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Here, however, we must terminate our pil- | an inconsistency between the means and the ferings, or open robberies, and bring these end; a discordance between the end and truth, straggling lucubrations to a close. In the ex. there is a fault: was there not, there is no fault
. tracts we have given, in the remarks made on Thus it would appear that the detection of them, and on the subject of them, we are aware faults, provided they be faults of any depth and that we have held the attitude of admirers and consequence, leads us of itself into that region pleaders : neither is it unknown to us that the where also the higher beauties of the piece, if critic is, in virtue of his office, a judge, and not it have any true beauties, essentially reside. In an advocate; sits there, not to do favour, but fact, according to our view, no man can proto dispense justice, which in most cases will nounce dogmatically, with even a chance of involve blame as well as praise. But we are being right, on the faults of a poem, till he has firm believers in the maxim that, for all right seen its very last and highest beauty; the last judgment of any man or thing, it is useful, nay, in becoming visible to any one, which few ever essential, to see his good qualities before pro look after, which indeed in most pieces it were nouncing on his bad. This maxim is so clear very vain to look after; the beauty of the poem to ourselves, that, in respect of poetry at least, as a whole, in the strict sense; the clear view we almost think we could make it clear to other of it as an indivisible Unity; and whether it men. In the first place, at all events, it is a has grown up naturally from the general soil much shallower and more ignoble occupation of Thought, and stands there like a thousandto detect faults than to discover beauties. The years Oak, no leaf, no bough superfluous; or "critic dy," if it do but alight on any plinth or is nothing but a pasteboard Tree, cobbled tosingle cornice of a brave, stately building, shall gether out of size and waste-paper and waterbe able to declare, with its half-inch vision, that colours ; altogeiher unconnected with the soil here is a speck, and there an inequality ; that, of Thought, except by mere juxtaposition, or in fact, this and the other individual stone are at best united with it by some decayed stump Lovise as they should be ; for all this the and dead boughs, which the more cunning De. *critic fly" will be sufficient: but to take in corationist (as in your Historic Novel) may the fair relations of the Whole, to see the build- have selected for the basis and support of his ing as one object, to estimate its purpose, the agglutinations. It is true, most readers judge adjustment of its parts, and their harmonious of a poem by pieces, they praise and blame by co-operation towards that purpose, will require pieces: it is a common practice, and for most the eye and the mind of a Vitruvius, or a Pal- poems and most readers may be perfectly ladio. But further, the faults of a poem, or sufficient; yet we would advise no man to folother piece of art, as we view them at first, will low this practice, who traces in himself even by no means continue unaltered when we view the slightest capability of following a better one; them after due and final investigation. Let us and if possible, we would advise him to pracconsider what we mean by a fault
. By the word tise only on worthy subjects; to read few poems fault, we designate something that displeases us, that will not bear being studied as well as read that contradicts us. But here the question might That Goethe has his faults cannot be doube arise. Who are we? This fault displeases, ful; for we believe it was ascertained long agi) contradicts us; so far is clear; and had we, had that there is no man free from them. Neither I, and my pleasure and confirmation, been the are we ourselves without some glimmering of chief end of the poet, then doubtless he has certain actual limitations and inconsistencies failed in that end, and his fault remains a fault ir- by which he too, as he really lives, and writes, remediably, and without defence. But who shall and is, may be hemmed in ; which beset him say whether such really was his object, whether too, as they do meaner men; which show us such ought to have been his object? And that he too is a son of Eve. But to exhibit if it was not, and ought not to have been, what these