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you leave the theatre; but the sweet consciousness of having dried the tear from the cheek of wretchedness, gives an exquisite pleasure which nothing can abate or destroy. Do not the warm, rapturous sensations which we feel on such an occasion, convey more delight than the undeserved praise of millions?
The practice of “ farming out” the indigent, is a fruitful source of mendicity in London. The greatest number of the city parishes trust the maintenance of their paupers to fellows who, like Gil Blas's friend in Madrid, get rich by taking care of the poor! Some farm beggars all in one house, at a certain price, for which their wretched sustenance is doled out to them amidst filth and vermin. This practice of treating human beings like so many cattle, is repulsive to every feeling of kindness and charity; the poor wretches are crammed into nasty rooms in which they roost, eat, and perform all their functions.
The most profligate and abandoned of the mendicants are women. Prostitution is a great source of beggary; it is the end to which most of those unfortunate females arrive, who have survived youth, beauty, and the diseases to which their profession exposed them. The nauseous tricks and devices of these beggars, are apt to create that abhorrence which shuts the heart against pity; they often make appeals to compassion, by holding in their arms the children they hire from their infamous mothers. :“ I have known,” says Mr. Hale,“ a
woman sit for 10 years with twins, and they never exceeded the same uge!"
The Sunday schools better the conditien of the poor.
The cultivation of the understand. ing teaches that decent pride which soars above the meanness and degradation of begging; it affords refined pleasures uncontaminated with gross and sensual gratifications. The mind, expanded by the gentle warmth of knowledge, gradually displays its brilliant faculties, as a flower that unfolds itself to the rays of the sun.
Voilà de vos arrêts, Messieurs les gens de goût!
or all the cants which are canted in this canting world, thougla the cant of bypocrisy may be the worst, the cant of criticism is the most tormeuting. Tristram Shandy.
The works of periodical criticism with which London abounds, afford ample food for the desultory reader; but their pages are so contaminated with the bane of party spirit, that it is hardly possible to place reliance upon the opinions which they profess. The first object of the Reviewer, is to make himself acquainted with the politics of the author upon whom he is to sit in judgment; then his commendations and censures are bestowed upon the same principle, or rather, want of principle.“ With just
enough of learning to misquote,” he frequently alters the meaning of the writer, and tortures his words and ideas in a thousand ways, to make them appear ridiculous. The most unexceptionable of all the works of criticism I have met with, is the North American Review, which is the sincere defender of pure religion, liberty, and virtue. It takes every opportunity to hail the dawnings of American genius and learning, and to shield our country against the invidious attacks of British calumniators.
The ministerial critics in England, are literally hired to wage open war with freedom, truth and justice, and to give support to the most flagrant acts of oppression, with the specious colours of authority and religion. If a writer has the misfortune to differ from them in opinion, he must calculate on their exterminating hostility. Is he a friend to political and religious liberty? they will find means to prove him a Deist and a Jacobin. Is he humorous or libre? they tell us that he paints frivolity and libertinism in the most alluring tints. They have the art of proving their assertions by misquoting the author, whose most dignified and eloquent sentence cannot emerge from the mire of their criticism without some stains of vulgarity. How many infant reputations would have been crushed, had the public been ruled by the rash forebodings of
“Those lazy owls, who, perch'd near wisdom's top,
These scribblers direct their attacks indiscriminately on the noblest productions of genius, and the most insignificant performances; they frequently pursue their timid prey with something of a feline ardour, and are apt to lift the club of Hercules to crush a fly. Even the secret actions of those individuals who, like certain plants, can only live in the shade, do not escape their fury; for these, they violate the sacred privacy of domestic peace, seize upon their victims, and drag them forth, to feed the curiosity of the idle and frivolous world.
The juvenile scholar who is discouraged by neglect, may sooth himself with the recollection, that David Hume was permitted to remain in inactive obscurity, in the onset of his literary career; yet, like Antæus, gathering strength by his fall, he finally acquiredi a name which was wafted in triumph through the world; it may also console him to be informed, that when the first volume of Cowper was originally published, one of the critical journals of his day represented him (says his elegant biographer,) as a good devout gentleman, without a particle of true poetical genius! To this very curious decision he applies, with a pleasant stroke of poetical justice, the following couplet from the book so sagaciously described:
“ The moles and bats, in full assembly, find,
On special search, the keen-eyed eagle blind.” Generally speaking, periodical criticism is extremely useless.
Time, which preserves
works of sterling merit, and annihilates trifling or stupid productions, is the only true and irrevocable critic. Its sentence is beyond appeal; its decision is not influenced by party spirit or religious prejudices; it either absorbs the work into the gulf of oblivion, or makes it float over the bosom of the deep. The art of reviewing is a mystery easily unravelled; it has certain rules and a sort of cant and trickery, not difficult to be acquired. To criticise a book is infinitely more easy than to write one; as it requires infinitely greater skill to execute a painting of merit, than to talk learnedly upon it. “ It is probable (says Lockart, in Peter's Letters,) that if Mr. Jeffrey were at last to throw aside his character of reviewer, and come before the world in a volume filled with continuous thuughts and continuous feelings, originating in his own mind, he would find that the public he has so well trained, would be very apt to turn upon himself, and think themselves called
upon to laugh more solito even at Mr. J. himself, when deprived of the blue and yellow panoply under which they have for so many years been wont to regard his blows as irresistible, and himself as invulnerable."
In Paris, during the ancient r gime, a book that
gave offence to government, was condemned to be burnt by the common hangman, at the staircase of St. Bartholomews; but if it had any merit, the register found means to secure it for his own use.
A fire was kindled before a few idlers who were collected near the place;