Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the frequency

schemes of uniting private emolument ductions on this important subject are, with public benefit, which have been “A Private Address to the Magistrates, projected by the ingenuity of a few, “ Letters on Public House Licensing,” and established by the united contribu “ A Letter to Lord Sidmouth,” tions of many, since the commencement stance of a Speech on the Monopoly of of the present century, not one has Beer,” &c. been conducted with more ability or

The philanthropy of Mr. Beaumont, success than the County Fire Office, which has branched out into such a vacombined with the Provident Life Insu- riety of useful exertions, was lately ocrance Office, which was established in cupied in devising plans for preventing the year 1806. The affairs of these the forgery of Bank notes; or at least two flourishing Companies have, ever for rendering it so laborious and exsince their formation, been conducted pensive, that the difficulty could not be by Mr. Beaumont, who is the Managing overcome without a union of great skill Director, and whose talents, industry, and large capital. The great temptaand perseverance, in this arduous and tion to the forgery of Bank notes is honourable situation, are too well known the facility of the imitation. The plan to peed any mention, and much less to of Mr. Beaumont would remove this require any panegyric. Since its esta facility; and if it did not entirely preblishment, the County Fire Office has vent the crime, would greatly reduce satisfied the claims of more than thir

of the commission. teen hundred sufferers, without a single In the course of last year Mr. Beaulitigation. This fact speaks volumes, mont published a work entitled, “ An and furnishes an indisputable proof of Essay on Criminal Jurisprudence, with the candour, liberality, and good sense a Draft of a New Penal Code, in which with which the business of the Office is it is attempted to define Crimes and condrcted ; and by which its interests Offences with Clearness and Brevity, to are best secured. The Provident Life render Penalties Proportionate and ConInsurance Office is not inferior to any sistent, and to Promote a Speedy and similar establishment, in the wisdom Efficient Administration of Justice.” and justice of its regulations.

No subject can exceed this in importAmong the varied labours of Mr. ance; and what Mr. Beaumont has said Beaumont, we do not reckon those upon it is well worthy general attention. the least useful which he made some The treatise itself evinces considerable years ago, and which he has since con sagacity of observation, and no comtinued, for correcting the numerous mon insight into the nature of man. abuses of the licensing system, as it is The author tells us in his preface, that applied to the public houses of the me the work originated in a project which tropolis. Two committees of the House he has long entertained for forming a of Commons, which published such able settlement in South America, where reports on the police of the metropolis, many of his suffering countrymen might have concurred with Mr. Beaumont in find a refuge from the accumulated careprobating the arbitrary nature and lamities by which they are now opprescomplicated evils of the licensing sys- sed. If the political, judicial, and retem. But the brewers have such a ligious system, which Mr. Beaumont powerful interest in Parliament, that has delineated for his new colony, we cannot, at present, expect their mo should ever be practically exemplified, nopoly to be restrained, or their im- it seems likely to be productive of a mense gains to be diminished. Mr. Beau- greater degree of social happiness than mont, however, deserves great praise for has ever been enjoyed in any part of having so strenuously combated, and so Europe, or under any of the institutions fearlessly exposed a system so repug

of the old world. nant to the general interest. His noble We have thus briefly exhibited a few efforts contributed to bring one notori- particulars in the life of Mr. Beaumont; ous licensing justice to trial; and it and though we could wish that our demust increase our veneration for the tails had been more copious, and our laws of our country, to reflect that such information more ample, yet our narraan infamous trader in human wretch- tive will prove that the life of Mr. Beauedness had to pay a heavy fine, and to mont, as far as it has hitherto proceedsuffer an imprisonment of eighteen ed, has not often been surpassed in acmonths. Mr. Beaumont's literary pro- tivity and usefulness.

[blocks in formation]

ESSAYS ON THE GENIUS OF THE BRITISH POETS.

No. IV.

MILTON.

phi

(Concluded from page 404.) It appears, therefore, from every view imagined he ought to be. He therefore which can be taken of “Paradise Lost," shews little acquaintance with the huthat the subject of it is unavoidably man heart, or with the springs and destitute of poetical interest. The motives of human actions, either in his question then remains to be considered, “Paradise Lost" or“ Regained,"oreven whether the writer who engaged in it in his minor and juvenile poems. He possessed that original faculty which is knew not what it was to accommodate more calculated to excel in poetry than

himself either to his friends and assoin any other species of writing. I have ciates, or even to his own family. It already observed, that the writer who is said that he was punished for obstihas a true genius for poetry, has also nacy at the University in which he was that genius which points out to him a educated. And his wife, who was hersubject calculated to create that in self of a “ cavalier” and haughty disterest, and to elicit those feelings position, was obliged to submit to the which it is the peculiar privilege of unbending, uncompromizing nature of poetry to excite, and I have given his character. She was only a month reasons for the opinion which I then united to him, when she requested, and advanced. From every inquiry which her