before our readers, in the present state becomes of the fault? It must hang altogether of matters, we should reckon no easy labour, undecided; we as yet know nothing of it; per were it to be adequately, to be justly done; haps it may not be the poet's but our own fault; and done any how, no profitable one. Better perhaps it may be no fault whatever. To see is it we should first study him; better “ to see rightly into this matter, to determine with any the great man before attempting to oversee him.” infallibility, whether what we call a fault is in We are not ignorant that certain objections very deed a fault, we must previously have set against Goethe already float vaguely in the tled two points, neither of which may be so English mind, and here and there, according to readily settled. First, we must have made occasion, have even come to utterance: thest, plain to ourselves what the poet's aim really as the study of him proceeds, we shall hold our. and truly was, how the task he had to do stood selves ready, in due season, to discuss; but before his own eye, and how far, with such for the present we must beg the reader to bemeans as it afforded him, he has fulfilled it. lieve, on our word, that we do not reckon Secondly, we must have decided whether and them unanswerable, nay, that we reckon them how far this aim, this task of his, accorded, in general the most answerable things in the nol with us, and our individual crotchets, and world; and things which even a little increase the crotchets of our little senate where we give of knowledge will not fail to answer without or take the law,—but with human nature, and other help. the nature of things at large; with the univer- For furthering such increase of knowledge sal principles of poetic beauty, not as they stand on this matter, may we bez the reader to acwritten in our text-books, but in the hearts and cept two small pieces of advice, which we imaginations of all men. Does the answer in ourselves have found to be of use in studying either case come out unfavourable; was there Goethe. They sren appliable to the study
of Foreign Literature generally; indeed to the Terence otherwise than boys do. "Happy study of all Literature that deserves the name. contractedness of youth,” adds Goethe, “nay,
The first is, nowise to suppose that Poetry of men in general; that at all moments of their is a superficial, cursory business, which may existence they can look upon themselves as be seen through to the very bottom, so soon complete; and inquire neither after the True as one inclines to cast his eye on it. We nor the False, nor the High nor the Deep; but reckon it the falsest of all maxims that a true simply after what is proportioned to themPoem can be adequately tasted; can be judged selves.” of “as men judge of a dinner," by some inter- Our second advice we shall state in a few nal tongue, that shall decide on the matter at words. It is to remember that a Foreigner is once and irrevocably. Of the poetry which no Englishman; that in judging a foreign supplies spouting-clubs, and circulates in cir- work, it is not enough to ask whether it is culating libraries, we speak not here. That suitable to our modes, but whether it is suitable is quite another species; which has circulated, to foreign wants ; above all, whether it is suitand will circulate, and ought to circulate, in able to itself. The fairness, the necessity of all times; but for the study of which no man this can need no demonstration : yet how often is required to give rules, the rules being al- do we find it, in practice, altogether neglected! ready given by the thing itself. We speak of We could fancy we saw some Bond-street that Poetry which Masters write, which aims Tailor criticising the costume of an ancient not “at furnishing a languid mind with fan- Greek; censuring the highly improper cut of tastic shows and indolent emotions,” but at collar and lapel; lamenting, indeed, that colincorporating the everlasting Reason of man lar and lapel were nowhere to be seen. He in forms visible to his Sense, and suitable to pronounces the costume, easily and decisiveit: and of this we say that to know it is no ly, to be a barbarous one; to know whether it slight task; but rather that being the essence is a barbarous one, and how barbarous, the of all science, it requires the purest of all study judgment of a Winkelmann might be required, for knowing it. “What!” cries the reader, and he would find it hard to give a judgment.
