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to redundant or misplaced description, when arising out of a true love of nature or of art; and even to a little sickliness or weakness of sentiment, whenever it could be traced to an unaffected kindness of heart, or tenderness of fancy. There are faults, however, as we have already hinled, incident to this branch of literature, for which we have little toleration ; but we cannot think that our severity towards them should be construed into any want of indulgence to poets in general, since they are all of a kind that can only affect those who have a genuine veneration for the poetical character, and consist chiefly of apparent violations of its dignity or honour. Among the first and most usual, we might menlion the indications of great conceit and self-admiration, when united with ordinary talents. Excellence in poetry is so high and rare an excellence, as not only lo eclipse, but to appear conírasted with, all moderate degrees of merit. It has a tone and a language of its own, therefore, which it is a mere impertinence in ordinary mortals to usurp: and when a writer of slender endowments assumes that which is only allowed to the highest, he not only makes his defects more conspicuous, but provokes and disgusts us by the manifest folly and vanity of his pretensions, which unlucky qualities come naturally to strike us as the most prominent and characteristic of his works, and effectually indispose us towards any trifling though real merits they may happen to possess. Another and a more intolerable fault, as more frequently attaching to superior talents, is that perversity or assectation which leads an author to distort or disfigure his compositions, either by a silly ambition of singularity, an unfortunate attempt to combine qualities that are really irreconcileable, or an absurd predilection for some fantastic style or manner, in which no one but himself can perceive any fitness or beauty. In such cases we are not merely offended by the positive deformities which are thus produced, but by the feeling that they are produced wilfully, and with much effort; and by the humiliating spectacle they afford of the existence of paltry prejudices and despicable vanities in minds which we naturally love to consider as the dwelling-place of noble sentiments and enchanting contemplations. Akin to this source of displeasure, but of a more aggravated description, is that which arises from the visible indication of any great moral defect in those highly gifted spirits, whose natural office it seems to be to purify and exalt the conceptions of ordinary men, by images more lofty and refined than can be suggested by the coarse realities of existence. We do not here allude so much to the loose and luxurious descriptions of love and pleasure which may be found in the works of some great masters, as lo the traces of those meaner and more malignant vices which appear still more inconsistent with the poetical character—the traces of paltry jealousy and envy of rival genius-of base servility and adulation to power or riches—of party profligacy, or personal spite or rancour—and all the other low and unworthy passions which excite a mingled feeling of loathing and contempt, and not only untune the mind for all fine or exalted contemplations, but at once disenchant all the fairy scenes whose creation must be referred to the agency of spirits so degraded.
Next to the criticisms on Poetry and the Drama, the articles in the Review most likely to attract the general reader by their diversity of matter
Edinburgh Review, vol. xxvi. p. 450.
and elt cance of composition, are those in which sketches are given of unirent divines, philosophers, stalesnien, oralors, historians, novelists, and critics. It has been thought advisable, therefore, to allot consideratle space to this department, though the Editor has been obliged lo omit many articles of great merit; among which are characters of Frederick the Great, Washington, Bonaparte, Carnot, Fouché, Robertson, Froissart, Lingard and Hume, Grailan, and Maturin. Of those that have been transferred to this work, some are conspicuous for their multifarious research, their extensive knowledge of literature in all its branches, and their just appreciation of character. The contributors are understood to embrace many of the ablest political writers of the present century. It is superfluous to bespeak attention to the elaborate disquisition on the Greck, Roman, and modern historians; the lively and discriminating critique on our most popular novelists; the eloquent sketches of Richter, Schiller, and Goëthe; and the review of the writings of Machiavelli. This last article is the production of a mind richly stored with learning, distinguished by the depih and variety of its resources, its comprehensive grasp, and the indspendence of its speculations.
Under the head of “Miscellaneous Literature," eight articles have been classed, in which is embodied a great variety of interesting information. That on German Literature and Philosophy is a masterly performance. It analyses the causes which have hitherto prevented the literary men of this couniry from allaching a due value to the intellectual productions of Germany. It replies to the objections which have been urged against their character and excellence. Ample justice is done to the extraordinary talents of Wieland, Klopstock, the Jacobis, Mendleshon, Fichle, and Goethe. On the subject of German Poetry, ils progress, and the changes it has undergone, there are many profound and beautiful observations. Kant's philosophy is expounded with singular clearness ; and there is a powerful vindication of other philosophical systems peculiar to that nation, which seem to have been but imperfectly understood by previous commentators.
The Essay on the “Comparative State of Literature in England and France,” has been attributed to Mr. Chenevix, the author of a work, recently published, on “National Character." He is also said to be the writer of two other articles, which excited a good deal of attention at the time of their publication, concerning the relative claims of the two countries with regard lo science and industry. That which has been introduced into the present work is replete with valuable knowledge. An estimate is given . of the character of French philosophy, rhetoric, literary criticism, oratory, and history, which displays extensive research. But the French accuse, and not without reason, the author of undue prejudice against them.
