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impromptu, and included in a parenthesis of half a page. Indeed, Burke has the honour of attracting the most dangerous regards of Mr. Gilfillan, who never speaks of that great man without enthusiasm of the most rapturous and incoherent sort. This is a very curious and instructive fact; it shows, not only that love may exist with infinite disparity, but that the deepest admiration is not necessarily transforming in its character. Our author warmly admires the works of Edmund Burke, and writes himself like-George Gilfillan.
With the organ of comparison so strongly developed, our critic is hardly fair in laying to Mr. Macaulay's charge an undue fondness for antithesis and point. It is only too evident, that he spares no pains to attain the same dexterity, with what success might easily be shown. If we were inclined to follow the example of these authorities, and perhaps it is our turn,there could not possibly present itself a more favourable occasion. One critic handled by another, and both compared by a third, there is something unusual at least in that. But we must decline the tempting invitation, not because it is a little absurd, as well as ungenerous, "to compare great things with small;"-for the epic poets do it without reproach;—but the points of contrast existing between the literary characters of Mr. Macaulay and our author are too numerous, as well as too obvious, for our rehearsal. There is, indeed, a more summary method of comparison, in which some characteristic beauty or defect is made inclusive and decisive of all the others. Thus we might mutually oppose the chief faults of these contending parties. The great fault of Mr. Macaulay's style is its positive uniformity of excellence. Unlike every author that we know besides, Homer himself included, he never nods. So unflagging his genius, so sleepless his activity, so prompt his memory, so available his learning, that the reader gains no moment of repose, till attention, fascinated so long, suddenly fails, and the mind runs fairly off to find relief. Invited to an intellectual repast, we have sumptuous viands in great variety and matchless profusion set before us; but one luxury succeeds another with such rapidity, that taste has barely time for perfect satisfaction, and we suddenly quit the still groaning table to avoid the evils of excess. This splendid profusion is, in some sense, a fault as well as a misfortune; for literature intended to answer human needs, should be more nearly adapted to the character and powers of human nature. But we submit, that it is a very different fault which Mr. Gilfillan commits, and a very different misfortune which his readers suffer. On his part, too, there is a ceaseless profusion; but it is of words instead of thoughts, of colours instead of images; of errors, inanities, and absurdities; of great truths miserably garbled, and doubtful ones intolerably mouthed. For the mental
Plato, Bacon, and Gilfillan.
repast which he serves up he has evidently rifled richer tables, gathered a miscellaneous heap of odds and ends, swept them into his own dish, added a copious stream of frothy rhetoric, and whipped the whole into a towering syllabub. Indulgence in such a compound can only be attended by nausea or inflation. As it will serve to bring us to the most important part of our subject, we must take some further freedom with Mr. Macaulay's name, while we briefly mention another exploit of our author. Mr. Gilfillan cannot rest till he has broken a lance with his "rival" in the critical arena. Challenging Mr. Macaulay's estimate of Lord Bacon's genius and philosophy, he charges the reviewer with sacrificing the character of Plato, in order the more pointedly to honour the great English sage. Having picked this "pretty quarrel," we cannot but admire his boldness, our critic at once proceeds to reconstruct the parallel, and give Plato the better half of each antithesis. Had our space permitted, we should have been glad to offer these rival compositions to the reader in collateral columns. As this is not convenient, so neither is it quite necessary to an understanding of their respective merits. A single sentence, chosen in all fairness from either estimate, will suffice to indicate the cha racter of both :-"The philosophy of Plato," says Mr. Macaulay, "began in words, and ended in words. The philosophy of Bacon began in observation, and ended in acts." See now how Mr. Gilfillan turns the tables :-" Bacon cured corns, and Plato heals consciences!" It is too late to ask the reader to decide between these two; for he has already done so. If both critics sacrifice a share of truth to the love of verbal antithesis, it is only Mr. Gilfillan who outrages taste and judgment for the sake of a paltry alliteration. If Mr. Macaulay has somewhat underrated the influence of Plato in the world, he has at least done noble justice to the fruitful philosophy of the English sage: but our author has ingeniously contrived to wrong both worthies; for, dealing only in extremes, he must needs thrust them one upon either horn of his critical dilemma, and the victim of his adulation is, as usual, the one most deeply wronged. "Most deeply wronged," we say, because the mind revolts from an ascription of divine and saving power, even to the most illustrious of the Heathen, and is, therefore, apt to become intolerant of his just pretensions.
