« PředchozíPokračovat »
out of the footsteps of some of our precursors; and the antients, it is well known, have stolen all our bright thoughts--and not only visibly beset all the patent approaches to glory—but swarm in such ambushed multitudes behind that when we think we have gone fairly beyond their plagiarisms, and honestly worked out an original excellence of our own, up starts some deep-read antiquary, and makes it out, much to his own satisfaction, that heaven knows how many of these busy bodies have been beforehand with us, both in the genus and the species of our invention.
The author before us is certainly in less danger from such detections, than any other we have ever met with ; but, even in him, the traces of imitation are obvious and abundant; and it is impossible, therefore, to give him the same credit for absolute originality as those earlier writers, who, having no successful author to imitatc, were obliged to copy directly from nature. In naming him along with Shakespeare, we meant still less to
say that he was to be put on a level with him as to the richness and sweetness of his fancy, or that living vein of pure and lofty poetry which flows with such abundance through every part of his composition. On that level no other writer has ever stood, or will ever stand-though we do think that there is fancy and poetry enough in these contemporary pages, if not to justify the comparison we have ventured to suggest, at least to save it, for the first time for two hundred years, from being altogether ridiculous. In saying even this, however, we wish to observe, that we have in view the prodigious variety and facility of the modern writer—at least as much as the quality of his several productions. The variety stands out on the face of cach of them; and the facility is attested, as in the case of Shakespeare himself, both by the inimitable freedom and happy carelessness of the style in which they are executed, and by the matchless rapidity with which they have been lavished on the public.
Such an author would really require a review to himself and one too of swifter than quarterly recurrence; and accordingly, we have long since acknowledged our inability to keep up
with him, and fairly renounced the task of keeping a regular account of his successive publications; contenting ourselves with greeting him now and then in the pauses of his brilliant career, and casting, when we do meet, a hurried glance over the wide field he has traversed since we met before.
We gave it formerly, we think, as our reason for thus passing over, without special notice, some of the most remarkable productions of the age, that they were in fact too remarkable to need any notice of ours- s-that they were as soon, and as extensively read, as we could hope our account of them to bem and that in reality all the world thought just what we were inclined to say of them. Those reasons certainly remain in full force; and we may now venture to mention another, which bud in secret, perhaps, as much weight with us as all the rest put together. We mean simply, that when we began with one of those works, we were conscious that we never knew how to leave off; but, finding the author's words so much more agreeable than our own, went on in the most unreasonable manner with description after description, and dialogue after dialogue, till we were abused, not altogether without reason, for selling our readers in small letter what they had already in large, and for the abominable nationality of filling up our pages with praises of a Scottish author, and specimens of Scottish pleasantry and pathos. While we contritely admit the justice of these imputations, we humbly trust that our Southern readers will now be of opinion that the offence has been in some degree expiated, both by our late forbearance and our present proceeding : For while we have done violence to our strongest propensities, in passing over in silence two very tempting publications of this author, on Scottish subjects and in the Scottish dialect, we have at last recurred to him for the purpose of noticing the only work he has produced on a subject entirely English; and one which is nowhere graced either with a trait of our national character, or a sample of our national speech.
Before entering upon this task, however, we must be permite ted, just for the sake of keeping our chronology in order, to say a word or two on those neglected works of which we constrained - ourselves to say nothing, at the time when they formed the subject of all other disceptation.
· The Heart of Mid-Lothian' is remarkable for containing fewer characters, and less variety of incident, than any of the author's former productions:--and it is accordingly, in some places, comparatively languid. The Porteous mob is rather heavily described; and the whole part of George Robertson, or
Stanton, is extravagant and unpleasing. The final catastrophe, too, is needlessly improbable and startling; and both Saddletrees and Davie Deans become at last rather tedious and unreasonable; while we miss, throughout, the character of the generous and kindhearted rustic, which, in one form or another, gives such spirit and interest to most of the other stories. But with all these defects, the work has both beauty and power enough to vindicate its title to a legitimate descent from its mighty father-and even to a place in the valued file of his productions. The trial and condemnation of Effie Deans are pathetic and beautiful in the very highest degree; and the scenes with the Duke of Argyle are equally full of spirit; and
Printed by David Willison,