« PrécédentContinuer »
will cross the Atlantic to visit the sacred ruins of England, just ad
go to Greece.
From the blue mountains or Ontario's lake'-p. 10. and pay sentimental visits to Cambridge and Stratford-upon-Avon. These ingenuous' Americans are also to come to London, which they are to find in ruins : however, being of bold and aspiring dispositions,
* They of some broken turret, mined by time,
Through reeds and sedge pursue his idle way.' This is a sad prospect! but while all our modern edifices are to be in such a lamentable state of dilapidation, Time is to proceed with so cautious and discriminating a step, that Melrose Abbey, which is ñow pretty well in ruins, is not to grow a bit older, but to continue a beautiful ruin still; this supernatural longevity is conferred upon it in honour of Mr. Scott.
But let not Mr. Scott be too proud of a distinction which he possesses in a very humble degree, compared with him, to whom
belong The Roman virtue and the Tuscan song.' Which of the virtues, the (xal' etoxnu) Roman virtue is, Mrs. Barbauld does not condescend to inform us, nor does our acquaintance with Mr. Roscoe enable us to guess any virtue for which he is more particularly famous: so great, however, is to be the enthusiastic reverence which the American youth are to feel for hiin, that, after visiting the scenes which are to remind them of General Moore, Mr. Clarkson, Lord Chatham, Doctor Davy, Mr. Garrick, and Lord Nelson, they are to pay a visit,
• Where Roscoe, to whose patriot breast belong
Where Ceres never gained a wreath before' Or, in other words, (as the note kindly informs us,) to Mr. Rogcoe's farm in Derbyshire, where, less we apprehend, by the Roman virtue and the Tuscan song, than by the homely process of drainage and manuring, he has brought some hundred acres of Chatmoss into cultivation. O the unequal dispensations of this poetical
providence ! Chatham and Nelson empty names ! Oxford and Cam
bridge in ruins ! London a desert, and the Thames a sedgy brook! while Mr. Roscoe's barns and piggeries are in excellent repair, and objects not only of curiosity but even of reverence and enthusiasm.
Our readers will be curious to know how these prodigies are to be operated: there is, it seems, a mysterious Spirit or Genius who is to do all this, and a great deal more, as we shall presently see ; but who or what he is, or whence he comes, does not very clearly appear, even from the following description :
• There walks a Spirit o'er the peopled earth,
No force arrests his foot, no chains can bind.-p.17. This extraordinary personage is prodigiously wise and potent, but withal a little fickle, and somewhat, we think, for so wise a being, unjust and partial. He has hitherto resided in this coun
and chiefly in London; Mrs. Barbauld, however, foresees that he is beginning to be tired of us, and is preparing to go out of town: on his departure that desolation is to take place in reality, which is so often metaphorically ascribed to the secession of some great leader of the ton.
But the same Genius has far more extensive powers even than these ;-he 'changes nature,' he absorbs the Nile, (we had not heard of the Nile's being absorbed,) and he has of late taken it into his head to travel northward,' among the Celtic nations,' with a mercantile venture of Turkey carpets, of which speculation the immediate effects are, that the vale of Arno' and the coast of Baia' are not near so pleasant as the dykes of Batavia; that the Pontine marshes have lately become extremely unwholesome, and that Venice is no longer, as she was a short time since, the mistress of the sea. (p. 20, 21.)
This wonderful person is also so condescending as to assist us in divers little offices, in which we are hardly aware of his interference; he is the real author of Dryden's Virgil and Middleton's Cicero, (p: 22,) he dresses · light forms' in transparent muslins,' he “tutors' young ladies to swell the artful note, and he builds verandas to our balconies; he is, besides, an eminent nursery man, and particularly remarkable for 'acacias' avd cedars,' and the
chrystal walls' of bis hothouses produce the best grapes and pines about London; (p. 23;) in short, there is nothing good, bad, or indifferent that this Genius does not do: but, alas! good upon England he intends no longer to confer; our muslins, pines, acacias, and even our forte-pianos are in jeopardy ;
For fairest flowers expand but to decay,
Arts, arms, and wealth destroy the fruits they bring,
O'er want and woe thy gorgeous robe is spread.'--p. 24. Upon this melancholy night, however, a bright day dawns, and all the little sense with which Mrs. Barbauld set out, now dissolves away in blissful visions of American glory. This Genius of her's which walks the peopled earth,' viewless and secret,' suddenly appears walking on the summit of Chimberaço, (which never was nor can be peopled,) displays his viewless' form op the Andes, and secretly' arouses, by loud exclamations, all the nations of the western continent.
• Ardent the Genius fans the noble strife,
And swears-Thy world, Columbus, shall be free.'-p. 25. And with this oath concludes Eighteen Hundred and Eleven," upon which we have already wasted too much time. One word, however, we must seriously add. Mrs. Barbauld's former works have been of some utility; her. Lessons for Children,' her · Hymns in Prose,' her Selections from the Spectator,' et id genus omne, though they display not much of either taste or talents, are yet something better than harmless: but we must take the liberty of warning her to desist from satire, which indeed is satire on herself alone; and of entreating, with great earnestness, that she will not, for the sake of this ungrateful generation, put herself to the trouble of writing any more party pamphlets in verse. We also assure her, that we should not by any means impute it to want of taste or patriotism on her part, if, for her own country, her fears were less confident, and for America her hopes less ardent; and if she would leave both the victims and the heroes of her political prejudices to the respective judgment which the impartiality of posterity will not fail to pronounce.
