. On the contrary, an evening set apart for that purpose is treated, in almost every family, as a marked exception to its usual habits; and is considered, we think very generally, as an evening thrown away, if not feared for the colds and the headachs by which it is too often followed. It is thought necessary, perhaps, to go once or twice in the season, just to see that such and such favourite performers—every year becoming fewer-are still alive. But there is no real magnetic power now attached to any of the houses, and everybody knows the up-hill sort of work which the lessees have to sustain their establishments at all.
In passing, it is worth remarking that the drama has been for some years on the decline, not only in London, but in all the principal country towns in which it formerly enjoyed great prosperity, and that the art has fallen into a similar state of decay in those states of the continent where it once attained the greatest eminence. This fact is a curious and a highly interesting feature in the intellectual history of man, for it seems to lead to the conclusion, that the dramatic art exercises its highest