Lord Byron bas given to Mr. Thomas Moore the credit of writing the hvely and agreeable criticism on the "Religious and Literary Merils
* of the Fathers of the Church.” It has all the characteristics of his style of composition ; and abounds in that playsul wit and keen sarcasm, which characterise some of his satirical compositions.
The Review of “Southey's Colloquies" is an admirable specimen of criticism; severe, but polished and dignified. To the private qualities, and superior literary altainments of Mr. Southey, adequate praise is awarded; vui no tenderness is shown to his political inconsistencies, his bitter intolerance, and his erroneous opinions on the present condition of society. His views of political economy are shown to be radically wrong, and his
anticipations of the future prospects of the world to be more desponding than facts would justify. The articles on the “Progress of Historical Writing in England;" on the “ Literature of the Middle Ages;" and on the “Signs of the Times," are entitled to the encomiums which they have received from various quarters. The “Spirit of Society in England and France” forms the subject of an interesting and well-written paper, published in a recent number of the Review, and which has since attracted considerable attention. The characteristics of English and French society are graphically delineated ; and the observations on the education of females, and their influence on the community, evince sound judgment. It was the wish of the Editor to assign a greater number of articles to this division; but he found it impossible to do so without rejecting other valuable matter.
The historical Essays in the Edinburgh Review have acquired a high repulation. Nine of the most interesting articles have been reprinted in this work. They contain an accurate and comprehensive sketch of the parti- : tions of Poland, and the political history of Prussia, Austria, and Denmark. There is also a full account of the constitution of Venice, and of the fall of Parga. The reader will find, in these valuable treatises, a general view of the most important political transactions of the last thirty years. The memorable events which characterised the reigns of Elizabeth and her successors, down to the Revolution of 1688, are ably discussed in the Review of Hallam's popular work on the History of England, from which copious extracts have been given. Great pains have been taken to render this department of the work as full and interesting as possible. The articles exbibit deep research into the civil and political history of the kingdoms to which they refer, are written in a philosophical spirit, breathe the most uncompromising hostility to despotism, and advocate free institutions in all parts of the world.
From the articles on Metaphysics and Moral Science it has been the aim of the Editor to make a choice selection. The fact ought not to be concealed, that the Edinburgh Review has been less abundantly supplied with contributions of striking excellence in this department than in most others. Perhaps there is some foundation for the charge, that it has manifested a reluctance to enter upon the discussion of subjects relating to the philosophy of mind. Many works of high reputation, connected with menial science, have been passed over without notice. Morals have experienced similar neglect. From whatever cause this has arisen, it is a matter of regret, that the late Editor did not more frequently enlighten his readers with speculations of a philosophical character. A contemporary critic has truly observed, that upon no subject has he displayed more of his characteristic acuteness, than upon those where metaphysics are treated, either separately, or as applied to practical subjects. There is a force, a dignity, a simplicity, and a precision in his mode of expression, peculiarly fitted not only to impress upon the reader the importance of the subject, but to delight the attention which he has previously fixed. He never uses words of a dubious import, or in an imperfect sense; his illustrations, although numerous and splendid, never exhibit that doubtsul analogy which tends to mislead the reader, or bewilder him in the puzzling quences of an imperfect and inaccurale parallel.
The Reviewer not only comprehends all which he means to say, but he has the happy art of expressing himself in language as plain as it is precise, and of conveying, in the
most distinct manner, lo every reader of moderate intelligence, the propositions which his own mind has conceived with so much accuracy. It is but his just praise to say, that, as a guide through the misty maze of speculative philosophy, none has trod with a firmer step, or held equally high a torch which has glowed so clearly.*
Another cause for the apparent coldness of the Edinburgh Review lowards works of a metaphysical kind, may, perhaps, be ascribed to the repugnance, then prevalent, and which still exists, to investigations of an abstract and intricate nature. It is impossible not to lament, that it did not make a strenuous effort to reclaim the public taste from the degeneracy into which it had sunk, in relation to intellectual philosophy. It has been justly observed by a contributor to another Scottish journal, that the “ present age is, on many momentous subjects of enquiry, exceedingly superficial, and that the desire for philosophical speculation has perished in the intensity of feeling and the blaze os sentiment. The mighty masters of reason are now postponed, without scruple, to the experienced ministers of enjoyment; and the loils of deep and anxious speculation are willingly exchanged for the charms of a momentary impulse, and the attractions of an immediate but transitory reputation.” These remarks are not inlended to insinuate that the Edinburgh Review does not contain many articles of undoubted value on philosophical subjects. The few specimens introduced into these Selections will be sufficient to show, that lalent of a high order was employed to enrich this portion of the Review. They are the productions of master minds, fully competent to elucidate the more abstruse branches of knowledge. The " Exposition of Kant's Philosophy“ requires no other recommendation than the name of its author, tho lale Dr. Thomas Brown. Considering the mystical nature of the topics it is designed to explain, it may be regarded as a perspicuous and searching analysis of a system which had not been previously understood, except by a very few. It is to be lamented, that Dr. Brown sent so few articles to the Review. He was peculiarly qualified, by his powerful intellect, his profound acquaintance with mental science, and the nature of his studies, to increase its celebrity and usefulness. His contributions, on philosophical subjects, would have tended to inspire a taste for such enquiries, and to diffuse more widely the species of information by which their cultivation would have been best promoted.
