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Saw ever ony body the likes o’that? The trencher was meant for us baith to fill our ain plates aff't, and instead o’that, there hae you ta’en the trencher to yoursell, and are absolutely eatin' awa fra'it, first a link o' lean and then a dab o' fat, as if you hadná seen butcher-meat for a towmont, and I'm obleeged to hae the trouble o’gangin' again to the sideboard. Have you seen any of the Annuals, James?
NORTH. I see you have, my dear Shepherd, and that most potently and effectively, to the Anniversary, and the Forget-me-Not. I could, would, and should have had an admirable article on all the Annuals this month, had the Editors or Publishers had the sense to send me their Flowers; but they have not, with the exception of Allan Cunningham, Mr Ackerman, Mr Crofton Croker, and Mr and Mrs Hall.
SHEPHERD. First come first served. What for no hae a review o' them by themsells?
Because I hate any thing that can possibly be mistaken by the weakest mind for the appearance of partiality.
Whoo! That's ha'in ower thin-skinned a conscience. Is the Anniversary gude?
NORTH. If any of the others be better, their Editors must have made a wonderful improvement on them since the last show of Christmas roses. Allan Cunningham, as Sir Walter has said, is an honour to Scotland ; and Scotland alone ought to take a large edition of the Anniversary. That is the best patronage that can be shewn to a man of genius. Allan has a proud and independent spirit, and appeals to his country. She knows his worth—and each son and daughter of hers knows how to reward it. His own poetry is perhaps the best in the volume—though it contains poems of considerable length-by yourself, James, Mr Southey, and Professor Wilson. Your Carle of Invertime, is one of your most beautiful effusions, and its spirit reminds one of Kilmeny and Mary Lee. But your prose Tale of Death' and Judgment is one of the most powerful things you ever did, James—and I will back it against all the other prose compositions in all the other Annuals—Cameronian against the field.
SHEPHERD. Ony gude poetry by ony ither contributors ?
One of the best Dramatic Scenes ever Barry Cornwall wrote—and a singularly beautiful Poem, full of feeling and fancy, entitled, “Sorrows of Hope,” by George Darley, the ingenious author of a dramatic Poem of a Fairy Nature, which I remember reading with pleasure a year ago, Cynthia's Revels—some fine vigorous verses by Lockhart; and two scenes, strange and spirited, by Lord Leveson Gower, from Schiller's Camp of Wallenstein, hitherto supa posed untranslateable.
What poems has Cunningham wrote himsell ? The chief is the Magic Bridle-quite in the style and spirit of Tam o' Shanter.
NORTH. Don't make so much munchin with your mouth, and I will repeat you
SHEPHERD. I dinna mak nae mair munchin wi' my mouth nor you do yoursell--no, nor half sae muckle—and naebody can say they ever heard my jaws or cheek banes playin' clunk, clunk, clunk, like yours when you're eatin'-a soun' for which I could aften amaist murder you by stickin' the carvin' knife into your verra heart.
NORTH. Hush ! I got by heart Allan's verses, entitled, “ The Mother Praying," on two readings, and that's a strong proof of their power ; for my memory is weak. They are indeed, my dear James, the passionate breathings of a true poet and a true man. Allan was one of the best of sons—and is one of the best of husbands and fathers.
SHEPHERD. And I houp sits wi' his family in his frien' Irving's kirk—and no in an Episcopawlian chapel.
NORTH. Why, James, one of the curiosities of the Anniversary is a Tale-for, as Wordsworth says, if you be wise, you may find a tale in every thing”—by Edward Irving. There is an earnestness, a sincerity, and a solemnity about it, which is affecting and impressive, in the almost total want of incident; and often as religious old women have been described, sitting with their dim spec. tacled eyes, and withered hand on the Bible, and discoursing on the suffering saints of old, Mr Irving's old woman is brought before our mind's eye, so as to touch our hearts with reverence for her and her faith.
SHEPHERD. Is't a bonny book?
NORTH. Most beautifully embellished, and most exquisitely printed. The engravings are all from paintings by the first masters, and the subjects are well chosen-probably by the publisher, Mr Sharpe, who has long been distinguished by taste and judgment in the fine arts. In short, the Anniversary is sure of splendid success. Mine is but a rough copy.
SHEPHERD. And sae is Mr Ackerman's Forget-me-Not sure o' success too--the auldest Annual o' them a'.
