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XII. Stories of Waterloo, and other Tales.
. 268 XIII. Memoirs, Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas
Jefferson, late President of the United States. Edited by
277 XIV. Records of Captain Clapperton's last Expedition to Africa.
By Richard Lander, his faithful Attendant, and the only
• 286 XV. Ringstead Abbey; or, the Stranger's Grave. With other Tales. By an Englishwoman.
. 297 XVI. Bertha's Visit to her Uncle in England.
. 298 XVII. Remarks on the Civil Disabilities of British Jews. By F. H. Goldsmid.
298 XVIII. Scaum's Beverlac: or the Antiquities and History of the
Town of Beverley, in the County of York. By G. Poulson,
299 XIX. 1. Castalian Hours. Poems. By Sophie Dixon. 2. Moments of Loneliness: or Prose and Poetic efforts on Va.
rious Subjects and Occasions. By S. E. Hatfield.
300 XX. The Vocabulary of East Anglia: an Attempt to Record the
Vulgar Tongue of the twin sister Counties, Norfolk and Suffolk, as it existed in the last twenty years of the 18th century, and still exists. By the Rev. Robert Forley. 301 Literary and Miscellaneous Intelligence
• 304 Monthly List of Recent Publications
Art. I.-1. The Venetian Bracelet, The Lost Pleiad, A History of the
Lyre, and other Poems. By L. E. L. Author of “ The Improvisatrice," “ The Troubadour,” and “ The Golden Violet.” 12mo. pp. 307.
London: Longman and Co. 1829. 2. Satan. A Poem. By Robert Montgomery. 8vo. pp. 390. London:
Maunder. 1830. From the pile of blank and rhymed verses amassed upon our shelves, we have selected a pair of volumes recently produced from the practised pens of two authors, who are ranked by most of our periodical critics among the immortal minstrels of the age. It is this community of fame, emanating from one and the same source, which has induced us to place Miss Landon,—without danger, we hope, to her heart, -by the side of Mr. Montgomery. In no other respect is there the slightest intellectual propinquity between them. The lady is a model of delicacy, a combination of sighs, stolen from the Zephyrs, and perfumed with the flowers of June. The gentleman is a sort of poetic Hercules, who, arrayed in a lion's skin and armed with a club, aims at no less a labour than the cleansing of the Augean stable of the world, polluted as it is with the vices of more than sixty centuries. One seeks the sylvan shade, and summons to her presence the gallant knights, and despairing maids, and roving troubadours of the days of romance.
The other urges his Pegasus far beyond the limits of time and space, and holds converse with spirits of every degree. Not long since, he rose to the regions of Heaven, wandered at his leisure through all their provinces, and described their rivers and gardens with the minuteness of a modern tourist. He seems lately to have taken a downward flight; but feeling, possibly, that Dante and Milton had been before him in those tremendous abysses, and had left him nothing to say in the way of description, the happy thought occurred to him to prevail on Satan to visit this planet of ours, and to pay marked attention to the towns and rural districts of England.
Both these poems have had considerable success, if we may believe the concurrent testimony of our periodical publications. Miss Landon, from all that we hear, must have acquired a little fortune. Mr. Montgomery has already, it is said, written himself into Cambridge. Certainly no two authors that we know of are more indebted, than these are, to the voice of criticism. It has made some of the basest metal that ever came out of a mine, pass for the sterling coin of the realm. It has talked so often and so much, of the Sapphic fire of one, and of the soaring Miltonic genius of the other, that half the country is under an impression that Miss Landon and Mr. Montgomery have really written some poetry, and that too of the highest order.
We do not accuse our contemporaries of praising the productions of these bards from corrupt motives. Indeed, we sincerely believe that no such thing as the purchase of opinion is known to our critical writers. But while we vindicate them from a charge so often and so ignorantly brought forward, we are free to avow our belief, that motives of a less impure nature, though in their operation scarcely less detrimental to the literary character of our age, produce a prodigious mass of partial criticism, which is daily, weekly, and monthly diffused from the laboratories of this capital, throughout the empire and its dependencies.
The applauses of which we speak, are not, we repeat, purchased, nor do we think that they could be obtained, for money. They are given freely and gratuitously, so far as the person receiving them is concerned. The fortunate author happens, perhaps, to be personally known to the editor of the journal in which bis work is to be first reviewed. Of course, it is lauded to the skies, and the tone being thus given, the favourable opinion of the first review runs through all the other journals, without undergoing any material alteration. The newspapers, which, though in many respects very ably conducted, do not, and cannot, attend sufficiently to the sound rules of literary criticism, take up the strain which they receive from other quarters; and thus the delusion goes round the whole circle of authorities, which form what is called public opinion.
