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with my tongue is agony—the tongue-ach, from a blister on that weapon, that I begin to fear may prove cancerous——thé lip-ach, from having accidentally given myself a labial wound in sucking out an oyster—the eye-ach, as if an absolute worm were laying eggs in the pupil—the ear-ach, tinglin' and stounnin' to the very brain, till my drum seems beating for evening parade-to which add a headach of the hammer and anvil kind--and a stomach-ach, that seems to intimate that dyspepsy is about to be converted into cholera morbus; and you have a partial enumeration of the causes that at present deaden my appetite--and that prevented me from chanting the ballad with my usual vivacity. However-I will trouble you for a duck.
SHEPHERD. You canna be in the least pain, wi' sae mony complaints as these--for they maun neutraleeze ane anither. But even if they dinna, I believe mysell, wi' the Stoics, that pain's nae evil-Dinna you, Mr North?
Certainly. But, Tickler, you know, has many odd crotchets. Pray, James, have you read the last number of the Edinburgh Review ?
SHEPHERD. Pray, Mr North, have you lowpt ower the Castle o' Embro? I wud as sune offer to walk through the interior o’ Africa, frae Tripoli to Timbuctoo. Howsomever, I did read Mr Jaffray’s article on the Decline and Fa' o' Poetry.
I read with pleasure all that my ingenious brother writes ; but he is often a little paradoxical or so-sometimes a little superficial, I fear, in his philosophy and criticism. However, he handles delicately and gracefully every subject he touches ; and seldom fails to leave on it something of the brightness of his genius.
SHEPHERD. The article's doonricht intolerable and untenable nonsense frae beginnin' to end. Whether Poetry's exhowsted or no, it's no for me to say ; but Mr Jaffray himsell, though that could scarcely hae been his end in writin 't, has proved in his article, beyond a' doubt, that Criticism is in the dead-thraws.
I was somewhat surprised certainly, James, to hear my brother absolutely asserting, that in our Poetry since Cowper, there is “ little invention, little direct or overwhelming passion, and little natural simplicity,”—" no sudden unconscious bursts either of nature or passion-no casual flashes of fancy-no slight passing intimations of deep but latent emotions-no rash darings of untutored genius soaring proudly up into the infinite unknown.”
SHEPHERD. After havin' in every ither article, for the last twenty years, laboured wi' a' his power to pruve the direck contrar'! Noo that the New Licht has brak in on him, he maun look back on the Francey Jaffray that keepit year after year oratorically-I mean oracularly-baranguin' on the terrible and awfu' bursts o'a' the dark and fierce passions in Byron's poetry, as a wee demented madman or lunatic.
But what say you, James, to “no rash darings of untutored genius”? That it's either nonsensical or fawse. If he allude to the great leevin' Poets wha bave had College educations, then its nonsensical ; for hoo could they “shew rash dawrin's o' untutured genius," seein' that ane and a' o' them had tutors, public and preevat, for years? If he allude to me, and Allan Kina nigam, and Bloomfield, and Clare, and ithers, wha were left to educate oursells, then it's fawse. “Nae rash dawrin's o' untutored genius” indeed! I'll thank him, or the likes o' him, wi' a' his tutored genius, to write Kilmeny, or Mary Jee the 'Female Pilgrim o' the Sun, or ae single prose tale o' honest Allan's, or ae single sang like mony o' his spirit-stirrin strains baith about the land and the sea. “Nae rash dawrin's o' untutored genius" indeed! Impident body, I wush he mayna hae been fou'—or rather, I wush he may --for afore I declair'd mysell a Tory, he himsell told the warld in sae mony words, that my Poetry was fu'o'“ Dawrin' flichts o' untutored genius;" and
sae it is, in spite o' the ignorant impertinence o' the like o' him, and ither envious elves that out o' natural or political malice will annonymously slump half-a-dizzen o' men o' genius ower into ae clause o'a sentence, which, when you analeeze't, is just naething mair nor less than a self-evident and contemptible lee.
