Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Which was thus rendered into Latin:

Persaeus ex Northumbria
Vovebat, Diis iratis,

Vernare inter dies tres
In montibus Cheviates,

Contemptis forti Douglaso,
Et Omnibus cognatis.

This feat of turning English verse into Latin rhyme has been common enough since Maginn's time, but he was among the first that attempted it, and his performances in this respect have never been excelled.

Maginn became a favored contributor to Blackwood, and under the name of Ensign Morgan Odoherty figures as a chief character in a number of the “Noctes Ambrosianae.” He wrote several of these, and his famous song, the “Irishman and the Lady,” which has often, in recent years, been attributed to Thackeray, appeared in one of the earlier “ Noctes.” Most readers will remember the first verse at least :

There was a lady lived in Leith,
A lady very stylish, man,

And yet, in spite of all her teeth,
She fell in love with an Irishman ;

A nasty, ugly Irishman,
A wild, tremendous Irishman.

A tearing, swearing, thumping, bumping,
Ramping, roaring Irishman.

When Fraser's magazine was started in 1830 Maginn became principal contributor and partial editor of it, and he made it almost as notorious as Blackwood's had been. He removed to London and became one of the social lions for a time, but the pace was too great for him. He could not resist the power of the bottle, and he sank inevitably into poverty and degradation. Many of his writings, particularly “The Maxims of Odoherty,” are redolent of rum punch and drams of various sorts. They are pervaded by an aroma of intoxication, and they thus mark in sharp contrast the progress society, literary and other, has made in the past fifty years. It is partially owing to this flavor of alcohol that permeates so much that he has written that his writings are now so nearly forgotten.

Nevertheless Maginn must always remain an interesting figure in our literature. He is the most conspicuous representative of that race of literary political writers, loose living and hard hitting, who flourished in England from the time of the establishment of the Edinburgh Review, followed by The Quarterly and Blackwood, down to very recent times. During that period, literary criticism was largely influenced by political opin

ion, and Maginn like Gifford, Crocker, or Lockhart, could see no merit in anything written by a Whig. His contempt for sober men was only equaled by his hatred of Whigs. He reviewed the “Adonais,” heaping ridicule and contempt on both Shelley and Keats and maintaining that every two lines out of three were sheer nonsense. Had he lived he would have changed his mind, for no man ever lived who was more alive to the spirit of literature, but for the moment he allowed his political prejudice to bias his judgment. But we must now take him as we find him, and while there is much in his life and work that we are bound to deplore, we will go far before we find prose so spirited and vigorous, or verse so facile and various as his. To enjoy much of it we must enter into the spirit of the time in which he wrote. He must be taken with his environment. This may require some effort, but whoever takes the trouble will find a deal of pleasure in the society of this

Slashing, dashing, smashing,
Lashing, thrashing, hashing, Irishman.

One of the main interests that centers about Maginn and his works is that he was the literary father of Thackeray. The great novelist was

eighteen years his jo, and he evidently made a careful study of Maginn's methods, and is indebted to him for many a favorite allusion and quotation. So similar is much of their work, for they were both contributors to Fraser's, that a number of Maginn's pieces have been attributed to Thackeray. But the pupil was greater than the master. Maginn's humor does not possess the rich quality of Thackeray. The vein of tenderness and human sympathy that comes to the surface in the pages of “Pendennis” and “The Newcomes,” giving pathos to even the bitterest satire, is not so apparent in what Maginn has written. The doctor was one of the best of good fellows and was ever generous and kindly in action, but he could never see anything but villainy and villains. Thackeray, on the contrary, could say a good word even for such a rascal as Barnes Newcome, and could even say something in extenuauation for the “Old Campaigner.” But Maginn had more fun in him than Thackeray and was a keen enough observer of society. Some of the “Maxims of Odoherty” are very acute, as where he says : “Mediocrity is always disgusting, except of stature in a woman.” And : “The next best thing to a really good woman is a goodnatured one.”

[merged small][ocr errors]

“FATHER PRout” came as a dancing ray of sunshine after a murky day, and the reading world awakened to a new sensation. Most assuredly here was something new, and a writer who had his languages at his finger tips and tongue's end. He was a brilliant Irishman who for several years was associated with Maginn on Fraser's Magazine. They were both Corkonians, but Maginn was the elder by ten or eleven years and was already established as one of the editors of Fraser's when Mahony arrived in London in the early part of 1834, when he was about thirty years of age. He had been bred to the priesthood, a profession for which he had no vocation, though he made strenuous efforts to join the order of the Jesuits in the early days of his studies. But the fathers

rejected him. He was, however, ordained a

« ZurückWeiter »