« PrécédentContinuer »
Teigning ecclefiaftical polity in the realm. Judging from what we have iately seen in a neighbouring country, we have reason to believe, that the ascendency of one established form of religion is the best security for preserving any religion at all, and that the best security for preserving such established form, is to exclude, as we have hitherto done, from all influence in the state, those classes of persons, which are known to be unfriendly to the Church.”
We have been thus copious in our extracts, because we feel, moft sensibly, the extreme importance of the subject, and the absolute necessity that it Mould be deeply considered and rightly understood, by the public at large. Mr. Reeves has discussed it, with that perspicuity and strength of argument, that closeness of reasoning, and that weight of proofs which so eminently characterize all his publications on legal and political topics.
Since the preceding remarks were composed, this valuable tract has entered into a second Edition, to which the author has fubjoined foine judicious observations on three Pamphlets which have appeared in support of the Catholic claim; or, to speak more accurately, in support of the claim for the Catholics. These we shall notice hereafter, and Thail only now express our extreme satisfaction at the rapid and extensive circulation of such found principles, at a time when the infusion of them into the public mind is efíential to the safety of our venerable Establishments,
The Poems of Allan Ramsay,
(Coxtinued from P, 150.) F this performance justice obliges us to declare, that we can
scarcely recollect to have peruted a specimen of biography more meagre as to matter, or more incorrect and vicious as to diction; with just refemblance enough to Johnson, to remind us of the peculiarities of that powerful writer ; but without one fymptom of his comprehension of thought, his discrimination of character, or his vigour and elegance of style. So much for our department as Literary Censors. As guardians of the morals of the age, and anxious, in particular, for those of the rising generation, we do not hifitate to say, that our Biographer has laid himself open to ftill feverer reprehension, by bringing forward in fo attractive a form as the prefent publication, many pieces which we fincerely hoped had at length funk into oblivion, both on account of the dulness and licentiousness of their character. In juftification of these strictures we may be permitted to obferve; First, as to barrennefs of both incident and anecdote, that this biographical effort feems not greatly calculated either prodesse, or delestare : it can neither make us laugh, nor make us cry; nor render us wiser or better, than before its peruial. He who openly aspires to follow Johnson as the model of his compositions should never forget what the great critic has said of pretenders to excellence in a style of writing, which he himself had so successfully cultivated.
“ Biography," he observes, “ has often been allotted to writers, who seem very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the performance. They rarely afford any other account, than might be collected from public papers, but imagiae themselves writing a life, when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments; and so little do they regard the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more knowledge may be gained of man's real character, by a short conversation with one of his fervants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree and ended with his funeral.”
The fact is, that expectations very different are formed by the reader, in opening the life of any celebrated person, who has flourished in the commencement, and even lived down to the middle of the present century; and of a Greek, or a Roman, though of equal reputation, who may possibly have been dead two thousand years ago. Concerning the antients it too frequently happens, that obscure notices only are to be gleaned from historians or poets, from commentators or grammarians ; while the recent hero, whether of war or literature, still continues to live in the recollection of his friends, and may therefore be pourtrayed, by a skilful artist, with that striking peculiarity, and warmth of colouring, which alone can give value to the biographical picture. In the present, case, when we consider, that Allan Ramsay the younger did not die till 1784; that his son, the Lieut. Colonel, as well as lady Campbell his daughter, and Janet Ramsay, the aunt of both the last, ate alive, we believe at this moment; that in England, as well as Scotland, there is no want of persons, who lived in habits of intimacy with the poet himself, there is surely fome reason to complain of an extraordinary deficiency, both of anecdote and incident, in the production we are examining.
No anecdote, if well authenticated, can, in our judgment, be regarded as unworthy of notice, that is connected with the compositions, or illustrative of the habits, of an eminent writer; and we ourselves have heard several, from the mouths of Ramsay's acquaintance, which, although eminently characteristic of the peculiarities of the poet, we yet look for in vain in the present account. As instances in point, we shall mention only two; but the authority, on which they are given, may be relied on as authentic.
By those best acquainted with Ramsay it was generally believed, that, in his most popular pieces, he was indebted for affittance to his literary friends, and, in particular, to Preston, and the two Hamiltons, more than he was willing to allow. Preston was by profession a writer (i. e. an attorney in Scotland); but he was a man of genius and a poet; and, in point of education and accomplishments, greatly fuperior to Ramsay. Being more devoted to the celestial fisters, than to the irksome habits of application and industry, he of course con
tinued poor, while his friend Allan gradually rose to fame and opulence. Instead of the ample pecuniary rewards, to which he conceived his frequent contributions had entitled him, he was indignant at receiving nothing more than a formal invitation, now and then to dinner; from the purse-proud bookseller; an occafion, on which the fame bookseller delighted to play off all the airs and self-sufficiency of the dignified patron of inferior merit. On one of these occafion's it was, when Ramsay was boasting how much money he had got by his muse, and was recommending to Preston, in order to better his circumstances, to publish, and try a similar course, that the latter thought
it falutary to remind his friend of the meanness of his former trade, , as well as the importance of the obligations, that, in many of his productions, he owed both to himself and to others. This, therefore,
. he did by repeating, on the spot, the following verses; which, though of no great merit in themselves, yet, as an extemporaneous effufion, are by no means contemptible : and we record then here with the greater willingness, as they furnish an undeniable proof against the sentiment of our biographer, that a wig-maker and a barber were occupations most certainly “co-incident in that age."
