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needles and broom-twigs, that are to represent trees in his back grounds ; and never let him hear the last of his galli-pots! Admit, that the Allegro and Penseroso of Milton are not without merit; but repay yourself for this concession, by reprinting at length the two poems on the University Carrier! As a fair specimen of his sonnets, quote “a Book was writ of late called Tetrachordon ;” and as characteristic of his rhythm and metre cite his literal translation of the first and second psalm! In order to justify yourself, you need only assert, that had you dwelt chiefly on the beauties and excellencies of the poet, the admiration of these might seduce the attention of future writers from the objects of their love and wonder, to an imitation of the few poems and passages in which the poet was most unlike himself.
But till reviews are conducted on far other principles, and with far other motives ; till in the place of arbitrary dictation and petulant. sneers, the reviewers support their decisions by reference to fixed canons of criticism, previously established and deduced from the nature of man; reflecting minds will pronounce it arrogance in them thus to announce themselves to men of letters, as the guides of their taste and judgment. To the purchaser and mere reader it is, at all events, an injustice. He who tells me that there are defects in a new
work, tells me nothing which I should not have taken for granted without his information. But he, who points out and elucidates the beauties of an original work, does indeed give me interesting information, such as experience would not have authorised me in anticipating. And as to compositions which the authors themselves announce with “ Hæc ipsi novimus esse nihil," why should we judge by a dif-. ferent rule two printed works, only because the one author was alive, and the other in his grave? What literary man has not regretted the prudery of Spratt in refusing to let his friend Cowley appear in his slippers and dressing gown ? I am not perhaps the only one who has derived an innocent amusement from the riddles, conundrums, tri-sy!lable lines, &c. &c. of Swift and his correspondents, in hours of languor when to have read his more finished works would have been useless to myself, and, in some sort, an act of injustice to the author. But I am at a loss to conceive by what perversity of judgement, these relaxations of his genius could be employed to diminish his fame as the writer of “ Gulliver's travels," and the “ Tale of a Tub.” Had Mr. Southey written twice as many poems of inferior merit, or partial interest, as have enlivened the journals of the day, they would have added to his honour with good and wise men, not merely or principally
as proving the versatility of his talents, but as evidences of the purity of that mind, which even in its levities never wrote a line, which it need regret on any moral account.
I have in imagination transferred to the future biographer the duty of contrasting Southey's fixed and well-earned fame, with the abuse and indefatigable hostility of his anonymous critics from his early youth to his ripest manhood. But I cannot think so ill of human nature as not to believe, that these critics have already taken shame to themselves, whether they consider the object of their abuse in his moral or his literary. character. For reflect but on the variety and extent of his acquirements! He stands second to no man, either as an historian or as a bibliographer; and when I regard him, as a popular essayist, (for the articles of his compositions in the reviews are for the greater part essays on subjects of deep or curious interest rather than criticisms on particular works*) I look in vain for any writer, who has conveyed so much information, from so many and such recondite sources, with so many just and original reflections, in a style so lively and poignant, yet so uniformly classical and perspicuous; no one in short who has combined so much wisdom with
* See the articles on Methodism, in the Quarterly Review; the small volume on the New System of Education, &c.
so much wit; so much truth and knowledge with so much life and fancy. His prose is always intelligible and always entertaining. In poetry he has attempted almost every species of composition known before, and he has added new ones; and if we except the highest lyric, (in which how few, how very few even of the greatest minds have been fortunate) he has attempted every species successfully : from the political song of the day, thrown off in the playful overflow of honest joy and patriotic exultation, to the wild ballad ;* from epistolary ease and graceful narrative, to the austere and impetuous moral declamation ; from the pastoral claims and wild streaming lights of the “Thalaba,” in which sentiment and imagery have given permanence even to the excitement of curiosity; and from the full blaze of the “Kehama,” (a gallery of finished pictures in one splendid fancy piece, in which, notwithstanding, the moral grandeur risés gradually above the brilliance of the colouring and the boldness and novelty of the machinery) to the imore sober beauties of the “Madoc;" and lastly, from the Madoc to his “Roderic,” in which, retaining all his former excellencies of a poet eminently inventive and picturesque, he has
* See the incomparable “ Return to Moscow," and the “Old Woman of Berkeley."
surpassed himself in language and metre, in the construction of the whole, and in the splen. dor of particular passages.
Here then shall I conclude ? No! The characters of the deceased, like the encomia on tombstones, as they are described with religious tenderness, so are they read, with allowing sympathy indeed, but yet with rational deduction. There are men, who deserve a higher record ; men with whose characters it is the interest of their contemporaries, no less than that of posterity, to be made acquainted ; while it is yet possible for impartial censure, and even for quicksighted envy, to cross-examine the tale without offence to the courtesies of humanity; and while the eulogist detected in exaggeration or false. hood must pay the full penalty of his baseness in the contempt which brands the convicted flatterer. Publicly has Mr. Southey been reviled by men, who (I would feign hope for the honor of human nature) hurled fire-brands against a figure of their own imagination, publicly have his talents been depreciated, his principles denounced ; as publicly do I therefore, who have known him intimately, deem it my duty to leave recorded, that it is Southey's almost unexampled felicity, to possess the best gifts of talent and genius free from all their characteristic defects. To those who remember the state of our public schools and universities some twenty years past,