Page images

very opposite styles, as it were by accident, It is no great matter. If he will only write a and not in general very judiciously ;—what is few more Tales of the kind we have suggested peculiar to himself is not good, and strikes us at the beginning of this article, we shall enas being both abrupt and affected.

gage for it that he shall have our praises—and He may profit, if he pleases, by these hints ihose of more fastidious critics-whatever be -and, if he pleases, he may laugh at them. the qualities of his style or versification.

(I uly, 1819.)

Tales of the Hall. By the Reverend GEORGE CRABBE. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 670. London: 1819.


MR. CRABBE is the greatest mannerist, per-| but their combination—in such proportions at haps, of all our living poets; and it is rather least as occur in this instance-may safely be unfortunate that the most prominent features pronounced to be original. of his mannerism are not the most pleasing. Extraordinary, however, as this combination The homely, quaint, and prosaic style—the must appear, it does not seem very difficult fat, and often broken and jingling versification to conceive in what way it may have arisen ; ---the eternal full-lengths of low and worth- and, so far from regarding it as a proof of sinless characters-with their accustomed gar- gular humorousness, caprice, or affectation nishings of sly jokes and familiar moralising in the individual, we are rather inclined to are all on the surface of his writings; and are hold that something approaching to it must be almost unavoidably the things by which we the natural result of a long habit of observaare first reminded of him, when we take up tion in a man of genius, possessed of that any of his new productions. Yet they are not temper and disposition which is the usual acthe things that truly constitute his peculiar companiment of such a habit; and that the manner; or give that character by which he same strangely compounded and apparently will, and ought to be, remembered with future incongruous assemblage of themes and sentigenerations. It is plain enough, indeed, that ments would be frequently produced under these are things that will make uobody re- such circumstances-if authors had oftener membered—and can never, therefore, be re- the courage to write from their own impresally characteristic of some of the most original sions, and had less fear of the laugh or wonand powerful poetry that the world has ever der of the more shallow and barren part of

their readers. Mr. C., accordingly, has other gifts; and A great talent for observation, and a delight those not less peculiar or less strongly marked in the exercise of it—the power and the practice than the blemishes with which they are con- of dissecting and disentangling that subtle and trasted; an unrivalled and almost magical complicated tissue, of habit, and self-love, and power of observation, resulting in descriptions affection, which constitute human characterso true to nature as to strike us rather as seems to us, in all cases, to imply a contemtranscripts than imitations—an anatomy of plative, rather than an active disposition. It character and feeling not less exquisite and can only exist, indeed, where there is a good searching-an occasional touch of matchless deal of social sympathy; for, without this, the tenderness--and a deep and dreadful pathetic, occupation could excite no interest

, and afford interspersed by fits, and strangely interwoven no satisfaction—but only such a measure and with ihe most minute and humble of his de- sort of sympathy as is gratified by being a tails. Add to all this the sure and profound spectator, and not an actor on the great theatre sagacity of the remarks with which he every of life--and leads its possessor rather to look now and then startles us in the midst of very with eagerness on the feats and the fortunes unambitious discussions ;-and the weight and of others, than to take a share for himself in terseness of the maxims which he drops, like the game that is played before him. Some Oracular responses, on occasions that give no stirring and vigorous spirits there are, no promise of such a revelation ;-and last, though doubt, in which this taste and talent is comnot least, that sweet and seldom sounded bined with a more thorough and effective chord of Lyrical inspiration, the lightest touch sympathy; and leads to the study of men's of which instantly charms away all harshness characters by an actual and hearty particifrom his numbers, and all lowness from his pation in their various passions and pursuits; themes and at once exalts him to a level —though it is to be remarked, that when such with the most energetic and inventive poets persons embody their observations in writing, of his age.

they will generally be found to exhibit their These, we think, are the true characteristics characters in action, rather than to describe of the genius of this great writer; and it is in them in the abstract ; and to let their various their mixture with the oddities and defects to personages disclose themselves and their pewhich we have already alluded, that the peculiarities, as it were spontaneously, and withculiarity of his mammer seems to us substan- out help or preparation, in their ordinary tially to consist. The ingredients may all of conduct and speech-of all which we have a them be found, we suppose, in other writers; very splendid and striking example in the