And one of the fairest and freshest too, James. Its embellishments are beautiful. Martin's Curtius leaping into the Gulf is most magnificent-most glorious. Lo! borne along in a clear space, surrounded by a mighty multitude, and overshadowed by palaces and temples, the Capitol shrouded in a stormy sky all tormented with lightning, on a snow-white horse, with far-streaming tail, and neck clothed with thunder-with his shield aloft on his arm, and his hel. meted head with plumes all elate, even as if flying, in front of both armies, against some champion about to advance from the barbaric host, that the dread issue may be decided by single combat—"The Devoted” is already on -over-the very edge of the abyss, and in another moment her saviour will sink from the sight of shuddering and shrieking Rome. That is indeed a triumph! No wonder, James, that the Seven-hilled City was the Mistress of the World.
SHEPHERD. Your words gie me the guseskin a' ower my body.-And what o' the let-' ter-press?
NORTH. Your Eastern Apologue is admirable—and I hope you were well paid for it, my dear Shepherd.
SHEPHERD. There's no a mair just, nay, generous man, in his dealins wi' his authors, in a' the tredd, than Mr Ackerman.
NORTH. He has got that charming painter of rural life, Miss Mitford, to brandish her Bramah for
SHEPHERD. Oh, sir, but that leddy has in truth a fine and a bauld haun', either at a sketch or a finished picture.
SHEPHERD. Crickets are chearfu' creatures
NORTH. For the game called cricket, James. Yet I trust I shall be forgiven for whispering into a fair ear, that ladies never can make themselves mistresses of the rules, technicalities, and character of male games. Who but Miss Mitford ever heard of a cricket ball being thrown five hundred yards? One hun. dred, it is well known to all cricketers, is about the “ top of their bent;" and De Foe the pugilist, who has beaten all England at that feat, has thrown it a very few yards farther-five or six at the utmost. Were you or 1, James, to commit a mistake equivalent to this, when writing about any female avocation or pastime, how would this lady's intelligent countenance be lighted up with the sweet sarcasm of a smile !
It's a maitter oʻnae earthly consequence. She's a jewel o’a writer-and though, like a' ither folk that's voluminous, unequal,-yet dull or stoopit she never is, and that gangs a lang way towards makin' either man or woman popular.
NORTH. The “ Amulet” has always been an especial favourite of mine, and it works more charms and wonders this year than ever. Its embellishments are all good—some exquisite. Nothing can surpass the Spanish flower girl, by R. Graves from Murillo—the Rose of Castle Howard by Portbury, from Jacke son-or the Mountain Daisy, by Armstrong, from Sir Thomas Lawrence. The literary contributions to the Amulet have always been selected with much taste and judgment, and no less distinguished by talent, than by a pure moral and sound religious feeling; which latter merit has, 1 understand, secured for it a very wide circulation among those who are not satisfied with works even of light amusement, unless they contribute, at the same time, to expand or enlighten the mind to the feeling and perception of higher truths. The editor is, manifestly, an able and amiable man, and the Amulet is now one of the most firmly established of all the Annuals.
SHEPHERD. Does that dear, delightfu' creter, Mrs Hemans, continue to contribute to ilka Annual, ane or twa o' her maist beautifu' poems ?
NORTH. She does so.
SHEPHERD. It's no in that woman's power, sir, to write ill; for, when a feeling heart and a fine genius forgather in the bosom o'a young matron, every line o' poetry is like a sad or cheerful smile frae her een, and every poem, whatever be the subject, in ae sense a picture o' hersell-sae that a' she writes has an affectin' and an endearin' mainnerism and moralism about it, that inspires the thochtfu' reader to say in to himsell—that's Mrs Hemans.,
NORTH. From very infancy, Felicia Dorothea was beloved by the Muses. I remember patting her fair head when she was a child of nine years—and versified even then with a touching sweetness about sylphs and fairies.
SHEPHERD. Early female geniuses, I observe, for the maist pairt turn out brichter in after life than male anes. Male anes generally turn stoopiter and stoopitertill by thirty they're sumphs.
NORTH. I fear it is too true. Miss Bowles is equal to Mrs Hemans. Aye, that Andrew Cleaves in the Magazine was a subduin' tale.
SHEPHERD. Wha are thae three brothers and sisters, the Howitts, sir, whose names I see in the adverteesements ?
NORTH. I do not know, James. It runs in my head that they are Quakers. Richard and William-they will not be angry if I mistake their names-seem amiable and ingenious men—and sister Mary writes beautifully
Her language is chaste and simple-her feelings tender and pure-and her observation of nature accurate and intense. Her “Studies from Natural History” in the Christmas Box-the Squirrel, Dormouse, and King Fisher, have much of the moral—say rather the religious spirit that permeates all Wordsworth's smallest poems, however seemingly light and slight the subject-and shew that Mary Howitt is not only well read in the book of Bewick, but in the book from which Bewick has bórrowed all-glorious plagiarist—and every other inspired ZoologistThe Book o' Natur
NORTH. The same, James- and few-none have read that volume to greater purpose than yourself. You have not seen the Christmas Box ?