are we to study Poetry? To pore over it as For the questions set before the two were radiwe do over Fluxions ?" Reader, it depends cally different. The Fraction asked himself: upon your object: if you want only amusement, How will this look in Almacks, and before choose your book, and you get along, without Lord Mahogany? The Winklemann asked study, excellently well. “But is not Shakspeare himself: How will this look in the Universe, plain, visible to the very bottom, without and before the Creator of Man ? study?” cries he. Alas, no, gentle Reader; Whether these remarks of ours may do we cannot think so; we do not find that he is any thing to forward a right appreciation of “ visible to the very bottom,” even to those Goethe in this country, we know not; neither that profess the study of him. It has been our do we reckon this last result to be of any vital lot to read some criticisms on Shakspeare, and importance. Yet must we believe that, in reto hear a great many; but for most part they commending Goethe, we are doing our part to amounted to no such "visibility.” Volumes recommend a truer study of Poetry itself: and we have seen that were simply one huge In- happy were we to fancy that any efforts of terjection printed over three hundred pages. ours could promote such an object. Promoted, Nine tenths of our critics have told us little attained it will be, as we believe, by one means more of Shakspeare, than what honest Franz and another. A deeper feeling for Art is Horn says our neighbours used to tell of him, abroad over Europe; a purer, more earnest " that he was a great spirit, and stept majes- purpose in the study, in the practice of it. In tically along.” Johnson's Preface, a sound this influence we too must participate: the and solid piece for its purpose, is a complete time will come when our own ancient noble exception to this rule; and, so far as we re- Literature will be studied and felt, as well as member, the only complete one. Students of talked of; when Dilettantism will give place doetry admire Shakspeare in their tenth year; to Criticism in respect of it; and vague wonbut go on admiring him more and more, un- der end in clear knowledge, in sincere revederstanding him more and more, till their rence, and, what were best of all, in hearty hreescore-and-ienth. Grotius said, he read emulation.
Is the modern arrangements of society, it is tocracy, and all the Squires and Earls, equally Do uncommon thing that a man of genius must, with the Ayr Writers, and the New and old like Butler, "ask for bread and receive a Light Clergy, whom he had to do with, shall stone;" for, in spite of our grand maxim of have become invisible in the darkness of the supply and demand, it is by no means the Past, or visible only by light borrowed from his highest excellence that men are most forward juxtaposition, it will be difficult to measure to recognise. The inventor of a spinning- him by any true standard, or to estimate what jenny is pretty sure of his reward in his own he really was and did, in the eighteenth cenday; but the writer of a true poem, like the tury, for his country and the world. It will be apostle of a true religion, is nearly as sure of difficult, we say; but still a fair problem for the contrary. We do not know whether it is literary historians; and repeated aitempts will not an aggravation of the injustice, that there give us repeated approximations. is generally a posthumous retribution. Robert His former biographers have done someBurns, in the course of nature, might yet have thing, no doubt, but by no means a great deal, been living; but his short life was spent in to assist us. Dr. Currie and Mr. Walker, the toil and penury; and he died, in the prime of principal of these writers, have both, we think, his manhood, miserable and neglected ; and mistaken one essentially important thing:yet already a brave mausoleum shines over his Their own and the world's true relation to dust, and more than one splendid monument their author, and the style in which it became has been reared in other places to his fame: such men to think and to speak of such a the street where he languished in poverty is man. Dr. Currie loved the poet truly; more called by his name; the highest personages in perhaps than he avowed to his readers, or even our literature have been proud to appear as to himself; yet he everywhere introduces him his commentators and admirers, and here is with a certain patronizing, apologetic air; as the sixth narrative of his Life, that has been if the polite public might think it strange and given to the world!
