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After what we have described, it is not wonderful to find Mr Chichester conclude with these remarks.
· I may perhaps appear very absurd, if I confess that I had rather the revenue should perish than that the present Irish distillery system should become general and permanent; yet, as the ultimate object of all revenue is the security of individuals, it is fair to doubt whether it might not be better to trust to voluntary contribution, than to fill our treasury by unprovoked aggressions on life and property. I have avoided the recital of many abuses and crimes ; partly from a reluctance to trespass longer on your attention, and partly from a persuasion that those which I have related will be considered sufficient specimens of our sufferings to move your compassion. In this my attempt at their exposure, I acknowledge that I labour under an obvious disadvantage, which is the incredibility of my statements ; for the British nation is unused to such oppressions, and will there. fore deem them too improbable to merit belief. I am well aware of the hazard which is generally incurred, by trusting to unsup: ported assertions in any case; and I, therefore, do not demand credit for my own, while they are unassisted by concurrent testimony, All that I request is inquiry; and, as contradiction appears to be the only means of confuting me, I earnestly wish that it may be resorted to, provided that I shall be permitted to produce my proofs. I grant that my testimony is that of an angry witness; for I am provoked by the sight of cruelty, as well as indignant at the disappointment of my expectations. I had indulged a hope that my parishioners would become gradually enlightened ; and I find this prospect suddenly darkened by the most useless provocations and unjustifiable oppressions. Unhappily, I have had too many opportunities of ascertaining the truth of what I relate ; for it has been my lot to reside in the midst of the disastrous scenes which I describe.
We have now done--except that we would add a word or two about the publications from which we have quoted so large. ly. Mr Chichester, we understand, is a Magistrate and Clergyman of very great respectability, who has distinguished himself by his active and intrepid exertions in the suppression of illicit distillation. He has the best means of knowledge; and has 'not failed to avail himself of the information of others, and to support his statements by a reference to the evidence of those gentlemen who were examined before the Committee of the House in 1816. He writes with force and clear ness; though he sometimes presumes too much on his readers acquaintance with the subject, and is not always sufficiently careful to guard his meaning against cavil, as well as misapprehension. His First Letter is full of excellent spirit, and, we think, judicious remarks. He may be sometimes carried too far by the ingenuous indignation he feels at the misery he has witnessed : but that can scarcely be blamed, and should not de
tract from the value of his testimony, where he speaks from artual observation : His general reasonings must be judged of by themselves.
As for the “ Observations,' we have little to say. They are a pert answer by an officer of excise, who has not been wanting in zeal for the honour of the Board. They have been, for the most part, sufficiently refuted by Mr Chichester in his Second Letter; and the inaccuracies which may have escaped him, leave the great merits of the question just where they were. Into the details of the controversy we have neither space nor inclination to follow them. Mr Chichester has cortainly been in error, in ascribing to the excise ofhcers the levy of the fines, at a time when it was entrusted to the Barony constables. They were at all times, however, equally interested in the exaction of the fines; and the duty has laiterly been placed in their hands, to ensure its more rigorous and inflexible discharge, But, in truth, this point is quite immaterial. Mr Chichester probably has not much misrepresented the revenue officers; but he has been most unreasonably lenient to their superiors at the Board, and to the Government in general. They are the capital transgressors, in comparison with whom the wretched agents of their misrule are unworthy of animadversion. Charity forbids us to suppose that they have known the calamities without number which have flowed from their perverse policy; and yet their ignorance is little less excusable than their obstinacy. We trust they may have candour to read the judgment of experience, and resolution to retrace their steps: At all events, we shall not repent a very honest endeavour to awaken the country to the importance of this subject, and to the necessity of investigating it without prejudice, and in earnesi. *
* The most plausible part of Mr Coffey's answer, consists in a reference to certain documents, which, he says, prove the diminution of illicit distillation, by showing that the quantity of spirits permitted into the particular districts where it prevailed, as compared with the quantity permitted out, has increased ;--whence he argues an increased consumption of legal spirits. Mr Chichester disputes the accuracy of these returns ; at any rate they are not conclusive, for various reasons; among which we may mention, Ist, thai the publicans buy a considerable quantity of legal spirits, not for consumption or retail, but to cover their trade in the illegal whisky; and, 2dly, that It does not appear whether a great part of the spirit permitted into the districts in question, be not illegally distilled, and afterwards seized and sold by the Excise. To show the hazard of drawing inferences
from detached facts, it may be observed, that the diminution of illieit distillation in 1809, before the statutory suspension, has generally ART. XI. Specimens of the British Poets: With Biographical
and Critical Notices, and an Essay on English Poetry. By THOMAS CAMPBELL. Seven volumes. 8vo. London, 1819.
We would rather see Mr Campbell as a poet, than
as a commentator on poetry :--because we would rather have a solid addition to the sum of our treasures, than the finest or most judicious account of their actual amount. But we are very glad to see him in any way:-and think the work which he has now given us very excellent and delightful.