request was granted, to leave him we can make into the life and writings for a time on pretence of visiting her of Milton, I believe it will be foundfriends; and even this month, his great that he wanted that real enthusiasm, admirer Philips, says she led a that enraptured glow of animated feel losophic life," a proof that he possessed ing which alone can excel in the higher more of the philosophic than of the species of poetry. With regard to his poetic spirit; or, in other words, that original intellectual powers, no person his feelings were not so acute as his can form a higher opinion of Milton's reason was powerful. Dr. Johnson, endowments than I do; but I cannot therefore, seems not to be mistaken, help thinking, that these endowments when he says, that “ Milton never were of too stubborn and untractable a learned the art of doing little things nature to acommodate themselves to with grace. He overlooked the milder the softer charms, and milder attrac excellence of suavity and softness. He tions of the rural, or to the enraptured was a lion that had no skill in dangemotions and impassioned energies of ling with the kid." Having mentioned the heroic muse. Human nature, and Dr. Johnson, I shall quote a few of human passions, were not the sciences his observations on Milton's works, in which Milton was versed. He wanted which strongly tend to confirm the that pliancy and congeniality of feeling opinions which I have formed of his which identifies itself with the pains poetic character. Of his Lycidas, he and pleasures, the cares and solicitudes, says

“ it is not to be considered the the 'frailties and imperfections, the effusion of real passion, for passion whims and caprices, the sympathies, runs not after remote allusions, or obpassions, emotions, and affections which scure opinions.

And again,

“ such variously agitate and disturb, rouse is the power of reputation justly acand irritate, terrify and calm, enrapture, quired, that its blaze drives away the moderate, suspend and enchain all eye from nice examination. Surely no the faculties of our nature, and all the man could fancy that he read Lycidas cravings and desires of the human with pleasure, had he not known the heart. Milton was more a philosopher author.” Talking of his Allegro" than a poet. He aspired to rise above and “ Penseroso," he says, the weaknesses and conditions of hus can indeed be found in his melancholy, manity. He was not a Fenelon who but I am afraid that I always meet considered man as he was, but a Bos some melancholy in his mirth.” Of suet who wished to make him what he the speeches in “Comus,” he says,

no mirth

“ they seem declamations deliberately the boundless void of possible existcomposed, and formally repeated in a ence in search of images which dazzle moral question. The auditor, there the understanding by their imaginary fore, listens to a lecture, without pas- lustre, but make no impression upon sion, without anxiety." And again, the heart, for those ardent feelings, that “ in all the parts of Comus, there is impassioned sensibility, that eager sussomething wanting to allure attention. ceptibility of real rather than of imagiIt is tediously, instructive.” “When ary delight, in a word, for that enthuthe brothers," he says, “ have feared siastic sympathy of the soul, which is lest their sister was in danger, and instinctively affected by the affections of hoped that she is not in danger, the others, which responds to every imelder makes a speech in praise of chas- pulse, throbs in unison with all the tity, and the younger finds how fine secret harmonies of nature, and catches it is to be a philosopher.” Of his works, every impression and consequent emoin general, he says, “ whatever be his tion which the agency of matter and of subject, he never fails to fill the ima: mind is calculated to produce. These gination : but his images and descrip. were feelings which Milton did not postions of the scenes or operations of na- sess: he was insensible to the finer imture do not seem to be always copied pressions of nature, and the softer at. from original form, nor to have the tractions of mind. It required a strong freshness, raciness and energy of im- stimulus to affect his heart, but his head mediate observation. He saw nature, required no spur: it was always at as Dryden expresses it, “through the work, building castles in the air, which spectacle of books ;" and, on most oc- might amuse the fancy, but with which casions calls learning to his assistance." the heart and its affections refused to

These passages I have quoted from a sympathize. He was more a reasoner critic, who formed an idea of Milton's than a philosopher, and more a philopoetic genius very different from mine. sopher than a poet. His opinions were Johnson was himself so much imposed all attracted to one common focus, and upon by popular opinion, (unless, in- such as would not quadrate with his deed, we suppose, what his character theological creed, however they might does not authorize us to suppose, that do honour to reason and philosophy, he wanted firmness to oppose himself were dismissed from the community of to it,) that notwithstanding the above his fixed principles as impious and proremarks which are to be found in dif- fane. No man delighted more in arguferent parts of his critique on Milton's ment and controversy, a proof that he works, he still thought Milton the first cultivated his intellectual more than his of poets. His “Paradise Lost,” he sensitive powers. He boasted of having says,