The strictures on “Reid's Philosophy," cannot fail of being read with interest. Independent of their merit as an able and eloquent commentary on the theory of that eminent philosopher, they derive additional imporlance from the controversy to which they gave rise between the Review and Mr. Stewart. The nature of this controversy will be understood by referring to the Preliminary Dissertation to Mr. Stewart's “ Philosophical Essays," to the splendid reply which subsequently appeared in the Review, and to an article on that reply published in the "Quarterly Review.”
“ Alison's Theory of Taste” forms the subject of an article which has been appropriately characterised as one of the most brilliant and masterly
“ disquisitions in the whole compass of our philosophical literature." Ils object is to demonstrate the soundness of Mr. Alison's theory, which the author has accomplished by a train of reasoning the most forcible and convincing. As a model of composition, il may enter into competition with the best
* Sir Walter Scott.
productions of ancient or modern times. The fascination of language was 4 never more conspicuously exhibited ; the thoughts are striking and beautiful ; and the illustrations partake of the richness and grandeur of the scenes from which they are drawn.
To Sir James Mackintosh has been assigned the merit of writing the two Reviews of “ Dugald Stewart's Introductory Dissertations to the Encyclopædia Britannica ;” and it is a distinction of which he might justly feel proud. Those noble discourses could not have been reviewed by any one so well qualified to estimate the “ originality and depth of the reflections and reasonings contained in them, and the majesty and beauty of the language in
5 which they are expressed."* In addition to a skilful outline of Mr. Stewart's Dissertations, on the excellence of which he has passed a discriminating and glowing encomium, he has given a most interesting exposition of the various systems of philosophy, which have prevailed, at different epochs, in the progress of metaphysical, ethical, and political science. This disquisition is enriched with biographical and critical sketches of the most illustrious philosophers, jurists, moralists, and divines. Among these may be enumerated, Bacon, Sir Thomas More, Machiavel, Aquinas, Descartes, Grotius, Puffendorf, Hobbes, Locke, Leibnitz, Spinoza, Wedgwood, Bayie, Hume, Montaigne, Addison, Barrow, and Jeremy Taylor. We look upon these two critiques as the highest tributes of commendation that could have been conferred upon the genius of Stewart, and as the best proofs of the erudition and deep thinking of Mackintosh.
The articles on Cousin's Course of Philosophy,” and on “ Reid and Brown,” are full of useful information; and afford abundant matter for investigation and argument lo those who are conversant with the philosophical systems upon which they are commentaries.
Education is a subjeci to which the Edinburgh Review has devoled its attention with a real and perseverance worthy of the cause, and of the enlightened writers who have dedicated so large a portion of their labours, as public journalists, to its advancement. It may be useful to advert to the spirit and tendency of the most important articles in that department, as only a few have been transferred to this work. The controversy which took place in 1805 between Joseph Lancaster and Dr. Bell, on the comparative merits of their respective systems of education, afforded the Edinburgh Reviewers an opportunity of advocating the necessity and utility of instructing the poor. Many persons recollect the sensation that was created among the enemies of knowledge, when that benevolent Quaker first gave to the world his novel and striking views upon the question of extending the blessings of information to the lowest ranks in society. The violence and asperity with which his project was attacked will not be soon forgotten. He was assailed by the most odious calumnies and misrepresentation ; and he would probably have sunk under the storm to which he was exposed, had it not been for his own prodigious exertion, aided by the cordial support of the honest portion of the periodical press.
Ile had to contend with two classes of opponents. First, there were the alarmists of that day, who pretended to foresee every species of evil, social and political, from the diffusion of knowledge among the people. Secondly, there were the bigoted partisans of the Iligh Church, who prophesied the downfall of religion from the spread of a plan which united all classes and deno
Mr. Napier's Preface to the Supplement to the Encyclopadia Britannica; p. 2-2