Слике страница
PDF
ePub

HENRY HALLAM.

merous adresses, declared that they would live and histories of Chivalry and of the Crusarles, by CHARLES die, stand and fall, with the lord-general; and in Mills, Esq. (1789-1827), may be numbered among every part of the country the congregations of the the useful histories of the period. Mr James Mill's saints magnified the arm of the Lord, which had : History of India' is, indeed, of a higher character, broken the mighty, that in lieu of the sway of mortal being clear, well-digested, and of a philosophical tone men, the fifth inonarchy, the gn of Christ might be and spirit. established on earth.

It would, however, be unjust to the memory of those who exercised the supreme power after the death of the king, not to acknowledge that there existed among The greatest historical name in this period, and them men capable of wielding with energy the desti

our greatest living historian, is HENRY HALLIM, -nies of a great empire. They governed only four author of several elaborate works. His first was a years; yet, under their auspices, the conquests of View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, Ireland and Scotland were achieved, and a navy was two volumes quarto, 1818, being an account of the created, the rival of that of Holland and the terror progress of Europe from the middle of the fifth to of the rest of Europe. But there existed an essential the end of the fifteenth century. In 1827 he puberror in their form of government. Deliberative as- lished The Constitutional History of England from the semblies are always slow in their proceedings; yet Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II, the pleasure of parliament, as the supreme power, was also in two volumes; and in 1837–38 an Introduction to be taken on every subject connected with the foreign to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, relations or the internal administration of the country; and Seventeenth Centuries, in four volumes. With and hence it happened, that among the immense va

vast stores of knowledge, and indefatigable applicariety of questions which came before it, those com- tion, Mr Hallam possesses a clear and independent manded immediate attention which were deemed of judgment, and a style grave and impressive, yet immediate necessity ; while the others, though often enriched with occasional imagery and rhetorical of the highest importance to the national welfare, graces. His introduction to the 'Literature of Eu. were first postponed, then neglected, and ultimately rope' is a great monument of his erudition. His forgotten. To this habit of procrastination was per knowledge of the language and literature of each haps owing the extinction of its authority. It dis, nation is critical and profound, and his opinions are appointed the hopes of the country, and supplied conveyed in a style remarkable for its succinctness Cromwell with the most plausible arguments in de- and perspicuous beauty. In his two first works, Mr fence of his conduct.

Hallam's views of political questions are those geneBesides his elaborate . History of England, Dr Lin- rally adopted by the Whig party, but are stated with gard is author of a work evincing great erudition calmness and moderation. He is peculiarly a supand research, on the Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon porter of principles, not of men, and he judges of chaChurch, published in 1809.

racters without party prejudice or passion. The great epoch of the English Commonwealth, and the struggle by which it was preceded, has been

[Effects of the Feudal System.] illustrated by MR GEORGE BRODIE's History of the British Empire from the Accession of Charles I. to the

[From the · View of the Middle Ages. '] Restoration, four volumes, 1822, and by Mr Godwin's History of the Commonwealth of England, four volumes, children of Charlemagne, which we must always keep

It is the previous state of society, under the grand1834-37. The former work is chiefly devoted to an in mind, if we would appreciate the effects of the exposure of the errors and misrepresentations of feudal system upon the welfare of mankind. The Hume; while Mr Godwin writes too much in the institutions of the eleventh century must be compared spirit

of a partisan, without the calmness and dignity with those of the ninth, not with the advanced civi: of the historian. Both works, however, afford new lisation of modern times. The state of anarchy which and important facts and illustrations of the momen

we usually term feudal, was the natural result of a tous period of which they treat. The History of the Anglo-Saxons, by Sir FRANCIS the cause, rather than the effect, of the general esta

vast and barbarous empire feebly administered, and PALGRAVE, 1831, and the same author's elaborate blishment of feudal tenures. These, by preserving account of the Rise and Progress of the English Com- the mutual relations of the whole, kept alive the feel, monwealthAnglo-Saxon Period, are curious and valu-ing of a common country and common duties ; and able works. The history and literature of the An- settled, after the lapse of ages, into the free constitu; glo-Saxons had long been neglected; but some accomplished scholars, following Mr Sharon Turner, the federal union of Germany.