6. Life's a

Tales of My Landlord, and the other pieces originally mingled in his composition.— Yet of that extraordinary writer. In the common satirists, we think, have not in general been case, however, a great observer, we believe, ill-natured persons and we are inclined ra. will be found, pretty certainly, to be a person ther to ascribe this limited and uncharitable of a shy and retiring temper—who does not application of their powers of observation to mingle enough with the people he surveys, to their love of fame and popularity;—which are be heated with their passions, or infected with well known to be best secured by successful their delusions—and who has usually been ridicule or invective—or, quite as probably, led, indeed, to take up the office of a looker indeed, to the narrowness and insufficiency on, from some little infirmity of nerves, or of the observations themselves, and the im. weakness of spirits, which has unfitted him perfection of their talents for their due confrom playing a more active part on the busy duct and extension. It is certain, at least, we scene of existence.

think, that the satirist makes use but of half Now, it is very obvious, we think, that this the discoveries of the observer; and teaches contemplative turn, and this alienation from but half-and the worser half-of the lessons the vulgar pursuits of mankind, must in the which may be deduced from his occupation. first place, produce a great contempt for most He puts down, indeed, the proud pretensions of those pursuits, and the objects they seek of the great and arrogant, and levels the rain to obtain-a levelling of the factitious distinc- distinctions which human ambition has estions which human pride and vanity have es- tablished among the brethren of mankind;tablished in the world, and a mingled scorn he and compassion for the lofty pretensions under which men so often disguise the nothingness

“Bares the mean heart ihat lurks beneath a Star," of their chosen occupations. When the many. -and destroys the illusions which would coloured scene of life, with all its petty agi- limit our sympathy to the forward and figurtations, its shifting pomps, and perishable ing persons of this world—the favourites of passions, is surveyed by one who does not fame and fortune. But the true result of obmix in its business, it is impossible that it servation should be, not so much to cast down should not appear a very pitiable and almost the proud, as to raise up the lowly ;-not so ridiculous affair; or that the heart should not much to diminish our sympathy with the echo back the brief and emphatic exclama- powerful and renowned, as to extend it to all, tion of the mighty dramatist

who, in humbler conditions, have the same,

or still higher claims on our esteem or affec

a poor player, Who frets and struts his hour upon the stage,

tion. It is not surely the natural consequence And then is heard no more !''

of learning to judge truly of the characters of Or the more sarcastic amplification of it, in about them all ;-and, though we have learned

men, that we should despise or be indifferent the words of our great moral poet

to see through the false glare which plays “Behold the Child, by Nature's kindly law, round the envied summits of existence, and

Pleas'd with a rattle, rickl'd with a siraw! to know how little dignity, or happiness, or
Some livelier plaything gives our Youth delight, worth, or wisdom, may sometimes belong to
A little louder, but as empty quite :
Scarfs, garters, gold our riper years engage;

the possessors of power, and fortune, and And beads and prayer-books are the toys of Age! learning and renown,-it does not follow, by Pleas'd with this bauble still as that before, any means, that we should look upon the Till tir'd we sleep-and Life's poor play is o'er!" whole of human life as a mere deceit and

This is the more solemn view of the sub- imposture, or think the concerns of our species ject :-But the first fruits of observation are fit subjects only for scorn and derision. Our most commonly found to issue in Satire-the promptitude to admire and to envy will indeed unmasking the vain pretenders to wisdom, be corrected, our enthusiasm abated, and our and worth, and happiness