If we trouble ourselves or our readers further with Mr. Gilfillan's opinions upon Plato, it is only because something more is involved than a point of literary taste. We commenced by asserting the intimate connexion between just criticism and moral truth, between trashy and unworthy literature and falsehood of the most dangerous sort. Not willing to beat the air, and have no profit for our pains, we fixed the charge of public deterioration upon a writer of no small pretensions;
and that charge we are bound by every proper motive to make good.
Mr. Gilfillan's Quixotic championship of Plato urges him into grossly exaggerated statements, both of the elevation of that philosopher's doctrine, and of the extent and value of his influence on mankind. Christianity is represented as the mere fulfilment of Platonism: the heathen sage is placed but little lower than Christ, and generally on a par with the Apostle John. The following sentences are among those deserving of the strongest reprobation :
"And what we demand for Christianity we demand also for the Platonic philosophy. Like it, it has done much; but not hitherto in proportion to the infinite scale it has itself fixed. Are Churches, Missionary Societies, great religious movements, high spiritual poems, and holy lives, not worthy fruit ?' and these, under God, we in this nineteenth century owe, not to the school of Bacon, but to that combination of the philosophy of Plato and the divine teaching and working of Jesus, which constitutes the only theology, whether theoretic or practical, deserving the name, the theology of Taylor, Howe, Milton, and Coleridge......And if it be said that we are unfairly adding Christianity as a make-weight to Platonism, we reply, that the one is, in our notion, the other fulfilled, the other deified, yet practicalized; and that we have a right to rate the system we defend at its best.. Bacon sowed the thin soil of the finite and the present; Plato, the deep loam of the permanent and the infinite. Bacon expected and received the return of an early crop of material results; Plato's harvest lay in the slow yield of souls. Now the things seen are temporal; but the things unseen are eternal.”
If we are rightly informed that Mr. Gilfillan is a Christian Minister, and in the habit of exercising the sacred functions of his office, we can only express our unfeigned astonishment at language so unguarded proceeding from such a source. The only apology that suggests itself is a pitiful one at best. We are ready to believe that the sentiments quoted are rather due to an inordinate desire of display, and a culpable remissness of style, than indicative of a deliberate intention to lower the character and claims of our divine religion; but not the less do they call for exposure and reproof. The real meaning and tendency of the expressions used are probably unsuspected by their author himself; but the effect upon his readers must, nevertheless, be decided and injurious. If it be true that Mr. Gilfillan counts a large number of admirers, it is certain that many of them will adopt his opinions; and these can only be estimated by the terms in which they are conveyed.
It is useless, for more reasons than one, to point out to Mr. Gilfillan wherein consists the error, so vital and pervading, which disfigures his comparative estimate of Christianity and Platonism. He does not need to be told the truth, and he is
Pretension and Profanity.
incapable of improving by its repetition. It is not from a positive ignorance of the distinction which it behoved him to maintain, that he has written thus defectively; but from a total incapacity of keeping that distinction clearly before him, and of expressing it in adequate and proper terms. This is apparent from the singular fact that, in this very volume, the author professes the highest admiration for Mr. Henry Rogers' noble essay on Plato, and actually quotes the beautiful paragraph in which the character of Socrates-the hero of Platonic virtue-is so strikingly contrasted with that of our Redeemer. Thus it fortunately happens, that the same blundering indiscretion which threatens to produce so much mischief, provides, in some measure, for its own correction and rebuke.
