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controversy; and, after professing her unquali-| is that which enables him to receive the fied preference of a piece compounded of great greatest quantity of pleasure from the greatest blemishes and great beauties, compared with number of things. With regard to the author one free of faults, but distinguished by little again, or artist of any other description, who excellence, proceeds very wisely to remark, pretends to bestow the pleasure, his object of that it would be still better if the great faults course should be, to give as much, and to as were corrected—and that it is but a bad spe- many persons as possible; and especially to cies of independence which manifests itself those who, from their rank and education, are by being occasionally offensive: and then she likely to regulate the judgment of the reattacks Shakespeare, as usual, for interspers- mainder. It is his business therefore to asing so many puerilities and absurdities and certain what does please the greater part of grossiéretés with his sublime and pathetic such persons; and to fashion his productions passages.
according to the rules of taste which may be Now, there is no denying, that a poem deduced from that discovery: Now, we humwould be better without faults; and that ju- bly conceive it to be a complete and final jusdicious painters use shades only to set off tification for the whole body of the English their pictures, and not blots. But there are nation, who understand French as well as two liitle remarks to be made. In the first English and yet prefer Shakespeare to Racine, place, if it be true that an extreme horror at just to state, modestly and firmly, the fact of faults is usually found to exclude a variety that preference; and to declare, that their of beauties, and that a poet can scarcely ever habits and tempers, and studies and occupaattain the higher excellencies of his art, with- tions, have been such as to make them receive out some degree of that rash and headlong far greater pleasure from the more varied confidence which naturally gives rise to blem- imagery—the more flexible tone—the closer ishes and excesses, it may not be quite so imitation of nature—the more rapid succesabsurd to hold, that this temperament and sion of incident, and vehement bursts of pasdisposition, with all its hazards, deserves en- sion of the English author, than from the couragement, and to speak with indulgence unvarying majesty—the elaborate argument of faults that are symptomatic of great beau- -and epigrammatic poetry of the French draties. There is a primitive fertility of soil that matist. For the taste of the nation at large, naturally throws out weeds along with the we really cannot conceive that any other apolmatchless crops which it alone can bear; and ogy can be necessary, and though it might we might reasonably grudge to reduce its be very desirable that they should agree with rigour for the sake of purifying its produce. their neighbours upon this point, as well as There are certain savage virtues that can upon many others, we can scarcely imagine scarcely exist in perfection in a state of com- any upon which their disagreement could be plete civilization; and, as specimens at least, attended with less inconvenience. For the we may wish to preserve, and be allowed to authors, again, that have the misfortune not admire them, with all their exceptionable to be so much admired by the adjoining naaccompaniments. It is easy to say, that tions as by their own countrymen, we can there is no necessary connection between the only suggest, that this is a very common missaults and the beauties of our great dramat- fortune; and that, as they wrote in the lanist; but the fact is, that since men have be- guage of their country, and will probably be come afraid of falling into his faults, no one always most read within its limits, it was not has approached to his beauties; and we have perhaps altogether unwise or unpardonable in already endeavoured, on more than one oc-them to accommodate themselves to the taste casion, to explain the grounds of this con- which was there established. nection.