, with whom society distrust of appearances increased;—but the is infested, and holding up to the derision of sympathies and affections of our nature will mankind those meannesses of the great, those continue, and be better directed—our love of miseries of the fortunate, and those

our kind will not be diminished-and our in

dulgence for their faults and follies, if we read “Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise,"

our lesson aright, will be signally strengthenwhich the eye of a dispassionate observer so ed and confirmed. The true and proper effect, quickly detects under the glittering exterior therefore, of a habit of observation, and a by which they would fain be disguised—and thorough and penetrating knowledge of human which bring pretty much to a level the intel- character, will be, not to extinguish our symlect, and morals, and enjoyments, of the great pathy, but to extend it—to turn, no doubt, mass of mankind.

many a throb of admiration, and many a sigh This misanthropic end has unquestionably of love into a smile of derision or of pity; been by far the most common result of a habit but at the same time to reveal much that of observation; and that in which its effects commands our homage and excites our affechave most generally terminated :-- Yet we tion, in those humble and unexplored regions cannot bring ourselves to think that it is their of the heart and understanding, which never just or natural termination. Something, no engage the attention of the incurious, and to doubt, will depend on the temper of the indi- bring the whole family of mankind 'nearer to vidual, and the proportions in which the gall a level, by finding out latent merits as well as and the milk of human kindness have been latent defects in all its members, and com


pensating the flaws that are detected in the terises sufficiently the satirical vein of our boasted ornaments of life, by bringing to light author: But the other is the most extensive the richness and the lustre that sleep in the and important. In rejecting the vulgar sources mines beneath its surface.

of interest in poetical narratives, and reducing We are afraid some of our readers may not his ideal persons to the standard of reality, at once perceive the application of these pro- Mr. C. does by no means seek to extinguish found remarks to the subject immediately be the sparks of human sympathy within us, or fore us. But there are others, we doubt not, to throw any damp on the curiosity with which who do not need to be told that they are we naturally explore the characters of each intended to explain how Mr. Crabbe, and other other. On the contrary, he has afforded new persons with the same gist of observation, and more wholesome food for all those proshould so often busy themselves with what pensities-and, by placing before us those may be considered as low and vulgar charac- details which our pride or fastidiousness is so ters; and, declining all dealings with heroes apt to overlook, has disclosed, in all their and heroic topics, should not only venture to truth and simplicity, the native and unadulseek for an interest in the concerns of ordinary terated workings of those affections which are mortals, but actually intersperse small pieces at the bottom of all social interest, and are of ridicule with their undignified pathos, and really rendered less touching by the exaggeendeavour to make their readers look on their rations of more ambitious artists—while he books with the same mingled feelings of com- exhibits, with admirable force and endless passion and amusement, with which-unnat- variety, all those combinations of passions and ural as it may appear to the readers of poetry opinions, and all that cross-play of selfishness —they, and all judicious observers, actually and vanity, and indolence and ambition, and look upon human life and human nature. - habit and reason, which make up the intel-This, we are persuaded, is the true key to the lectual character of individuals, and present greater part of the peculiarities of the author to every one an instructive picture of his before us; and though we have disserted neighbour or himself. Seeing, by the perupon it a little longer than was necessary, we fection of his art, the master passions in their really think it may enable our readers to com- springs, and the high capacities in their rudiprehend him, and our remarks on him, some- ments—and having acquired the gift of tracing ihing better than they could have done with all the propensities and marking tendencies out it.

