« PředchozíPokračovat »
the British navy, and the general prosperity of the empire. Though we have ventured to differ from him in a few speculative points, his practical conclusions meet our entire acquiescence. We cannot say much for the arrangement of the work, or the elegance of its composition ; although the style is, upon the whole, perspicuous, and without affectation. The work is adorned by a good map of the islands, and views of the most interesting objects, which, so far as we were enabled to judge; are not only elegant, but correct.
7. Jeffrey . ART. VIII.-Memoirs of Richard Cumberland : Written by him, Jelf. Containing an Account of his Life and Writings, interspersed with Anecdotes and Characters of several of the most distinguished Persons of his Time, with whom he had Intercourse ar Connexion. 4to. pp. 533, London, 1806.
"E certainly have no wish for the death of Mr Cumberland;
on the contrary, we hope he will live long enough to make a large supplement to these memoirs : but he has embarrassed us a little by publishing this volume in his lifetime. We are extremely unwilling to say any thing that may hurt the feelings of a man of distinguished talents, who is drawing to the end of his career, and imagines that he has hitherto been ill used by the world: but he has shewn, in this publication, such an appetite for praise, and such a jealousy of censure, that we are afraid we cannot do our duty conseientiously, without giving him offence. The truth is, that the book has rather disappointed us. We expected it to be extremely amusing ; and it is not. There is too much of the first part of the title in it, and too little of the left. Of the life and writing3 of Richard Cumberland, we hear more than enough; but of the distinguished persons with whom he lived, we have many fewer characters and anecdotes than we could have wilhed. We are the more inclined to regret this, bothy because the general style of Mr Cumberland's compositions has convinced us, that no one could have exhibited characters and anecdotes in a more engaging manner, and because, from what he has put into this book, we actually see that he had excellent opportunities for collecting, and still better talents for relating them. The anecdotes and characters which we have, are given in a very pleasing and animated manner, and form the chief merit of the publication ; but they do not occupy one tenth part of it; and the rest is filled with details that do not often interest, and observations that do not always amuse.
Authors, we think, should not be encouraged to write their own lives. The genius of Rousseau, his enthuliasm, and the novelty of his plan, have rendered the Confessions, in some respects, the most interesting of books. But a writer, who is in full poffeffion of his fenfes, who has lived in the world like the men and women who compose it, and whose vanity aims only at the praise of great talents and accomplishments, must not hope to write a book like the Confessions; and is scarcely to be trusted with the delineation of his own character, or the narrative of his own adventures. We have no objection, however, to let authors tell their own story, as an apology for telling that of all their acquaintances; and can easily forgive them for grouping and afforting their anecdotes of their contemporaries, according to the chronology and incidents of their own lives. This is but indulging the painter of a great gallery of worthies with a pannel for his own portrait ; and though it will probably be the least like of the whole collection, it would be hard to grudge him this little gratification.
Life has often been compared to a journey; and the fimile seems to hold better in nothing than in the identity of the rules by which those who write their travels, and those who write their lives, should be governed. When a man returns from visiting any celebrated region, we expect to hear much more of the things and persons he has seen, than of his own personal transactions ; and are naturally disappointed if, after saying that he lived much with illustrious statesmen or heroes, he chooses rather to tell us of his own travelling equipage, or of his cookery and servants, than to give us any account of his character and conversation of those distinguished persons. In the fame manner, when, at the close of a long life, spent in circles of literary and political celebrity, an author fits down to give the world an account of his retrospections, it is reasonable to ftipulate that he shall talk less of himself than of his affociates, and natural to complain, if he tells long stories of his schoolmasters and grandmothers, while he passes over some of the most illustrious of his companions with a bare mention of their names.
Mr Cumberland has offended a little in this way. He has also composed these memoirs, we think, in too diffuse, rambling, and careless a style. There is evidently no selection or method in his narrative ; and unweighed remarks, and fatiguing apologies and protestations are tediously interwoven with it in the genuine style of good-natured but irrepressible loquacity. The whole compofition, indeed, has not only too much the air of conversation ; it has sometimes an unfortunate resemblance to the conversation of a
profeffed talker ; and we meet with many passages in which the author appears to work himself up to an artificial vivacity, and to give a certain air of smartness to his expression, by the introduction of cant phrases, odd metaphors, and a sort of practised and theatrical originality. The work, however, is well worth going over, and contains many more amusing passages than we can af. ford to extract on the present occasion.
Mr Cumberland was born in 1732 ; and he has a very natural pride in relating, that his paternal great grandfather was the learn. ed and most exemplary Bishop Cumberland, author of the treatise De Legibus Nature ; and that his maternal grandfather was the celebrated Dr Richard Bentley. Of the last of these distinguished perfons he has given, from the distinct recollection of his childhood, a much more amiable and engaging representation than has hitherto been made public. Instead of the haughty and morose critic and controversialist, we learn, with pleasure, that he was as remarkable for mildness and kind affections in private life, as for profound erudition and fagacity as an author." Mr Cumberland has collected a number of little anecdotes that seem to be quite conclusive upon this head; but we rather insert the following general testimony.
• I had a fifter somewhat older than myself. Had there been any that fternness in my grandfather, which is so falsely imputed to him, it may well be supposed we should have been awed into silence in his presence, to which we were admitted every day. Nothing can be further from the truth; he was the unwearied patron and promoter of all our childish sports and sallies; at all times ready to detach himself from any topic of conversation to take an interest and bear his part in our amuse
The eager curiosity natural to our age, and the questions it gave birth to, fo teazing to many parents, he, on the contrary, attend. ed to and encouraged, as the claims of infant reason never to be evaded or abufed ; strongly recommending, that to all such inquiries answer should be given according to the strictest truth, and information dealt to us in the clearest terms, as a sacred duty never to be departed from. I have broken in upon him many a time in his hours of ftudy, when he would put his book afide, ring his hand-bell for his servant, and be led to his shelves to take down a picture-book for my amusement. I do not say that his good-nature always gained its object, as the pi&tures which his books generally supplied me with were anatomical drawings of diffected bodies, very little calculated to communicate delight; but he had nothing better to produce; and surely such an effort on his part, however unfuccessful, was no feature of a cynic: a cynic foould be made of sterner stuff.
