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But no sooner does December and its pitchy gloom arrive, than the city of the world begins to assume appearances of re-animation. The first orthodox fog brings with it a post chaise and four, travelling equipages follow, slowly at first, and then by strings; Covent Garden smiles, and Drury Lane puts on her best looks. The correspondence in the Times, of “ Viator,” and “Pro bono publico;" on the dry rot, and the "essays on curing smoky chimneys,” are at last concluded, "for want of room ;" "constant readers” disappear, and the Morning Post becomes suddenly poetical; Parliament revives the exhausted Editor's hopes, and the Opera is announced. Then may you, with as much effrontery as you please, issue from the attic where
have been vegetating for the last five months, turn into your club, or discover your whiskers in the Burlington Arcade, talk of your summer excursion, and wonder “what the wretched people in LONDON did with themselves in SePTEMBER."
SCENE-A Library. -BAVIUS AND Mevius. BAVIUs. (Solus, walking up and down the room in great agitation.) Cursed be the day when I was fool enough to turn poet! and cursed be the Aattery that persuaded me I was so! What a simpleton must I ha een to listen to the applause of Lady Louisa Lamb, whom I now find only praised my sonnets that I might help to complete her album. And Miss Kidney, too! her applause could not have come from the heart-and yet I will believe but my “ Ode to the Moon,” and “Stanzas on the Death of a Puppy," do not a little partake of the real divinitus afflatus! Still it was a lamentable want of judgment in me to print so hastily. I might have corrected these hexameters, and repaired the metrical pauses in the blank-verse pieces ; for, after all, there's no genius in having a correct ear : melody is not thought, or smooth versification equal to grandeur of idea : I'm sure this does not sound badly, (reads.)
“ The Mighty One, in awful splendor shrined,
Their strains of never-ending, never-wearied, praise !" I don't admire his taste, who does not admire the magniloquous kind of euphony in the close of the last line; the
never-ending, never-wearied, praise,”
sounds in beautiful sympathy to the sense. But see how that murderous quill-driver and wordy critic has served me! under " Sights of Books.” (reads again.) “ Were we requested to decree a serere punishment for a literary sinner, we could not single out any thing so salutary for its completion, as Mr. Bavius' 'never-ending, neverwearied praise.' But he certainly may be classed among the poets of the more exalted order; he is perpetually soaring beyond alma mater, and presumes to describe heaven with as much accuracy as if he had been there! He is too much of a poetaster to merit the appellation of a sing-song psalm-driveller." I wish I had hold of Jerdan's ears! I suppose if I had been L-
MÆvius.---Ah! my crony. What! all in the mumps ! or, as the poet says, “ down in the mouth !" Cheer thee up, man! Some mangling criticism I'll wager. Come, come, be seated, and let me into the secret. Open your burden'd bosom, and I'll be the balm pourer.
Never let a mortal oracle discompose you ; especially when it is nothing else but the mouth-piece of a croaking party. Oh! I perceive it all: a slashing review this, 'pon my soul though! and yet.--come, come, dont wear out the carpet by these agitated perambulations. You ought to know by this time how to esteem. the criticism of the day!
BAVIUS.---Criticism! Criticism! Sir, I tell you there's no criticism going. Just examine two of the head Reviews---take the Quarterly and Edinburgh---exempli gratiæ. The former is under the twink of Murray, the paymaster of a troop of servile scribblers, who would bedizen a donkey, if they could compromise the subject. A Review in the Quarterly is, and ever will be, a misnomer ;---a complete medium for conveging certain opinions favor'a high with Toryism, and tending to laud their patronising party---by parasitic abortions. What are we to consider a Review, but an impartial examination of the work in question---not a display of venemous censure to gratify a pique or party---not the meagre display of the “ Table of Contents” in a book, but an analytical development of its literary merits, and a tasteful scrutiny of all its various claims :---in fine, a manly, vigorous critique should exhibit every merit, as well as illumine every defect---its primary object should be, to detect what is bad, and freely laud what is excellent. Theo look at the Edinburgh---another cadaverous mouth-piece, heated in every line with the rage of Whiggism; and, if it be possible, when in the full tide of abuse, more rancorous than Absolute John's concem.