half unwarrantable that he, a man of science, Mr. Lockhart thinks it necessary to apologize a scholar, and gentleman, should do such for this new attempt on such a subject : but his honour to a rustic. In all this, however, we readers, we believe, will readily acquit him; readily admit that his fault was not want of or, at worst, will censure only the performance love, but weakness of faith; and regret that of his task, not the choice of it. The character the first and kindest of all our poet's biogra. of Burns, indeed, is a theme that cannot easily phers should not have seen farther, or believed become either trile or exhausted; and will pro- more boldly what he saw. Mr. Walker offends bably gain rather than lose in its dimensions more deeply in the same kind: and both err by the distance to which it is removed by alike in presenting us with a detached cataTime. No man, it has been said, is a hero to logue of his several supposed attributes, virhis valet: and this is probably true; but the tues, and vices, instead of a delineation of the fault is at least as likely to be the valet's as resulting character as a living unity. This, the hero's: For it is ceriain, that to the vulgar however, is not painting a portrait; but gaugeye few things are wonderful that are not ing the length and breadth of the several feadistant. It is difficult for men to believe that tures, and jotting down their dimensions in the man, the mere man whom they see, nay, arithmetical ciphers. Nay, it is not so much perhaps, painfully feel, toiling at their side as this: for we are yet to learn by what arts or through the poor jostlings of existence, can be instruments the mind could be so measured and made of finer clay tban themselves. Suppose gauged. that some dining acquaintance of Sir Thomas Mr. Lockhart, we are happy to say, has Lucy's, and neighbour of John a Combe's, had avoided both these errors. He uniformly treats snatched an hour or two from the preservation Burns as the high and remarkable man the of his game, and written us a Life of Shak- public voice ha now pronounced him to be: speare! What dissertations should we not and in delineating him, he has avoided the have had,—not on Hamlet and The Tempest
, but method of separate generalities, and rather on the wool-trade, and deer-stealing, and the sought for characteristic incidents, habits, libel and vagrant laws! and how the Poacher actions, sayings; in a word, for aspects which became a Player; and how Sir Thomas and exhibit the whole man, as he looked and lived Mr. John had Christian bowels, and did not among his fellows. The book accordingly, push him to extremities! In like manner, we with all its deficiencies, gives more insight, we believe, with respect to Burns, that till the think, into the true character of Burns, than companions of his pilgrimage, the honourable any prior biography: though, being written on Excise Commissioners, and the Gentlemen of the very popular and condensed scheme of an the Caledonian Hunt, and the Dumfries Aris- article for Constable's Miscellany, it has less
depth than we could have wished and expected Fdinburgh, 1898. The Life of Robert Burns. By J. G. Lockhart, LL. B. from a writer of such power; and contains
rather more, and more multifarious, quotations, than belong of right to an original production. own intrinsic merits, and may now be well Indeed, Mr. Lockhart's own writing is gene- nigh shorn of that casual radiance, he appears rally so good, so clear, direct, and nervous, not only as a true British poet, but as one of that we seldom wish to see it making place the most considerable British men of the for another man's. However, the spirit of the eighteenth century. Let it not be objected that work is throughout candid, tolerant, and anx- he did little : He did much, if we consider where iously conciliating; compliments and praises and how. If the work performed was small, are liberally distributed, on all hands, to great we must remember that he had his very maand small; and, as Mr. Morris Birkbeck ob- terials to discover; for the metal he worked serves of the society in the backwoods of in lay hid under the desert, where no eye but America, “ the courtesies of polite_life are his had guessed its existence; and we may alnever lost sight of for a moment.” But there most say, that with his own hand he had to are better things than these in the volume; construct the tools for fashioning it. For he and we can safely testify, not only that it is found himself in deepest obscurity, without easily and pleasantly read a first time, but may help, without instruction, without model; or even be without difficulty read again.