tion of England, the firm monarchy of France, and have recently mastered the difficulties attendant on such a study, and introduced us more nearly to those by its effects upon national greatness and security,

The utility of any form of policy may be estimated founders of the English character and language. MR upon civil liberty and private rights, upon the tran; CONYBEARE's Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, the quillity and order of society, upon the increase and valuable translation of the Saxon Chronicle by MR diffusion of wealth, or upon the general tone of moral INGRAM, the Rev. Mr Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon sentiment and energy. The feudal constitution was Grammar, and various works by Sir Francis Pal- little adapted for the defence of a mighty kingdom, grave and Mr Thomas WRIGHT, have materially far less for schemes of conquest. But as it prevailed aided in this resuscitation.

alike in several adjacent countries, none had anything Me Souther's History of Brazil, three volumes to fear from the military superiority of its neighbours

. quarto, 1810, and his History of the Peninsular War, It was this inefficiency of the feudal militia, perhaps, two volumes quarto, 1823-28, are proofs of the that saved Europe, during the middle ages, from the laureate's untiring industry, and of the easy and danger of universal monarchy. In times when princes admirable English style of which he was so consum. had little notions of confederacies for mutual protecmate a master. The first is a valuable work, though tion, it is hard to say what might not have been the too diffuse and minutely circumstantial. The Me- successes of an Otho, a Frederic, or a Philip Augustus, moirs of Spain during the Reigns of Philip IV. and if they could have wielded the whole force of their Ckarles II., by Mr Joun DUNLOP, 1834; the

History subjects whenever their ambition required. If an of India, by MR JAMES MILL, six volumes, 1819; and empire equally extensive with that of Charlemagne,

and supported by military despotism, had been formed examine the most authentic sources of information, about the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, the seeds of and to convey a true picture of the times, without coinmerce and liberty, just then beginning to shoot, prepossession or partiality. He commences with the would have perished; and Europe, reduced to a bar- accession of Alexander III., because it is at that barous servitude, might have fallen before the free period that our national annals become particularly barbarians of Tartary.

interesting to the general reader. The first volume If we look at the feudal polity as a scheme of civil of Mr Tytler's history was published in 1828, and a freedom, it bears a noble countenance. To the feudal continuation has since appeared at intervals, conlaw it is owing that the very names of right and ducting the narrative to the year 1603, when James privilege were not swept away, as in Asia, by the VI. ascended the throne of England. The style of desolating hand of power. The tyranny which, on the history is plain and perspicuo's, with sufficient every favourable moment, was breaking through all animation to keep alive the attention of the reader. barriers, would have rioted without control, if, when Mr Tytler has added considerably to the amount the people were poor and disunited, the nobility had and correctness of our knowledge of Scottish history. not been brave and free. So far as the sphere of He has taken up a few doubtful opinions on quesfeudality extended, it diffused the spirit of liberty tions of fact; but the industry and talent he has and the notions of private right. Every one will evinced entitle him to the lasting gratitude of his acknowledge this who considers the limitations of the

countrymen. A second edition of this work, up services of vassalage, so cautiously marked in those to the period already mentioned, extends to nine law-books which are the records of customs; the reci- volumes. procity of obligation between the lord and his tenant; The History of the War in the Peninsula, and in the the consent required in every measure of a legislative South of France, from the year 1807 to the year or general nature; the security, above all, which every 1814, in six volumes, 1828-40, by COLONEL W. F. P. vassal found in the administration of justice by his NAPIER, is acknowledged to be the most valuable peers, and even (we may in this sense say) in the trial record of that war which England waged against the by combat. The bulk of the people, it is true, were degraded by servitude; but this had no connexion written a history of this period, but it was heavy and

power of Napoleon. Mr Southey had previously with the feudal tenures. The peace and good order of society were not pro. Napier was an actor in the great struggle he records,

uninteresting, and is now rarely met with. Colonel moted by this system. Though private wars did not and peculiarly conversant with the art of war. The originate in the feudal customs, it is impossible to doubt that they were perpetuated by so convenient an