Madame de Staël has a separate chapter But our second remark is, that it is not quite upon Shakespeare; in which she gives him fair to represent the controversy as arising full credit for originality, and for having been altogether from the excessive and undue in the first, and perhaps the only considerable dulgence of the English for the admitted author, who did not copy from preceding faults of their favourite authors, and their
per- models, but drew all his greater conceptions sisting to idolize Shakespeare in spite of his directly from his own feelings and observabuffooneries, extravagancies, and bombast. tions. His representations of human passions, We admit that he has those faults; and, as therefore, are incomparably more true and they are faults, that he would be better with touching, than thos of any other writer; and out them: but there are many more things are presented, moreover, in a far more elemenwhich the French call faults, but which we tary and simple state, and without any of deliberately consider as beauties. And here, those circumstances of dignity or contrast we suspect, the dispute does not admit of any with which feebler artists seem to have held settlement: Because both parties, if they are it indispensable that they should be set off. really sincere in their opinion, and understand She considers him as the first writer who has the subject of discussion, may very well be ventured upon the picture of overwhelming right, and for that very reason incapable of sorrow and hopeless wretchedness;—that decoming to any agreement. We consider taste solation of the heart, which arises from the to mean merely the faculty of receiving plea- long contemplation of ruined hopes and irresure from beauty; and, so far as relates to the parable privation ;—that inward anguish and person receiving that pleasure, we apprehend bitterness of soul which the public life of the it to admit of little doubt, that the best taste ancients prevented them from feeling, and their stoical precepts interdicted them from | III.; for all which we shall leave it to our disclosing. The German poets, and some readers to make the best apology they can. succeeding English authors, have produced a Madame de Staël thinks very poorly of our prodigious effect by the use of this powerful talent for pleasantry; and is not very success. instrument; but nothing can exceed the orig. ful in her delineation of what we call humour. inal sketches of it exhibited in Lear, in Ham- The greater part of the nation, she says, lives let, in Timon of Athens, and in some parts of either in the serious occupations of business Richard and of Othello. He has likewise and politics, or in the tranquil circle of family drawn, with the hand of a master, the strug- affection. What is called society, therefore, gles of nature under the immediate contem- has scarcely any existence among them; and plation of approaching death; and that with- yet it is in that sphere of idleness and frivolity, out those supports of conscious dignity or that taste is matured, and gaiety made eleexertion with which all other. writers have gant. They are not at all trained, therefore, thought it necessary to blend or to contrast to observe the finer shades of character and their pictures of this emotion. But it is in the of ridicule in real life; and consequently neiexcitement of the two proper tragic passions ther think of delineating them in their comof pity and terror, that the force and origin- positions, nor are aware of their merit when ality of his genius are most conspicuous; pity delineated by others. We are unwilling to not only for youth and innocence, and noble- think this perfectly just; and are encouraged ness and virtue, as in Imogen and Desdemona, to suspect, that the judgment of the ingenious Brutus and Cariolanus—but for insignificant author may not be altogether without appeal persons like the Duke of Clarence, or profii- on such a subject, by observing, that she repgate and worthless ones like Cardinal Wolsey; resents the paltry flippancy and disgusting -terror, in all its forms, from the madness affectation of Sterne, as the purest specimen of Lear, and the ghost of Hamlet, up to the of true English humour; and classes the chardreams of Richard and Lady Macbeth. In acter of Falstaff along with that of Pistol, as comparing the effects of such delineations parallel instances of that vulgar caricature with the superstitious horror excited by the from which the English still condescend to mythological persons of the Greek drama, the receive amusement. It is more just, howvast superiority of the English author cannot ever, to observe, that the humour, and in fail to be apparent. Instead of supernatural general the pleasantry, of our nation, has very beings interfering with their cold and impas- frequently a sarcastic and even misanthropic sive natures, in the agitations and sufferings character, which distinguishes it from the of men, Shakespeare employs only the magic mere playfulness and constitutional gaiety of of powerful passion, and of the illusions to our French neighbours; and that we have not, which it gives birth. The phantoms and ap- for the most part, succeeded in our attempts paritions which he occasionally conjures up to imitate the graceful pleasantry and agreeto add to the terror of the scene, are in truth able trifling of that ingenious people. We but a bolder personification of those troubled develope every thing, she maintains, a great dreams, and thick coming fancies, which har- deal too laboriously; and give a harsh and row up the souls of guilt and agony; and painful colouring to those parts which the even his sorcery and incantation are but traits very nature of their style requires to be but of the credulity and superstition which so lightly touched and delicately shaded. We frequently accompany the exaltation of the never think we are heard, unless we cry out; greater passions. But perhaps the most mi-1-nor understood, if we leave any thing unraculous of all his representations, are those told :-an excess of diffuseness and labour in which he has pourtrayed the wanderings which could never be endured out of our own of a disordered intellect, and especially of island. It is curious enough, indeed, to obthat species of distraction which arises from serve, that men who have nothing to do with excess of sorrow. Instead of being purely their time but to get rid of it in amusement, terrible, those scenes are, in his hands, in the are always much more impatient of any kind highest degree touching and pathetic; and of tediousness in their entertainers, than those the wildness of fancy, and richness of imagery who have but little leisure for entertainment. which they display, are even less admirable The reason is, we suppose, that familiarity than the constant, though incoherent expres- with business makes the latter habitually sion of that one sentiment of agonizing grief tolerant of tediousness; while the less enwhich had overborne all the faculties of the grossing pursuits of the former, in order to soul.