with models only of the meanest sort. An Nevertheless, we are far from thinking that educated man stands, as it were, in the midst the problem of Burns's Biography has yet of a boundless arsenal and magazine, filled been adequately solved. We do not allude so with all the weapons and engines which man's much to deficiency of facts or documents, skill has been able to devise from the earliest though of these we are still every day receive time; and he works, accordingly, with a ing some fresh accession,-as to the limited strength borrowed from all past ages. How and imperfect application of them to the great different is his state who stands on the outside end of Biography. Our notions upon this sub- of that store house, and feels that its gates must ject may perhaps appear extravagant; but if be stormed, or remain for ever shut against an individual is really of consequence enough him? His means are the commonest and to have his life and character recorded for rudest; the mere work done is no measure of public remembrance, we have always been of his strength. A dwarf behind his steam opinion, that the public ought to be made ac- engine may remove mountains; but no dwarf quainted with all ihe inward springs and rela- will hew them down with the pick-axe; and tions of his character. How did the world and he must be a Titan that hurls them abroad man's life, from his particular position, repre- with his arms. sent themselves to his mind? How did coex- It is in this last shape that Burns presents isting circumstances modify him from without; himself. Born in an age the most prosaic how did he modify these from within ? With Britain had yet seen, and in a condition the what endeavours and what efficacy rule over most disadvantageous, where his mind, if it them; with what resistance and what suffer- accomplished aught, must accomplish it uning sink under them? In one word, what and der the pressure of continual bodily toil, nay, how produced was the effect of society on him; of penury and desponding apprehension of what and how produced was his effect on the worst evils, and with no furtherance but society? He who should answer these ques- such knowledge as dwells in a poor man's hut, tions, in regard to any individual, would, as and the rhymes of a Ferguson or Ramsay for we believe, furnish a model of perfection in his standard of beauty, he sinks not under all biography, Few individuals, indeed, can de these impediments: Through the fogs and serve such a study; and many lives will be darkness of that obscure region, his eagle eye written, and, for the gratification of innocent discerns the true relations of the world and curiosity, ought to be written, and read, and human life; he grows into intellectual strength, forgotten, which are not in this sense biogra- and trains himself into intellectual expertness. phies. But Burns, if we mistake not, is one of Impelled by the irrepressible movement of his these few individuals; and such a study, at inward spirit, he struggles forward into the least with such a result, he has not yet obtained. general view, and with haughty modesty lays Our own contributions to it, we are aware, can down before us, as the fruit of his labour, a be but scanty and feeble; but we offer them gift, which Time has now pronounced imwith good-will, and trust they may meet with perishable. Add to all this, that his darksome, acceptance from those for whom they are in- drudging childhood and youth was by far the tended.
kindliest era of his whole life; and that he died Burns first came upon the world as a prodi- in his thirty-seventh year: and then ask if it gy; and was, in that character, entertained by be strange that his poems are imperfect, and it, in the usual fashion, with loud, vague, tu- of small extent, or that his genius attained no multuous wonder, speedily subsiding into cen- mastery in its art? Alas, his Sun shone as sure and neglect; till his early and most through a tropical tornado; and the pale mournful death again awakened an enthu- Shadow of Death eclipsed it at noon! Shroudsiasm for him, which, especially as there was ed in such baleful vapours, the genius of Burns now nothing to be done, and much to be was never seen in clear azure splendour, enspoken, has prolonged itself even to our own lightening the world : But some beams from it time. It is true, the “nine days” have long did, by fits, pierce through; and it tinted those since elapsed; and the very continuance of clouds with rainbow and orient colours into a this clamour proves that Burns was no vulgar glory and stern grandeur, which men silently wonder. Accordingly, even in sober judg- gazed on with wonder and tears ! ments, where, as years passed by, he has We are anxious not to exaggerate; for it us come to rest more and more exclusively on his I exposition rather than admiration that our readers require of us here; and yet to avoid thoughts to Him that valke!h on the wings of the some tendency to that side is no easy matter. wind." A true Poet-soul, for it needs but to be We love Burns, and we pity him; and love struck, and the sound it yields will be music! and pity are prone to magnify. Criticism, it But observe him chiefly as he mingles with is sometimes thought, should be a cold busi- his brother men. What warm, all-compre! ness; we are not so sure of this; but, at all hending, fellow-feeling, what irustful, boundevents, our concern with Burns is not exclu- less love, what generous exaggeration of the sively that of critics. True and genial as his object loved! His rustic friend, his nut-brown poetry must appear, it is not chiefly as a poet, maiden, are no longer mean and homely, but but as a man, that he interests and affects us. a hero and a queen, whom he prizes as the He was often advised to write a tragedy: time paragons of Earth. The rough scenes