of our plastic nature, in their first slight indiThere is, as everybody must have felt, a cations, or even from the aspect of the disstrange mixture of satire and sympathy in guises they so often assume, he does not all his productions-a great kindliness and need, in order to draw out his characters in compassion for the errors and sufferings of all their life and distinctness, the vulgar deour poor human nature, but a strong distrust monstration of those striking and decided of its heroic virtues and high pretensions. actions by which their maturity is proclaimed His heart is always open to pity, and all the even to the careless and inattentive ;—but milder emotions—but there is little aspiration delights to point out to his readers, the seeds after the grand and sublime of character, nor or tender filaments of those talents and feelvery much encouragement for raptures and ings which wait only for occasion and opporecstasies of any description. These, he seems tunity to burst out and astonish the worldto think, are things rather too fine for the said and to accustom them to trace, in characters poor human nature: and that, in our low and and actions apparently of the most ordinary erring condition, it is a little ridiculous to pre- description, the self-same attributes that, untend, either to very exalted and immaculate der other circumstances, would attract univirtue, or very pure and exquisite happiness. versal attention, and furnish themes for the He not only never meddles, therefore, with most popular and impassioned descriptions. the delicate distresses and noble fires of the That he should not be guided in the choice heroes and heroines of tragic and epic fable, of his subject by any regard to the rank or but may generally be detected indulging in a condition which his persons hold in society, lurking sneer at the pomp and vanity of all may easily be imagined ; and, with a view to such superfine imaginations — and turning the ends he aims at, might readily be forfrom them, to draw men in their true postures given. But we fear that his passion for oband dimensions, and with all the imperfec- servation, and the delight he takes in tracing tions that actually belong to their condition :- out and analyzing all the little traits that inthe prosperous and happy overshadowed with dicate character, and all the little circumpassing clouds of ennui, and disturbed with stances that influence it, have sometimes led little flaws of bad humour and discontent- him to be careless about his selection of the the great and wise beset at times with strange instances in which it was to be exhibited, or weaknesses and meannesses and paltry vexa- at least to select them upon principles very tions—and even the most virtuous and en- different from those which give them an inlightened falling far below the standard of terest in the eyes of ordinary readers. For poetical perfection and stooping every now the purpose of mere anatomy, beauty of form and then to paltry jealousies and prejudices, or complexion are things quite indifferent ; or sinking into shabby sensualities-or medi- and the physiologist, who examines plants tating on their own excellence and import- only to study their internal structure, and to ance, with a ludicrous and lamentable anxiety. make himself master of the contrivances by

This is one side of the picture ; and charac. which their various functions are performed,

pays no regard to the brilliancy of their hues, less that is horrible, and nothing that can be the sweetness of their odours, or the graces said to be absolutely disgusting, and the picof their form. Those who come to him for ture which is afforded of society and human the sole purpose of acquiring knowledge may nature is, on the whole, much less painrul participate perhaps in this indifference; but and degrading. There is both less miery ihe world at large will wonder at them—and and less guile; and, while the same searching he will engage fewer pupils to listen to his and unsparing glance is sent into all the dari instructions, than if he had condescended in caverns of the breast, and the truth brought some degree to consult their predilections in forth with the same stern imparizality, the the beginning. It is the same case, we think, result is more comfortable and cheermg. The in many respects, with Mr. Crabbe. Relying greater part of the characters are rather more for the interest he is to produce, on the curi- elevated in station, and milder and more ous expositions he is to make of the elements amiable in disposition ; while the accidents of human character, or at least finding his of life are more mercifully managed, and forown chief gratification in those subtle inves- tunate circumstances more liberally allowed. tigations, he seems to care very little upon It is rather remarkable, 100, that Bir Crabbe what particular individuals he pitches for the seems to become more amorous as he grous purpose of these demonstrations. Almost older,-ihe interest of almost all the stories every human mind, he seems to think, may in his collection turnirg on the lender pas. serve to display that fine and mysterious sion-and many of them on its most romantic mechanism which it is his delight to explore varieties. and explain ;-and almost every condition, The plan of the work. --for it has rather and every history of life, afford occasions to more of plan and unity than any of the for show how it may be put into action, and pass mer,—is abundantly simple. Two brothers through its various combinations. It seems, both past middle age, meet together for the therefore, almost as if he had caught up the first time since their infancy, in the Hall of first dozen or two of persons that came across their native parish, which the elder and richer him in the ordinary walks of life, -and then had purchased as a place of retirement for fitting in his little window in their breasts, his declining age-and there tell each other and applying his tests and instruments of ob- their own history, and then that of their guests, servation, had set himself about such a minute neighbours, and acquaintances. The senior and curious scrutiny of their whole habits,' is much the richer, and a bachelor-having history, adventures, and dispositions, as he been a little distasted with the sex by the thought must ultimately create not only a unlucky result of an early and very extravafamiliarity, but an interest, which the first gant passion. He is, moreover, rather too aspect of the subject was far enough from reserved and sarcastic, and somewhat Tory. leading any one to expect. That he suc- ish, though with an excellent heart and a ceeds more frequently than could have been powerful understanding. The younger is very anticipated, we are very willing to allow. sensible also, but more open, social, and talk. But we cannot help feeling, also, that a little ative-a happy husband and father. with a more pains bestowed in the selection of his tendency to W'higgism, and some notion of characters, would have made his power of reform—and a disposition to think well both observation and description tell with tenfold of men and women. The visit lasts two or effect; and that, in spite of the exquisite three weeks in autumn; and the Tales, which truth of his delineations, and the fineness of make up the volume, are told in the after the perceptions by which he was enabled to dinner tėte à lètes that take place in that time make them, it is impossible to take any con- between the worhy brothers over their bottle. siderable interest in many of his personages, The married man, however, wearies at length or to avoid feeling some degree of fatigue at for his wife and children; and his brother lets the minute and patient exposition that is him go, with more coldness than he had ermade of all that belongs to them.

