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The Quarterly Review arose out of the Edinburgh, not as a corollary, but in contradiction to it. An article had appeared in the latter on Don Pedro Cevallos, which stung the Tories to the quick by the free way in which it spoke of men and things, and something must be done to check these escapades of the Edinburgh. It was not to be endured that the truth should out in this manner, even occasionally and half in jest. A startling shock was thus given to established prejudices, the mask was taken off from grave hypocrisy, and the most serious consequences were to be apprehended. The persons who wrote in this Review seemed ” to have their hands full of truths,” and now and then, in a fit of spleen
or gaiety, let some of them fly; and while this practice continued, it was impossible to say that the Monarchy or the Hierarchy was safe. Some of the arrows glanced, others might stick, and in the end prove fatal. It was not the principles of the Edinburgh Review, but the spirit that was looked at with jealousy and alarm. The principles were by no means decidedly hostile to existing institutions : but the spirit was that of fair and free discussion; a field was open to argument and wit; every question was tried upon its own ostensible merits, and there was no foul play. The tone was that of a studied impartiality (which many called trimming) or of a sceptical indifference. This tone of impartiality and indifference, however, did not at all suit those who profited or existed by abuses, who breathed the very air of corruption. They know well enough that “ those who are not for them are against them.” They wanted a publication impervious alike to truth and candour; that, hood-winked itself, should lead public opinion blindfold ; that should stick at nothing to serve the turn of a party; that should be the exclusive organ of prejudice, the sordid tool of power; that should go the whole length of want of principle in palliating every dishonest measure, of want of decency in defaming every honest man ; that should prejudge every question, traduce every opponent; that should give no quarter to fair inquiry or liberal sentiment; that should be “ ugly all over with hypocrisy,” and present one foul blotch of servility, intolerance, falsehood, spite, and illmanners. The Quarterly Review was accordingly set up.
“ Sithence no fairy lights, no quickning ray,
Obscure!" This event was accordingly hailed (and the omen has been fulfilled !) as a great relief to all those of his Majesty's subjects who are firmly convinced that the only way to have things remain exactly as they are is to put a stop to all inquiries whether they are right or wrong, and that if you cannot answer a man’s arguments, you may at least try to take away his character.
We do not implicitly bow to the political opinions, nor to the critical decisions of the Edinburgh Review; but we must do justice to the talent with which they are supported, and to the tone of manly explicitness in which they
are delivered.* They are eminently characteristic of the Spirit of the Age; as it is the express object of the Quarterly Review to discountenance and extinguish that spirit, both in theory and practice. The Edinburgh Review stands upon the ground of opinion; it asserts the supremacy of intellect: the pre-eminence it claims is from an acknowledged superiority of talent and information and literary attainment, and it does not build one tittle of its influence on ignorance, or prejudice, or authority, or personal malevolence. It takes up a question, and argues it pro and con with great knowledge and boldness and skill ; it points out an absurdity, and runs it down, fairly, and according to the evidence adduced. In the former case, its conclusions may be wrong, there may be a bias in the mind of the writer, but he states the arguments and circumstances on both sides, from which a judgment is to be formed-it is not his cue, he has neither the effrontery nor the meanness to falsify facts or to suppress objections. In the latter case, or where a vein of sarcasm or irony is resorted to, the ridicule is not barbed by some allusion (false or true) to private history; the object of it has brought the infliction on himself by some literary folly or political delinquency which is referred to as the understood and justifiable provocation, instead of being held up to scorn as a knave for not being a tool, or as a blockhead for thinking for himself. In the Edinburgh Review the talents of those on the opposite side are always extolled pleno ore—in the Quarterly Review they are denied altogether, and the justice that is in this way withheld from them is compensated by a proportionable supply of personal abuse. A man of genius who is a lord, and who publishes with Mr. Murray, may now and then stand as good a chance as a lord who is not a man of genius and who publishes with Messrs. Longman: but that is the utmost extent of the impartiality of the Quarterly. From its account you would take Lord Byron and Mr. Stuart Rose for two very pretty poets; but Mr. Moore's Magdalen Muse is sent to Bridewell without mercy, to beat hemp in silk-stockings. In the Quarterly nothing is regarded but the political creed or external circumstances of a writer: in the Edinburgh nothing is ever adverted to but his literary merits. Or if there is a bias of any
* The style of philosophical criticism, which has been the boast of the Edinburgh Review, was first introduced into the Monthly Review about the year 1796, in a series of articles by Mr. William Taylor, of Norwich.