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to the investigation of abstract truth, must acquire habits of thought very different from those which the exercise of fancy demands: the cause lies in the exclusive appropriation of his time to reasoning, and not in the logical accuracy with which he reasons. But while science is making rapid progress in the hands of some, the arts which depend upon the imagination may be cultivated with equal success by others, whose efforts will be aided, rather than impeded, by the general diffusion of new and valuable truths. We have parted with the systems of Ptolemy and Des Cartes to adopt that of Newton; the dreams of the Alchemists are superseded by the chemistry of Black, of Cavendish, of Lavoisier, of Davy; the subtle disquisitions of the schoolmen have given way to the speculations of Locke and Reid. We do not conceive that poetry has suffered any loss by the change, nor would she be a gainer by the total extirpation of science. Among every people, who are in a state approaching to civilization, systems of doctrines upon certain subjects must exist: they who devote their lives to the study of these systems will not be poets; but they will not be the less likely to be so, because the systems which they study have been erected cautiously on a firm foundation. The progress of true science is favourable to poetical genius in two ways: it supplies an abundant store of new materials for the poet to work upon; and there is a sublimity in its views, far superior to any thing that the framers of fanciful hypotheses can invent, which exalts the genius and trains it to lofty contemplations.
The pleasure derived from tragedy has puzzled the most ingenious critics and metaphysicians to explain. Du Bos, Fontenelle, Hume, Campbell, have all endeavoured to account for it; and none of them perhaps with complete success. The question, which perplexed these men, occasions no perplexity to Mr. Hazlitt: from the peremptoriness of his decision, we are almost tempted to suppose that he was not aware of the existence of any difficulty.
The pleasure,' he asserts, ' derived from tragic poetry, is not any thing peculiar to it as poetry, as a fictitious and fanciful thing. It is not an anomaly of the imagination. It has its source and groundwork in the common love of strong excitement. As Mr. Burke observes, people flock to see a tragedy, but if there were a public execution in the next street, the theatre would soon be empty.' We doubt this; at all events, those who flocked to the execution would not be the persons who derived the greatest pleasure from the tragedy. Mr. Hazlitt's explanation is in truth nothing more than a mistatement of the fact. The point to be solved is this:What is the cause of the pleasure which we receive from the exhibition in poetry of objects and events which would in themselves be painful? Mr. Hazlitt replies,-that the poetical exhibition of them
pleases, because the objects and events would please in real life by being the cause of strong excitement. If this were true, racks and tortures and stage-executions would be the height of dramatic poetry.
The account which we have given of the general reasonings contained in Mr. Hazlitt's book, renders it less necessary to enter into a minute examination of his criticisms on particular poets, or particular passages. He gives many beautiful extracts, but his remarks will not guide the reader to a livelier sense of their beauties. Thus, when Iachimo says of Imogen, that the flame of the taper would underpeep her lids,
To see the enclosed lights'—
Mr. Hazlitt admires the quaint and quaintly-expressed conceit, and calls it a passionate interpretation of the motion of the flame! The following lines from Chaucer are very pleasing :
But surely the beauty does not lie in the last line, though it is with this that Mr. Hazlitt is chiefly struck. This scrupulousness,' he observes, about the literal preference, as if some question of matter of fact were at issue, is remarkable.'
When Mr. Hazlitt at any time deviates from his predecessors in his character of particular poets, he generally goes wrong. He, as a matter of course, bestows high praises on Pope; but they are interspersed with remarks, and modified by limitations, which degrade that illustrious genius far below the eminence which he must ever occupy. His mind,' says our critic, was the antithesis of strength and grandeur; its power was the power of indifference. He had none of the enthusiasm of poetry; he was in poetry what the sceptic is in religion.' The sceptic is, in the common acceptation of language, a man who has no religion: Mr. Hazlitt, therefore, if he did not write nonsense for the sake of what he thought a pretty turn upon words, must hold Pope to be no poet at all. Pope,' he remarks in another place, describes the thing, and goes on describing his own descriptions, till he loses himself in verbal repetitions.' This sentence is not in the least descriptive of Pope's poetry, but it is a very faithful description of Mr. Hazlitt's prose. The truth is that Pope's unpardonable fault, in the estimation of those who decry him at the present day, consists in his being very perspicuous; he is always intelligible; every line has its meaning; every idea which he communicates has its boun
daries distinctly marked; and he is supposed to want feeling, because he abounds in sense. Were some of his finest passages to be translated into the mystical language of the modern school, the eyes of many would be opened, who are now blind to his superlative merits.
Mr. Hazlitt's criticism affords some strange instances of presumptuous assertion. Longinus,' says he, preferred the Iliad to the Odyssey on account of the greater number of battles it contains.' We wish he had told us where Longinus says so; for we can recollect no such passage. If he alludes to the eloquent eulogy upon Homer in the ninth section of the Treatise on the Sublime, he has totally mistaken the meaning of Longinus. The remark of the Greek critic is, *that the Iliad was written in the prime of life and genius, so that the whole body of the poem is dramatic and vehemently energetic; but that, according to the usual peculiarity of old age, the greater part of the Odyssey is devoted to narrative.' This criticism has no reference to the multitude battles; it relates merely to the dramatic character which pervades the Iliad, as contrasted with the narrative, highly poetical indeed, which occupies a great part of the Odyssey. If it were worth while to account for Mr. Hazlitt's mistake, we might perhaps find the source of it in the Latin translation of Longinus. Evaywviov is there translated, absurdly enough, pugnax; and pugnax, either directly or through the medium of a French version, (for we believe Mr. Hazlitt to be completely ignorant of the learned languages,) has led to this misrepresentation of Longinus and of Homer.