Art. VII. Memoirs of the Public Life of John Horne Tooke,
Esq. Containing a particular Account of his Connections with the most eminent Characters of the Reign of George III. His Trials for Sedition, High Treason, &c. With his most celebrated Speeches in the House of Commons, on the Hustings, Letters, &c. By W. Hamilton Reid. 8vo. pp. 192. Lon
don. Sherwood, Neely and Jones. 1812.. THIS 'HIS is the only Life of Mr. Tooke we have yet seen. It is miserable performance, below contempt as to style, informa
tion, and talent. We think it somewhat discreditable to the Jacobin school, that they have not been able to produce a better ac-, count of a person, who, with all his faults, was in this country their principal ornament and support. A good memoir upon this subject would be an useful accession to our stock of biography, literary and political. When we speak of a memoir, we of course do not mean a large quarto, or two large quartos, for with such it is said we are threatened-eked out with declamations and histories about the American war-dissertations upon the author of Junius"diat:ibes' upon the French revolution, and the speeches of the Attorney General and Mr. Erskine—but a book resembling this before us in size, and in nothing else-in which credit shall be given to the reader for a general acquaintance with the history of the last fifty years—in' which therefore the main subject will not be overwhelmed by a mass of extraneous matter,-in short, a life of Mr. Tooke, in which Mr. Tooke shall be the principal feature, and in which all that is material to be known of this extraordinary man shall be diligently collected, clearly arranged, and fairly related. We feel it the more necessary to give this warning, be cause it has been very much the practice of late years, under pretence of writing biography, to deluge the public with vast quantities of contemporaneous history, which serve no other purpose than that of puzzling and fatiguing the reader, and adding to the size and price of the volume. A king, a minister, or a general may be su distinguished, that all the transactions of the age in which he lived may, without impropriety, be considered in reference to him; but, generally speaking, the object of biography is to furnish not that which is, but that which is not to be found in the history of the times; and great public transactions ought only to be mentioned incidentally, with just so much of detail as is necessary to prevent confusion, and to preserve the thread of the narrative uvbroken.
But though we see how the Life of Mr. Tooke ought to be written, it is not our duty, nor indeed do we possess the means to supply that desideratum in literature. We can only offer a few detached remarks upon his history and character, which, though they will probably have no other merit, will at least have that of impartiality. During his life we were not exempt from those feelings of hostility, which great and irreconcileable difference upon political questions, at an anxious and difficult period, is calculated to excite; but we know ourselves ill if we cannot now speak as calmly and fairly of the philosopher and politician of Wimbledon, as if he had flourished in Rome or Athens five-andtwenty centuries ago. In considering his political career, the most material circum
stance, that which it is most necessary to keep steadily in view, in order to form a correct and candid estimate of his character is, that he was from beginning to end, a man labouring under great, perpetual, irremovable civil disabilities. He had been unfortunate (we say so without fear of being misinterpreted) in his choice of a profession: for it is a real misfortune to a man of an enterprising disposition, natus rebus agendis, to become a member of an order, in which propriety and duty enjoin a sparing and partial interference with the concerns of the world, and in which, if propriety and duty are found too feeble restraints, the law interposes with a strong arm, to curb profane activity and unprofessional exertions. What a man ought to do under such circumstances is obvious : but such is the weakness of human nature, that what he ought to do is, we are afraid, not what he is always likely to do--certainly, the reverse of what Mr. Tooke did do. In fact his whole life seems to have been spent in an unavailing and ungraceful struggle to extricate himself from the restraints which his situation imposed upon him. He was for ever beating himself against the bars of his cage; and such is the power of passion over reason, that neither the exercise of his penetrating and vigorous understanding, nor the experience of constant failures were sufficient to prevent bim from wasting his strength in an idle endeavour to pass the magic circle which law and custom had drawn around him. Hence all his exertions wanted both dignity and effect: and his extraordinary talents were productive of little true glory to himself, and scarcely of any benefit to the world.
Mr. Tooke was born with an iron constitution of body and mind; he was endowed with persevering industry, armed with unshaken courage, and stimulated by a restless ambition. These qualities should carry their possessor very far in a free country. But the barrier was insurmountable. Gifted with the talents of a great performer, he was compelled throughout to play inferior parts. As a politician he was always below himself; always acting in subordination to his equals, or on a level with those whom nature and education had placed at an immeasurable distance beneath him. He began his career as an assistant in a struggle, from which the mock patriot Wilkes derived all the glory, and all the advantage; and he ended it by dividing the credit of turbulent, unsuccessful, and unpopular resistance to sound principles and lawful authority with Messrs. Hardy and Thelwall. He could not be a lawyer, therefore he resisted the law, and reviled those who administered it. He could not be a statesman, nay, not even a demagogue, and therefore he was content to become a factious partizan, a low agitator, to insult those whom he could not rival, and to disturb a country in the government of which he never could have a share. Disappointment VOL. VII, NO. XIV,