But this is not the only instance in which Mr. Gilfillan is betrayed, by his besetting genius, into deluding and unwarrantable language. If the danger is sometimes small, it is only because the absurdity is too great, or the obscurity too dense. Thus, in the following sentences, the mind is rather shocked by the appearance of evil, than assaulted by actual untruth. "A new poet, like a new planet, is another proof of the continued existence of the creative energy of the Father of spirits. He is a new messenger and mediator between the Infinite and the race of man." The first sentence is nothing but a high-sounding truism; for that only is predicated of poet and planet, which is equally true of oyster and pebble. If the latter sentence could be proved to mean any thing, it would probably appear as an offence against religion; so we cling to the persuasion of its inanity, lest we should be obliged to condemn it as blasphemous and profane. In like manner, when Mr. Gilfillan declares that "the stars are the developments of God's Own Head," we feel a momentary revulsion, but refuse to attribute the expression to any deliberate or conscious want of reverence for the Divine Majesty. It is simply the natural result of so much ambition, hurry, tastelessness, and incapacity. But we did feel, and we do, strong indignation and disgust on meeting the passage in which our author compares the face of Mr. Burke, after speaking in the House of Commons, to the countenance of Moses as it shone with reflected glory, after forty days' communion with his Maker. Any thing more reprehensible than this, conceived in worse taste, or uttered in more wanton defiance of propriety and truth, could not readily be found beyond the limits of the book in which it is contained. Within those limits it is only too often and too nearly approached.
It was our intention to remark at some length upon "The Bards of the Bible," the work in which Mr. Gilfillan appears as a critic of sacred literature: but our observations must now be limited, and of a general character.
As compared with that which we have just put down, this volume is agreeable and meritorious, free from many of the author's more glaring faults, and of sufficient interest to gratify a respectable and numerous class. The subject is itself so great and inexhaustible, that he must be a sorry writer indeed, who cannot turn it to advantage. To one who commands a fluent pen, and who is moreover unchecked by the spirit of reverence,— yes, even for the mere book-maker,—what a quarry is furnished in the Christian Bible! Its grand old stories of patriarchal life, its sublime characters, its gorgeous scenery, its human pathos and divine wisdom, its dignity, variety, and universality; and these all coloured and endeared by the associations of dawning intelligence and early childhood, form a body of material, the rudest index of which must needs outvie in interest the most finished specimens of human art. As the eastern peasants build their rude huts from the ruins of Baalbec, so do such authors construct their literary edifices,-woful in their disproportions, and clumsy in their poor contrivances, but very costly in their material of cedar and gold, of porphyry and brass; and here a sculptured image, not quite effaced, and there a pillar or an altar, not yet overthrown, is more than enough to rivet the attention and reward the search.
The faults of this book, we say, are not so glaring as those of the author's "Third Gallery of Portraits;" but they are substantially the same in character, however subdued in tone and modified in form. There is the same lack of precision, discrimination, and sobriety; the same tasteless and tiresome strain upon the imagination of the reader. The work throughout is vague in its portraitures, unworthy in its allusions, and irreverent in its treatment. It is in the Preface to this volume that our author enunciates the maxim already quoted, "Every true criticism on a genuine poem is itself a poem." Accordingly the author produces a rhapsody when he imagines he is writing a critique. Trying his predecessors by his own warm standard, he finds them cold and tame. Lowth is only "elegant; "he "never rises to the height of his great argument." His criticism wants "subtlety, power, and abandonment." (Surely a critic is the only species of judge who was ever impeached for this deficiency, this fatal want of "abandonment.") But Herder, it seems, 66 was a man of another spirit; and his report of the good land of Hebrew poetry, compared to Lowth's, is that of Caleb or Joshua to that of the other Jewish spies." One would naturally suppose, from the allusion of this passage, that Bishop Lowth spoke in most disparaging terms of "the good land of Hebrew poetry;" but our author probably means that he lived long and familiarly in that "good land," explored all its vineyards, tasted all its variety of fruits, and gathered more than one rich specimen,—which, indeed, is true,