Besides, such is the amazing activity of the press, and so numerous its demands for literary assistance, that there is scarcely any one who can write a book, who does not also contribute, in verse or prose, to the literary journals. It is the general interest of these collaborateurs to assist each other, and they do so to an extent, of which the uninitiated can have no conception). There is an esprit de corps amongst them that supersedes any just principles of criticism which they might have received from education and study. They pass over, as an antiquated notion, the sacred regard which a true critic will always pay to the dignity and purity of his country's literature. This is a consideration which those gentry altogether overkook, for they feel that the “hanc veniam damus” is sure to be followed at one time or another by the “ petimusque vicissim.” Many of them are, in truth, the mere workmen of the booksellers, who write, as they are paid, by the volume; and who are ready either to get up a review, or a romance, at a moment's notice, and exactly in the tone which their employer prescribes.
It is manifest, therefore, that although golden opinions may not be purchased directly for money, they may nevertheless be procured, and are constantly procured, from other considerations ; which, though certainly not morally base, are at least equally injurious to literature. The great mass of readers is induced to purchase, and read, and admire books merely from the praises bestowed upon them by the journalists; and thus there has been created amongst us, within the last ten years, a spurious sort of fame, that gives currency for a season to productions, destined only to be consumed by the cheesemongers for the fifty years which are to follow.
It is impossible to doubt that Miss Landon believes herself to be a poet. Indeed, how could she think otherwise, as scarcely a week passes in which the soothing flattery is not poured into her willing ear? She proclaims the pleasing consciousness in her title page-“And my soul felt her destiny divine.” In her preface, she declares that she is no longer one who springs forward in the mere energy of exercise and enjoyment; but rather like the Olympian racer, who strains his utmost vigour, with the distant goal and crowd in view. Women, we believe, sometimes contended for the olive crown, and won it too; but it certainly argued in them no slight consciousness of merit to enter the arena at all. The metaphor, however, as it is here used, has a meaning beyond that which strikes the ear; it imports not merely that the crown is in view, but that it already encircles the head of the successful racer, for we are told, in another part of the preface, that she has executed one of those memories at once a good and a glory,' and that she has acquired a popularity beyond her most sanguine dreams.'
So much for the lady's opinion of her own deserts. Now a word or two with respect to the purpose of her labours. Whoever has taken the trouble, as we have done, to read the volumes of verse, under various sweetly sounding titles, which Miss Landon has published, will, perhaps, agree with us in thinking, that whatever their merit might be in a poetical sense, there was in them, at all events, very little of philosophy. If any of her verses were well moulded, musical to the ear, and picturesque to the fancy, they would seem to have accomplished the only end which the fair author bad in view. But now the secret is disclosed. Miss Landon's objects were of a much more ambitious nature. She has been writing all this time, not merely for the purpose of unburthening her imagination of the worlds which it was constantly
creating, but for a much more noble end, that of reforming society! She has, in fact, been, for some years at least, under the disguise of a minstrel, a second Mrs. Fry! She observed, we learn from her preface, that society was fond of indulgence, and consequently selfish, and that refinement was attended by a heartlessness ‘which too often hardens while it polishes.' It was, therefore, from the commencement of her poetical labours, the guiding object of all her verses to discover a remedy for these imperfections of humanity. 'Aware that to elevate I must first soften, and that if I wished to purify I must first touch, I have ever endeavoured to bring forward grief, disappointment, the fallen leaf, the faded flower, the broken heart, and the early grave.' We venture to assert, that not one reader in fifty, of Miss Landon's poems, ever suspected that her views were so profoundly moral before. We must do her the credit to say, that she has preserved her disguise admirably. The sweet sorceress-she has cheated the world of its selfishness, simply by presenting to it a yellow leaf, or a decaying flower! Some persons thought that her fondness for such illustrations arose from the influence of an ill-requited passion. But that, she says, was all a joke! She is utterly unconscious of so great a misfortune!
For aught we know, 'The Venetian Bracelet may be a homily, under the appearance of a tale. If we treat it as poetry, perhaps we shall be told to consider only its morality. We are informed, in what may be called the “argument,” that by the application of poisons, good may be turned to evil. Thus a Venetian lady, who meets with a disappointment, buys from a Jew a bracelet containing poison, which she administers, without being detected, to her more fortunate rival. This is undoubtedly turning good into evil with a vengeance; and yet we are at a loss for the point of the moral.
Looking barely to the poetical character of the tale, the reader shall judge for himself of the sort of verse which is praised, and that loudly too, by many of our contemporaries. After confessing her ignorance of the Italian language, (by the bye, a confession not very creditable in these times,) and also her personal unacquaintance with that classic land, she nevertheless selects it for the scene of her narrative. We do not know that it is absolutely necessary for a poet to have travelled through a foreign country in which his hero or heroine may be placed ; yet it is unfavourable to the effect which he desires to produce, to set out with professing that he had never stirred from home. The way in which the measure obliges us to pronounce the name of Amenaide, sufficiently indicates Miss Landon's ignorance of the Italian language, without rendering it necessary for her to make any declaration on the subject. The parting of the lovers is, in every line of it, a truly Landonic passage.