« ZurückWeiter »
mulus to the virtue of industry, always at hand, and always powerful. He rises early-(so will any man who has any thing to do) and will not sit up more than three nights running for any attorney in London. Good: he has his reasons, and they are sufficient. But do they affect the law-stationer (we mean his man), who works at the most wretched drudgery, almost for nothing, and has not work to do half his time? Or, because he grows tired of that which has no inducement to recommend it, and in the intervals of hopeless leisure, sots away his time at the alehouse, and, to pay his score, commits a larceny, after twenty or thirty years' hard, thankless, unprofitable labour,is it because he is a more idle, or a less fortunate man than his employer?
We need not pursue this reasoning farther. The proof is self-evident in favour of the industrious, self-denying, inoral habits of the common people of England; for they are the only people who ever feel the temptation to violate their obligations to honesty, and they do not do it once in a thousand extreme cases. If, however, they do it once, it is all over with them: and infamy, grinning at their backs, blocks out their return to the path of honesty ever after. They are thus driven upon desperate courses, both from want and shame; and become confirmed thieves. Those whose parents have been so before them, and have brought them up without any other means of a livelihood, or notions of morality, are hereditary thieves; and this is the third and last stage. The first are so from accidental causes: the second from habit: the third from education. What is to be the cure of these severally? The answer to all three at once, like Swift's Short Way with the Dissenters, is on the present or late system-hanging; or else, 1. treating the first accidental offence as an incorrigible disease; 2. curing bad habits and inclinations by an unreserved indulgence of them in prison; 3. ingrafting upon the vices of education the contagion of the worst examples, in prison and out of it.
We think it better to try, at least, the new, and, as it is called, improved system, 1. of giving those who have been led away, by temporary necessity, a probation in Penitentiary Houses; 2. of correcting (if it be possible) bad habits, by substituting opposite ones in a course of prison-discipline; and, 3. of preventing the evils of ignorance, and want of proper education, by a better education. Or, lastly, where these are found insufficient at home, the Transportation system, by flinging the victims of vice, of shame, of ignorance and necessity, entirely out of themselves, their old ideas and habits, and giving them a new country, and almost a new being, may be tried with effect. At any rate, all these methods
afford security to society, and a chance of reform and repentance to the individual.
Conciliation is, in most cases, the dictate of justice no less than of policy. You cannot produce conviction by unjust measures you will seldom intimidate by violent ones: But you may wean from crimes, by lessening the temptation to commit them, and by making the vices punish themselves, in the privation of the very indulgences they aim at securing. Consideration for others is the first step to awaken reflection in them. Compassion begets confidence, and confidence a willingness to hearken to reason: whereas irritation and severity can only preclude all sympathy, and increase the hardened insensibility which is now viewed as excluding all hopes from a milder and more effectual treatment.
But (we hear those crying out who always turn good into evil and light to darkness) consider the expense of your improved sysCalculate the cost of your penitentiaries, your gaols, (no longer like the dens of wild beasts, or styes for swine to be huddled together), your distant colonies; consider well what it will take you to keep all those whom you do not hang, or put into a way of being soon hanged. Oh! let not our economy begin by taxing our humanity: let us not lavish millions in wanton waste and wide-spread mischief, and grudge a few thousands of the public money for the public service! Let us not vote endless sums for everlasting worthless jobs, and buildings planned for havoc and destruction, and then turn askance with jealous leer malign' from the first building that greets our eyes, raised for the salvation of men, as from the rock on which the hopes of future generations must split, and as if it were a mill-stone tied, like another national debt, round the neck of the country. But again (and waving this objection) it is asked, If you improve the system of coercion so as to answer the ends of reform to some, how will it answer those of intimidation to others? Never mind:-if it does not intimidate others, then reform them too. But this is a needless alarm. No system of coercion can have charms for the unspotted and the free, so as to induce them to plunge into Penitentiaries of the most elegant description, or cross pathless oceans, to emerge on pathless wildernesses; and as to offenders themselves, depend upon it, that there is nothing that inspires such dread into all this class of persons (from the highest to the lowest) as the idea of subjecting them to any ordeal that is likely to end in Reform.
But the true and decisive answer is, succeeded as far as it has been tried, countries; and the only evil likely to
that the new system has both here and in other result from its farther
extension seems to be, that it may deprive police-officers of the reward for the conviction of offenders, and the keepers of night-houses of the profits derived from harbouring them in the mean time. As to Mr Harmer's suggestion, that transportation should be reserved for incorrigible offenders, we do not immediately enter into it. If applied early and judiciously, it might operate to prevent the growth of incorrigibly bad habits; and, by breaking off at once all connexion with former associates and pursuits, plant a new race of men in a new soil, or ingraft them on a prior settlement, with other and better prospects. Mrs Fry, we believe, has already done much good by her attempts to reform different sorts of prisoners: and it is to be remembered that she belongs to a sect, whose practice, as well as creed, is benevolence. The Quakers have taken a considerable interest in this question; and to them we also, in a great measure, owe the Abolition of the Slave-Trade. They have been ridiculed, as a body, for not lending themselves to the pomps and vanities of the world; but they devote themselves to prying into, and alleviating its evils. If you see one of them come into a bookseller's shop, it is not to inquire for Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, or for Rogers's Pleasures of Memory, but for Buxton on Prison Discipline, or for the Last Account of the State of the Gaol at Leicester. These are their delights, their luxuries, and refinements. They do not indeed add new grace to the Corinthian capitals of polished society,' but they dig down into its dungeon-glooms and noisome sewers,
'Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.'