| pected. He goes with him, however, a stage These remarks are a little too general, we on the way; and, inviting him to tun, aside a believe-and are not introduced with striet little to look at a new purchase he had made propriety at the head of our fourth article on of a sweet farm with a neal mansjon, be tirds Mr. Crabbe's productions. They have drawn his wife and children comfortably settled out, however, to such a length, that we can there, and all dressed out and ready to reafford to say but little of the work immeceive them! and speedily discovers that he diately before us. It is marked with all the is, by his brother's bounty, the proprietor of characteristics that we have noticed, either a fair domain within a morning's ride of the now or formerly, as distinctive of his poetry. Hall-where they may discuss polities, and On the whole, however, it has certainly fewer tell tales any atiemoon they think proper. of the grosser faults

and fewer too, perhaps, Though their own stories and descriptions of the more exquisite passages which occur are not, in our opinion, the best in the work, in his former publications. There is nothing it is but fair to introduce these narrative broat least that has struck us, in going over these thers and their Hall a little more particularly volumes, as equal in elegance to Phabe Dair. 10 our readers. The history of the rider and son in the Register, or in pathetic effect to the more austere is not particularly probable Convict's Dream, or Edward Shore, or the nor very interesting; but it atiorus mony pras. Parting Hour, or the Sailor dying beside his sages extremely characteristic of the author. Sweetheart. On the other hand, there is far He was a spoiled child, and grew up itilo a

youth of a romantic and contemplative turn- That sun-excluding window gives the room ; dreaming, in his father's rural abode, of di- Those broad brown stairs on which he loves to vine nymphs and damsels all passion and Those beams within ; without, that length of lead, purity. One day he had the good luck to On which the names of wanton boys appear, rescue a fair lady from a cow, and fell des- who died old men, and left memorials here, perately in love :-Though he never got to Carvings of feet and hands, and knots and flowers, speech of his charmer, who departed from The fruits of busy minds in idle hours." the place where she was on a visit, and

Vol. i. pp. 4–6. eluded the eager search with which he pur- So much for Squire George-unless any sued her, in town and country, for many a reader should care to know, as Mr. Crabbe long year: For this foolish and poetical pas- has kindly told, that—"The Gentleman was sion settled down on his spirits; and neither tall," and, moreover, “Looked old when foltime nor company, nor the business of a Lon- lowed, but alert when met.": Of Captain don banker, could effect a diversion. At last, Richard, the story is more varied and ramat the end of ten or twelve years—for the fit bling. He was rather neglected in his youth; lasted that unreasonable time-being then an and passed his time, when a boy, very much, upper clerk in his uncle's bank, he stumbled as we cannot help supposing, Mr. Crabbe upon his Dulcinea in a very unexpected way must have passed his own. He ran wild in -and a way that no one but Mr. Crabbe the neighbourhood of a seaport, and found would either have thought of-or thought of occupation enough in its precincts. describing in verse. In short, he finds her

"Where crowds assembled I was sure to run, established as the chère amie of another re

Hear what was said, and muse on what was done ; spectable banker! and after the first shock is Attentive list'ning in the moving scene, over, sets about considering how he may re- And often wond'ring what the men could mean. claim her. The poor Perdita professes peni

"To me the wives of seamen lov'd 10 tell tence; and he offers to assist and support her what storms endanger'd men esteem'd so well; if she will abandon her evil courses. The What wondrous things in foreign parts they saw, following passage is fraught with a deep and Lands without bounds, and people without law. a melancholy knowledge of character and of

“No ships were wreck'd upon that fatal beach, human nature.

But I could give the luckless tale of each ; "She vow'd she tried !-Alas! she did not know of one dispos'd to paint their dismal case ;

Eager I look'd, till I beheld a face How deeply rooled evil habits grow!

Who gave ihe sad survivors' doleful tale, She felt the truth upon her spirits press,

From the first brushing of the mighty gale But wanted ease, indulgence, show, excess;

Until they struck! and, suffering in iheir fate, Voluptunus banquets; pleasures-not refin'd,

I long'd ihe more they should its horrors state; But such as soothe to sleep th’ opposing mind

the fond of pity, would enjoy She lookid for idle vice, the time to kill,

The earnest sorrows of the feeling boy.
And subtle, strong apologies for ill;
And thus her yielding, unresisting soul,

“ There were fond girls, who took me to their side, Sank, and let sin confuse her and control:

To tell the story how their lovers died ! Pleasures that brought disgust yet brought relief, They prais'd my tender heart, and bade me prove And minds she hated help'd to war with grief."' Both kind and constant when I came to love!"

Vol. i. p. 163.

Once he saw a boat upset; and still recolAs her health fails, however, her relapses lects enough to give this spirited sketch of the become less frequent; and at last she dies, scene. grateful and resigned. Her awakened lover is stunned by the blow-takes seriously to

“Then were those piercing shrieks, that frantic

(flight, business—and is in danger of becoming ava- All hurried! all in tumult and affright!

A gathering crowd from different streets drew ricious; when a severe illness rouses him to higher thoughts, and he takes his name out All ask, all answer-none attend, none hear! of the firm, and, being turned of sixty, seeks

O! how impatient on the sands we tread, a place of retirement.

And the winds roaring, and the women led ! "He chose his native village, and the hill

They know not who in either boat is gone, He cliinb'd a boy had its attraction still;

But ihink the father, husband, lover, one. With that small brook beneath, where he would " And who is she apart! She dares not come And stooping fill the hollow of his hand, (stand, To join the crowd, yet cannot rest at home : To quench ih' impatient thirst-hen stop awhile With what strong interest looks she at the waves, To see the sup upon the waters smile,

Meering and clashing o'er the seamen's graves ! In that sweet weariness, when, long denied,

'Tis a poor girl beiroih'd--a few hours more, We drink and view i he fountain that supplied And he will lie a corpse upon the shore ! The sparkling bliss and feel, if not express, One wretched hour had pass'd before we knew Our perfect ease, in that sweet weariness.

Whom they had sav'd! Alas! they were but iwo! "The oaks vet flourish'd in that fertile ground,

An orphan'd lad and widow'd man-no more! Where still ihe church with lofty lower was found; And they unnoticed stood upon the shore, And still that Hall, a firsi, a favourite view,” &c. With scarce a friend 10 greet them-widows view'd

This man and boy, and then their cries renew'd." "The Hall of Binning! his delight a boy, That gave his fancy in her flight employ ; He also pries into the haunts of the smug. Here, from his father's modest home, he gaz'd,

glers, and makes friends with the shepherds Its grandeur charm'd him, and its height amaz’d:Now, young no more, retir’d to views well known, on the downs in summer; and then he beHe finds that object of his awe his own;

comes intimate with an old sailor's wife, to The Hall at Binning !-how he loves the gloom whom he reads sermons, and histories, and

While some,


« PreviousContinue »