To trim the beard of its excrescent hair,
But grasp'd, for solid pudding, empty praise. It is necessary to inform the mere English reader, that “ righteous;" in the Scottish dialect, sometimes is put for “ rightful;” and that “ to dress the head,” fignifies, not an operation of surgery, (although surgeons and barbers were antiently an associated profession) but merely “to dress, or comb the hair.'
To teaze his friends, and particularly his patrons, with copies of verses, was also among the foibles of the poet. Burchet, who had exhausted his powers to extol Ramsay in verse as “ the British Virgil,” and who had, in his turn, by the British Virgil been as liberally bepraised, began to grow weary of this reciprocation of flattery. Accordingly, when Allan composed one of the well-known epigrams preserved in his works, arid lent it to his friend, he was answered in a style of no small asperity and coarseness by the secretary to the admiralty; infomuch that it had well nigh put a period to their friendship. Ramsay's Epigram, which had merit, was as follows:
On receiving a present of an Orange, from the Countess of Aboyne.
Now Priam's son thou may’st be mute,
For I can bauldly brag * with thee :
The fairest gave the fruit ip me.
the fruit : But had she had Minerva's mind,
She ne'er had gi’ent to fic a brute! And the retort, we may believe, would be the more severely felt, that, in the concluding line, the Englishman had affected to imitate the native dialect of the
poet. In the second place, as to ityle. Of all the imitators of the Johnfonian period the present writer seems to us to be one of the most unhappy. What Quintilians say of the herd of Seneca's imitators may, with the fame justice, be applied to him : “ Placebat (Seneca) propter sola vitia; et ad ea se quisque dirigebat effingenda quæ poterat. Stiff and affected wichout elevation, and harsh and diffunant without strength or energy, he successfully aggravates the vices, without attaining the virtues of his matter. What will a reader of classical
a taste fay to such examples as the following? The same difpofition for (to) sociability prompted him (Ramsay) to count the fociety of clubs, during a clubical period.” P. 9. “ He found, in William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, a genius analogous to his own ; who, having congenial propenfities, readily entered into a reciprocation of metrical epistles.” P. 16.
“ The gentle shepherd could have been only produced by art co-operating with genius, in a moment propitious for (to) Shepherdis poetry:
“ His wife, who died in 1743, seems to have pailed to her grave without an elegy, because the loss was too afflicting for loquacity to deplore.” P. 48. But, after a while, he
" attracted, by his facility and naturalness, the notice of persons of higher rank, and better caste” P. 15This we sincerely hope will, in due time, be done also by our biographer; when he has sedulously corrected the vile and disgusting affectation of which we complain ; and when he has clearly seen, as we likewise trust he will fee, the folly of an attempt to bend the bow, without poflessing the vigour, of Achilles.
In order to fhew him, that we do not find fault with his style, ia matters of taste merely, which, in some degree, must always be arbitrary, we will suhjoin a few instances of actual incorrectness, and want of grammar; and these, surely, must appear the more remarkable in a person, who professes fo avowedly to tread in the footsteps
* “ Bauldly brag," we have good authority to believe was Ramsay's original reading, and not “ blythiy boast,” as it stands in this edition; an expression much more tame and an appropriate.
of, perhaps, the corre Eiest writer in our language.
- When the nobleff version of the Iliad appeared, Ramsay read it thrice over.” Among what versions is this the nobleft? Possibly we might guels at the meaning of such a sentence: but either there is an aukward affectation of a Latinism, which has never yet been naturalized ; or else an ellipsis is implied, far more violent than can be tolerated in Englith. * This person must be distinguished from Hamilton of Bangour, a poet of a higher quality, who was also connected, by his good cffices, with Ramtay.' P. 17. A poet of “higher quality" may be said, if the author means rank or eminence; but the noun " quality,” with the indefinite article prefixed to it, is generally applied to some peculiar property in an inanimate object : thus, we say cloth, or paper, of a higher or superior quality. 6. The same writer speaks of King James's Schort Treatise, as at once curious, though itupid.” P. 25. It should have been written, at once curious and ftupid.
From the following inaccuracies, not of grammar, but of idiom, the biographer betrays his country, which we easily perceive to be North of the Tweed. “ The learned minifler (we suppose one of the authors of the statistical account of Scotland) who writes the account of Crawford-moor, claims no peculiar honour from the birth of Ramsay, in that mountainous district." P. 6.--that is, learned clergyman ;-Minister is now seldom used in England in this unqualified sense, although it is found fo applied in the prayer-book. In Scotland, we understand, that the practice is otherwise : but any Englishman who read the sentence, and saw no collateral circumftance tending to point out what description of minister the author intended, might naturally mistake it for a minister of state.
" Indigent persons of the same shire." P. 9. that is, county. Shire, in the same manner, is seldom, or never used in England, except in conjunction with the name of fome district : thus we say, Leicesterfhire, Yorkshire, &c. “ After a while, the easy club, affecting great independence, resolved to adopt Scottish patrons, in place of English names.” P. 10.
P. 10. It should have been instead of English names. This Scotticism is very common.
came in the place of his father, may, however be said in good English, when the expression is without a figure, and the definite article is prefixed. “Lady Wardlaw was buried in the family vault, within the church of Dumfermline.” P-32. That is, in the church of Dumfermline. In Scotch proclamations we have had frequent occafion to observe this idiom. e. g. To all and sundry the magistrates within the thire of Edinburgh, &c. To these examples we were about to add a few more of this writer's mifapplication of the prepofitions, a fault very common with his countrymen ; but we fear our readers will be ready to cry out ohe! jam satis eft! We request, however, they would bear in mind, that correctness of expression, and precision of thinking are far more intimately connected, than most perfons, even writers by profeflion, are disposed to believe. It is on that account that we hold