Mævius.---The anonymous lacerators belonging to the Quarterly are particularly dastardly at times, vengeful, and burning with animosity. What could be a more bilious and nauseous criticism, than Milman's review of Shelley's “ Revolt of Islam?” Such as could only come from one whom Heber had puffed to greatness, and whose envy made him tremulous of a successful rival. Well might Byron say, “ Judging from Milman, Christianity would appear a bad religion for a poet, and not a very good one for man.” And as for Keats--- I am certain that he was murdered by Croker's inhuman and unprincipled attack :
“ On his own bed of torture let him lie,
Fit garbage for the hell-hound infamy." BAVIU 5.---I know few men who have met with more barbarous treatment from the Quarterly, than Lisle Bowles ; and why, forsooth? because he had too much regard for his honor, as a gentleman, and his character as a Christian minister and a classical critic, to describe Pope a stainless angel, and a poet of the first rank. I was delighted at the bold way in which he drove the sneaking“ bush-fighters " from the field of combat. Roscoe, I believe, has done nothing but growl since---thinks himself most secure in his den ; but we have lost sight of Jerdan and the Literary Gazette ; you seemed to have been served rather unmercifully.
MÆVIUS.--- Unmercifully, Sir !---cowardly, Sir !---villanously, Sir!---One would conclude from the unfeeling sarcastic style, that I had been exposing some of Jerdan's chicaneries, but I leave this to the Examiner.
BAVIUS.--- I do not think much of this critic of Cockaigne ; he is but a lounging sort of reviewer, and a very dissonant rhymester, whenever he attempts to poeticise. This is
but a hireling, you must be aware, in the pay of Longman and Colburne : by the bye, it is somewhat paradoxical that the Literary Gazette has so immense a circulation; between six and seven thousand, I hear. I suppose the interesting extracts give it a zest, aye?
MÆVIUS.---Heaven forbid that it should be the criticisms! What is your opinion of L. E. L's. outpourings in this weekly oracle ? the snug little quantums of verse from the Improvatrice, Jerdan's protegée you know?
BAVIUS.---Why, it cannot be denied, that she has written many most beautiful gems, some of them breathing a Sappho-like strain; but then we have had from the same pen, innumerable prosy and sickly pieces, replete with palling traits, and amorous feeling disgusting by the frequency of its introduction. She certainly is indebted to Jerdan for her fame; he brought her forward, and now all that is requisite to preserve her fame, is to sport an “ L. E. L.” occasionally in his Gazette. If you can once obtain a rank in public estimation, however baseless it may be, if scrutinously reviewed, a little exertion will maintain it; repeated failures will scarcely overthrow it.
MÆVIUS.---It has often vastly astonished me, to observe how exactly the country newspaper scribblers follow the Literary Gazette. These miserable bipeds appear afraid to advance any dogma of their own, and therefore contentedly remain slavish copiers. Such is the prevalence the Literary Gazette has obtained in its critical statements, that to insure his success, an author had need throw a sop to the Cerberus : two nice columns in the Literary Gazette, well larded with Jerdan's praiseful deductions, will amazingly influence the sale of his book, and never fail to give him a consequence in the eyes of the smaller critical fry. Jerdan we may denominate the leading trumpeter ; a good, wholesome, roaring triumph from him on Saturday, will procure you an echo throughout the kingdom for the next week.
BAVIUS.---The Literary Gazette is not indebted to the sonndness and depth of its criticisms for popularity: compare the best of the critiques that has ever appeared there, and see if it bear the slightest comparison with those in Johnson's Lives of the Poets ?. -They are meagre introductions to the book, with a brief synopsis of its plan, written with that satirical facility which practice easily acquires. The copious extracts, and the early notice of new publications, are the basis of its popularity. The Gazette is interesting and useful to criticism; it has but poor pretensions, and perhaps if it were critical in the real sense, its sale would not increase ; for the custom of prostituting venality has so palled the public taste, that it is now almost incapable of admiring criticism. Of course you are aware the Literary Gazette is the complete literary servant of certain publications?