“ considered with respect to de- shortened the life of Salmasius by argusign, may claim the first place, and ment; and from the whole tenor of his with respect to performance, the se- life, it is evident that he possessed more cond, among the productions of the of the head than of the heart. The heart, human mind." And concludes his however, is the seat of those affections critique by telling us, that it “is not which constitute a true genius for pothe greatest of heroic poems only be- etic feeling, so that Milton claims our cause it is not the first." This is indi- admiration more as a profound thinker rectly saying that it is the first. Its and philosopher than as a poet." Inbeing posterior, in point of time, nei- deed it appears to me, that he acknowther adds to, nor takes away from its ledges himself, his incompetency to excellence. Johnson seems to have write on subjects connected with huused this form of expression in imita- man' passions and feeling, and if he tion of Dacier, who, being asked, whe- does, the question is decided at once; ther Homer or Virgil was the greater for it is only in the delineation of the poet, replied “ Homer by a thousand heart and its affections, that we can exyears." Johnson was evidently mis- pect to discover the soul and spirit of guided in his opinion of Milton's po poetry. He observes, then, in the beetical genius, by mistaking, as almost ginning of the ninth book of the “ Paall crities have done, those strong radise Lost,” that the subject of his powers of imagination, which fill the poem pleased him. mind with the airy creations of ideal being, which range at large through Long choosing and beginning täte

Newton, in his commentary on this ton did not select this subject from a line, assigns as an excuse for his “long belief that it was the most poetical ; for choosing," “ that he was for several if he entertained this belief, he had no years so hotly engaged in the contro- occasion to be so long choosing and versies of the times, that he was not hesitating about it. His very hesitaat leisure to think of a work of this na- tion, and the advanced age in which ture.” This defence of his “long he began it, proves that he chose it as choosing" is disproved by Milton's a matter of necessity rather than of own assertion; for he who is long choice; and this fact is proved by himchoosing must of necessity think frem self, when he admits that he was quently on the subject which he is

Not sedulous by nature to indite choosing so long, for no man can

Wars hitherto the only argument choose without thought and delibera

Heroic deemed. tion; and he who is “ long” employed in “ choosing," must necessarily have It is obvious then that he would inleisure to do so. If Milton then de- dite them if he could, and that his not voted the prime of his life to the con- inditing them arose from his “nature" troversies of his age, if he delighted in not being of that mould which was these controversies so much as to boast calculated for them, which is saying, of having put Salmasius to death by in other words, that he had no genius argument, if he engaged in them at an for subjects of the kind. This he conearly age, and without “ long choos- firms immediately after, where he says, ing, it is evident that argumentative

Me of these and discursive subjects were those in

Nor skilled nor studious. which his powers were calculated to distinguish themselves, and that it If he was not studious of them, he is here alone we can hope to become had no natural inclination for them ; acquainted with his genius. He did and it is ridiculous to suppose, that a not begin his Paradise Lost until after

man has a genius for a subject for his fiftieth year; and the reasons he as which he has no inclination. Milton, signs is, because he was

then, from the whole character of his

writings, and from his own confession, Not sedulous by nature to indite appears evidently to have no genius Wars hitherto the only argument. for subjects founded upon human pasHeroic deemed

sion, and consequently not to possess the better fortitude

that sort of genius which distinguished Of patience and heroic martyrdom

the productions of those great masters Uasung.

of the human heart, Homer and Shak

speare. We should admire Milton there. Here then we have Milton's own con fore, not as the first, or the second of fession that his genius did not qualify poets, because the sphere of poetry in him to sing "of wars,” which is saying, which he took his fight was by no in other words, that he could not write means of the first order, as nothing adsuch a poem as the Iliad or Æneid, be- mits of easier proof, than that passion cause they were subjects founded on and not imagination is the soul of human passion. The subject of the poetry. Milton, however, excelled in “Paradise Lost” then, pleased him only imagination alone, and in this species because it had no concern with human of poetry he must undoubtedly be adpassion, which, before his time, was mitted to stand at the head of his class. " the only argument heroic deemed," His intellectual powers, profound reaand which ever will be so. But why soning, and expansive view of univeris it he prefers to sing of “the better sal nature, are also of the first order, fortitude of patience ?" Was it that he but this only proves him to be a greater deemed it a'more poetical subject than philosopher than a poet. the Iliad or Æneid? So he would seem On a slight view of the subject, it to insinuate himself; but it must be re would seem that the powers of imagicollected that every writer wishes to nation, and the philosophic spirit, have justify the propriety of his own choice no natural alliance with, or rather, that whenever be deviates from general they stand at the greatest possible disusage. It is clear, however, that Mil- tance from, each other ;-one careering Rur, Mag. Vol. 81, June 1822.

3T

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »