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genuous mind instinctively shrinks from the contemplation of legal topics, because the word law is associated with and inevitably calls up the idea of the low chicanery of a pettifogging attorney, of the vulgar oppression and gross insolence of a bailiff, or, at best, of the wearisome and unmeaning tautology that distends an act of Parliament, and the dull dropsical compositions of the special pleader, the conveyancer, or other draughtsman. In no country is this unhappy debasement of a most illustrious science more remarkable than in our own; no other nation is so prone to, or so patient of abuses; in no other land are posts in themselves honourable so accessible to the meanest. The spirit of trade favours the degradation, and every commercial town is a well-spring of vulgarity, which sends forth hosts of practitioners devoid of the solid and elegant attainments which could sustain the credit of the science, but so strong in the artifices that insure success, as not only to monopolize the rewards due to merit, but sometimes even to climb the judgment-seat. It is not wonderful, therefore, that generous minds, until they have been taught to discriminate, and to distinguish a noble science from ignoble practices, should usually confound them together, hastily condemning the former with the latter. Shelley listened with much attention to questions of natural law, and with the warm interest that he felt in all metaphysical disquisitions, after he had conquered his first prejudice against practical jurisprudence. The science of right, like other profound and extensive sciences, can only be acquired completely when the foundations have been laid at an early age: had the energies of Shelley's vigorous mind taken this direction at that time, it is impossible to doubt that he would have become a distinguished jurist. Besides that fondness for such inquiries, which is necessary to success in any liberal pursuit, he displayed the most acute sensitiveness of injustice, however slight, and a vivid perception of inconvenience. As soon as a wrong, arising from a proposed enactment, or a supposed decision, was suggested, he instantly rushed into the opposite extreme; and when a greater evil was shown to result from the contrary course which he had so hastily adopted, his intellect was roused, and he endeavoured most earnestly to ascertain the true mean that would secure the just by avoiding the unjust extremes. I have observed in young men that the propensity to plunge headlong into a net of difficulty, on being startled at an apparent want of equity in any rule that was propounded, although at first it might seem to imply a lack of caution and foresight, which are eminently the virtues of legislators and of judges, was an unerring prognostic of a natural aptitude for pursuits, wherein eminence is inconsistent with an inertness of the moral sense and a recklessness of the violation of rights, however remote and trifling. Various instances of such aptitude in Shelley might be furnished, but these studies are interesting to a limited number of persons only.
As the mind of Shelley was apt to acquire many of the most valuable branches of liberal knowledge, so there were other portions comprised within the circle of science, for the reception of which, however active and acute, it was entirely unfit. He rejected with marvellous impatience every mathematical discipline that was offered; no problem could awaken the slightest curiosity, nor could he be
made sensible of the beauty of any theorem. The method of demonstration had no charms for him; he complained of the insufferable prolixity and the vast tautology of Euclid and the other ancient geometricians; and when the discoveries of modern analysts were presented, he was immediately distracted, and fell into endless musings.
With respect to the Oriental tongues, he coldly observed that the appearance of the characters was curious. Although he perused with more than ordinary eagerness the relations of travellers in the East, and the translations of the marvellous tales of oriental fancy, he was not attracted by the desire to penetrate the languages which veil these treasures. He would never deign to lend an ear, or an eye, for a moment to my Hebrew studies, in which I had made at that time some small progress; nor could he be tempted to inquire into the value of the singular lore of the Rabbins. He was able, like the many, to distinguish a violet from a sunflower, and a cauliflower from a peony; but his botanical knowledge was more limited than that of the least skilful of common observers, for he was neglectful of flowers. He was incapable of apprehending the delicate distinctions of structure which form the basis of the beautiful classification of modern botanists. I was never able to impart even a glimpse of the merits of Ray, or Linnæus, or to encourage a hope that he would ever be competent to see the visible analogies that constitute the marked, yet mutually approaching genera, into which the productions of nature, and especially vegetables, are divided. It may seem invidious to notice imperfections in a mind of the highest order, but the exercise of a due candour, however unwelcome, is required to satisfy those who were not acquainted with Shelley, that the admiration excited by his marvellous talents and manifold virtues in all who were so fortunate as to enjoy the opportunity of examining his merits by frequent intercourse, was not the result of the blind partiality that amiable and innocent dispositions, attractive manners, and a noble and generous bearing sometimes create.
Shelley was always unwilling to visit the remarkable specimens of architecture, the objects of art, and the various antiquities that adorn Oxford, although, if he encountered them by accident, and they were pointed out to him, he admired them more sincerely and heartily than the generality of strangers, who, through compliance with fashion, ostentatiously sought them out. His favourite recreation, as I have already stated, was a free, unrestrained ramble into the country. After quitting the city and its environs by walking briskly along the highway for several miles, it was his delight to strike boldly into the fields, to cross the country daringly on foot, as is usual with sportsmen in shooting; to perform, as it were, a pedestrian steeplechase. He was strong, light, and active, and in all respects well suited for such exploits, and we used frequently to traverse a considerable tract in this manner, especially when the frost had dried the land, had given complete solidity to the most treacherous paths, and had thrown a natural bridge over spots that in open weather during the winter would have been nearly impassable. By resolutely piercing through a district in this manner, we often stumbled upon objects in our humble travels that created a certain surprise and
interest: some of them are still fresh in my recollection. My susceptible companion was occasionally much delighted and strongly excited by incidents that would perhaps have seemed unimportant trifles to others. One day we had penetrated somewhat further than usual, for the ground was in excellent order, and as the day was intensely cold, although bright and sunny, we had pushed on with uncommon speed. I do not remember the direction we took; nor can I even determine on which side of the Thames our course lay. We had crossed roads and lanes, and had traversed open fields and inclosures; some tall and ancient trees were on our right hand; we skirted a little wood, and presently came to a small copse. It was guarded by an old hedge, or thicket; we were deflected therefore from our onward course towards the left, and we were winding round it, when the quick eye of my companion perceived a gap; he instantly dashed in with as much alacrity as if he had suddenly caught a glimpse of a pheasant that he had lately wounded in a district where such game was scarce, and he disappeared in a moment. I followed him, but with less ardour, and passing through a narrow belt of wood and thicket, I presently found him standing motionless in one of his picturesque attitudes, riveted to the earth in speechless astonishment. He had thrown himself thus precipitately into a trim flower-garden, of a circular, or rather an oval form, of small dimensions, encompassed by a narrow, but close girdle of trees and underwood; it was apparently remote from all habitations, and it contrasted strongly with the bleak and bare country through which we had recently passed. Had the secluded scene been bright with the gay flowers of spring, with hyacinths and tulips; had it been powdered with mealy auriculas, or conspicuous for a gaudy show of all anemones and of every ranunculus; had it been profusely decorated by the innumerable roses of summer, it would be easy to understand why it was so cheerful. But we were now in the very heart of winter, and after much frost scarcely a single wretched brumal flower lingered and languished. There was no foliage, save the dark leaves of evergreens, and of them there were many, especially around and on the edges of the magic circle, on which account possibly, but chiefly perhaps through the symmetry of the numerous small parterres, the scrupulous neatness of the corresponding walks, the just ordonnance and disposition of certain benches, the integrity and freshness of the green trellices, and of the skeletons of some arbours, and through every leafless excellence which the dried anatomy of a flower-garden can exhibit, its past and its future wealth seemed to shine forth in its present poverty, and its potential glories adorned its actual disgrace. The sudden transition from the rugged fields to this garnished and decorated retreat was striking, and held my imagination captive a few moments; the impression however would probably have soon faded from my memory had it not been fixed there by the recollection of the beings who gave animation and a permanent interest to the polished nook.
(To be continued.)
UPON THE SPIRIT OF TRUE CRITICISM.
"To say this is good and that is bad," says La Bruyère, "is not morality." Very true, neither is it Criticism. There is no criticism in this country-considering that word as the name of a science. A book comes out-it is capital, says one-it is detestable, says another. Its characters are unnatural-its characters are nature itself. On both sides there is affirmation, on neither proof. In fact no science requires such elaborate study as Criticism. It is the most analytical of our mental operations-to pause-to examine-to say why that passage is a sin against nature, or that plot a violation of art-to bring deep knowledge of life in all its guises-of the heart in all its mysteries to bear upon a sentence of approval or disapprobation-to have cultivated the feeling of beauty until its sense of harmony has grown as fine as the ear of a musician-equally sensitive to discordor alive to new combinations :-these are not light qualities, and these are not qualities, it may be answered, to be lightly lavished away. Every new book, it may be said, does not deserve that we should so honour it. We need not invoke the Past, and summon all Nature to hear us praise a butterfly, or crush a bug. We may on slight works arrogate the censor-yes, but we must first have been chosen the censor, by the acumen we have testified on great ones. Now, when an author who has risen into eminence, who begins to produce an effect upon his age, whose faults it becomes necessary to indicate as a warning, whose beauties we should illustrate as an example-when such a man produces a new work, what is the cant cry of the Critics? "The peculiar merits and failings of Mr. So and So are too well known for us at this time of day to repeat them. The present work has all the characteristics of the last-if it does not increase, it will not diminish the well-earned reputation of the author." Then come the extracts, and a word or two at the end as precise and lucid as those at the beginning, and—there's THE CRITICISM!
