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come worst off. His attention was wholly directed to the youngest Schulin, who appeared to indulge a wilful mood, by teasing the Prince, and telling him that he might rest satisfied with what he had got. The Prince, on the other hand, highly colouring, told him that he had got enough, held a short twig to Schulin's nose, and did all that he could to provoke a renewal of the combat. At last the Prince's tutor called his attention to the drawings for this work. They seemed to interest and please him. Looking at the view of the Sound, the Prince demanded, Pray, what is the meaning of the little flag on the fore-top of the guard-ship?"
"Author. When that is flying ships need not strike their flags and sails to the King of Denmark.
"Prince. What! must ships strike flags and sails to the King of Denmark ? "Author. They must do more: the captains are obliged to come on shore, and pay a toll to the King of Denmark. The other day, an English ship, with a cargo of cotton twist, paid L.1500 in toll.
"Prince. Indeed! that was a fine ship. I wish such an one would come every day. But how is it that ships pay this toll?
"Author. They do so to refund the expenses his Danish Majesty incurs on account of lighthouses, beacons, &c. It is an old custom, of which the English, in particular, are very fond. The English mariners are very partial to Holland's gin, which they get cheap, and in great perfection at Elsinore; besides, they buy knickknacks there for their wives and sweethearts, and the passengers have an opportunity of visiting Hamlet's Garden. "Prince. Hamlet's Garden! Where is
"Author. Close to Elsinore. "Prince. Who is Hamlet?
"Author. According to Shakespeare, the most accomplished prince Denmark ever produced.
"Prince. (With enthusiasm.) Yes! I do love the sea.
"The Prince looked over the other drawing, and then proceeded to his carriage, which was drawn up to the grand entrance of the palace. As he was going to step into the carriage, he pulled off his hat, and, making a polite bow, exclaimed, I thank you much, sir, for the sight of those beautiful drawings; I hope they will like them in England, and I wish you a prosperous voyage."
We have now discharged a public duty, in calling the attention of the literary world thus early to a work which is undoubtedly destined to render the name of its author immortal. We once more call upon Mr Feldberg to proceed fearlessly in his_high_career, till he reaches the goal of glory and of fame, to which the completion of his labours must inevitably conduct him. We shall not fail to give our
readers due notice of the future progress of a work, of which it would be unjust to the discernment of the public to augur any thing but the most splendid success.
WHY ARE POETS INDIFFERENT CRITICS?
MR EDITOR, THE Variorum notes on Shakespeare are entertaining reading, and have probably been the cause of many a man's looking into the works of the great poet, who would never have troubled them from pure love of the sublime or pathetic. It is not, then, too much, perhaps, to presume, that most general readers will pretty well recollect Warburton's elaborate note on the players' speech in Hamlet, as well as the much controverted passage to which it is appended. "The greatest poet of this and the last age," says Warburton," Mr Dryden, in the preface
to Troilus and Cressida, and Mr Pope, have concurred in thinking, that Shakespeare produced this long passage with design to ridicule and expose the bombast of the play from whence it was taken, and that Hamlet's commendation of it is purely ironical. This is become the general opinion. I think just otherwise; and that it was given with commendation, to upbraid the false taste of the audience of that time, which would not suffer them to do justice to the simplicity and sublime of this production." Warburton goes on, as usual, through a variety of ingenious and unsatisfactory arguments in
support of his opinion; but I must own, that in his conclusion I am inclined for the most part to agree. Not that I can bring myself to think, as he does, the style of the speech a good style, nor that his reasoning, as to what Hamlet says of it, however subtle, appears to me at all convincing; but because it is very possible that Shakespeare may have been fond of the lines, although they are not good in any point of view. Nor is it improbable that he was so. That he himself wrote them, there cannot, I think, be much doubt. The Shakespearian vein shews itself here and there. The style, indeed, exhibits much more of his nerve and manner than that of some of the plays which are attributed to him. Titus Andronicus, for instance, which it is a wonder, by the bye, that the critics have never attributed to Marlow, for the turn of the versification, and the atrocity of the characters, are in exact keeping with the "Jew of Malta."-But that the players' speech is not turgid, and in bad taste, and as unlike the style of the ancients as "Hyperion to a satyr," Warburton will succeed in persuading few readers. His parallel quotations, as he would have them thought, from Troilus and Cressida, and from Anthony and Cleopatra, are utterly worthless; the piece, in which the first occurs, is only half in earnest throughout; and the last nobody but Warburton would have produced as a similar passage. Still Shakespeare may have liked the players' speech, though he never wrote it, as the learned doctor supposes, in imitation of the ancients; as a player, it is the very thing that he would be likely to deem attractive; and poets are, in truth, seldom good critics, that is to say great poets are seldom judicious critics of poetry. Nor is it natural that they should be, for which the reasons are tolerably obvious.