The most common fault that is found with it, we think, is, that there is so little of it original,--and that out of seven voJumes, with Mr Campbell's name on the outside, there should hardly be two little ones of his writing. In making this complaint, however, people seem to forget, that the work is entitled • Specimens of British Poetry;' and that the learned Editor did not undertake to write, but only to select and introduce the citations of which it was to consist. Still, however, there is some little room for complaint: and the work is somewhat deficient, even upon this strict view of its objects, and of the promises which the title must in fairness be allowed to hold out. There is no doubt a very pleasing Essay on English Poetry,--and there are biographical and critical notices of many of its principal authors. But these two compartments of the work are some what inartificially blended, -and the latter, and most important, rather unduly anticipated and invaded, in order to enlarge the former. The only biography or criticism which we have upon Dryden, for example, is contained in the Preliminary Essay ;-and a considerable part even of the specimens of Shirley, are to be found in the same quarter. These, however, are licenses, or lyrical transitions, which must be allowed, we suppose, to a poetical editor--and to which we should not therefore very much object. If the whole that we have a right to look for is in the book, we are very little disposed to quarrel with the author about its arrangement, or the part of the book in which he has chosen to place it. But we really think that we been cited to prove the success of the Town-land fining system; yet Mr Hewitt, a Commissioner of Excise, imputes that circumstance mainly to the high price of barley at the time. Mr Chichester has stated some facts respecting an investigation held at Londonderry, in 1816, to inquire into the misconduct of certain excise officers, (Second Letter, pp. 25-31); which, with his repeated demands of inquiry, will not, it is hoped, be disregarded by the Legislature, in case of any motion touching this system.
have not got all that we were naturally led to expect-and that the learned author still owes us an arrear, which we hope he will handsomely pay up in the next edition.
When a great poet and a man of distinguished talents announces a large selection of English poetry, with biographical and critical notices,' we naturally expect such notices of all, or almost all the authors of whose works he thinks it worth while to favour us with specimens. The biography sometimes may be unattainable-and it may still more frequently be uninteresting - but the criticism must always be valuable; and, indeed, is obviously that which must be looked to as constituting the chief value of any such publication. There is no author so obscure, if at all entitled to a place in this register, of whom it would not be desirable to know the opinion of such a man as Mr Campbell—and none so mature and settled in fame, upon whose beauties and defects, and poetical character in general, the pnblic would not have much to learn from such an authority. Now, there are many authors, and some of no mean note, of whom he has not condescended to say one word, either in the Essay, or in the notices prefixed to their citations. Of Jonathan Swift, for example, all that is here recorded is, Born 1667-died 1744; and Otway is despatched in the same summary manner Born 1651-died 1685. Marlowe is commemorated in a single page, and Butler in half of one. All this is rather capricious :—But this is not all. Sometimes the notices are entirely biographical, and sometimes entirely critical. We humbly conceive they ought always to have been of both descriptions. At all events, we think we ought in every case to have had some criticism,-since this could always have been had, and could scarcely have failed to be valuable. Mr C., we think, has been a little lazy.
If he were like most authors, or even like most critics, we could easily have pardoned this; for we very seldom find any work too short. It is the singular goodness of his criticisms that makes us regret their fewness; for nothing, we think, can be more fair, judicious and discriminating, and at the same time more fine, delicate and original, than the greater part of the discussions with which he has here presented us. is very rare to find so much sensibility to the beauties of poetry, united with so much toleration for its faults; and so exact a perception of the merits of every particular style, interfering so little with a just estimate of all.' Poets, to be sure, are on the whole, we think, very indulgent judges of poetry; and that not so much, we verily believe, from any partiality to their own vocation, or desire to exalt their fraternity,
VOL. XXXI. NO. 62,
as from their being more constantly alive to those impulses which it is the business of poetry to excite, and more quick to catch and to follow out those associations on which its efficacy chiefly depends. If it be true, as we have formerly endeavoured to show, with reference to this very author, * that poetry produces all its greater effects, and works its more memorable enchantments, not so much by the images it directly presents, as by those which it suggests to the fancy, and melts or inflames us less by the fires which it applies from without, thạn by those which it kindles within, and of which the fuel is in our own bosoms, it will be readily understood how these effects should be most powerful in the sensitive breast of a poet, and how a spark, which would have been instantly quenched in the duller atmosphere of an ordinary brain, may create a blaze in his combustible imagination to warm and enlighten the world. The greater poets, accordingly, have almost always been the warmest admirers, and the most liberal patrons of poetry. The smaller only-your Lanreates and Ballad-mongers-are envious and irritable-jealous even of the dead, and less desirous of the praise of others, than avaricious of their own.
But though a poet is thus likely to be a gentler critic of poetry than another, and, by having a finer sense of its beauties, to be better qualified for the most pleasing and important part of his office, there is another requisite in which we should be afraid he would generally be found wanting, especially in a work of the large and comprehensive nature of that now before us—we mean, in absolute fairness and impartiality towards the different schools or styles of poetry which he may have occasion to estimate and compare. Even the most common and miscellaneous reader has a peculiar taste in this way—and bas generally erected for himself some obscure but exclusive standard of excellence, by which he measures the pretensions of all that come under his view. One man admires witty and satirical poetry, and sees no beauty in rural imagery or picturesque description; while another doats on Idyls and Pastorals, and will not allow the affairs of polite life to form a subject for verse.
One is for simplicity and pathos; another for magnificence and splendour. One is de voted to the Muse of terror; another to that of love. Some are all for blood and battles, and some for music and moonlightsome for emphatic sentiments, and some for melodious verses. Even those whose taste is the least exclusive, have a leaning to one class of composition rather than to another; and overrate the beauties which fall in with their own propensities and associa
* Vol. xiv. p. 2.