SHEPHERD. Me? I see naething..
NORTH. This year it is edited by one of the most agreeable and ingenious gentlemen in all England, James-Mr Crofton Croker.
SHEPHERD. What! him that put out the Fairy Legends o' Eerland ? Yon's twa delichtfu' volumes. Is’t true that the Fairies ran awa wi' Mr Crofton when he was a wean?
NORTH. Perfectly true. He possesses in perfection the indescribable wit of his country.
SHEPHERD. You may weel ca’it that—but the Box is really fu' o' gude things, is't, sir ?
Garry Owen, or the Snow-Woman, a tale, by Miss Edgeworth, one of her happiest productions, would of itself float a beavy volume ; but the volume is as light as a many-winged butterfly, wavering, like an animated flower, in the sunshine.
SHEPHERD. Wha else writes for it?
NORTH. Mrs Jameson, the authoress, as I have heard, of the very interesting Diary of an Ennuyé, has contributed a dramatic Proverb, called “ The more Coin, the more Care,” full of naiveté and nature, a homely humour and a homely pathos, which make the reader pleased with himself, with the fair writer, with the Christmas Box, with the public, with the world, with human life, and with things in general.
SHEPHERD. A weel conceived and original trifle is apter to do a' that than a mair elaborate wark.
NORTH. There is also a capital thing by our friend Major Beamish, who, like a hundred other British officers, handles the pen as well as the sword
NORTH. Because no words of mine could do justice to the fertile fancy-the magical imagination of Mr Brooke. With a few touches he peoples the page with phantoms of grace, pensive, or fantastic-and by means of them brings into contact, or rather blends together, the waking world and the world of sleep.
Ho, ho! I perceive mony a young heart will beat wi' pleasurc on receevin' the CHRISTMAS Box.
NORTH. I must positively write one of my delightful articles on Annuals for Child hood and Youth. There's the Juvenile Keepsake-edited by a Roscoe a pledge of all that is good ;-the Juvenile Forget-me-Not, by Mrs Halls -which I have read--and it is excellent ;-and another, which must be good, by Mrs A. A. Watts, the sister of that good scholar, pleasing poet, and most worthy quaker, Wiffen of Woburn.
And her husband's Souvenir will no easily be surpassed
Nor equalled. The Souvenir set them all a-going—but it will never be drie ven off the road. The vehicle is not only lightly and elegantly, but strongly built-the patent springs will never snap-it is well horsed-carries good com. pany, both inside and out-the driver is cautious and skilful, and the guard has a good tongue on the bugle. I love the Souvenir.
Preserve us-how many are there o' them altogether?
Heaven knows—There is a critique in that Literary Gazette, James, on the Gem edited by that original and inimitable genius in his way, and his way is wider and more various than most people think—Thomas Hood--and the verses by the Editor himself, therein quoted, “ Eugene Aram's Dream,” are among
the best things I have seen for some years. What say you to your auld frein' Pringle, the Editor o' the Friendship’s Offering, sir.
I say, James, that Mr Pringle is himself a pleasing poet and amiable man, that be possesses peculiar qualifications for being the Editor of an Annual, and I have no doubt that his will be one of the best of the whole set. Then there's the Bijou, which last year was exquisite-and the Keepsake-Heaven preserve us—with all the rank, fashion, and genius of the age. It will prove the GRAND CONTUNDER.
SHEPHERD. THE GRAND CONTUNDER-What's that?
Masonic.--Here, James, is one of the best, because most business-like Prospectuses I ever read-of a new weekly Periodical, about to be published in Edinburgh, in the middle of November—THE EDINBURGH LITERARY JOURNAL. From what I know of the Editor, a gentleman of talent, spirit, and perseverance, I foretell the book will prosper.
I shall be glad o' that, for ane gets tired o' that eternal soun'-Blackwood's Magazeen-Blackwood's Magazeen-dinnin' in ane's lugs day and night a' lifelong.
One does indeed.
Enter MR AMBROSE.
Agreeably to your orders, sir, I intrude to tell you that it is but a few mie nutes from twelve, and your coach is at the door.
My dear Shepherd, we always keep good hours on a Saturday night. Come and take a bed at the Lodge.
SHEPHERD. Wi' pleasure ; and I'll stay ower the Sabbath, without gaun to the kirk, for I like to hear you read ane o' Blair's Sermons—who may hae been nae great theologian; but the creter had an unaccountable insicht into human natur.