Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση


rigo away: and when Julian speaks of the people chusing a king, he talks a language which Muza and Abdalazis are incapable of understanding. He adds that Spain would gladly provide the means of return, and pay them liberally for their aid against oppression: Muza replies that she shall pay the treasures of her soil, her ports, her youth;' and when Julian declares that they who attempt to enslave her shall rue the attempt, Muza tells him that, foreseeing his treachery, he had already ordered his two sons to be put to death. A scene of great dignity ensues; Abdalazis pleads for Julian, but Muza is inexorable. A messenger enters to tell the Count that his wife has died upon the bodies of her murdered children, and the drama concludes with this speech from Julian.


Jul. Receive them to thy peace, eternal God!
O soother of my hours, while I beheld
The light of day, and thine! adieu, adieu!
And my Covilla! dost thou yet survive?
Yes, my lost child, thou livest yet-in shame!
O agony, past utterance! past thought!
I will endure thee; I, whom heaven ordained
Thus to have served beneath my enemies,
Their conqueror, thus to have visited
My native land with vengeance and with woe.
Henceforward shall she recognise her sons,
Impatient of oppression or disgrace,
And rescue them, or perish; let her hold
This compact, written with her blood, and mine.'

We had marked other passages of equal beauty; but our limits will not admit of more, and enough has been given to shew the reader the character of the play: if he appreciates it rightly, he will seek for the rest in the work itself. As a drama, it is evident that it has not been intended for representation,―so little is it addressed either to the eyes or the ears of the multitude. The fable is not always sufficiently clear; in a few instances the language, which is occasionally laboured into stiffness, borders on obscurity, and the verse is every where epic rather than dramatic.

We should have no hesitation in ascribing Count Julian to the author of a narrative poem of which the story is strange and unprepossessing, and the diction obscure, but in which the higher requisites of poetry are incidentally displayed in an eminent degree. The same powers are exhibited here so strikingly, and the defects which exist partake so much of the same character, that the internal evidence secures decision; but when an author has not thought proper to affix his name, the critic who gives it publicity assumes an authority to which neither the laws of courtesy nor of his profession entitle him.


[ocr errors]

ART. VI. Calamities of Authors; including some Inquiries respecting their moral and literary Characters. By the Author of Curiosities of Literature.' 3 Volumes, 8vo. London.

Murray. 1812.

IF F we were to form our opinion of this book from its title-page, it would not be very favourable: authors are there introduced as a genus, and their moral and literary characters spoken of as if each had not a moral and literary character of his own. Neither should we think more highly of the writer's precision of style by looking at the end, where a portentous metaphor about barren fertility' stares the reader in the face. But the middle of the book is much better than the two ends: it is one of those works which are designed for the breakfast table and the sofa, and is so well adapted for its purpose, that he who takes it up will not readily lay it down. The matter is as amusing as any lover of light reading cau desire, and of such a desultory kind that a comment might easily be made as extensive as the text.

The first head, or chapter, treats of Authors by Profession. Before the invention of printing, authorship was necessarily confined to the privileged orders, and the only persons who profited by their works were probably those minstrels who sung their own compositions: but as soon as books could be rapidly and easily multiplied, authorship became a trade. Luther even speaks of the price per sheet in his days. I have no plenty of money,' he says,

and yet I deal thus with the printers: I receive nothing from them for recompence of my many copies. Sometimes I take of them one copy, this I think is due to me; whereas other writers, yea translators, for every eight leaves have an angel.' In the regular progress of society, it became as natural that the author should live by the pen, as that the priest should live by the altar, or the soldier by the sword: that literature, therefore, like every thing else which may be made a means of emolument, should become a trade or profession, is somewhat oddly placed among the calamities of literary men, though it may be perfectly true that it is a very unprofitable profession. The examples which are given, relate rather to want of principle in the individuals than to any thing else. Political traders who offer themselves to the best bidder are what the Solomous and Brodums are in medicine,-adventurers of equal probity and equal respectability, but in a less lucrative craft. The writer is not correct in affirming that they form a race peculiar to our country; France has swarmed with them. It is in this place that the anecdote should have occurred to him of the poor wretch who endeavoured to excuse himself to the French


minister whom he had libelled, by pleading poverty and saying that he must live. The minister replied, I see no necessity for it. Among men of this description, Tacitus Gordon, as the author calls him, ought not to have been classed; it is unjust to infer that because he was a political writer and was made a commissioner of wine-licenses, he was therefore a hireling. Gordon was certainly the warm advocate of a political party, but he was neither a poor man nor a profligate one: his translation of Tacitus is not inferior to Murphy's; its latinisms even give it a peculiarity which represents the strong mannerism of the original better than can be done by mere idiomatic English. Chatterton is adduced as another instance, for his well known memorandum upon the death of Beckford the Lord Mayor.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Am glad he is dead by

And this is called a balance-sheet of literary iniquity and trade! Poor Chatterton! who does not see in this the sportiveness of a boy of genius, who, however he was led astray by the warmth of factious feeling, despised, in his better moments, the worthless men whom party warmth had led him to panegyrise, and who, boy as he was, already began to feel that party politics and subjects of a transitory interest, were unworthy of him? Literary iniquity! Heavier condemnation could not be bestowed upon Pasquin, or Pigott,-upon the very vermin of literature, than has been lavished upon this youth for a jest which was as much the effect of growing strength of mind, as of gaiety of heart.


