« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the more, from recollection of the obstacles which had impeded their union. Yet it would be inquiring too curiously to ask, whether therecollection of Rebecca's beauty and magnanimity did not recur to his mind more frequently than the fair descendant of Alfred might altogether have approved.' III. 363-370.
When we look back on the space we have already occupied, we are afraid to add any more; and, when we glance at the extracts with which it is nearly filled, we feel that it is unnecessary. The work before us shows at least as much genius as any of those with which it must now be numbered—and excites perhaps, at least on the first perusal, as strong an interest: But it does not delight so deeply—and we rather think it will not please so long. Rebecca is almost the only lovely being in the story_and she is evidently a creature of the fancy-a mere poetical personification. Next to her-for Isaac is but a milder Shylock, and by no means more natural than his original-- the heartiest interest is excited by the outlaws and their merry chief because the tone and manners ascribed to them are more akin to those that prevailed among the yeomanry of later days, than those of the Knights, Priors and Princes, are to any thing with which this age has been acquainted.-Cedric the Saxon), and Bois-Guilbert the Templar, are to us but theoretical or mythological persons. We know nothing about them--and never feel assured that we fully comprehend their drift, or enter ngitly into their feelings. The same genius which now busies us with their concerns, might have excited an equal interest for the adventures of Oberon and Pigwiggin-or for any imaginary community of Giants, Amazons, or Cynocephali. The interest we do take is in the situations and the extremes of peril, heroism, and atrocity, in which the great latitude of the fiction enables the author to indulge. Even with this advantage, we soon feel, not only that the characters he brings before us are contrary to our experience, but that they are actually impossible. There could in fact have been no such state of society as that of which the story before us professes to give us but sainples and ordinary results. In a country beset with such worthies as Front-deBouf, Malvoisin, and the rest, Isaac the Jew could neither have grown rich, nor lived to old age; and no Rebecca could either have acquired her delicacy, or preserved her honour. Neither could a plump Prior Aymer have followed venery in woods swarming with the merry men of Robin Hood.-Rotherwood must have been burned to the ground two or three times every year--and all the knights and thanes of the land been killed off nearly as often.- The thing, in short, when calmly cunsidered, cannot be imagined to be a reality; and, after gazing for a while on the splendid pageant which it presents, and admiring the exaggerated beings who counterfeit, in their grand style, the passions and feelings of our poor human nature, we soon find that we must turn again to our Waverleys and Antiquaries and Old Mortalities, and become acquainted with our neighbours and ourselves, and our duties and dangers and true felicities, in the exquisite pictures which our author there exhi, bits of the follies we daily witness or display, and of the prejudices, habits and affections, by which we are hourly obstructed, governed, or cheered.
We end, therefore, as we began-by preferring the home scenes, and the copies of originals which we know—but admiring, in the highest degree, the fancy and judgment and feeling by which this more distant and ideal prospect is enriched. It is a splendid Poem--and contains matter enough for six good Tragedies. As it is, it will make a glorious melodrame for the end of the season. Perhaps the author does better-for us and for himself—by writing mere novels; but we have an earnest wish that he would try his hand in the bow of Shakespeare-venture fairly within his enchanted circle and reassert the Dramatic Sovereignty of England, by putting forth a genuine Tragedy of passion, fancy, and incident. He has all the qualifications to ensure success * -except perhaps the art of compression :—for we suspect it would cost him something to confine his story, and the development of his characters, to some fifty or sixty small pages. But the attempt is worth making; and he may be cer tain, that he cannot fail without glory, It would be a relief to us, and to our readers too, if he would make his scenes rather shorter ;--for it is at least as much the feeling that we cannot do justice to his delineations in a scanty extract, as the fascination of the matter we are extracting, that leads us to such copious and redundant citations as we have now been making.
* We take it for granted, that the charming extracts from Old Plays, that are occasionally given as mottoes to the chapters of this and some of his other works, are original compositions of the author whose prose they garnish :-and they show that he is not less a master of the most beautiful style of Dramatic versification, than of all the higher and more inward secrets of that forgotten art.
ART. II. 1. Reports from the Select Committee on Finance,
ordered to be printed by the House of Commons in the Sessions of 1817, 1818, and 1819.
2. Resolutions on the Retrenchment of the Public Expenditure,
ordered to be printed July 1st, 1819.
of Finance, and dissertations on Political Economy:But at present we mean to be very clear, concise, and elementary. Our affairs have come at last to a crisis which makes it necessary that every man in the country should be aware of their true situation ;-and as merchants call a general meeting of their creditors when any great embarrassment compels them to solicit their aid or forbearance, so the hazard in which we now seem to be placed, of an actual insolvency in the Treasury, makes it indispensable that every one should know the true state of the danger, and consider of the sacrifices which should be made to avert so great a calamity. We do not propose, therefore, on this occasion, to go into any controversial or disputable matters; but to confine ourselves almost entirely to a plain and simple exposition of our actual condition, and a short and dispassionate survey of the steps by which we have been led into it. In a subsequent article of this Number, we shall probably take a more extended view of the history and consequences of our present system of taxation; but in this we mean only to lay before our readers its plain and undeniable results; and to suggest, without arguing upon them, the alternatives to which it appears to have reduced us. For this purpose, we shall first take a slight review of the various financial contrivances by which it has been successively pretended, since the commencement of the late war, that the mischief of loans and taxes would be prevented-then shortly consider the state into which our reliance on them has actually brought us—and finally suggest what it yet remains for us to do, to restore or preserve what is left of our financial resources.
