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Upon the whole, the specimens of lyrical execution which we have given above, will justify us in venturing the opinion (which Goldsmith's friend suggested to the travelling connoisseur as a safe one in all cases), that the picture would have been better, if the painter had taken more pains.' There is evidently a very just comprehension of the intended effect of the original, and a full power of expressing it, but this power is not uniformly exerted. With respect to the dialogue, we have already noticed the defects which are inseparable from an obsolete and unfamiliar language, and which, in our opinion, would make it impossible for any talent to produce an adequate representation of Aristophanes in a style so unsuited to this species of Comedy. This, however, is an estimate of the work merely as compared with the original;-as compared with former translations, it stands on the highest ground-and even the original does not, at the first perusal, reveal to the young student, so much perhaps, as the mere English reader may collect from Mr. Mitchell's translation. His estimate of the character of his author, as detailed in the Preliminary Dissertation, is (in our opinion) perfectly correct and curious, and interesting in the highest degree. The notes, though we have pointed out one or two defects, are in general spirited, judicious and learned :—and even if we were inclined to attribute to the translator a degree of poetical merit much inferior to that which he may justly claim; we should still consider British literature as under the highest obligations to him, for an addition of such a mass of curious, interesting and instructive matter; which has hitherto been inaccessible, and which is now laid open to every English reader, to a point beyond which many professed scholars have not thought it worth their while to proceed. Since the publication of Mr. Mitford, nothing has appeared, so calculated to convey a true impression of the character of antiquity, or to efface those theatrical and pedantic notions, which are become the source not only of infinite absurdity and distortion of mind among scholars, but of much practical mischief and error, in proportion as the blunders of the learned are diffused among the vulgar.
ART. X.-Advice to Julia. A Letter in Rhyme. pp. 236.
HIS little poem has a great many merits, but it has, we fear, one fault, the worst which a poem, great or little, can have—it fails in interest. We find it difficult at first sight to account for this. The writer posseses a very agreeable vein of pleasantry if not of wit, great command of language, and a happy facility of versi
fication. His subject is gay and varied, and he treats it with the ease and good breeding of a gentleman, and occasionally not without the imagination of a poet-and yet it is on the whole heavy; so much so, indeed, that though we have read it all, we cannot boast of having been able to read it through: we have read it by fits and starts, and here and there, with great satisfaction; but whenever we endeavoured to proceed right on with a regular perusal it fatigued us—like a French avenue or a Dutch canal, which is pretty to look at from au occasional crossing, but which becomes exceedingly wearisome when you are obliged to travel on it for leagues.
The causes of this tediousness appear to us to be, first, the didactic and narrative style to which the author's original design restricted him.-Three thousand lines of uninterrupted advice, even though it be the advice of a dandy to a dolly, are very appalling; and a whole poetic novel with but a single character, affords the prospect of no very enlivening tête-à-tête :-and secondly, the bad taste shewn by him in selecting a woman of that style as the object of a literary tribute: it throws a sameness of vulgarity and fulsomeness over the whole work, and though the author's language and his scenes are always decent, nay though they often rise into high life, our feelings are shocked in every page with the appearance of a connexion which would degrade its hero in the eyes even of the partners of such follies.
The author seems to have anticipated this last objection; and urges, in his defence, that he copies Horace; for that, to the Eighth Ode of the First Book,
'Lydia, dic, per omnes
Te Deos oro, Sybarin cur properas amando
he is indebted for his idea: but in the first place, Horace's ode is a pleasantry of only sixteen lines; and, secondly, there is not a word in it which obtrudes Lydia upon us as a courtezan. The Scholiast thinks she was one, and we think so too; because from the state of manners in ancient Rome, no other kin of female society was likely to have drawn Sybaris from his usual exercises or amusements; but the ode itself conveys no idea which might not, according to our manners, be applied to a legitimate love, nay even to domestic and conjugal happiness: and we cannot but think, that if the adviser had jocularly complained that a happy marriage had domesticated his friend, and drawn him from the gayer pleasures of his former society, it would have been a much more agreeable hypothesis; though even that would have wanted truth and nature, since marriage does not now-a-days remove a man from scenes of decent amusement,
such as the author describes.-In short, we cannot praise the plan of the work. It proceeds on principles altogether false, both in point of fact and in point of taste; and the author's powers of fancy and of language are incapable of giving any lasting interest to so indelicate and so ungrateful a subject. That these powers are considerable a few extracts will shew. Our readers cannot but admit that there is much pleasantry and spirit in some of the following portraits, and a lively, accurate and original view of nature in some of the following landscapes. His description of the dandy's conversation, though not perhaps in his best manner, is characteristic and clever.
'How much at home was Charles in all
His jokes retail'd, his jargon quoted;
And while he sneered or quizzed or flirted,
The world, half angry, was diverted.'-pp. 22, 23.
The following passages of autumnal London are extracted from a too long and too minute description; yet are they, in themselves, sprightly and amusing.
'Tis August. Rays of fiercer heat
And still the Mercury mounts higher,
'See, how beneath the cloudless beams
Clean over them in Chelsea-reach.'-pp. 152-154.
Now cloudless skies their heat redouble;
The "Swart Star" rages o'er the stubble.
These signs, and more-but 'twould encumber
The earth, in short, the air, the sun,
The trip to Margate in the steam-boat is excellent in its way: and our readers will not fail to observe here and there, amid the broad and accurate humour of the descriptions, touches of a finer pleasantry.
Now many a city-wife and daughter
Embarked, they catch the sound, and feel
Exulting, on the Margate shore!'—pp. 156-158.
There is something in the following illustration of that gentle violence with which political favours are thrust upon us,' which savours of Swift.
"Tis thus that peerages are proffered,
They never had the slightest notion,— ""Twas all the minister's own motion;
They fight, 'tis true, beneath his banner;
"They feel the obligation doubled."
Of words like these-they're words of course;
These airy and clever passages, (and these are not the only ones