In the best weekly Reviews the public do not expect elaborate criticism-the object of the Reviewer is novelty, arrangement, amusement-he wishes to give faithful accounts (which he generally does by extracts) of new publications; and doubtless this, after all, is the proper and exact duty of weekly Reviews. Elaborate criticism is seldom light reading; and though the public might once a quarter, they certainly would not once a week permit themselves to be seriously instructed. Yet altogether the Reviews in the best weekly publications are considerably fairer and truer than those in the Quarterlies; and in nine times out of ten produce a greater influence on the sale of the book.
The specimen we have given above is of the innocuous order of reviewing. That which is bolder and more perspicuous divides itself into two classes-determined abuse and determined panegyric. In the first there is not a syllable of praise-in the second there is not a syllable of blame. With the "Edinburgh Review" Mr. Croker's "Boswell" has not a redeeming point-with the "Quarterly" it is the work next to Homer which the world would be most anxious to save from destruction. At this moment the press are uniting to extol Miss Kemble's "Francis the First;" but we have not yet
April.-VOL. XXXIV. NO. CXXXVI.
heard a single reason why we should admire it. Are the characters new yet true? Are the situations natural yet striking?—if so, why? -show us not by your praises, but your reasonings, that you are capable of forming a judgment as well as writing a panegyric. If you have discovered a phenomenon-investigate it! A good tragedy is at all times worth a deep criticism. "Why not criticise it yourself then?" says some one, perhaps, to me-me scribentem. Because I do not agree in the praises bestowed on it; because I do not think it a good tragedy; and because I think Miss Kemble scarcely the person at this moment against whom it would be generous to exercise that severe and simple judgment which another author would elicit. But I will not for that reason panegyrise away my conscience; and as for blame, time will destroy flattery, and convince the author of her own deficiencies. It is right to say thus much for her own sake. Indiscriminate praise will hurt her as an author, as it has hurt her as an actress. On the stage she has not improved. She acted better when she first appeared than she acts now. At present she is nearly inaudible, and is following a thousand affectations out of the path of nature. A little blame, even as much as this, will arouse a person really clever to self-examination, and with this hope I content myself. And I will now say, for this leads to an important principle in true Criticism, why I will content myself. It is always our critical duty to praise where praise is due; but not always our duty to blame where blame is deserved. More men are made by praise than are made by blame. "We shall do more to keep a reputation than to make one." And thus the generous critic will always be just, but sometimes silent.
It becomes the duty of a critic to blame fearlessly where a bad author has become the fashion and is in danger of misleading popular taste-where he affects the mental habits of his contemporaries-where he begins to form a meretricious school upon unsound principles. Thus Gifford was a great critic when he destroyed the "de La Cruscans:" but then Gifford did not ridicule without proving his right to it, He was not like the insects who set upon Hazlitt, and buzzed away for a time-the reputation of a genius and a knowledge they were unable to enjoy.
Criticism is usually supposed, like virtue, to signify a certain austerity as its very essence. "Oh, the surly critics, the sour critics, the censorious critics!" cries the poor author; yet it is singular that the greatest critics have made their fame by the authors they have praised rather than those they have blamed. Addison is best known to us as a critic from the mere faculty of appreciating Milton. Longinus would be nothing but for his encomiums on Homer; and Schlegel is the most illustrious critic of the age, because he has vindicated with the deepest justice, the countless majesties of Shakspeare. The witty attack that gains a reputation to-day may be the bitterest disgrace to the author to-morrow; and the man who cut up Coleridge so cleverly in the "Edinburgh," is at this moment the object of our pity for the degradation of the attempt. Time always wins our sympathies to the cause of Genius; and though doubtless Zoilus was a model of a Reviewer in his way, we forget his courage while we despise his blasphemy.
The elder Quarterly Reviews have done more to injure Criticism