most ample testimony has been borne to the accuinstitution, which indeed owed its universal establish: racy of the historian's statements, and to the diliment to no other cause. And as predominant habits gence and acuteness with which he has collected his of warfare are totally irreconcilable with those of materials. Further light has been thrown on the industry, not merely by the immediate works of de- Spanish war, as well as on the whole of our other struction which render its efforts unavailing, but lication of The Despatches of Field-Marshal the Duke

military operations from 1799 to 1818, by the pubthrough that contempt of peaceful occupations which they produce, the feudal system must have been in- 1 of Wellington, by LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GURWOOD, trinsically adverse to the accumulation of wealth, twelve volumes, 1836-8. The skill

, moderation, and and the improvement of those arts which mitigate the energy of the Duke of Wellington are strikingly evils or abridge the labours of mankind.

illustrated by this compilation. No man ever beBut, as a school of moral discipline, the feudal fore,' says a critic in the Edinburgh Review, had institutions were perhaps most to be valued. Society the gratification of himself witnessing the forination had sunk, for several centuries after the dissolution of such a monument to his glory. His despatones of the Roman empire, into a condition of utter de will continue to furnish, through every age, lessons pravity; where, if any vices could be selected as more

of practical wisdom which cannot be too highly eminently characteristic than others, they were false prized by public men of every station ; whilst they hood, treachery, and ingratitude. In slowly purging will supply to military commanders, in particular, off the lees of this extreme corruption, the feudal examples for their guidance which they cannot too spirit exerted its ameliorating influence. Violation carefully, study, nor too anxiously endeavour to of faith stood first in the catalogue of crimes, most emulate.' repugnant to the very essence of a feudal tenure,

Ample materials for a comprehensive and complete most severely and promptly avenged, most branded history of the revolutionary war had been furnished, by general infamy. The feudal law-books breathe or existed in national repositories, and a work of throughout a spirit of honourable obligation. The this kind was undertaken by A. Alison, Esq., a feudal course of jurisdiction promoted, what trial by gentleman of the Scottish bar. Mr Alison's History peers is peculiarly calculated to promote, a keener of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revofeeling, as well as readier perception, of moral as well lution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in as of legal distinctions. In the reciprocal services of 1815, was completed in 1842 in ten volumes. Exceplord and vassal, there was ample scope for every tions may be taken to parts of this work as prolix in magnanimous and disinterested energy. The heart style and partial in statement. His account of the of man, when placed in circumstances that have a battle of Waterloo, for example, has been questioned tendency to excite them, will seldom be deficient in by the highest living authority on that subject; but, such sentiments. No occasions could be more favour-taken as a whole, Mr Alison's history is honourable able than the protection of a faithful supporter, or

to his talents, no less than his industry. His style the defence of a beneficent sovereign, against such is generally clear and animated, and his arrangement powerful aggression as left little prospect except of of his vast materials orderly, and well adapted for sharing in his ruin.

effect.

The following are also recent contributions to this P. F. TYTLER-COLONEL NAPIER, &c.

valuable department of our literature : A History of

England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Xir. The History of Scotland, by Patrick FRASER TYT-la-Chapelle

, and a History of the War of the SuccesLER, Esq. is an attempt to build the history of that sion in Spain, both by Lord Mahon; a History of country upon unquestionable muniments.' The China, by the Rev. CHARLES GUTZLAFF; a History author professes to have anxiously endeavoured to 1 of the Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece, by JAMES ST JOHN; a History of Christianity from the despotism and caprice; and, se lulously cultivating Birth of Christ to the Abolition of Paganism in the Ro- his acquaintance and society whenever his engageman Empire, by the Rev. H. H. MILMAN ; a History ments permitted, he took faithful and copious notes of India (the Hindoo and Mohammedan periods), by of his conversation. In 1773 he accompanied John. the Hon. MOUNTSTUART ELPHINSTONE; a History son to the Hebrides, and after the death of the latter, of Modern Greece, by JAMES EMERSON ; a History of he published, in 1785, his journal of the tour, being the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, by W. a record of each day's occurrences, and of the more H. PRESCOT (a very interesting and valuable work), striking parts of Johnson's conversation. The work and a History of the Conquest of Merico, by the same was eminently successful; and in 1791 Boswell gare author; a History of the Christian Church, by Dr E. to the world his full-length portrait of his friend, BURTON. The various works written to simplify The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., in two volumes history, and adapt its details to young and unin- quarto. Å second edition was published in 1794, structed readers, far exceed enumeration.