'Prior's serious poetry, as his Alma, is as heavy, as his familiar style was light and agreeable.' Unluckily for our critic, Prior's Alma is in his lightest and most familiar style, and is the most highly finished specimen of that species of versification which our language possesses. Whether Mr. Hazlitt could form a just judgment of an author whom he has read, may be a matter of considerable doubt; but there is little risk in asserting, that he has no right to decide upon a work with which he is unacquainted, and there is no undue uncharitableness in suspecting that he who has not read Prior has not read much of our early poets.
Mr. Hazlitt asserts that Dr. Johnson condemns the versification of Paradise Lost as harsh and unequal. Johnson has devoted three papers of the Ramblert to the examination of the structure of Milton's verse, and in these has given us a most profound and elegant specimen of English metrical criticism. Let us hear his opinion out of his own mouth. 'If the poetry of Milton be examined
Της μεν Ιλιαδος γραφομένης εν άκμῃ πνευματος όλον το σωμάτιον δραματικον ὑπερησατο καὶ εναγωνιον· της δε Οδυσσειας το πλεον διηγηματικον, ὑπερ ἰδιόν γήρως. † Nos. LXXXVI. LXXXVIII. XC.
with regard to the pauses and flow of his verses into each other, it will appear that he has performed all that our language would admit; and the comparison of his numbers with those who have cultivated the same manner of writing will show, that he excelled as much in the lower as in the higher parts of his art, and that his skill in harmony was not less than his invention and learning.' These surely are not words of condemnation.
Upon the whole, the greater part of Mr. Hazlitt's book is either completely unintelligible, or exhibits only faint and dubious glimpses of meaning; and the little portion of it that may be understood is not of so much value, as to excite regret on account of the vacancy of thought which pervades the rest. One advantage of this style of writing is, that Mr. Hazlitt's lectures will always be new to his hearers, whether delivered at the Surrey Institution or elsewhere. They may have been read or they may have been heard before; but they are of that happy texture that leaves not a trace in the mind of either reader or hearer. Connected thought may be retained, but no effort of recollection has any power over an incoherent jumble of gaudy words.
ART. X.-1. Considerations respecting Cambridge, more particularly relating to its Botanical Professorship. By Sir James Edward Smith, M. D. F. R. S. &c. President of the Linnæan Society. London. 1818. pp. 60.
2. A Vindication of the University of Cambridge from the Reflections of Sir James Edward Smith, President of the Linnaan Society, &c. By the Rev. James Henry Monk, B. D. Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, and Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Cambridge. 2d Edition. London. 1818. pp. 95.
CONTROVERSY between a President of the Linnæan Society and a Regius Greek Professor is an occurrence of some importance in the transactions of the literary world, and minor combatants may for space repose upon their arms;
Discessere omnes medii spatiumque dedere.
The contest, however, assumes a still more serious aspect, when considered as involving to a certain degree the credit and character of a learned and numerous body of men, who are vigorously, if not skilfully, assailed by one combatant, and defended, successfully, as we think, by the other.
The combat would have been even yet more important, had it been a regular and embodied charge of the whole Linnæan Society against the University. The former would then, of course, have
brought into the field their auxiliary forces, the Horticultural and Gooseberry societies, with the irregular troops, the tulip-fanciers and prize-auricula-men. And what with their systematic arrangements' and' classifications,' their patent averruncators' and pruning hooks, they would, no doubt, have formed a very imposing and formidable body, and might, perhaps, have taken by storm the botanical chair. Fortunately for Professor Monk, he has had to contend with Sir James Smith single-handed, although, to measure Sir James by the language in which he speaks of himself, he is, at least, equivalent to the rest of the Linnæan Society put together, Unus qui multi militis instar erit.
It required, assuredly, no trifling degree of self-confidence to advance a serious and vehement charge against a university, which, unquestionably, boasts amongst its members as many men of talent and integrity, as can be produced by any academical institution in Europe. We are inclined to suspect that the President of the Linnean Society has still lurking in his breast some of those prejudices against English universities, which are observable in most persons who have gone through their academical career in Edinburgh. This is, indeed, sufficiently evident, from the affectionate earnestness with which he exhorts his Alma Mater to avoid the bigotry and intolerance, which, in spite of the Northern lights that have gradually illuminated our hemisphere, still darken the shores of Isis and of Cam.
The history of the present controversy may be related in few words. Professor Martyn has filled the botanical chair at Cambridge for more than fifty years; but for the last twenty he has enjoyed the emoluments of his office without performing any of its duties. It was to be expected, in the natural order of events, that the professorship would be vacant at a period not very remote. It had been suggested to Sir James Smith, that he might come forward upon that occasion as a candidate for the office, with great probability of success. Two objections, indeed, there were; in the first place he was not a member of the university; and, secondly, he was a dissenter; and therefore could not conscientiously subscribe to our articles of faith, without which subscription no degree could be taken. These difficulties, however, which may, in fact, be resolved into one, did not appear to be insuperable, and, accordingly, Sir James commenced operations. As it was known that more than one member of the university intended to come forward, as a candidate for the botanical chair, in the event of a vacancy, it was, at least, a piece of good generalship in Sir James to obtain a footing in the place while his competitors were kept back by mo
VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVIII.