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In private life he was an upright man,
Others there were that seem'd preferr'd, because
There was an orator of giant force, That like a meteor ran a zig-zag course; A mind to fathom Nature's secrets deep, That could the flaming bounds of space o'erleap; A voice that now fell soft as dropping snow, And now was as a sting or sudden blow; The poet's fancy, the logician's skill, Persuasion, passion, irony at will, Were his : but he to vanity was thrall, And wanting moral power, he wanted all. He was as variable as the weather, True to no party for two weeks together. Like a mad bull at this or that he strook, And damaged any cause he undertook. Although he for himself could only feel, His theme was evermore the commonweal. As on his word no party could rely, He was a mischievous neutrality, And to cajole or rail was left at large, A patriot rampant at the public charge.
There was a demagogue, of vulgar race, Who sway'd a great part of the populace. Coarse, clever, vigorous, licentious, vainThe Athenian Cleon lived in him again. He wore a black cap, and a mantle green, And was a rebel-loyal to the Queen. He made his bears at will look pleased or grim, And ruled the council-through their fear of him, His accents in the senate fiercely rung, And at his betters boldly wagg'd his tongue. He could work wonders like his priestly crew, Unlike in this—his miracles were true; For he obtain'd the spoils of war in peace, And from his mob he shore a golden fleece. He served and ruled the placemen of the court, Who were content to be his mock and sport. Degenerate Sicily! where was thy shame, To let thy Queen be only Queen in name ? To let thine ancient laws be trampled down, And miscreants spoil thine altar and the crown? Was there no valour, virtue, in the land, To save the nation from a clown's command ?
Valour there was, and virtue ; for a time
The mitred bishop, and the statesman sage,
The land of Sicily was full of wealth,
While the Queen's favourite, and wooer tall,
Armies with banners were beheld in air,
All was not lost, while faithful some remain'd
We have two ideas, which we are in
my creed. By Castor 'and Pollux! anxious to bring under public notice, he must think very superbly of himwith regard to Milton. The reader self, or very meanly of me.' whom Providence shall send us will Too true, we reply, too true; but, not measure the value of these ideas perhaps, there are faults on both sides. (we trust and hope) by their bulk. The writer is too peremptory and exThe reader indeed--that great idea! acting; the reader is too restive. The is very often a more important person writer is too full of his office, which towards the fortune of an essay than he fancies is that of a teacher or a prothe writer. Even “ the prosperity of fessor speaking ex cathedrâ: the rebel. a jest,” as Shakspeare tells us, lies lious reader is oftentimes too deter. less in its own merit than “ in the ear mined that he will not learn. The of him that hears it." If he should conceits himself booted and happen to be unusually obtuse, the wit- spurred, and mounted on his reader's tiest jest perishes-the most pointed is back, with an express commission for found blunt. So, with regard to books, riding him : the other is vicious, apt to should the reader on whom we build bolt out of the course at every openprove a sandy and treacherous founda, ing, and resolute in this point that tion, the whole edifice, “ temple and he will not be ridden. tower," must come to the ground. There are some, meantime, who take Should it happen, for instance, that a very different view of the relations the reader, inflicted upon ourselves for existing between those well-known our sins, belongs to that class of people parties to a book-writer and reader. who listen to books in the ratio of their So far from regarding the writer as much speaking—find no eloquence in entitled to the homage of his reader, 32mo, and little force of argument ex- as if he were some feudal superior, cept in such a folio as might knock they hold him little better than an him down upon occasion of his pro- actor bowing before the reader as his ving restive against its logic—in that audience. The feudal relation of fealty case he will despise our present essay. fidelitas) may subsist between them, Will despise it? He does despise it but the places are inverted; the writer already : for already he sees that it is is the liegeman-the reader it is who short. His contempt is a high à priori claims to be the sovereign. Our own contempt: for he measures us by anti- opinion inclines this way. It is clear cipation, and needs to wait for no ex- that the writer exists for the sake of the perience in order to vindicate his sen- reader, not the reader for the sake of tence against us.
the writer. Besides, the writer bears Yet, in one view, this brevity of an all sorts of characters, whilst the reader .essayist does seem to warrant his read- universally has credit for the best er in some little indignation. We, possible.
