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To their dear native country to return !
Vol. 1., pp. 38 - 54. A few remarks more upon Mr. Munford's work, with one or two illustrative passages, must close this hasty and rambling notice. We have spoken, in general terms, of its merits; and though these far outweigh and outnumber its defects, it is but just that a word should be said of the latter. Mr. Munford's elaborate versification is admirable in the statelier parts of the Iliad ; in the animated battle-pieces ; in the picturesque delineation of the grander features of natural scenery, or the commotion of the elements. But his style is not sufficiently flexible to represent with equal felicity the simple narrative portions, and to render with Homeric naturalness the homelier details of daily life, so significant of the peculiar genius of the ancient epic. Homer goes to work in the most business-like fashion, and always calls things by their plainest names ; and this is just the most perplexing thing to do, in an artificial age, and with a cultured style. The problem is difficult, and perhaps cannot be perfectly solved. If Mr. Munford has failed, he has failed where no one has succeeded.
It must also be confessed that Mr. Munford's versification becomes at times monotonous. His rhythms have not sufficient variety. True, no modern rhythms can give back the ever-changing charm of the Homeric hexameter ; but the English ten-syllable blank verse is capable of representing to a considerable extent the varied movement of the Greek, by varying the cæsural pause.
A few trivial faults more, and our critical conscience will be at rest. We have here and there noticed a touch of modern sentiment incongruously embroidered upon the unromantic plainness of Homer ; as,
" He fell with failing limbs And joints relaxed, and sighed his soul away”; Homer says simply " and life his body left.” And in another place, “Enjoyed with mutual bliss in Cranaë's isle
Thy heaven of charms, as now I love thee dear." In managing the proper names, the laws of quantity are often violated ; though, in many cases, the Greek accentuation may be pleaded in justification. Pylæmenes, for example, which would commonly be accented on the antepenultimate syllable, the penult being short, is read Pylæménes by Mr. Munford ; and the same syllable is accented in the Greek. But this excuse will not hold in other cases, as Neritus, pronounced Nerítus, by Mr. Munford. All these slight defects might easily have been removed, had the work enjoyed the advantage of a final revision by the author.
C.7. Adams, Art. VI. — The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl
of Chesterfield ; including numerous Letters now first published from the Original Manuscripts. Edited, with Notes, by LORD Mahon. London : Richard Bentley.
4 vols. 8vo.
A CENTURY has rolled away since Lord Chesterfield reached his highest point of worldly elevation, and now comes a republication of his letters, in a collective form, to press upon us the question, how his reputation stands the wear of time. It is not often that a nobleman born leaves much trace of his existence, out of the pages of a peerage-book. Still more rarely is it that he exerts a decided influence over the generations that come after him. Chesterfield is, then, an exception to the general rule. Although one of the genuine aristocracy, owing his title to no modern creation, he made himself a reputation which few of his countrymen equalled in his own day; and, which is perhaps more remarkable, he left his mark upon the mind and manners of the English race so deep, that it will be long before it is entirely effaced. No man ever put into more attractive shape the maxims of a worldly Epicurean philosophy. No man ever furnished, in his own person, a more dazzling specimen of the theory which he recommended.
If Cicero came more nearly than any person ever did to the image of the perfect orator which he described, Chesterfield is universally considered as having equally sustained his own idea of the perfect gentleman. Notwithstanding his character has been often discussed, and not long ago in this Journal, we will not omit the present opportunity of noticing it once more. Lord Mahon has done for us what has never been done before, in placing the whole man most distinctly in our view. The applause of an admiring circle, and the censure of malignant enemies, of his own day, will now pass for exactly what they are worth. It has been the lot of few distinguished persons to be stripped so bare to the public gaze after death. And, strangely enough, this has happened to him of all others, who spent his life in labors to appear other than he was. The man who systematically wore a mask better than his natural face, whilst on earth, has been doomed, by the avarice of an ungrateful woman, to hold up a glass, magnifying every deformity of his mind, to the observation of the most distant posterity.
Such is the first moral which we draw from the history of the Earl of Chesterfield.
Let us, then, proceed to look at this figure more in detail. Here is a man who, without being ambitious in the highest sense of that term, was nevertheless an eager aspirant for distinction, in more than one field of exertion. He aimed to be a statesman, an orator, a scholar, and a gentleman, — in brief, a sort of model man, yet “hackneyed in the ways of the world." And it must be conceded too, that, if his success was not entirely equal to his own expectations, it was nevertheless very far beyond the average of that of men in general. The reasons why it was not greater we intend to try to explain in the present article. If we can make it appear that they come directly from the theory of conduct which he maintained, we hope to be not without success in checking the tendency of some minds to be misled by his example. If we can show by the example of Lord Chesterfield himself, that the foundation upon which he built his own edifice, which he also earnestly recommends to be adopted by his son, is, in itself, so insecure as not to be worthy of reliance, - and still more, if we can prove that it creates the difficulties which, beyond a certain point, render further progress next to impracticable, it may be that we shall turn the direction of some aspirants for distinction to other and better sources of knowledge of the paths of life.
To illustrate our idea, it will be necessary to assume that the lessons which he taught, in his letters to his son, were those upon which he practised himself. That this is not in itself an unreasonable inference can be shown by many passages in which the writer refers directly to his own case as a practical illustration of the value of his maxims. The spirit of his teaching is all conveyed in this tone :-“See what I did. Go thou and do likewise ; better, if possible, – but still aster
model." In this there was no undue vanity or selfconceit. Lord Chesterfield knew that he possessed qualities which entitled him to claim a good share of worldly applause, and he also knew the labor it had cost him to make all those qualities as effective as possible. He had a right, from what he found he could do, to infer that others could succeed even better than he, if they would only take the pains which he had done. No other course than his seems to have occurred to his mind, as likely to insure success. It is, then, proper to review his life by the light which he himself has furnished, and to trace the causes of his success or failure, so far as he may be judged to have succeeded or failed, to the rules which he lays down.
The first point to which we direct our attention is, to ascertain the leading motive to exertion that is held out by his Lordship. We find but one, and that is worldly success; in other words, the exaltation of the individual himself to rank, and power, and consideration among his fellow-men. This is the great end, to compass which merits that every faculty should be taxed to its utmost. In order to reach this, knowledge is to be acquired, the common every-day morality of men is to be mastered, the manners are to be moulded, and even religion is to be respected. To reach this, we are to make ourselves all things to all men, that we may gain them all, not to their good, but to ours. Yet, in this laborious process, it does not seem absolutely required, however desirable it might be, that we should really be exactly what we appear. It is sufficient, if we can succeed in making every body else believe that we are what we profess. Lord Chesterfield expressly tells his son, that his great object, when setting out in life, to make every man he met like him, and every woman love him.” He says, moreover, that “he often succeeded ; but why? By taking great pains.” Yet he did not mean to be understood that these pains were taken in an endeavour really to merit such affection, but rather only to appear to merit it, which would answer the purpose quite as well, and be more easily compassed. To cultivate very high qualities of character must be the labor of a life, among even the best natural temperaments. To acquire the power of assuming the appearance of them for the moment may be gained in much less time,“ by taking proper pains.' Although Lord Chesterfield doubtless would have valued the genuine coin far the most, he was yet too “hackneyed in the ways of life” to require more than that the counterfeit should escape detection. According to his theory, considered apart from his own practice, it is not essential, provided only that a man appear learned and wise, whether he really be so or not; nor does it matter that he should be amiable, or just, or even honest, if he can succeed in concealing the evidence of his ill-temper, or his injustice, or his fraud, from the condem