MÆVIUS.---Oh, yes !--How is it that the Literary Chronicle. lags so much ? Its appearance is not so respectable as its rival's ; but the principles are more liberal, and the. critiques less biassed.
Bavius.---There is no paradox here; it is too liberal and fair to succeed :---so much now depends on the booksellers, that unless a periodical uniformly puffs forth their particular publications, they rather prevent than encourage it. We want a new periodical, "A Review of the Reviewers; or, the Critics Criticised."---To review the reviewers, and expose their venal practices, would be no arduous undertaking : the system of puffing prevails now from the Quarterly down to Limbird's two-penny miscellany. If those who reside far from town, and who are accustomed to venerate the denunciations of a metropolitan critic, were to mix awhile in a London literary circle, he would soon learn to estimate “ notices” and “ critiques" in their proper light. More than one-half are procured by the same method that Charles Wright puffs his be-rhymed " Champaigne"--by money. A favorable critique is generally obtained by interest or money---a mangling one is more frequently the result of a private pique, than the actual opinion on the book reviewed.
MÆVIUS.---Ours may be denominated the “ Augustan Age of Periodicals : "---We' have them in every style and shape. There is Ackerman's “ Belle Assemblée,” to teach the ladies vanity, and the changeful absurdities of dress ;---a" Lady's Magazine,” replete with puling tales and pilferd bits of poesy.---The Monthly, the New Monthly, &c. &c. &c. Magazines, and innumerable minor dirty sheets, sewed up into a periodical form to enlighten tavern-boys, and assist the forthcoming erudite prodigies from the “Mechanics' Institutions."
BAVIUS. — Now we are on the Magazine topic, let us just exchange sentiments on the leading ones. Of all, I prefer Blackwood for strength, originality, wit, and caustic style. There is a manliness in the diction, and a fearless vigor in the articles, which give a smart relish to the opinions they are intended to convey. I own Master
Blackwood occasionally degenerates into the vulgarities of the John Bull newspaper ; but considering the spirit of parties, it is tolerably decorous. Many extol the New Monthly above all its compeers; what say you ?
MÆvius.- Why, I confess that I am dissatisfied with all: there is not one that displays the talent the London Magazine did, when Scott edited it; but on the whole, perhaps Blackwood's may be said to be the most solid and valuable Magazine, as they now stand. The New Monthly, through the bookselling efforts of Henry Colburn, Esq. New Burlington Street, the acknowledged prince of publishers, and puff-master-general, bas rapidly increased its sale within these four years. It always abounds with piquunt articles, teeming with flashy dialect and gayful allusions, exactly calculated to pamper the appetites of people of ton, who for the most part read the books, as they empty their coffee cups,---just swallow their contents, and think no more about them. The New Monthly, assuredly, excepting an occasional essay by that Antidiluvian, Elia, is too often futile, flimsy, flippant, and excessively prurient. There is little substance in its best articles, and were it not for the timely succour of flashy anecdotes, and fashionable allusions, even these would not be above mediocrity.
Bavius.---The London Magazine, I regret to find, has lamentably degenerated; it will not bear comparison with its original appearance in Scott's time. Like the New Monthly, it inserts the traveller's memorandum books, and fills a number of its pages with jokes and anecdotes filched from the newspapers---this won't do. We have no longer any of Hazlitt's Table-Talk, or Elia's Researches.
MÆVIUS.---The Monthly and European is passable, and generally contains at least one article of considerable merit---the rest are of the ordinary cast. In fact, there seems to be a universal degeneracy in Magazine Literature : whether this arises from the bad taste of the age which must be tickled, or that the too great prevalence of Magazines, impedes the advantage of selected articles, I leave for others to determine.