whether intuitively or by a series of acts of the understanding, filled and saturated with the delight which springs from some favourite poetical style. This style must be his own; and it is only by the perfect comprehension, and intense admiration of its peculiarities and its beauties, that he can have become an original poet. This feeling of delight, in a particular style of poetry, may have arisen, as it no doubt often arises, unconsciously. The numberless steps, of perception after perception, and of association after association, may have been originally so imperceptible, or so completely forgotten ultimately, as to give the whole process the appearance of instinct,—or it may have been a decided creation of the understanding. It may have originated in the nicest discrimination and the most profound analysis. It may have been artificial in its conception, in its birth, and in its essence. Still the style so doated on, must be truly the "chosen one" the "only beloved;" and the modes of choice can only differ as the romantic "love at first sight" of the stripling differs from the gradual and intelligent affection of the man.
Under the first supposition it is nearly impossible to imagine that a mind, influenced by such exclusive and deeply-seated feelings, should not be disqualified impartially to compare the effusionswhich produce them, with others which do not. In the second instance, it is difficult to imagine this. When we have long and steadily preferred any thing, especially in poetry, that preference, almost necessarily declines, (or if the term displease,) improves into a sort of amiable but unreasonable dotage. The lover may be brought to own that his mistress is, in the abstract, less handsome than some other woman; but he cannot practically think that she is so, because he cannot feel that she is so. Her name must ever be to his ears "more musical than is Apollo's lute," let him play what tune he pleases. As it is in love, so is it in poetry. We are infatuated with a word, a very sound. The poet may exclaim, "What's in a name!" as long as he will, but it is a mistake to say that, to the poet,
Whether poets are inspired beings or not, does not much alter the bearings of this question. We have, to be sure, their own word for it that they are, and they should know best, as Count Caylus argued when he assured his officious ghostly advisers, to their great perplexity, that he had no soul. But then the word of a poet is none of the most credible, especially upon subjects like these. Be this as it may, however, still it is impossible to conceive of a great poet but as being,, How a mind impregnated with such
A rose By any other name would smell as sweet". It would not do so.
feelings should judge truly of the poet-
He is to sit down and coolly examine that which naturally arouses his finest passions, and act the unbiassed judge in à cause as to which he has been full of prejudices from the very hour of his birth; that the struggle to go through so unnatural a task as this, should occasion all sorts of extremes and absurdities is notextraordinary. Poetical criticismdemands other than poetical nerves. It is one man's calling to create a beautiful metaphor, and another's to dissect it. It is for your cold-blooded experimental ist to stare a simile out of countenance, on pretence of criticising the regularity of its features, or to make mouths at the pathetic, under a pretext of subjecting it to the test of ridicule, as an urchin grins in your face in the hope of making you as ridiculous as himself.
Of the fact of good poets being, in general, bad critics, the instances are as plenty as blackberries." His lordship of Byron is one of the most modern and eminent examples. This is apparent, not only in the recent Bowles Controversy to which one wonders at those who are sorry that he " condescends," for it is highly witty and amu sing, and cannot hurt his reputation as a poet with any one who has common sense, but may be, more or less, detected in many other transactions of his life. Byron is truly a poet by in tuition. In his juvenile poems, that tendency to melancholy, and to the depicting the darker passions, which has all along characterized him, is decidedly developed. He was then too young to suffer it to take such complete
possession of him as it has since done, nor had he then attained to that nervous strength, either of thought or language, which imparts a double force to his misanthropical reflections. He accordingly wrote less from his own ideas of style and subject than from those of others; and whenever Lord Byron has been an imitator, he has, in one or other sense of the word, failed. With a predisposition, thus early, towards a certain style and colouring of thought, his judgment has been constantly overpowered by the peculiarities of his poetical temperament. This is evident even in what he has said respecting the Elgin marbles; difference of opinion is common, but there has been no measure in his wrath. He will find very few to join him in his exaggerated vituperations of the noble conoisseur, for rescuing these exquisite remains from the hands of Time and the Turk. The only pity is that it had not been done five hundred years sooner. But the eye of Byron had seen these unmatched sculptures in their original situation; and he loved them with the enthusiasm of a poet.* With such feelings it were in vain to reason. Talk of utility or expediency! we might as well expect the lover to cut off his mistress's beautiful hair to prevent it coming out, or draw her frontteeth to preserve the rest from caries.