of and means were not lent him for this; but Scottish life, not seen by him in any Arcadian through life he enacted a tragedy, and one of illusion, but in the rude contradiction, in the the deepest. We question whether the world smoke and soil of a too harsh reality, are still has since witnessed so utterly sad a scene; lovely to him: Poverty is indeed his compa. whether Napoleon himself, left to braw) with nion, but Love also, and Courage; the simple Sir Hudson Lowe, and perish on his rock, feelings, the worth, the nobleness, that dwell "amid the melancholy main," presented to the under the straw roof, are dear and venerable reiecting mind such a “spectacle of pity and to his heart; and thus over the lowest profear," as did this intrinsically nobler, gentler, vinces of man's existence he pours the glory and perhaps greater soul, wasting itself away of his own soul; and they rise, in shadow and in a hopeless struggle with base entangle- sunshine, softened and brightened into a ments, which coiled closer and closer round beauty which other eyes discern not in the him, till only death opened him an outlet. highest. He has a just self-consciousness, Conquerors are a race with whom the world which too often degenerates into pride; yet it could well dispense; nor can the hard intel- is a noble pride, for defence, not for offence, lect, the unsympathizing loftiness, and high no cold, suspicious feeling, but a frank and but selfish enthusiasm of such persons, inspire social one. The peasant Poet bears himself, us in general with any affection ; at best it may we might say, like a King in exile: he is cast excite amazement; and their fall, like that of among the low, and feels himself equal to the a pyramid, will be beheld with a certain sad- highest; yet he claims no rank, that none may ness and awe. But a true Poet, a man in be disputed to him. The forward he can rewhose heart resides some effluence of Wis- pel, the supercilious he can subdue; pretendom, some tone of the “Eternal Melodies," is sions of wealth or ancestry are of no avail the most precious gift that can be bestowed with him; there is a fire in that dark eye, unon a generation : we see in him a freer, purer, der which the “insolence of condescension" development of whatever is noblest in our cannot thrive. In his abasement, in his exselves; his life is a rich lesson to us, and we treme need, he forgets not for a moment the nourn his death, as that of a benefactor who majesty of Poetry and Manhood. And yet, far lored and taught us.
as he feels himself above common men, he Such a gift had Nature in her bounty be- wanders not apart from them, but mixes stowed on us in Robert Burns; but with queen- warmly in their interests; nay, throws himself like indifference she cast it from her hand, into their arms; and, as it were, entreats them like a thing of no moment; and it was defaced to love him. It is moving to see how, in his and torn asunder, as an idle bauble, before we darkest despondency, this proud being still recognised it. To the ill-starred Burns was seeks relief from friendship; unbosoms himgiven the power of making man's life more self, often to the unworthy; and, amid tears, venerable, but that of wisely guiding his own strains to his glowing heart a heart that knows was not given. Destiny,-for so in our igno- only the name of friendship. And yet he was rance we must speak,-his faults, the faults “quick to learn;" a man of keen vision, before of others, proved too hard for him; and that whom common disguises afforded no conceal. spirit, which might have soared, could it but ment. His understanding saw through the have walked, soon sank to the dust, its glori- hollowness even of accomplished deceivers; ous faculties trodden under foot in the blos- but there was a generous credulity in his som, and died, we may almost say, without Heart. And so did our Peasant show himself ever having lived. And so kind and warm a among us; "a soul like an Æolian harp, in soul; so full of inborn riches, of love to all whose strings the vulgar wind, as it passed living and lifeless things! How his heart through them, changed itself into articulate flows out in sympathy over universal nature; melody.” And this was he for whom the and in her bleakest provinces discerns a world found no fitter business than quarrelling beauty and a meaning! The “Daisy" falls with smugglers and vintners, computing ernot unheeded under his ploughshare; nor the cise dues upon tallow, and gauging alebarre:s! ruined nest of that "wee, cowering, timorous In such toils was that mighty Spirit sorrowbeastie,” cast forth, after all its provident fully wasted: and a hundred years may pass pains, to “thole the sleety dribble, and cran- on, before another such is given us to waste. reuch cauld.” The “hoar visage" of Winter delights bim: he dwells with a sad and oft- All that remains of Burns, the Writings he returning fondness in these scenes of solemn has left, seem to us, as we hinted above, no desolation ; but the voice of the tempest be more than a poor mutilated fraction of wha? comes an anthem to his ears; he loves to walk was in him; brief, broken glimpses of a genius in the sounding woods, for “it raises his that could never show itself complete; that