Tom Nash confesses that when the bottom of his purse was turned upward,' he used to compose pieces for gentlemen who aspired to authorship,' and was fain to let his plough stand still in . the midst of a furrow, to follow these Senior Fantasticos to whose amorous villanellas he prostituted his pen.' This mode of obtaining reputation upon false pretences is as old as Martial's days, and is not yet wholly obsolete. Within our knowledge, there came a letter to a living poet, from a gentleman ambitious of poetical fame, proposing to him sweet remuneration' for a collection of original pieces, which the applicant wished to publish as his own. It was desired that they might be chiefly amatory, and a few of them in Latin.



18 6


From the sufferings of authors, the writer passes to the patrous of former times,' and exemplifies the want of patronage in Churchyard, that

old Palemon free from spight,
Whose carefull pipe may make the hearer rew;
Yet he himself may rewed be more right,
That sung so long until quite hoarse he grew.

What Phineas Fletcher says of Spenser might, with more truth, be applied to his more unfortunate contemporary.

Poorly, poor man, he lived; poorly, poor man he died.


He wrote, as these volumes tell us, his own history under the title of the Tragicall Discourse of the haplesse Man's Life:' and an epitaph, which was written for him in mirth, and perhaps in mockery, brings down the melancholy sum to its conclusion. Poverty and poetry his tomb doth enclose, Wherefore, good neighbours, be merry in prose.



The case of Stow, to whom all later antiquaries are so deeply indebted, is more disgraceful to the times, for Stow had fair claims upon national patronage. He devoted his life, and expended his patrimony in the study of English antiquities; and in his eightieth year was rewarded with letters patent from James I. granted at the poor old man's petition, as a recompence for his labour and travel of forty-five years, in setting forth the Chronicles of England, and eight years taken up in the survey of the cities of London and Westminster, towards his relief now in his old age.' These letters permitted him, for one twelvemonth, to gather the benevolence of well disposed people within this realm of England-to ask, gather and take the alins of all our loving subjects!' This brief was published from the pulpit, and it produced so little that the privilege of being a licensed beggar was renewed to him for another year. James was the most literary of all our monarchs, and learning, though less generally diffused, was even more fashionable in his days, than in our own; for the higher classes of women were scholars yet men of erudition and painful industry, were suffered to live and die in penury. He was too prodigal to his minions, to afford any thing for the relief of such men as Stow and Minsheu and Purchas; and patronage was but another name for charity. The Reformation, though in many, and far more important, points it was highly beneficial to literature, proved injurious to it, in some respects, in this country. Monasteries have often been called hives of drones; but were those institutions as favourable to religion and morality as they assuredly are to letters, we might well be permitted to wish for their re-establishment. The various orders which had formerly vied with each other in mon


strous legends, phantasmagoric and legerdemain miracles, and unnatural austerities, began, when they saw the progress of the Reformation, to rival each other in literary exertions, without abandoning, or, at that time, abating their old practices. Gibbon makes a sarcastic comparison between the great works which were sent forth by one Benedictine monastery, and those which the English universities have produced; he does not state why such works are more to be expected from monasteries than from universities. The man of letters who entered a convent, looked to nothing beyond its walls; he had bidden adieu to the world, and to all worldly prospects-nor was he allowed to indulge in indolence and procrastination, the sins by which such men are most easily beset; his superior called upon him to perform the task for which he was thought fit, and obedience is the first of monastic virtues. His reputation reflected credit upon the order, and the order defrayed the expense of the work. Had Stow and Ockley been born in a catholic country, they would have found, like Mabillon and Calmet in France, and Florez in Spain, all they wanted,-the means of devoting their lives to the most laborious literary pursuits, without ruin to themselves.

The case of poor old Stow is followed in these volumes, by one which is less known. Myles Davies was a Welch clergyman, with a national warmth of mind, and rather more genius, sui generis, than usually falls to a Welchman's lot; for, be the cause what it may, Wales has by no means given to the British empire its fair proportion of great men. He endeavoured to live by literature, but soon found this so hopeless a pursuit, that he sought to obtain from the bounty of the rich, what it was in vain to look for from public patronage. The writer, who has been collecting his story, suspects that his mind became a little disordered: the extracts which are given, betray no symptoms of derangement—they are in a strain of thought and feeling, such as pressing embarrassments, and the pride of knowledge and of talents, might well produce in an indignant mind. He used to carry his books to those persons who, he presumed, would purchase them, and receive payment as an act of charity; his own account of this wretched trade is as lively as it is curious.

"Some parsons would hollow to raise the whole house and posse of the domestics to raise a poor crown; at last all that flutter ends in sending Jack or Tom out to change a guinea, and then 'tis reckoned over half a dozen times before the fatal crown can he picked out, which must be taken as it is given, with all the parade of alms-giving, and so to be received with all the active and passive ceremonial of mendication and alms-receiving-as if the books, printing and paper, were worth nothing at all, and as if it were the greatest charity for them to touch


« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »