Зображення сторінки


remarks are a singular comment upon a singular history. It is the work of a Frenchman who has ventured to deduce a theory from the data we have submitted to the reader's notice. With that theory we cannot agree; it may be reconcileable to the romance which M. de Wailly has invented, but it is altogether opposed to veritable records that cannot be impugned. M. de Wailly would have it that Swift's marriage with Stella was a deliberate and rational sacrifice of love to principle, and that Swift compensated his sacrificed love by granting his principle no human indulgences; that his love for Vanessa, in fact, was sincere and ardent, and that his duty to Stella alone prevented a union with Vanessa. To prove his case M. de Wailly widely departs from history, and makes his hypothesis of no value whatever, except to the novel reader. As a romance, written by a Frenchman, Stella and Vanessa is worthy of great commendation. It indicates a familiar knowledge of English manners and character, and never betrays, except here and there in the construction of the plot, the hand of a foreigner. It is quite free from exaggeration, and inasmuch as it exhibits no glaring anachronism or absurd caricature, is a literary curiosity. We accept it as such, though bound to reject its highest claims. The mystery of Swift's amours has yet to be cleared up. We explain his otherwise unaccountable behaviour by attributing his cruelty to prevailing insanity. The career of Swift was brilliant, but not less wild than dazzling. The sickly hue of a distempered brain gave a colour to his acts in all the relations of life. The storm was brewing from his childhood; it burst forth terribly in his age, and only a moment before all was wreck and devastation, the half-distracted man sat down and made a will, by which he left the whole of his worldly possessions for the foundation of a lunatic asylum.

Octobee, 3, 1850.



Reader! imagine a pious Boswell, and you have good Joseph Cottle before you. "Never, my dear sir," said Dr. Johnson, in one his admonitory epistles to the obsequious Bozzy, "never take it into your head to think that I do not love you; you may settle yourself in full confidence both of my love and esteem. I love you as a kind man, I value you as a worthy man; and hope, in time, to reverence you as a pious many The condition unfortunately wanting in the personal character of the biographer of the greatest of lexicographers is found in the memorialist of one of the noblest philosophers whom the world has seen. There is much that is kind in Cottle, more that is worthy, and a good deal that is unquestionably religious. Boswell was polite, affable, and courteous to a fault; Cottle is all three short of the fault. Bozzy, a gentleman and lawyer, lived for the acquaintance and friendship of the eminent and learned of his generation. Cottle, beginning life as a bookseller, seems to have as eagerly pursued such friendships, discriminating only between those a Christian conscience might lawfully approve and those it was in duty bound to reject. Boswell, certainly not a poet, published, nevertheless, in imitation of his superiors, "The Club at Newmarket," a tale in verse; Cottle, by no means destined to live as a darling of the muses, presents us, in emulation of his more highly-gifted companions, with his "Hymns and Sacred Lyrics," 12mo, half-bound. Bozzy, from the multitude of his attachments, distinguished one that he might link for ever his little soul with that of a giant. Cottle identifies his small history with the career of a master mind towering high above contending intellects. Both are anxious to commemorate their heroes and themselves; both take the same means, both are in a measure faithful to a duty arduous though self-imposed. Boswell never hesitates to display the human weaknesses of the god he worships; but he exhibits the foibles only to magnify the virtues, and rather than these should suffer, is always ready to immolate himself. Cottle is equally candid; but less for the sake of his hero than for the cause of religion, which is dearer to him even than his idol;—the one thinks of nothing but his mighty subject—the other, as the Wesleyans would say, is ever anxious to "improve" it. In one part of his work, the ecstatic Boswell tells us he can compare his biography to nothing but the Odyssey: the episodes may be interesting and instructive, but the hero is never out of sight and always in the foreground. In the first line of his book, the more collected Cottle prepares us for a sublimer vision; he assures us that it is with "a solemnised feeling" that he enters on his reminiscences, and that his task is something better than that of admiring the eloquence, extolling the genius, and forgetting the failings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

It is astonishing how much you may abuse a man if you will but do it in a reverent spirit, and, as it were, Cottle's Views Of Biography. 227

for the good of the object abused. You may till threefourths of a professed panegyric with absolute censure, provided the latter proceed from pious lips and from the depths of a self-constituted converted heart. Joseph Cottle reminds us at every step of those very good-natured friends who are always saying unkind things with a view to one's peace of mind and eventual improvement. You invite an old acquaintance to your hospitable board; you give him of food the best, of welcome the heartiest; you suffer the cloth to be removed, only that it may lead to the presence of more genial things, and forthwith your old acquaintance dilates upon the sinfulness of men in general, and upon your own backslidings in particular. Anger is impossible, wrath is out of the question. If you remonstrate, the speaker avows that if his love were less his reserve would be greater—if your interests, temporal and eternal, were not as lead upon his heart, he would eschew your wine and walnuts and make you over to the fiend for ever. We confess that we are not altogether comfortable in witnessing the tete-a-tete conferences, the domestic passages, revealed in the present volume. The faults of Coleridge are not unknown—they were many and grievous; but it is hardly the office of the friend of halfa-century to disseminate them after death, upon the plea of pious obligations. There is sometimes as much piety in drawing down the veil upon the infirmities of departed genius, as in ruthlessly upraising it, especially if the hand concerned has grasped, day after day, for fifty years, in confidence and friendship, the other's palm, that now lies withered and cannot help itself. Critics and historians have a duty to perform, stern often arid

« НазадПродовжити »