His opinions on poetry, even when he has endeavoured to rest them on first principles, or logical deductions, seem to have veered and varied all his life; and with his opinions, variable as they have been, his practice has generally contrived to be inconsistent. In his criticisms in the satire of "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,' even when they are not warped by irritated passions, it would be difficult to shew any one rule to which he has adhered throughout; if there be any, it is the rule of contrariety. His imitations have not been less inconsistent, nor less unfortunate. They are, however, often fortunately unfortunate. Unfortunate in not being like the style imitated, and fortunate in being better. The versification, for instance, of the "Bride of Abydos" is clearly intended to resemble that of Sir Walter Scott,-whose poems, by the bye,
*This is not correct. The marbles were removed from the Parthenon before his Lordship visited Athens.-C. N.
he had ridiculed, but it is more condensed and more correct than that of Sir Walter. Again, he has nearly spoiled the third canto of "Childe Harold," by mixing some unintelligible mysticism, about mountains and storms, with his own vigorous and well defined conceptions, under an idea that he was rivalling Wordsworth,
"When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to
The controversy with Bowles is an other instance of the work which poetical prepossessions make with the critical judgment of a poet. Lord Byron may persuade himself, if he can, that Pope is, after all, the greatest of poets and that he thinks him so; but he shall not persuade the public to believe either of these propositions, for all the syllogisms that he has yet put forth. In truth, it is ten to one but he hates Pope and his poetry from the very bottom of his soul, and if he were to make an affidavit of the contrary to-morrow, the question would still remain where it was. He is, in fact, the dupe of his own feelings. Aware of the occasional hollowness the some time extravagance, of those bursts of exalted poetry, which are congenial and natural to his own mind, he distrusts himself. Such poetry is an everyday feeling with him, and he tires of himself. Like the bank, he can command an unlimited issue of his own coin, and he depreciates himself. With these feelings, he endeavours to erect an artificial standard of merit, in direct opposition to that which he feels to be the true standard, and, in doing so, he has, for lack of better, flounder ed upon the precious piece of logic, that because morals are the best of studies, and Pope has written moral essays in rhyme, therefore Pope is the best of poets. He might as well say, that because mahogany is the best of woods, therefore an ode to Honduras must exceed all possible odes to any possible collection of trees; or, that because the prospect of Eton is the best of prospects, and Eton the best of colleges, therefore, Gray's ode must be the best that could be written on the Prospect of a College. If reasoning like this may hold, the celebrated metrical version of the Holy Scriptures deposited in the University library at
Glasgow, but which the worthy professors are so strangely shy of shewing, must be, to all Christian readers, the paragon of all earthly poetry, that is, has been, or shall be. That a mind gifted like that of the author of Childe Harold, should prefer Pope, sensible, witty, and elegant as he is, to Shakespeare, to Milton, or to himself, and for such a reason as this, is next to impossible.-Yet we must believe this before we can put faith in Lord Byron's criticism.
Lord Byron has been mentioned first as being perhaps the most notorious instance of the principle which these remarks are intended to enforce. Corroborative examples, however, are sufficiently abundant. Milton, like Byron, seems to have been born a poet, though, to his native loftiness and fire, he has superadded all the majestic and fanciful graces which a profound knowledge of classical poetry could afford him. His genius tended evidently to the higher beauties of poetry,-to the sublime and the pathetic, rather than to the witty, the ingenious, or the elegant. Like Byron, however, Milton is known to have preferred the works of one, the tendencies of whose genius were as opposite to those of his own, as can well be conceived. Cowley, the quaint, the metaphysical, the artificial Cowley, was the favourite of Milton, who preferred him to Dryden. Dryden, Rochester, and the rest of King Charles the Second's pet poets, however, returned the compliment, and were injudicious enough to express their contempt of Milton, whose Paradise Lost was characterized amongst the courtiers as a "dull poem," by one Milton, a blind old rebel, who had been Latin secretary to Cromwell, and narrowly escaped hanging at the Restoration, which, if he had not, they seem to have thought would have been no great matter for regret.
