Зображення сторінки

'blooded connoisseurs export them as articles of commerce:

still Athens is the best school in the world for an architect.' But the crowning instance of ultra-Vandalic barbarism, with which no act of either Roman, Goth, Venetian, Turk, or Jew dealer can compare, is that related by our Author of the captains of two English frigates, who actually brought a tar-barrel on shore at Cape Sunium, and · bedaubed the white and brilliant

columns of Minerva's temple with long lists of their own names and those of their officers and boat-crews, in this in

delible material. This is surely the ne plus ultra of JohnBullism. An Englishman would not have been content to be saved in Noah's ark, without cutting his name in the timber.

Before Mr. Hughes left Athens, his name was enrolled as a member and benefactor of a society then recently established there for promoting the general interests of literature and science, under the title of the domovod, or Lovers of the Muses; the patrons being the Archbishop, the Greek primate, and several of the principal inhabitants. Its leading object is to provide funds for the foundation of a library and museum, for printing translations of the classics and original compositions in Romaic, for enabling young men to prosecute their studies in foreign universities, and for encouraging emulation among those at home by the distribution of rewards and prizes. This is well; but it is something still better, that when Dr. Pinkerton left the metropolis of Heathen wisdom six years after, having succeeded in establishing a Bible Society there, under the direction of a committee composed of nineteen of the most respectable men in the city, all Greeks, the way was paved for introducing the modern Greek Testament as a school book.

We must reserve for a separate article, the Author's travels in Albania, and his detailed account of the life of Ali Pasha.

Art. II. The Poetical Decameron ; or Ten Conversations on English

Poets and Poetry, particularly of the Reigns of Elizabeth, and James 1st. By J. Payne Collier, of the Middle Temple. Two

Volumes. Small 8vo. Edinburgh. 1820. ALTHOUGH we feel ourselves much indebted to those

pains-taking and meritorious mortals who have consumed their lives in the chace of black-letter, yet we cannot say that we greatly envy them either their acquisitions or their reputation. Their contributions, if not to literature itself, at least to the history of literature, are not, indeed, without value ; but when we consider the expenditure of time and attention, the waste of zeal and perseverance, the comparative neglect of better things, by which their success has been purchased, we cannot avoid referring to the disproportion between the means and the

result. The greater number of these inquirerş have, however, we believe, been dull and plodding men, who have laboured in this their vocation from something very like incapacity to attain distinction in any other. The Hearnes, the Ritsons, the Malones, have done the world some service in this way, which they would probably have failed of rendering in a bigher range; but we own that we have felt somewhat of painful emotion when we have received from minds of a superior cast, the proofs of keen and intense devotedness to a course of study which has but little tendency either to invigorate or to enrich the mind. We have never taken up the acute “ Essay on the learning of Shak

speare” without experiencing a sensation of regret that an intellect like Dr. Farmer's, should have so habitually busied itself in the examination of the mass of forgotten trash which furnished him with his materials; and while reading with much gratification the entertaining volumes before us, sometbing of the same feeling has occasionally come over us.

Mr. Collier is a man of ability, and has managed with considerable skill to extract amusement from very unamusing matter; but the amount of substantial information to be obtained from his volumes, is exceedingly slender. He has corrected several unimportant mistakes, adjusted sundry minute errors of date, and elicited various small particulars which had escaped the vigilance of preceding inquirers; but he has effected little for the enrichment of literature: so far as we have observed, no new names bave been added to the records of genius; the same great individuals stand out from the multitude, while the rest remain in much the same groupes and attitudes as before. We have moreover to complain of the form in which Mr. C. has judged it expedient to communicate the result of his investigations. The interruptions and digressions of a supposed conversation, are, we admit, a convenient medium for desultory inforination; but, at the same time, the adoption of this plan, instead of putting an author quite at his ease, and licensing him to range at Jarge and in all sorts of irregular directions, imposes on him the necessity of a continual self-restraint, and of a strong effort to maintain as much of order and sequence as the nature of his subject will allow. Here Mr. Collier seems to us to have failed entirely: he takes up a name or a point, keeps it in hand for a short distance, loses it in pursuit of something which crosses his path, resumes it, and again dismisses it, until we feel the attempt to follow so excursive a leader, altogether unavailing. His book is very pleasant reading, but it has by no means left a strong impression on our minds or memories.

Three intimate friends, Bourne, Morton, and Elliot, had agreed to spend ten days or a fortnight together at Bourne's bouise at

• Mortlake :' of this trio, the first is described as profoundly versed in the old literature of England, and the second as enthusiastically devoted to the same pursuits, though with less leisure and fewer advantages; Elliot is an accomplished man of the world, recently returned from foreign travel.

Tbe • Induction of these volumes furnishes us with these preliminary sketches of character, and with the particulars of the conversation which took place during a pleasant sail from Westminster-bridge to the residence of Bourne. In the course of this dialogue, the commentators on Shakspeare are introduced, and, much to our satisfaction, are handled with just severity: the variorum edition of our great dramatist, is treated with merited contempt, and Steevens himself is stigmatised as a tasteless and conceited pedant. Respecting this coryphæus of annotators, one of the interlocutors remarks:

• You recollect that passage in Hamlet, as excellent in the sentiment as appropriate in the expression of it.

• There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will.• It seems to want no remark; but what do you think is the ridiculous, the absurd, the degrading comment of Steevens upon it, I think you must remember it?

• As for me (said Morton) there is nothing of which I am so laudably and satisfactorily ignorant as of the notes upon Shakespeare.