and the author was engaged in preparing a third when he died. A great number of editions has

since been printed, the latest of which was edited BIOGRAPHERS.

by Mr J. W. Croker. Anecdotes and recollections The French have cultivated biography with more of Johnson were also published by Mrs Piozzi, Sir diligence than the English ; but much has been done John Hawkins, Malone, Miss Reynolds, &c. Basof late years to remedy this defect in our national well had awakened public curiosity, and shown how literature. Individual specimens of great value we much wit, wisdom, and sagacity, joined to real worth have long possessed. The lives of Donne, Wotton, and benevolence, were concealed under the personal Hooker, and Herbert, by Izaak Walton, are entitled oddities and ungainly exterior of Johnson. Never to the highest praise for the fulness of their domestic was there so complete a portraiture of any single details, no less than for the fine simplicity and origi- individual. The whole time spent by Boswell in nality of their style. The lives of the poets by John the society of his illustrious friend did not amount son, and the occasional memoirs by Goldsmith, to more than nine months, yet so diligent was he in Mallet, and other authors, are either too general or writing and inquiring—so thoroughly did he devote too critical to satisfy the reader as representations himself to his subject, that, notwithstanding his of the daily life, habits, and opinions of those whom limited opportunities, and his mediocre abilities, he we venerate or admire. Mason's life of Gray was a was able to produce what all mankind have agreed vast improvement on former biographies, as the in- in considering the best biography in existence. teresting and characteristic correspondence of the Though vain, shallow, and conceited, Boswell had poet and his literary diary and journals, bring him taste enough to discern the racy vigour and richness personally before us pursuing the silent course of of Johnson's conversation, and he was observant his studies, or mingling occasionally as a retired enough to trace the peculiarities of his character scholar in the busy world around him. The success and temperament. He forced himself into society, of Mason's bold and wise experiment prompted an- and neglected his family and his profession, to meet other and more complete work—the life of Dr John- his friend; and he was content to be ridiculed and son by Boswell. JAMES BOSWELL (1740-1795) was slighted, so that he could thereby add one page to by birth and education a gentleman of rank and his journal, or one scrap of writing to his collection, station—the son of a Scottish judge, and heir to an He sometimes sat up three nights in a week to fulfil ancient family and estate. He had studied for the his task, and hence there is a freshness and truth

in his notes and impressions which attest their fidelity. His work introduces us to a great variety of living characters, who speak, walk, and think, as it were, in our presence; and besides furnishing us with useful, affecting, and ennobling lessons of morality, live over again the past for the delight and entertainment of countless generations of readers.

With a pardonable and engaging egotism, which forms an interesting feature in his character, the historian Gibbon had made several sketches of his own life and studies. From these materials, and embodying verbatim the most valuable portions, LORD SHEFFIELD compiled a memoir, which was published, with the miscellaneous works of Gibbon, in 1795. A number of the historian's letters were also included in this collection; but the most important and interesting part of the work is his journal and diary, giving an account of his literary occupations. The calm unshrinking perseverance and untiring energy of Gibbon form a noble example to all literary students ; and where he writes of his own personal history and opinions, his lofty philosophical style never forsakes him. Thus he opens his slight memoir in the following strain :

A lively desire of knowing and of recording our

ancestors so generally prevails, that it must depend James Boswell.

on the influence of some common principle in the

minds of men. We seem to have lived in the per. bar, but being strongly impressed with admiration sons of our forefathers : it is the labour and reward of the writings and character of Dr Johnson, he of vanity to extend the term of this ideal longevity. attached himself

to the rugged moralist, soothed Our imagination is always active to enlarge the and flattered his irritability, submitted to his literary narrow circle in which nature has confined us.