Pope is another instance of the inability of great poets to become good critics. He is the poet of good sense, wit, and judgment. His style, however, is plainly the effect of intense labour. Its polish is the result of repeated touches, and its correctness, of anxious and perpetual pruning. A genius like that of Pope could not cordially relish the natural and luxurious freedom of the older poets. Their thoughts rushed on like the stream of a mountain torrent, whilst his flowed on with the equable current of a ca
nal. It was hardly possible that he could really enjoy the works of men like these; nor did he enjoy them. Spence has put it upon record that he esteemed the writings of Ben Jonson, upon the whole, as "trash." His sentence on Young was, that he was "a genius without common-sense"-but what tells against him most strongly is, that his edition of Shakespeare is probably the worst ever published. Of the conjectural emendations, Johnson's are very middling, Warburton's worse than middling, and Pope's worst of all. They are universally and woefully flat. A fashionable canzonet occurring in the midst of Moore's Irish, or Burns' Scottish melodies, could not sound more deplorably. Theobald, the ci-devant hero of the Dunciad66 poor Tib," as Johnson called him, has experimentally and practically falsified the celebrated couplet of his enemy, and proved that it is one thing to write a poetical "Essay on Criticism," and another to practise it.
"Let those judge others who, themselves, excel,
And censure freely who have written well." The comparison between Pope's and Theobald's edition of Shakespeare, is in the very teeth of the maxim.
If we come a little nearer our own time, and examine the literary opinions of Gray, Johnson, and Horace Walpole, we shall find the same narrowness in their critical decisions. Gray predicted ill of Collins, and especially, discovered in the writings of the young bard of the Passions, a paucity of images! Mason and himself were more a kin-and Mason he preferred. Dr Johnson makes out a passage in Congreve's Mourning Bride, to be more poetically descriptive than any thing in Shakespeare; and Horace Walpole, reluctantly allowing him genius, despises all the other dramatists his contemporaries. Nay, the Doctor would discourage quotations from the works of a man, of whose admirable expressions, numbers have become idiomatic in the language, by saying that he who brings a passage from Shakespeare as a specimen of his powers, is like the pedant, who brought a brick as a sample of the building. As if Shakespeare's materials, like those of Mrs Centlivre, or
Mrs Behn, were essentially commonplace, and he, like them, only remarkable for the art of unravelling plots, or contrasting characters. After saying that Fleet-street was his favourite prospect, it was natural to expect that he should run down Pastorals. The poet of "London" was not likely to relish Tasso, Guarini, or Allan Ramsay. Nor was he a very fair judge of Ossian, or even Dr Percy's ballads.
Amongst the living poets the same intemperate judgments are daily manifested. Byron," in his own despite," sets up Pope for a model; deprecates cant in one breath, and cants about morals in the next. Percy Shelley, and the rest of the school of " naturals," gibe at the "artifice" and "sing song" of Pope, and are in love with the unintelligible beauties of Chaucer, making out in the excesses of their creed, "All discord, harmony-not understood." Nay, there was Leigh Hunt, the other day, doating upon the exquisite pronunciation of tobacco," as a rhyme to acre,”—tobaccre! and imprumortification of all those who feel sore dently avowing his fondness, to the at the jokes lately played off on the peculiarities of what is termed the
Cockney School of Poetry."* The Lake poets sneer at every body, and if Dr Southey be not careful with his hexameters, they run some risk of a return. Indeed, the Laureat's "Specimens" of English Poetry are in themselves no bad specimen of that perverse singularity of judgment which haunts the tribe of poets; nor is Mr Campbell's selections without some tendencies of this sort, though more judicious than Southey's. Sir Walter Scott's confirmed predilection for antiquarian description, and heroes who "cannot spell," is well known; and to complete the list, this infirmity of judgment, so fatal to great poets, is apparent even in the venerable father of The Leg of Mutton School," who, it is plain, must have taken the hint of praising all his great dining acquaintance from Pope's idea of writing "panegyrics on all the kings in Europe," unmindful that the plan was, upon second thoughts, abandoned by its original and equally illustrious author.
In this principle may be found the origin of that illiberal habit more or
See Notice of the Works of Charles Lamb.-Examiner.