We have all heard of the writer, expect to bring over the “ the courteous reader," « the candid reader to our opinion—else wherefore reader,” “the enlightened reader.” do we write? But, within so small a But which of us ever heard of the compass of ground, is it reasonable to discourteous reader," "the mulish look for such a result ? " Bear witness reader," " the barbarous reader ?” to the presumption of this essay," we
Doubtless there is no such person. hear the reader complaining ; "it mea
The Goths and Vandals are all consures about fourteen inches by two- fined to the writers. " The reader” twenty-eight square inches at the most that great character is ever wise, and is it within human belief that I, ever learned, ever courteous. Even simply as I stand here, shall be con- in the worst of times, this great man verted in so narrow an area ? Here
preserved his purity. Even in the am I in a state of nature, as you may tenth and eleventh centuries, which we say. An acre of sound argument usually account the very noontide of might do something: but here is a man darkness, he shone like a mould candle who flatters himself-that, before I am amongst basest dips.' And perhaps it advanced seven inches further in my is our duty to presume all other virtues studies, he is to work a notable change and graces as no less essential to him
than his glorious “candour,” his man are in any case contagious; they “courtesy,” (surpassing that of Sir are dazzling and delusive by means of Gawain,) and his truly “enlightened” the great man's general example. But understanding. Indeed, we very much his false principles have a worse conquestion whether a writer, who carries tagion. They operate not only through with him a just feeling of his allegi- the general haze and halo which in. ance-a truly loyal writer--can law. vests a shining example; but even if fully suppose his sovereign, the reader, transplanted where that example is peccable or capable of error; and unknown, they propagate themselves whether there is not even a shade of by the vitality inherent in all selfimpiety in conceiving him liable to consistent principles, whether true or the affections of sleep, or of yawning. false.
Having thus, upon our knees as it Before we notice these two cases were, done feudal homage to our great in Milton, first of all let us ask— Who suzerain, the reader_having propitia and what is Milton ? Dr Johnson was ted him with Persian adorations and furiously incensed with a certain man, with Phrygian genuflexions, let us by trade an author and manufacturer now crave leave to convert him a lit- of books wholesale and retail, for intle. Convert him!--that sounds “ un troducing Milton's name into a certain peu fort," does it not? No, not at all. index thus-6 Milton, Mr John." A cat may look at a king; and upon That Mister, undoubtedly, was hard to this or that out-of-the-way point a digest. Yet very often it happens to writer may presume to be more know- the best us—to men wh are far ing than his reader-the serf may enough from “ thinking small beer of undertake to convert his lord. The themselves,"—that about ten o'clock reader is a great being—a great noun- A.M., an official big-wig, sitting at Bow substantive; but still, like a mere ad- Street, calls upon the man to account jective, he is liable to the three degrees for his sprees of the last night, for his of comparison. He may rise above feats in knocking down lamp-posts himself-he may transcend the ordi. and extinguishing watchmen, by this nary level of readers, however exalt- ugly demand of " Who and what are ed that level be. Being great, he
And perhaps the poor may become greater. Full of light, man, sick and penitential for want of he may yet labour with a spot or two soda water, really finds a considerable of darkness. And such a spot we hold difficulty in replying satisfactorily to the prevalent opinion upon Milton in the worthy beek's apostrophe. Al. two particular questions of taste, though, at five o'clock in the evening, questions that are not insulated, but should the culprit be returning into diffusive ; spreading themselves over the country in the same coach as his the entire surface of the Paradise Lost, awful interrogator, he might be very and also of the Paradise Regained; apt to look fierce, and retort this amiinsomuch that, if Milton is wrong once, able enquiry, and with equal thirst for then he is wrong by many scores of knowledge to demand, “ D- your times. Nay, which transcends all eyes, if you come to that, who and counting of cases or numerical esti
what are you?
And the beek in his mates of error, if, in the separate in- turn, though so apt to indulge his own stances, (be they few or be they many,) curiosity at the expense of the public, he is truly and indeed wrong—then might find it very difficult to satisfy he has erred, not by the case but by that of others. the principle; and that is a thousand The same thing happens to authors; times worse ; for a separate case or and to great authors beyond all others. instance of error may escape any man
So accustomed are we to survey a may have been overlooked amongst great man through the cloud of years the press of objects crowding on his that has gathered round him-so imeye; or, if not overlooked, if passed possible is it to detach him from the deliberately,
, may plead the ordinary pomp and equipage of all who have privilege of human frailty. The man quoted him, copied him, echoed him, erred ; and his error terminates in it- lectured about him, disputed about self. But an error of principle does him, quarreled about him, that in the not terminate in itself; it is a foun- case of any Anacharsis the Scythian tain ; it is self-diffusive ; and it has a coming amongst us—any savage, that life of its own. The faults of a great is to say, uninstructed in our literature,