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and also from a Weekly paper*. In speaking of it, he went farther than in writing, for he boldly proclaimed to several persons, influential both in point of literary taste and literary property,—This is the only man who has appeared, since Byron's death, capable—if he desert not himself—of filling the vacant Parnassian chair.'
The great popularity of Mr. Robert Montgomery's next work, the Omnipresence of the Deity, which passed through ten editions with unequalled rapidity, demonstrated that the public, in no small measure, sympathized with that appreciation and corroborated that verdict. In none of Mr. Montgomery's subsequent works have I found occasion to revise or retract my original unbiassed judgment. On the contrary, they have convinced me that the poet is possessed of that true, original, creative power which constitutes the matériel of a genius of the first order. His productions exhibit the mens divinior of true poetry; and, great resources as Mr. Montgomery has already displayed—wonderfully great, considering his youth,—it is manifest that even greater treasures are yet to be derived from the same poetical mine, when more matured experience shall have enabled him to sink deeper shafts in its yet unexplored vein. This much has been elegantly and truly affirmed of his poetry: there is no immoral alloy in the brilliant ore he produces; it is not necessary to disengage it from its arsenic, in order to give it steady value and circulation.
* This is a most extraordinary work ;-a production of the highest order of poetical talent; the pungency and gripe of the satire have not been equalled since the time of Byron or Pope; the general attack on vice and folly is dashing, spirited, and triumphant; and the poetical vituperation sometimes rises to the sublime, and is then perfectly appalling.'—British Traveller.
Astounding power of satire, with a facility of versification seldom surpassed.' I added here a reproof on the uncalled for and too wide embrace of its literary censures; and I concluded, “Against the author's moral denunciations we have nothing to object; in this respect we say to him-"i pede fausto !" !-Sunday Times.
Satan—boldly daring as the title and conception are—appears to me the best of Mr. Montgomery's poems. It is at once more defined in outline, more magnificent in effect, and more finished in detail ; more affluent in imagery, and more vigorous in reasoning, more logically analytical in its thoughts, and yet more sonorously eloquent in its diction. The monodramatic character of Satan has been either wilfully or unintentionally mistaken. It is an original and unique creation of the poet, as much so as is the Prometheus of Greek tragedy. It is distinct from the coarse and vulgar Mephistophiles, the menial and harmless devil of Marlow ;—nor is it less distinct from the devilish sceptic, Goethe's Mephistophiles-devilish in everything, whether mirthful or scoffing—whether he depreciates, despises, or detests. His self-concentered and self-torturing research are equally distinct from the too elevated pride and the too godlike sublimity of Milton's hero,'
and still more so from the character of Lord Byron's Lucifer-a spirit dephlogisticated of his vulgar elementary flames, and nearly as innocent of bad intentions (Cain, p. 16) as the nonchalant and quiet-loving gods of Lucretius. Mr. Montgomery's Satan is a deeplyreasoned abstraction, logically and metaphysically consistent—a personification of the greatest of the archangels fallen-still vividly alive to the perceptions of eternal beauty-not fallen in intellect, though debased in morals, and therefore more intensely wrung with remorse and despair for the ambitious folly which divorced him so irrevocably from the fair and good.'
Besides the above mistake, which seems to call for early explanation, an extraordinary collision of opinion among the critics has been caused by this work-a collision stimulating to curiosity and worthy of inquiry. In plain truth, night and day were never more opposed than some of the critical strictures of contemporary writers, which will be found set forth, in their strongest contrasts of light and shade, in the course of the succeeding examination. The discrepancy has given occasion to this commentary.
How and whence does it arise ? Unwilling to impute motives to any gentleman connected with the critical bench of the commonwealth of letters, while I disclaim them my, self, the inquiry is, as it were, forced upon the reading public-how comes it, that of two equally-judging and unbiassed persons (for such I am bound, by courtesy and custom, to consider them in the first instance),
one should pronounce the shield of Haco to be gold, the other maintain it to be lead? Is THERE NO un
of CRITICAL TASTE AND LAW ? If there be not, the whole pride, pomp, and circumstance' of criticism are worse than useless,
It must, however, be confessed, that, besides the wish to obtain some decision on this point, I have thus far a personal feeling in the inquiry, that my taste as a reader, and my judgment as a critic, are committed in the question. My opinion has been so publicly and unequivocatingly pronounced, that my character for the above qualifications must stand by the verdict in favour of Mr. Robert Montgomery's admitted pre-eminence, or fall with his fall to a lower grade than his admirers are willing to admit—that of the common mob of poets; '* a low grade in regard to the extraordinary number of its participators, but not so in regard to the extraordinary average merits of each individual of the class. The public judgment, conferring eminence, as it were, by acclamation on Mr. Montgomery, is also compromised, Personally, I am no further interested in the question. When I gave the preceding quoted opinions on the latent merits of the author of the Age Reviewed I neither knew his name nor his person; I could not, therefore, be interested by any feeling but that of an adherence to truth. In fact, the approval was decidedly against my interest. To those who are familiar with the proprietary diplomacy of the republic of letters, and the conflicting interests it creates and guards, this hint will be enough, and I shall add no more. I merely refer to the subject to show that, haying preferred truth to interest, as one of the jurymen on this great question-claiming, in conformity with English law, to be final judge of the judge, I cannot be challenged, on the score of partiality or venality. I stand rectus in curia. So far it is an auspicious. augury for the weight of such evidence as it may be my province to adduce in Mr. Montgomery's favour, that, in adducing it, I cannot be accused or suspected of even the amiable bias of private friendship ;-amiable, I say, though not strictly just; although even Ulysses, when urged, by the wrong of malicious and envious detraction to a general challenge of the Phænicians, excepts his friend :
* " Turba, enim, sumus.'— Horace.
With all but brave Laodamas contend
A friend is sacred; and I style him friend. The private question is, Was I, although impartial, wrong in judgment when giving this unequivocal and disinterested opinion ? The general question is, Was the public wrong, which almost instantly confirmed it? Great names in literature have pronounced Robert Montgomery to be a great and original poet. Were these also wrong? Shall the new and splendid idol, whose future golden head was even predicted, when only the silver torso was apparent, be unpedestalled from its niche in the temple of Fame, and de