They bear the yoke of the wretched, and lighten the burden of humanity-and they have, and will have their reward.
ART. V. Melmoth, the Wanderer. 4 Vols. By the Author of Bertram. Constable & Co. Edinburgh, 1820.
T was said, we remember, of Dr Darwin's Botanic Gardenthat it was the sacrifice of Genius in the Temple of False Taste; and the remark may be applied to the work before us, with the qualifying clause, that in this instance the Genius is less obvious, and the false taste more glaring. No writer of good judgment would have attempted to revive the defunct horrors of Mrs Radcliffe's School of Romance, or the demoniacal incarnations of Mr Lewis: But, as if he were determined not to be arraigned for a single error only, Mr Maturin has contrived to render his production almost as objectionable in the manner as,
it is in the matter. The construction of his story, which is singularly clumsy and inartificial, we have no intention to analyze : -many will probably have perused the work, before our review reaches them; and to those who have not, it may be sufficient to announce, that the imagination of the author runs riot, even beyond the usual license of romance;-that his hero is a modern Faustus, who has bartered his soul with the powers of darkness for protracted life, and unlimited worldly enjoyment; his heroine, a species of insular goddess, a virgin Calypso of the Indian ocean, who, amid flowers and foliage, lives upon figs and tamarinds; associates with peacocks, loxias and monkeys; is worshipped by the occasional visitants of her island; finds her way to Spain, where she is married to the aforesaid hero by the hand of a dead hermit, the ghost of a murdered domestic being the witness of their nuptials; and finally dies in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Madrid!-To complete this phantasmagorie exhibition, we are presented with sybils and misers; parricides; maniacs in abundance; monks with scourges pursuing a naked youth streaming with blood; subterranean Jews surrounded by the skeletons of their wives and children; lovers blasted by lightning; Irish hags, Spanish grandees, shipwrecks, caverns, Donna Claras and Donna Isidoras,-all opposed to each other in glaring and violent contrast, and all their adventures narrated with the same undeviating display of turgid, vehement, and painfully elaborated language. Such are the materials, and the style of this expanded nightmare: And as we can plainly perceive, among a certain class of writers, a disposition to haunt us with similar apparitions, and to describe them with a corresponding tumor of words, we conceive it high time to step forward and abate a nuisance which threatens to become a besetting evil, unless checked in its
Political changes were not the sole causes of the rapid degeneracy in letters that followed the Augustan era of Rome. Similar corruptions and decay, have succeeded to the intellectual eminence of other nations; and we might be almost led to conclude, that mental as well as physical power, after attaining a certain perfection, became weakened by expansion, and sunk into a state of comparative imbecility, until time and circumstance gave it a new progressive impetus. One great cause of this deterioration is the insatiable thirst for novelty, which, becoming weary even of excellence, will sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey on garbage.' In the torpidity produced by an utter exhaustion of sensual enjoyment, the Arreoi Club of Otaheite is recorded to have found a miserable excitement, by swallowing the most revolting filth; and the jaded intellectual
appetites of more civilized communities will sometimes seek a new stimulus in changes almost as startling. Some adventurous writer, unable to obtain distinction among a host of competitors, all better qualified than himself to win legitimate applause, strikes out a fantastic or monstrous innovation; and arrests the attention of many who would fall asleep over monotonous excellence. Imitators are soon found ;-fashion adopts the new folly;-the old standard of perfection is deemed stale and obsolete; and thus, by degrees, the whole literature of a country becomes changed and deteriorated. It appears to us, that we are now labouring in a crisis of this nature. In our last Number, we noticed the revolution in our poetry; the transition from the lucid terseness and exquisite polish of Pope and Goldsmith, to the rambling, diffuse, irregular, and imaginative style of composition by which the present era is characterized; and we might have added, that a change equally complete, though diametrically opposite in its tendency, has been silently introduced into our prose. In this we have oscillated from freedom to restraint;-from the easy, natural, and colloquial style of Swift, Addison and Steele, to the perpetually strained, ambitious, and overwrought stiffness, of which the author we are now considering affords a striking exemplification. He's knight o' the shire, and represents them all.' There is not the smallest keeping in his composition :-less solicitous what he shall say, than how he shall say it, he exhausts himself in a continual struggle to produce effect by dazzling, terrifying, or surprising. Annibal Caracci was accused of an affectation of muscularity, and an undue parade of anatomical knowledge, even upon quiescent figures: But the artist whom we are now considering has no quiescent figures:-even his repose is a state of rigid tension, if not extravagant distortion. He is the Fuseli of novellists. Does he deem it necessary to be energetic, he forthwith begins foaming at the mouth, and falling into convulsions; and this orgasm is so often repeated, and upon such inadequate occasions, that we are perpetually reminded of the tremendous puerilities of the Della Cruscan versifiers, or the ludicrous grand eloquence of the Spaniard, who tore a certain portion of his attire, as if heaven and earth were coming together.' In straining to reach the sublime, he perpetually takes that single unfortunate step which conducts him to the ridiculous-a failure which, in a less gifted author, might afford a wicked amusement to the critic, but which, when united with such undoubted genius as the present work exhibits, must excite a sincere and painful regret in every admirer of talent.
Whatever be the cause, the fact, we think, cannot be disputed, that a peculiar tendency to this gaudy and ornate style, ex