NORTH How I admire the Doric dialect, my dear James! What a difference to the ear in the sound of lie and lee!
SHEPHERD. My ear detecks nane. But supposing there to be a difference i' the soun', there's nane in the sense; and Mr Jaffray, either in the ae creetique or the ither, maun hae said what is no' true.
A mere matter of taste-of opinion, James; and will you not allow a man to change his mind ?
SHEPHERD. No, I won't. At least, no an auld man like Mr Jaffray. It's just in mere matters o'taste and opinion that I'll no alloo him or ony ither supperandated creetic to say that he has changed his mind-without at least tellin' him that he's a coof--and that what he may conceive to be a change o' opinion, is only a decay o' faculties—a dotage o' the mind.
My brother complains that we have no poetry now-a-days, containing “ slight passing intimations of deep, but latent emotions”-yet in three or four most elaborate disquisitions of his on the genius of Campbell, the power of thus, by slight passing intimations, raising a deep but latent emotions,” is dwelt upon as the power characteristic of that delightful poet, beyond al. most all other men that ever wrote !
SHEPHERD. Hoo can a man, after contradickin' himsell in that silly and senseless manner, look himsell in the face in the mornin', when he sits doon to shave?
NORTH. My brother goes on to say of Modern British Poets, that “ their chief fault is the want of subject and matter—the absence of real persons, intelligible interests, and conceivable incidents."
SHEPHERD. I really wush, sir, you would gie ower quotin' drivel, for it maks me sick. Ca' you that leavin', " on every subject he touches, something o' the brichtness o' his genius?"
NORTH. Why, I confess, James, that here my respected brother is indeed a great goose.
SHEPHERD. Or rather a wee bit duck-cryin' quack, quack, quack-as it plouters amang the dubs; and then streekin' itsell up, as if it were tryin' to staun on its tail, and flappin' the dirty pearls frae its wings, and lengthenin' out its neck like an eel, and lookin' roun' about it wi' a sort o' triumph-cries quack-quackquack, again and then dives doon in the gulf profoond for anither mouthfu' o' something, leavin' naething veesible in the upper warld but itsdoup!
NORTH. The poetry of Crabbe and Scott is fuller of “ real persons, intelligible interests, and conceivable incidents,” than any other poetry-Shakspeare of course always excepted-perhaps yet in existence; and this, or nearly this, my bro ther has said at least a thousand times-showing, and well showing—for I repeat, James, “ that on every subject he handles, he leaves something of the brightness of his genius,"—that therein lies their power and glory.
SHEPHERD. And I hae only to repeat, sir, that I wunder hoo your brither can after a that look himsell in the face in the mornin' when he sits doon to shave.
NORTH. My brother, James, says, that all the Poems of Crabbe, Scott, Byron, Vol. XXIV.
Moore, Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Campbell, yourself, and all other poets now living or dead since Cowper and Burns,“ are but shadows, we fear, that have no independent or substantial existence-and though reflected from grand and beautiful originals, have but little chance” of being remém. bered, and so forth.-What say you to that, James ?
SHEPHERD. I say that that's either no in the Edinburgh Review, or that the Editor ought to be in a strait-waistcoat. For the man that raves in that fashion's no safe and some day 'll bite.
Scott's Poems, he says, are mere reflections of the Romances of Chivalry— which, I admit, he could not have said, had he ever read one single romance of chivalry-either in prose or verse-as you, James, know well, that in all points whatever they are the very antipodes
SHEPHERD. I never read—nor even saw ane o' the Romances o’Cheevalry in my life-excepp you ca’ Blind Harry's Sir William Wallace ane-and' it, to be surethough a glorious auld thing-has about as little resemblance to Marmion-as a peat-car-nae contemptible vehicle for rattlin' either up or doon a hill wi’ an active nag-to a war-chariot armed wi' scythes, and thunderin' ower the field wi' four white horses.