BAVIUS.---We have omitted to mention two more---Urban's Gentleman's Magazine, and Alaric Watts' Literary Magnet. I still maintain a literary reverence for Urban's Miscellany, from considering what it once was, when Johnson and other great scholars were wont to enrich it---not for its present success. The sale has decreased within these
MÆVIUS.--- The editor of the Literary Magnet is a bad copiest of Jerdan in his Criticisms, &c. and is by far too splenetic and envious for a liberal editor. Besides, what does he mean by printing “ Original" at the head of many of his poetical articles, when half the world has read them in other publications ? this is, methinks, but a sorry method of enhancing the publication. In the prose articles, there is rarely any thing very meritorious; and the “ Chit-Chat" at the end of the number, has made Mr. Watts very unpopular among the booksellers. There is such pitiful cutting and slashing, such paltry insinuations and spiteful observations, that none but a little-minded reader can applaud the editor, or his bootless attempt. A poet ought to be above such man-millinery.
BAVIUS.---There was a time when I was wont to believe the critiques inserted in these different Magazines : but " experientia docet," ---they are rarely impartial. The New Monthly is at Colburn's service; the Eclectic, &c. &c. at Longman's; the Monthly at Whittaker's; and the London at Hunt and Clarke's, and so on throughout the whole tirade. These Magazines are most convenient machines for giving an impetus to new publications. When the publisher's influence is unconnected with a new book, it stands a poor chance, unless private influence supplies its place. The Monthly Review, I believe, remains tolerably candid.
MÆVIUS.---The critiques which appear in the New Monthly, many imagine to be written by Campbell, but 'tis not so : some young man is employed for the purpose, and the common-place observations, and weak arguments, denote the novice, rather than the judicious and erudite critic. I wanted to have touched on the newspapers, but I perceive a visitor is waiting for me, so excuse me; when next you see me, I trust, I shall have recovered from Jerdan's criticism. Sylvanus Urban bas promised me a cordial.
Review Honor O‘Hara. A Novel, in three volumes, by Miss A. M. Porter,
Author of the “ Hungarian Brothers," " Recluse of Norway," 8c. &c. &c. London, 1826. Longman and Co.
Would that the world was half so alluring as it is represented in novels! Would that it possessed half those refined characters and enlightened beings we too often read of, and so fondly remember! But that cannot be: the cold realities of life, the rugged duties of business, duty, want, and ambitious pride-all conspire to harden and dissipate the endearing plausibilities which characterize the novel of sense and sentiment. How often, after perusing some soul-breathing speech, some unbosomed confession of love or friendship, have we turned away with disappointment from the selfish annoyments of real life! Having the fancy replete with the softest images, and retaining in the eye of imagination all the delectable scenes and personages we have read of, with a melting ardor of thought and a cherished sensibility, an hour spent in the mingled rivalries of the active world, disgusts the mellowed temperament of the mind, dissolves the all-imagined perfections by moving contrasts, and leaves melancholy to pine over disappointed expectations. Such, at least, is the case with ourselves, on rising from the perusal of an agreeable novel; and however removed it may be from the airy nothings of romance and enthusiasm, still we cannot forsake its pages to look for the portraits described, without feeling an inward depression for their absence--they are not in the pages of life. And what has this to do with a review of Miss Porter's novel ? nothing at all, reader.
Former success is always an amiable pleader for the like in future; and even a degeneracy in this case is not keenly observed : superiority was anticipated, and our pride sternly endeavours to secure it. The various, amiable, and sensible productions of Miss Porter, have long since entitled her to a high rank in the list of our admired female writers, and were it possible for her to write nonsense in future, an old respect would unwillingly make the detection. Her present production is a novel, intended to “pourtray ordinary life.” Our opinion, to effect this without being monotonous, is a more difficult task than the penning of a romance. What is ordinary, is not naturally so apt to interest, as the enchanting fictions of romance, or the tales of enthusiasm; and therefore in the power of creating an interest, consists the talent of a writer, whose intention it is to pourtray ordinary life. The style and language of the novel before us, is of a superior cast, and frequently reminds us of the sound and meaning phraseology in the best pages of the Great Unknown. Unalloyed by the piquant Hippancies and refined corruptions which pervade the flimsy novel of ton and fashion, it is masculine and expressive; never dilated into lengthy nothingness, but nervous, elegant, and always applicable to the subject. The work is entitled with the name of the heroine,