• Once, and only once, I recollect his giving me a gentle rebuke for making a most outrageous noise in the room over his library, and die Aurbing him in his studies; I had no apprehension of anger from him,
and confidently answered that I could not help it, as I had been at battledore and shuttlecock with Mafter Gooch, the Bishop of Ely's fon. “ And I have been at this sport with his father,
he replied ; “ but thine has been the more amusing game ; so there's no harm
P. 7, 8.
He also mentions, that when his adversary Collins had fallen into poverty in his latter days, Bentley, apprehending that he was in some measure responsible for his loss of reputation, contrived to administer to his necessities in a way not less creditable to his delicacy than to his liberality.
The youngest daughter of this illustrious scholar, the Phoebe of Byron's pastoral, and herself a woman of extraordinary accomplishments, was the mother of Mr Cumberland. His father, who appears also to have been a man of the most blameless and amiable dispositions, and to have united, in a very exemplary way, the characters of a clergyman and a gentleman, 'was Rector of Stanwick in Northampton at the birth of his son. He went to school first at Bury St Edmunds, and afterwards at Westminster. But the most valuable part of his early education was that for which he was indebted to the taste and intelligence of his mother. We insert with pleasure the following amiable paragraph.
• It was in these intervals from school that my mother began to form both my taste and my ear for poetry, by employing me every evening to read to her, of which art she was a very able mistress. Our read. ings were, with very few exceptions, confined to the chosen plays of Shakespear, whom she both admired and understood in the true fpirit and sense of the author. Under her instruction I became passionately fond of these our evening entertainments ; in the mean time, she was attentive to model my recitation, and correct my manner with exact precision. Her comments and illustrations were such aids and instructions to a pupil in poetry, as few could have given. What I could not else have understood, she could aptly explain ; and what I ought to admire and feel, nobody could more happily select and recommend. I well remember the care the took to mark out for my observation, the peculiar excellence of that unrivalled poet, in the consistency and preservation of his characters; and wherever instances occurred amongst the ftarts and fallies of his unfettered fancy, of the extravagant and false sublime, her discernment oftentimes prevented me from being so dazzled by the glitter of the period as to misapply my admiration, and betray my want of taste. With all her father's critical acumen, she could trace, and teach me to unravel, all the meanders of his metaphor, and point out where it illuminated, or where it only loaded and obscured the meaning. These were happy hours and interesting lectures to whilst
be. loved father, ever placid and complacent, fate beside us, and took part in our amusement; his voice was never heard but in the tone of appro. bation ; his countenance never marked but with the natural traces of his indelible and hereditary benevolence.' p. 39. 40.
The effect of these readings was, that the young author, at twelve years of age, produced a sort of drama, called Shakefpeare in the Shades,' compofed almost entirely of paffages from that great writer, strung together and afforted with no despicable ingenuity. He has inserted rather a long extract from this juvenile compilation. There is next an animated and minute account of his studies at Westminfter, with flattering characters of the head mafters, from Nichols to Vincent. Throughout the work, indeed, he is too full of eulogies, and seems resolved to deserve every body's good word, by the most profuse and indulgent commendation. At this early period of his life, he first saw Garrick in the character of Lothario, and has left this animated account of the impresfion which the scene made upon his mind.
• I have the spectacle even now, as it were, before my eyes. Quin prefented bimself
, upon the rising of the curtain, in a green velvet coat embroidered down the seams, an enormous full-bottomed periwig, roll. ed ftockings, and high-heeled square-toed hoes : with very little variation of cadence, and in a deep full tone, accompanied by a fawing kind of action, which had more of the senate than of the stage in it, he rolled out his heroics with an air of dignified indifference, that seemed to disdain the plaudits that were bestowed upon him. Mrs Cibber, in a key high pitched, but fweet withal, fung, or rather recitatived, Rowe's harmonious ftrain, fomething in the manner of the Improvisatories : it was fo extremely wanting in contrast, that, though it did not wound the ear, it wearied it : when she had once recited two or three fpeeches, I could anticipate the manner of every succeeding one.
It was like a long old legendary ballad of innumerable ftanzas, every one of which is fung to the same tone, eternally chiming in the ear without variation or-relief. Mrs Pritchard was an actress of a different cast, had more nature, and of course more change of tone, and variety both of action and expreffion. In my opinion, the comparison was decided- . ly in her favour. But when, after long and eager expectation, I first beheld little Garrick, then young and light, and alive in every muscle and in every feature, come boundirig on the stage, and pointing at the wittol Altainorit and heavy-paced Horatioheavens, what a transition ! -it seemed as if a whole century had been ftept over in the transition of a single scene : old things were done away, and a new order at once brought forward, bright and luminous, and clearly destined to dispel the barbarifms and bigotry of a tafteless age, too long attached to the prejudices of custom, and fuperftitiously devoted to the illusions of imposing declamation. This heaven-born actor was then struggling to emancipate his audience from the slavery they were resigned to ; and though at times he succeeded in throwing in some gleams of new-born light upon them, yet in general they seeined to love darkness better than light; and in the dial of altercation between Horatio and Lothario, be. ftowed far the greater show of bands upon the master of the old school than upon the founder of the new. I thank my ttars, my feelings in