Then Wordsworth, it seems, went back to the early ballads for his Excur. sion, Sonnets to Liberty, &c. &c., and all others alike to Spenser and Shake
SHEPHERD. Oh, sir! tell me what I hae said or dune to deserve sic drivel as this bein' poured out upon me as a punishment; and I wull mak ony apology you like to demand, doon even to axin' pardon at your feet on my bare knees !
NORTH. My brother sums up by setting Mr Atherstone, as a poet, by the side of Mr Southey!
SHEPHERD. Mr Atherstane, from what I hae seen o' his verses, may just as weel be set at ance by the side o' Shakspeare. Mr Soothey is a poet oʻthe very highest order, sir-and Thalaba, Madoc, Roderic, Kehama-are gran' soun's, that at ance fill the mind with images o' high achievement. Has Mr Atherstane really written poems like them ? If sae, I wush I was introduced to him-and that he was sittin' here just noo at the Noctes.
NORTH. I should have no objections, James--none in the world ; but Mr Atherstone (I say it reluctantly) is not much of a poet. Something of a painter he may be, though his conceptions, vivid enough in themselves, seem to arise in series, and often too in great confusion and disarray; nor has he been able to produce a single picture, having in it Unity, comprehending all the details, great and small, to which they are all made to conform, and which is felt to be the spirit of the whole. Till he does this, he is not even a painter ; and for the truth of what I say, I refer him to his friend Martin. In the same article, my brother laments the loss “ in the morn and liquid dew of their youth" of Kirke White, Keats, and Pollok-and “that powerful, though more uncertain genius, less prematurely extinguished, Shelley." Now, why did he not encourage, animate, and spread the fame of these poets while they were alive, to reap profit and pleasure from his praise ?
SHEPHERD. I fancy, because he cared little or naething about them, and either never knew, or forgot, that such poets were in existence.
NORTH. Henry Kirke White, when chilled by the frost of criticism, would have had his blood warmed within the very core of his heart, by a panegyric on his genius in such a work, so powerful for good and evil, as the Edinburgh Review then was-But no-not a hint dropped of " the morn and liquid dew of his life,” till many years after his pure spirit had soared to heaven!
SHEPHERD. While Mr Soothey cheered the life o' the young pensive bard, and after death, embalmed his name in one of the most beautiful pieces of biography in the language !
NORTH. My brother praised Keats, it is true, but somewhat tardily, and with no discrimination; and, to this hour, he has taken no notice of his Lamia and Isabella, in which Keats's genius is seen to the best advantage ; while, from the utter silence observed towards him in general, it is plain enough that he cares nothing for him, and that it is not unjust or unfair to suspect the insertion of the article on Endymion was brought about by a Cockney job of Hunt or Hazlitt's.
NORTH. That noble Poem has never been so much as mentioned, -though, no doubt, the mere introduction of Pollok's name is thought to be a sufficient sacrifice to the genius of that singularly gifted young man.
SHEPHERD. And what said he o' Shelley ?
Never, to the best of my remembrance, one single syllable. Now, my dear James, all this may be very consistent with the principles on which my brother conducts his Review ; but nobody can say that it is a high-minded, finesouled, warm-hearted system. The voice of praise can be of no avail then,
“ Nor flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death.” Still, with all his deficiencies, inconsistencies, and contradictions, my brother is a charming critic.
O' a'the creetics o’this age, you alone, sir, have shown that you have a heart. You're the best creetic that ever existed oʻwarks o' imagination.
That seems to be the general opinion. Yet even I am not perfection.
NORTH. There's Mr David Lester Richardson, or some other dissatisfied person, who says, in that entertaining work, the London Weekly Review, that the last degradation that can befall a writer, is to be praised in Blackwood's Magazine.
SHEPHERD. Faith, he's maybe no far wrang there. Is that the Diamond Poet, who published three hunder and sixty-five panegyrics on his ain genius, by way o' Notes and Illustrations to his Sonnets—ane for every day in the year?
NORTH. The same.
SHÈPHERD. · His modesty's amaist as great's your ain, sir ; for he canna bring himsell to believe that ony body will credit his being a poet, without ha’en his judge ment overpowered by the testimony o’a cloud o' witnesses.
