« ÖncekiDevam »
LONDON, IN THE MORNING. The morning wakes, and through the misty air In sickly radiance struggles-like the dream Of sorrow-shrouded hope. O’er Thames' dull stream, Whose sluggish waves a wealthy burden bear From every port and clime, the pallid glare Of early sun-light spreads. The long streets seem Unpeopled now, but soon each path shall teem With hurried feet, and visages of care ; And eager throngs shall meet where dusky marts Resound like ocean-caverns, with the din Of toil and strife and agony and sin. Trade's busy Babel ! Ah! how many hearts By lust of gold to thy dim temples brought In happier hours have scorned the prize they sought!
VIEW OF CALCUTTA.
SIR EGERTON BRYDGES*.
For half a century Sir Egerton Brydges has struggled to obtain a name in Literature. His success has not been in proportion to the length and earnestness of his labour. It is only to those who follow literature as a profession, and the few readers who, not satisfied to confine themselves to an acquaintance with the idols of the public, keep an eye upon all who have any claims whatever to the honors of authorship, that the reputation and the works of Sir Egerton Brydges are at all familiar. No living writer who has been equally industrious and prolific has excited so little general notice. The books that he has written, edited or compiled amount to about sixty volumes ! When to these are added his contributions to almost every kind of review and magazine, one is naturally surprised at the extent of his labours and the obscurity of his name.
If his accomplishments were superficial, or his learning abstruse
or if his style were dull and his subjects unpopular, it would be more easy to account for the neglect that he has experienced. But his characteristics are the reverse of these. His manner is always lively; his knowledge is elegant and extensive, rather than profound; and he has often handled topics of general interest with energy and truth. He has never opposed the stream of popular opinion. During the rage for poetry from the time of Cowper to Byron, he courted the Muses with toil and ardour ; and when the Minerva Press was the fashionable emporium for sentimental and romantic prose fictions, Sir Egerton supplied the public with novels adapted to the prevailing taste. His Sonnets, though published at a time when that form of composition was extremely fashionable, and when those of Charlotte Smith were running rapidly through new and large editions, attracted but very slight attention ; while his novels of Mary de Clifford and Fitz-Albini were equally unfortunate. The “ Letters on the Character and Poetical Genius of Lord Byron,” published in one volume octavo, in 1824, the year of the poet's death, were perhaps more successful than any of his previous works; but even these made no deep or lasting impression on the public mind, though the subject and the style were of a highly popular nature. Mr. Moore speaks very respectfully of these letters; and observes, that “ they con. tain many just and striking views.” Lord Byron himself had a favorable opinion of the talents of Sir Egerton Brydges, and made the following entry in his journal—" Redde the Ruminator-a collection of Essays, by a strange but able old man (Sir E. B.).” This strange but able old man" seems to have met with more kindness and respect from eminent individuals than from the public. He congratulates himself on the good opinion of Wordsworth and Southey, and he has just reason to do so. Of the precise nature of Wordsworth's praise we are not afforded the means of judging ; but there are some passages in the two or three beautiful letters from Southey which, whether with or without his consent, Sir Egerton has published at full length, that must have afforded him the most exquisite gratification. I do not wonder at his eagerness to print them; for, as far as individual testimony extends, they are extremely valuable. The public, however, are, after all, the final and the least fallible judges of literary merit. Their last and deliberate decisions are almost always right, and have an authority far superior to that of any individual, however eminent. Byron's contempt for Spenser, and his estimation of Pope above
* This article was written after the perusal of the work entitled “ The Autobiography, Times, Opinions, and Contemporaries of Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart. (per legem terræ) Baron Chandos of Sudely, &c."
all other English poets, and his inscription of the name of Rogers at the top of a literary pyramid of contemporary poets, and of Wordsworth, of Coleridge, and of Southey, nearly at the base, has had no influence whatever on the general judgment respecting the relative merits of these poets, though it may have called into question his own candour or acumen. Neither has Coleridge's enthusiastic admiration of the sonnets of Bowles, or Hazlitt's over-praise of those of Warton affected in the slightest degree the decisions of the public. The former are generally acknowledged to be delicate and harmonious, but querulous and feeble ; and the latter refined and thoughtful, but too intricate and pedantic. These opinions of the majority of readers, are undoubtedly more moderate and just than those of Hazlitt and Coleridge, who were influenced in this case by accidental associations. If the voice of a great poet were the voice of fame, Cowper would have bestowed immortality on the name of Hayley. Even Southey's generous praise of him in the Quarterly Review will not save him from oblivion*. It is true that there are passages in literary history which seem to prove the uncertainty of the public mind. That it exhibits occasional obliquities of taste, and is unduly influenced by temporary causes, is not to be denied; but these faults are neither so frequent nor so remarkable as the prejudices and caprices of individuals. It is pretty clear, we think, that there has been no truly great poet respecting whose character the public has committed any serious mistake, whatever may have been the sentiments of a few individuals. It is said that the poetry of Milton was for many years neglected. In opposition to this opinion it may be asserted that he had as many readers as could have been fairly expected, considering the time he wrote and the character of his poetry. It is to be remembered also that a general sense of Milton's merit might precede his popularity. In fact, he is not yet, and perhaps never will be, a popular poet; though all men acknowledge him to be a great one.
* The very beautiful though too laudatory article here alluded to, was almost refused insertion by Mr. Gifford ; and Southey has confessed that if it had been positively rejected, it would have alienated him from the Review.
Goldsmith is at this day more generally read than Milton : but those who read Goldsmith more than Milton make no mistake about the respective merits of these writers. They merely show that they prefer tenderness to subli. mity, or that they can enjoy for a longer period or with greater frequency or a more congenial feeling those strokes of genius that stir the gentler emotions of the heart, than those empyreal flights of the imagination which require the strained and unflagging attention of the mind. But that Milton's genius is of a higher order than that of Goldsmith, is universally understood, and the greater popularity of the latter is no argument whatever against the public judgment. The one has a more extensive popularity, the other has a higher fame.
The lately published auto-biography of Sir Egerton Brydges would afford Mr. D’Israeli an interesting subject for an additional chapter to his Essay on the Literary Character. For the mere lovers of personal gossip and light reading the work has comparatively few attractions; for nothing can be more slight, capricious, and unsatisfactory, than the biographical anecdotes and details, and the mode in which they are recorded. It is a psychological, not a personal memoir. The author has given us his thoughts and opinions, but not his life. The only incident in his personal career that he has dwelt upon at any length, is the rejection of his claim to the right of a peerage ; and even this
portion of his work is much less narrative than reflective. The circumstances of the case are given in a very brief space, but the effect of this disappointment on his mind and character may be traced from his first page to his last; and it is difficult to say whether his life has been most embittered by his failure in the Temple of the Muses, or in the House of Lords. The main pur