• I well recollect the very expressions of this paltry pretender (added Elliot) : he is alluding to the trade of Shakespeare's father as a wool dealer or butcher, and to the conjecture that the poet followed the same business before he came up to London ; and how do you imagine he draws an argument in favor of the supposition from the lines I just quoted? You might guess to eternity: all the ingenuity of the riddle-solvers, from Edipus down to Dame Partlett, would be of no avail. He first gives the passage, and then he adds, with solemn gravily, “ Dr. Farmer informs me that these words “ are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in skewers” (and he takes care that the point shall not be lost for want of italics) • lately observed to him, that his nephew, an idle lad, could only assist “ in making them-he could rough hew them, but I was obliged to " shape their ends. Whoever recollects the profession of Shake.

speare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such a term. I have seen packages of wool pinned up with skewers !" )

It would be idle even to attempt an analysis of this literary melange; the first conversation, for instance, begins and ends with the poetical character of Fitz Jeffrey, and besides occasional citations from his compositions, a sort of running allusion to him is kept up by the speakers ; but the body of the section is filled up by extracts from other writers and references to works and authors quite unconnected with the subject originally proposed. We make no objection to this, certainly, for we have


been much entertained by it; but for our present purpose, we find it exceedingly unmanageable. The second day is principally devoted to the writers of English blank-verse before Milton : the poetry is not very attractive, but the following piece of extravagance is, at least, amusing. We have modervized the old spelling.

• Elliot. What black beast is that upon the title-page: is it Beelzebub or a dog ?

• Bourne. Both ; it is a representation of Beelzebub in the shape of a dog. I am not joking; read the title, though that does not fully explain the matter.

· Elliot. A most fearfal object!“ A strange and terrible “Wonder wrought very late in the parish Church of Bungay, a town " of no great distance from the city of Norwich, namely the fourth " of this August in the year of our Lord 1577, in a great tempest of “ violent rain, lightning and thunder, the like whereof hath been 6 seldom seen.

With the appearance of an horrible shaped thing, “ sensibly perceived of the people then and there assembled. Drawn “ into a plain method according to the written copy, by Abraham “ Fleming." This means nothing less than a supernatural appear

• BOURNE. As I said, of the devil in the shape of a large black dog. In the body of the tract it is observed, “ This black dog, or “ devil in such likeness (God he knoweth all who worketh all) run“ ning all along down the body of the Church with great swiftness and “ incredible haste among the people in a visible form and shape, pass“ ed between two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, “ and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them both " at one instant clean backward, insomuch that even at the moment “ where they kneeled they strangely died.”

• Morton. How could Fleming become the dupe of such an absurd story?

• ELLIOT. Wiser men have been quite as foolish ; witness Sir Thomas Brown, one of the latest well educated believers in the existence and power of witches.

• Bourne. It would be easy to collect thousands of instances of the same weakness, down even to the days of Roger North. We are also told by Fleming, that another man received from this horrible monster“ such a gripe on the back, that therewithal he was presently “ drawn together and shrunk up, as it were a piece of leather scorch« ed in a hot fire,” and that the wires and wheels of the clock were melted and torn to pieces, thunder and lightning continuing all the time: which, in fact, is the simple explanation of the whole of this

straunge and terrible wunder.

The third and three succeeding conversations refer principally to the early English satirists. The poetical specimens which are interspersed, are not always so striking as to tempt us to transcribe them; and those wbich might afford gratification to our readers, . would require more introduction and explanation than we can

convenientiy afford. As illustrations, and connected with the perpetual commentary of the dialogue, they are extremely interesting;, but, abruptly transferred to our pages, they would lose much of their effect. We find the prose more convenient for citation, and shall trespass on Mr. Collier's stores for the following good story' from Sir Jolin Harrington.

I remember how not long since a grave and godly lady, and grandmother to all my wives children, did in their hearings, and for their better instruction, tell them a story, which though I will not swear it was true, yet I did wish the auditory would believe it. Namely, how an Hermit being carried in an evening, by the conduct of an angel, through a great city, to contemplate the great wickedness daily and hourly wrought therein, met in the street a dung farmer with his cart full laden, no man envying his full measure. The poor Hermit, as other men did, stopped his nostrils, and betook him to the other side of the street, hastening from the sour carriage all he could; but the angel kept on his way, seeming no whit offended with the savour. At which while the Hermit marvelled, there came not long after by them, a woman gorgeously attired, well perfumed, well attended with coaches and torches, to convey her perhaps to some nobleman's cham. ber. The good Hermit, somewhat revived with the fair sight and sweet savour, began to stand at the gaze. On the other side the good angel now stopped his nose, and both hastened himself away, and beckoned his companion from the place. At which the Hermit more marvelling than before, he was told by the angel that this fine courtezan laden with sin, was a more stinking savour afore God, than that beastly cart laden with excrements.'

The seventh and eighth conversations are miscellaneous, the last containing references to various sources whence Shakspeare may be supposed to have derived assistance in the construction of his plots. The ninth and tenth also relate to the drama, and contain much illiberal abuse of the Puritans for their conscientious opposition to the stage. We do not think it worth while to argue this matter with Mr. Collier; but he must be perfectly aware that ample evidence is to be produced in justification of the harshest strictures on the licentiousness of theatrical exhibitions.

Mr. Collier seems to intimate an intention of pursuing his subject. We shall feel much pleasure in again meeting him: bis resources are abundant; and he is an intelligent and agreeable writer.

« НазадПродовжити »