NORTH. Perhaps he was nettled, James, by my exposure of that puffery; but the truth is, I have a great kindness for David, and the very first volume, either of prose or verse, he publishes, I shall try him with praise in Blackwood ; and he will be surprised to find that it is far more delightful, and not nearly so degrading, as he or his contributor, during a fit of the jaundice, imagined.
SHEPHERD. Tak care ye dinna turn his head--for I should be sorry o' that, as, if he's the Editor o' the Weekly Review, he's a clever fallow.
NORTH. Hazlitt, too, has lately somewhere said—I think in that acute paper, the Examiner--that Maga is a work of which no man will mention the name, who
has any regard to his own character. Now, Hazlitt has not written a paper of any kind whatever, these last ten years, without using the most unwar. rantable, and unprovoked, and unnecessary liberties, with Maga's name. Therefore, Hazlitt is a man who has no regard to his own character.
NORTH. Yet you see, James, the inutility of the syllogistic form of reasoning; for it - ends with proving what bas already been admitted by all the world.
SHEPHERD. I see your meanin', sir-Oh! but you're a desperate sateerical auld chiel, and plant your skein dhu
NORTH. The blundering blockhead, James, drove his own knife up to the hilt in his own side, beneath the fifth rib, in his rage to strike a harmless old man like me, who was not minding the maniac, and had not kicked him for years.
SHEPHERD. Oh! man, but there's a cawm, cauld, clear, glitterin' cruelty in the expres. sion o' your een the noo, that's no canny, and you'll obleege me by takin' aff your glass ; for the taste o' that Glenlivet's eneuch to saften the sowl towards the greatest reprobate. A caulker o't could mak a man for a minute or twa amaist endure a Cockney.
NORTH. Maga, James, is an Engine.
SHEPHERD. An Ingine !-Lord safe us !-She is that !-An Ingine o'five hunder Elephant-power. Nae mortal man should be entrusted wi' sic an Ingine ; it's aneuch to mak ony man as prood as Nebuchadnezzar--and if you dinna tak tent, wha kens but you may share the fate o' that unfortunate monarch. You would be a curious creter on a' fowres, munchin' gerse !
NORTH. Maga is, you know, my dear James, an omnipresence. In hall and hut alike, her visits are hailed by the heart-acclamation of young and old-her face beams in equal beauty by the fire-light reflected from brass mirrors bright as gold, within a chimney-piece of the dove-coloured Italian marble and by the peat-low frae the ingle o' the “ auld clay biggin'
SHEPHERD. As noo and then the melted snaw-flakes drip doun the open lumm, sir, and the reading lassie, while the flickering flame momentarily leaves a darker shade ower the gay or serious page, loots doon her silken snood nearer to the embers, that the circle mayna lose ae word o' auld Christopher North, or the Shepherd, or Delta, whether Delta be singin' a sweet sang, aiblins about Mary, Queen of Scotland, or tellin' a comical story in a Chapter in the Life and Adventures o' that curious Dalkeith tailor body, now retired, as I hear, frae biz. ziness, hain' taen out his capital altogether, and become a Box-proprietor on the Esk-Mansie Wauch.
NORTH. That, James, is true fame. The consciousness of a circulation confined to certain classes—an exclusive circulation, would be the death, or paralysis of my genius.
SHEPHERD. 'Cause in that case, you would have to compose for an exclusive circulation-Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear! perhaps a Cockney coterie,—and then to a' mankind you would become either unintelligible or disgustin'! Does your body, sir, ever get wearied wi' writin'? for as to your mind, ane micht as weel ask if the vis generawtrix Naturæ ever got wearied. · I write, James, by screeds. Whenever I feel the fit coming on, which it often does about ten in the morning-never sooner--I encourage it by a caulker -a mere nut-shell, which my dear friend, the English Opium-Eater, would toss off in laudanum ; as soon as I feel that there is no danger of a relapse that