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Not for his fair outside, nor well-lined brain
of the foregoing, the first, the second, and the last sonnes are my favourites. But the general beauty of them all is, nat they are so perfectly characteristical. The spirit of “ learning and of chivalry”—of which union Spenser has entitled Sydney to have been the " president”-shines through them. I confess I can see nothing of the “ jejune" or " frigid" in them; much less of the “stiff” and “cumbrous"--which I have sometimes heard objected to the Arcadia. The verse runs off swiftly and gallantly. It might have been tuned to the trumpet; or tempered (as himself expresses it) to “tramp ling horses' feet.” They abound in felicitous phrases
But they are not rich in words only, in vague and unlocalized feelings—the failing too much of some poetry of the present day--they are full, material, and circumstantiated. Time and place appropriates every one of them.
It is not a lever of passion wasting itself upon a thin diet of dainty words, but a transcendent passion pervading and illuminating action, pursuits, studies, feats of arms, the opinions of contemporaries, and his judgment of them. An historical thread runs through them, which almost affixes a date to them; marks the when and where they were written.
I have dwelt the longer upon what I conceive the merit of these poems, because I have been hurt by the wantonness (I wish I could treat it by a gentler name) with which W. H. takes every occasion of insulting the memory of Sir Philip Sydney. But the decisions of the author of Table-Talk, &c., (most profound and subtle where they are, as for the most part, just,) are more safely to be relied upon, on subjects and authors he has a partiality for, than on such as he has conceived an accidental prejudice against. Milion wrote sonRets, and was a king-hater; and it was congenial, perhaps, to sacrifice a courtier to a patriot. But I was unwilling to lose a fine idea from my mind. The noble images, passions, sentiments, and poetical delicacies of character scattered all over the Arcadia, (spite of some stiffness and encumberment,) justify to me the character which his contemporaries have left us of the writer. I cannot think with the Critic, that Sir Philip Sydney was that opprobrious thing which a foolish nobleman in his insolent hostility chose to term him. I call to mind the epitaph made on him, to guide me to juster thoughts of him; and I repose upon the beautiful lines in the
Friend's Passion for his Astrophel," printed with the Elegies of Spenser and others.
“You knew-who knew not Astrophel ?
Of him you know his merit such,
Or let any one read the deeper sorrows (grief runnir.g into rage) in the poem—the last in the collection accompanying the above-- which from internal testimony I believe to be Lord Brooke's-beginning with “Silence augmenteth grief" —and then seriously ask himself, whether the subject of such absorbing and confounding regrets could have been that thing which Lord Oxford termed him.
NEWSPAPERS THIRTY-FIVE YEARS, AGO.
Dan Stuart once told us, that he did not remember that he ever deliberately walked into the exhibition at Somerset House in his life. He might occasionally have escorted a party of ladies across the way that were going in ; but he never went in of his own head. Yet the office of the Morning
newspaper stood then just where it does now-we are carrying you back, reader, some thirty years or more- -with its gilt-globe-topped front facing that emporium of our artists' grand annual exposure.
We sometimes wish that we had observed the same abstinence with Daniel.
A word or two of D. S. He ever appeared to us one of the finest tempered of editors. Perry of the Morning Chronicle was equally pleasant, with a dash, no slight one either, of the courtier. S. was frank, plain, and English all over. We have worked for both these gentlemen.
It is soothing to contemplate the head of the Ganges; to trace the first little bubblings of a mighty river;
“ With holy reverence to approach the rocks,
Whence glide the streams renown'd in ancient song." Fired with a perusal of the Abyssinian pilgrim's explora tory ramblings after the cradle of the infant Nilus, we well remember on one fine summer holyday (a “whole day's leave” we called it at Christ's Hospital) sallying forth at rise of sun not very well provisioned either for such an undertaking, to trace the current of the New River-Middletonian stream! to its scaturient source, as we had read, in meadows by fair Amwell. Gallantly did we commence our solitary quest-- for it was essential to the dignity of a DISCOVERY, that no eye of schoolboy, save our own, should beam on the detection Ву flowery spots and verdant lanes, skirting Hornsey, hope trained us on in many a baffling turn; endless, hopeless meanders, as it seemed; or as if the jealous waters had dodged 18, reluctant to have the humble spot of their nativity revealed ; till spent, and nigh famished, before the set of the same sun, we sat down somewhere by Bowes Farm, near Tottenham, with a tithe of our proposed labours only yet accomplished; sorely convinced in spirit that that Brucian enterprise was as yet too arduous for our young shoulders.
Not more refreshing to the thirsty curiosity of the traveller is the tracing of some mighty waters up to their shallow fontlet, than it is to a pleased and candid reader to go back to the inexperienced essays, the first callow flights in authorship, of some established name in literature; from the gnat which preluded to the Æneid, to the duck which Samuel Johnson
In those days every morning paper, as an essential retainer to its establishment, kept an author, who was bound to furnish daily a quantum of witty paragraphs. Sixpence a joke—and it was thought pretty high too—was Dan Stuart's settled remuneration in these cases. The chat of the day, scandal, but,
above all, dress, furnished the material. The length of no paragraph was to exceed seven lines. Shorter they might be, but they must be poignant.
A fashion of flesh, or rather pink coloured hose for the ladies, luckily coming up at the juncture when we were on our probation for the place of chief jester to S.'s paper, established our reputation in that line. We were pronounced a “capital hand.” Oh the conceits which we varied upon red in all its prismatic differences ! from the trite and obvious flower of Cytherea, to the flaming costume of the lady that has her sitting upon many waters.
Then there was the collateral topic of ankles. What an occasion to a truly chaste writer, like ourself, of touching that nice brink, and yet never tumbling over it, of a seemingly ever approximating something * not quite proper;" while, like a skilful posture-master, balancing between decorums and their opposites, he keeps the line, from which a hair's breadth deviation is destruction ; hovering in the confines of light and darkness, or where
both seem either;" a hazy, uncertain delicacy; Autolycuslike in the play, still putting off his expectant auditory with
Whoop, do me no harm, good man !" But, above all, that conceit arrided us most at that time, and still tickles our mid-riff to remember, where, allusively to the flight of Astræailtima Celestûm terras reliquit—we pronounced-in reference to the stockings still—that ModestY, TAKING HER FINAL LEAVE OF MORTALS, HER LAST BLUSH WAS VISIBLE
ASCENT TO THE HEAVENS BY THE TRACT OF THE GLOWING IN
This might be called the crowning conceit; and was esteemed tolerable writing in those days.
But the fashion of jokes, with all other things, passes away; as did the transient mode which had so favoured us. The ankles of our fair friends in a few weeks began to reassume their whiteness, and left us scarce a leg to stand upon. Other female whims followed, but none, methought, so pregsant, so invitatory of shrewd conceits, and more than single meanings.
Somebody has said, that to swallow six cross-buns daily, consecutively for a fortnight, would surfeit the stoutest digestion. But to have to furnish as many jokes daily, and that not for a fortnight, but for a long twelvemonth, as we were constrained to do, was a little harder exaction.
- Man goeth forth to his work until the evening”—from a reasonable hour m the morning, we presume it was meant. Now, as main occupation took us up from eight till five every day in the city ; and as our evening hours, at that time of life, had generally to do with anything rather than business, it follows,