The first great war measure, then, by which we were to be protected from the evils of the war expenditure, was the new settling of the Sinking Fund in the year 1793: And when we say, that the whole plan, from the beginning to the end, has proved a mere deception, we mean to impute no improper motives to its authors, but only to state the fact as it ought to be stated, -and as it may be shown in a single sentence that it must be stated, in order to express the truth; For it is a fact equally decisive and notorious, that this sinking fund has been formed ever since the year 1793, wholly out of the loans which have been annually borrowed. In no year since that period, has there been a surplus of revenue beyond the expenditure. But such a surplu alone could have made this fund in any way operative towards
its avowed object of liquidating debt; and, therefore, though we have been amused with fine statements, showing how many millions have been paid off, the upshot of the whole is, that a new debt has been created, to the exact amount of the debt which has been paid off. This result indeed will be self-evident to any one who will take the trouble of reflecting on the necessary consequences of the revenue falling uniformly short of the expenditure. When this is the case, it is plain, that the loan to be borrowed must amount to the difference between the revenue and the expenditure. But if a sinking fund is to be provided, it makes an additional item in the expenditure; and the loan must just be so much larger. By the official trick of charging the sinking fund against the taxes which form the income of the consolidated fund, its actual effect in increasing the debt is kept for a moment out of sight; but the slightest reflection must show, that if the whole sinking fund be annually borrowed, it cannot possibly produce any annual diminution of the debt. The only service it has performed, has been that of enabling ministers to make loans with greater facility, and to persuade the public to bear taxation with more good humour, while it has encouraged a most profuse expenditure, and actually cost the public, for the expenses of the commissioners and office, the sum of 187,0001. *
In the year 1798, when it was found difficult to obtain a loan for the expenses of the war, Mr Pitt proposed his plan for Equalizing the Income and Expenditure. He assured the public, that if they would consent to such a scale of taxation as he then proposed to them, the war might be carried on without any great increase of the debt, or any ultimate injury to the financial resources of the
country The arguments and eloquence of that eminent person, had their usual success; and the Income tax was the first result of this new system. The successors of Mr Pitt, under the sanction of his authority, easily persuaded the public, at subsequent periods, to pay the Property-tax, and other taxes, called the Customs and Excise War Taxes, for the same declared object of equalizing the income and expenditure. In this way a revenue of 22 millions a year was obtained over and above the ordinary revenue of the country; and although the total amount received from these taxes, during the war, was nearly 300 millions. † The debt went on increasing from 397 millions, which was its amount at that period, to 800
* Parliamentary Papers, Sess. 1819, No. 68. p. 10. + Mr Vansirtart states 200 millions to have been paid up to 1813. See Outlines of a Plan of Finance, p. 5.
millions, its amount at the end of the war. This plan, therefore, of equalizing the Income and Expenditure, has, in point of fact, proved, like the Sinking Fund, to be a great delusion. It was, no doubt, eminently successful in supplying the Exchequer with money, and in enabling Government to go on without difficulty in providing for the expenses of the war; but it has probably contributed, more than any other measure, to promote that waste of our treasure which has involved us in our present difficulties.
Although the Bank Restriction had originally no other object than to relieve a temporary pressure on the Bank,-from the moment that this pressure ceased, it became a mere financial measure to assist ministers in carrying on the war. On each renewal of the Restriction act, the public were told how many benefits the nation had derived from substituting paper for cash; how much our trade, manufactures, agriculture and revenue, had been increased by the aid of Bank discounts; what gigantic efforts we had been enabled to make in carrying on the war with vigour; and how utterly impossible it was that the nation could ever suffer any ultimate inconvenience from the most extended of
paper money. But if we look calmly at the events which have actually happened, we shall find the benefits of the Paper system rather more questionable even than those of the Sinking Fund and the War Duties. We have experienced, in the course of the last eight years, three periods of universal distress, viz. the years 1912, 1816, and 1819; and although many circumstances may have concurred to produce it, there can be no doubt that the general practice of overtrading, which was the natural consequence of the paper system, has been the main cause of that glut of goods, and also of labour, in the market, which has occasioned the fall of prices and of wages, which is at the root of our present distress. Another great evil of the system has been the necessity in which it has placed us of paying many millions of debt at the rate of 20s. in the pound, though no more than 15s. or 16s. were received from the lenders. A still greater evil has been, that mass of manufacturing population which it has forced into "existence, beyond the means of the country, when it shall be restored to a healthy state of currency and capital, to provide with employment. The measures adopted by Parliament in the last Session, for the gradual resumption of cash payments, has arrested, we trust, the growing evils that threatened us from this prolific source. But, like other remedies that have been too long delayed, there is reason to fear that some additional suffering may be the con.