[graphic]

Fifty or a hundred years may be allotted to an in- was one of the most fertile writers upon record : his dividual, but we step forwards beyond death with miscellaneous works fill twenty-two quarto volumes, such hopes as religion and philosophy will suggest; and his dramas twenty-five volumes. He died in and we fill up the silent vacancy that precedes our 1635, aged seventy-three. His fame has been birth, by associating ourselves to the authors of our eclipsed by abler Spanish writers, but De Vega gave existence. Our calmer judgment will rather tend a great inipulse to the literature of his nation, and to moderate than to suppress the pride of an ancient is considered the parent of the continental drama. and worthy race. The satirist may laugh, the phi. The amiable and accomplished nobleman who relosopher may preach, but reason herself will respect corded the life of this Spanish prodigy has himself the prejudices and habits which have been conse- paid the debt of nature ; he died at Holland house, crated by the experience of mankind.'

October 23, 1840, aged sixty-seven. Lord Holland Gibbon states, that before entering upon the was a generous patron of literature and art. Holperusal of a book, he wrote down or considered what land house was but another name for refined hospihe knew of the subject, and afterwards examined tality and social freedom, in which men of all shades how much the author had added to his stock of of opinion participated. As a literary man, the knowledge. A severe test for some authors! From noble lord has left few or no memorials that will habits like this sprung the Decline and Fall. survive; but he will long be remembered as a gene

In 1800 DR JAMES CURRIE (1756-1805) published rous-hearted English nobleman, who, with princely his edition of the works of Burns for the benefit of munificence and varied accomplishments, ever felt the poet's family, and enriched it with an excellent a strong interest in the welfare of the great mass of memoir, that has served for the groundwork of the people; who was an intrepid advocate of popumany subsequent lives of Burns. The candour and lar rights in the most difficult and trying times ; ability displayed by Currie have scarcely been suffi- and who, amidst all his courtesy and hospitality, ciently appreciated. Such a task was new to him, held fast his integrity and consistency to the last. and was beset with difficulties. He believed that The Life of Nelson, by SOUTHEY, published in two Burns's misfortunes arose chiefly from his errors- small volumes (since compressed into one) in 1813, he lived at a time when this impression was strongly rose into instant and universal favour, and may be prevalent-yet he touched on the subject of the considered as one of our standard popular biopoet's frailties with delicacy and tenderness. He graphies. Its merit consists in the clearness and estimated his genius highly as a great poet, without beautiful simplicity of its style, and its lucid arrangereference to his personal position, and thus in some ment of facts, omitting all that is unimportant or measure anticipated the more unequivocal award of strictly technical. Mr Southey afterwards pubposterity. His remarks on Scottish poetry, and on lished a Life of Wesley, the celebrated founder of the condition of the Scottish peasantry, appear now the Methodists, in which he evinces a minute acsomewhat prolix and affected; but at the time they quaintance with the religious controversies and were written, they tended to interest and inform the publications of that period, joined to the art of the English reader, and to forward the author's bene- biographer, in giving prominence and effect to his volent object in extending the sale of the poet's delineations. Ilis sketches of field-preaching and works. Memoirs of Burns have since been written lay preachers present some curious and interesting by Mr Lockhart, Mr Allan Cunningham, and various pictures of human nature under strong excitement. other authors, who have added additional facts to The same author contributed a series of lives of those related by Currie, and new critical disquisi- British admirals to the Cabinet Cyclopædia, editer tions on the character and genius of Burns. It by Dr Lardner. cannot be said, however, that any of the number The most valuable historical biography of this have composed a more able, luminous, or eloquent period is the Life of John Knox, by Dr Thomas biography than that of the original editor.

M.CRIE (1772-1835), a Scottish minister. Dr After the death of Cowper in 1800, every poetical M'Crie had a warm sympathy with the sentireader was anxious to learn the personal history ments and opinions of his hero; and on every point and misfortunes of a poet who had afforded such of his history he possessed the most complete inexquisite glimpses of his own life and habits, and formation. He devoted himself to his task as to the amiable traits of whose character shone so con- a great Christian duty, and not only gave a comspicuously in his verse. His letters and manuscripts plete account of the principal events of Knox's were placed at the disposal of Hayley, whose talents life, ‘his sentiments, writings, and exertions in as a poet were then greatly overrated, but who had the cause of religion and liberty,' but illustrated, personally known Cowper. Accordingly, in 1803, with masterly ability, the whole contemporaneous Hayley published memoirs of the poet and his cor- history of Scotland. Men may differ as to the respondence in four volumes. The work was a views taken by Dr M'Crie of some of those subjects, valuable contribution to English biography. The but there can be no variety of opinion as to the inimitable letters of Cowper were themselves a talents and learning he displayed. Following up treasure beyond price; and Hayley's prose, though his historical and theological retrospect, the same often poor enough, was better than his poetry. author afterwards published a life of Andrew MelWhat the hermit of Eartham' left undone has since ville, but the subject is less interesting than that of been supplied by Southey, who in 1835 gave the his first biography. He wrote also memoirs of world an edition of Cowper in fifteen volumes, Veitch and Brysson (Scottish ministers, and supabout three of which are filled with a life and notes. porters of the Covenant), and histories of the ReThe lives of both Hayley and Southey are written formation in Italy and in Spain. Dr M*Crie pubin the style of Mason's memoir, letters being freely lished, in 1817, a series of papers in the Edinburgh interspersed throughout the narrative. Of a similar Christian Instructor, containing a vindication of the description, but not to be compared with these in Covenanters from the distorted view which he bepoint of interest or execution, is the life of Dr lieved Sir Walter Scott to have given of them in his Beattie, by Sir William Forbes, published in 1806, tale of Old Mortality. Sir Walter replied anony. in two volumes.

mously, by reviewing his own work in the QuarIn the same year LORD HOLLAND published an terly Review! There were faults and absurdities Account of the Life and Writings of Lope Feliz de on the side both of the Covenanters and the royalists, Vega, the celebrated Spanish dramatist. De Vega | but the cavalier predilections of the great novelist certainly led him to look with more regard on the manuscript is not to be regretted, for much of it latter-heartless and cruel as they were—than on could never have been published, and all that was the poor persecuted peasants.

valuable was repeated in the journals and memo. The general demand for biographical composition randum-books. Mr Moore's Notices' are written tempted some of our most popular original writers with taste and modesty, and in very pure and unto embark in this delightful department of literature. affected English. As an editor he preserved too Southey, as we have seen, was early in the field ; much of what was worthless and unimportant; as a and his more distinguished poetical contemporaries, biographer he was too indulgent to the faults of his Scott, Moore, and Campbell, also joined. The first, hero; yet who could have wished a friend to dwell besides his admirable memoirs of Dryden and Swift, on the errors of Byron? prefixed to their works, contributed a series of lives MR CAMPBELL, besides the biographies in his of the English novelists to an edition of their

works Specimens of the Poets, has published a Life of Mrs. published by Ballantyne, which he executed with Siddons, the distinguished actress, and a Life of great taste, candour, and discrimination. He after- Petrarch. The latter is homely and earnest, though wards undertook a life of Napoleon Bonaparte, on a romantic and fanciful subject. There is a which was at first intended as a counterpart to reality about Campbell's biographies quite distinct Southey’s Life of Nelson, but ultimately swelled out from what might be expected to emanate from the into nine volumes. The hurried composition of imaginative poet. this work, and the habits of the author, accustomed The lives of Burke and Goldsmith, in two volumes to the dazzling creations of fiction, rather than the each, by MR JAMES PRIOR, are examples of patient sober plodding of historical inquiry and calm inves- diligence and research, prompted by national feelings tigation, led to many errors and imperfections. It and admiration. Goldsmith had been dead half a abounds in striking and eloquent passages; the century before the inquiries of his countryman and battles of Napoleon are described with great clear- biographer began, yet he has collected a vast numness and animation ; and the view taken of his ber of new facts, and placed the amiable and amuscharacter and talents is, on the whole, just and in- ing poet in full length and in full dress (quoting partial, very different from the manner in which even his tailors' bills) before the public. Scott had alluded to Napoleon in his “Vision of Amongst other additions to our standard biogra. Don Roderick.' The great diffuseness of the style, phy may be mentioned the Life of Lord Clive, by Sir however, and the want of philosophical analysis, John MALCOLM; and the Life of Lord Clarendon, by render the life of Napoleon more a brilliant chro- Mr T. H. LISTER. The Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, nicle of scenes and events than a historical memoir by MR PATRICK FRASER TYTLER (published in one worthy the genius of its author.

volume in the Edinburgh Cabinet Library), is also MR MOORE has published a Life of Richard Brins- valuable for its able defence of that adventurous and ley Sheridan, 1825; Notices of the Life of Lord interesting personage, and for its careful digest of Byron, 1830; and Memoirs of Lord Edward Fitz- state papers and contemporaneous events. Free gerald, 1831. The first of these works is the most access to all public documents and libraries is now valuable; the second the most interesting. The easily obtained, and there is no lack of desire on the *Life of Byron, by its intimate connexion with part of authors to prosecute, or of the public to rerecent events and living persons, was' a duty of very ward these researches. A Life of Lord William Rus. delicate and difficult performance. This was farther sell, by Lord John RUSSELL, is enriched with inforincreased by the freedom and licentiousness of the mation from the family papers at Woburn Abbey; poet's opinions and conduct, and by the versatility and from a similarly authentic private source, LORD or mobility of his mind, which changed with every Nugent has written Memoirs of Hampden. The Life, passing impulse and impression. As well,' says Mr Journals, and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys, by the Moore, from the precipitance with which he gave Rev. J. Smith, records the successful career of the way to every impulse, as from the passion he had for secretary to the Admiralty in the reigns of Charles recording his own impressions, all those heteroge. II. and James II., and comprises a Diary kept by neous thoughts, fantasies, and desires that, in other Pepys for about ten years, which is one of the most men's minds, “come like shadows, so depart," were curiously minute and gossiping journals in the lan by him fixed and embodied as they presented them- guage. selves, and at once taking a shape cognizable by While the most careful investigation is directed public opinion, either in his actions or his words, towards our classic authors-Shakspeare, Milton, in the hasty letter of the moment, or the poem Spenser, Chaucer, &c. forming each the subject of for all time, laid open such a range of vulnerable numerous memoirs-scarcely a person of the least points before his judges, as no one individual ever note has been suffered to depart without the honours before, of himself, presented.' Byron left ample of biography. The present century has amply materials for his biographer. His absence from atoned for any want of curiosity on the part of England, and his desire to keep the minds of former generations, and there is some danger that the English public for ever occupied about him this taste or passion may be carried too far. Memoirs -if not with his merits, with his faults; if not in of persons of quality' -of wits, dramatists, artists

, applauding, in blaming him, led him to maintain and actors, appear every season. Authors have beà regular correspondence with Mr Moore and his come as familiar to us as our personal associates, publisher Mr Murray. He also kept a journal, and Shy retired men like Charles Lamb, and dreamy res recorded memoranda of his opinions, his reading, cluses like Coleridge, have been portrayed in all &c. something in the style of Burns. His letters their strength and weakness. We have lives of are rich and varied, but too often display an affec- Shelley, of Keats, Hazlitt, Hannah More, Mrs tation of wit and smartness, and a still worse ambi- Hemans, Mrs Maclean (L. E. L.), of James Smith tion of appearing more profligate than he was in one of the authors of The Rejected Addresses ") reality. Byron had written memoirs of his own life, of Monk Lewis

, Hayley, and many authors of less which he presented to Mr Moore, and which were distinction. In this influx of biographies worthless placed by the latter at the disposal of Mrs Leigh, materials are often elevated for a day, and the gra. the noble poet's sister

and executor, but which they, tification of a prurient curiosity or idle love of gossip from a sense of what they thought

due to his me- is more aimed at than literary excellence or sound mory, consigned to the flames. The loss of the instruction. The error, however, is one on the right

« ПретходнаНастави »