retain any degree of interest, require a very Such are the chief beauties which Madame rapid succession and constant variety. On de Staël discovers in Shakespeare; and though the whole, we do not think Madame de Staël they are not perhaps exactly what an English very correct in her notions of English gaiety; reader would think of bringing most into no- and cannot help suspecting, that she musi tice, it is interesting to know what strikes an have been in some respects unfortunate in hes intelligent foreigner, in pieces with which we society, during her visit to this country. ourselves have always been familiar. The Her estimate of our poetry, and of our works chief fault she imputes to him, besides the of fiction, is more unexceptionable. She does mixture of low buffoonery with tragic passion, not allow us much invention, in the strictest are occasional tediousness and repetition—too sense of that word; and still less grace and much visible horror and bloodshed—and the sprightliness in works of a light and playful personal deformity of Caliban and Richard I character: But, for glowing descriptions of nature—for the pure language of the affec- terre, chacun pouvant agir d'une manière quelcontions—for profound thought and lofty senti- que sur les résolutions de ses représentans, l'on ment, she admits, that the greater poets of prend l'habitude de comparer la pensée avec l'acEngland are superior to any thing else that tion, et l'on s'accoutume à l'amour du bien public
par l'espoir d'y contribuer."- Vol. ii. pp. 5-7. the world has yet exhibited. Milton, Young, Thomson, Goldsmith, and Gray, seem to be She returns again, however, to her former her chief favourites. We do not find that imputation of "longueurs,” and repetitions, Cowper, or any later author, had come to her and excessive development; and maintains, knowledge. The best of them, however, she that the greater part of English books are says, are chargeable with the national faults obscure, in consequence of their prolixity, and of exaggeration, and des longueurs. She of the author's extreme anxiety to be perfectly overrates the merit, we think, of our novels, understood. We suspect a part of the confuwhen she says, that with the exception of La sion is owing to her want of familiarity with Nouvelle Heloise, which belongs exclusively to the language. In point of fact, we know of the genius of the singular individual who pro- no French writer on similar subjects so conduced it, and has no relation to the character cise as Hume or Smith; and believe we might of his nation, all the novels that have suc- retort the charge of longueurs, in the name ceeded in France have been undisguised imi- of the whole English nation, upon one half of tations of the English, to whom she ascribes, the French classic authors—upon their Rollin without qualification, the honour of that meri- and their Masillon—their D'Alembert—their torious invention.
Buffon-their Helvetius—and the whole tribe The last chapter upon English literature re- of their dramatic writers :-while as to repelates to their philosophy and eloquence; and titions, we are quite certain that there is no here, though the learned author seems aware one English author who has repeated the same of the transcendent merit of Bacon, we rather ideas half so often as Voltaire himself-certhink she proves herself to be unacquainted tainly not the most tedious of the fraternity. with that of his illustrious contemporaries or She complains also of a want of warmth and immediate successors, Hooker, Taylor, and animation in our prose writers. And it is Barrow—for she places Bacon as the only lu- true that Addison and Shaftesbury are cold; minary of our sphere in the period preceding but the imputation only convinces us the the Usurpation, and considers the true era of more, that she is unacquainted with the writ. British philosophy as commencing with the ings of Jeremy Taylor, and that illustrious reign of King William. We cannot admit the train of successors which has terminated, we accuracy of this intellectual chronology. The fear, in the person of Burke. Our debates in character of the English philosophy is to be parliament, she says, are more remarkable for patient, profound, and always guided by a their logic than their rhetoric; and have more view to utility. They have done wonders in in them of sarcasm, than of poetical figure the metaphysic of the understanding; but and ornament. And no doubt it is so-and have not equalled De Retz, La Bruyère, or must be so—in all the discussions of permaeten Montaigne, in their analysis of ihe pas- nent assemblies, occupied from day to day, sions and dispositions. The following short and from month to month, with great quespassage is full of sagacity and talent. tions of internal legislation or foreign policy.
If she had heard Fox or Pitt, however, or "Les Anglais ont avancé dans les sciences phi. Burke or Windham, or Grattan, we cannot losophiques comme dans l'industrie commerciale, conceive that she should complain of our want à l'aide de la patience et du temps. Le penchant de leurs philosophes pour les abstractions sembloit of animation; and, warm as she is in her en. devoir les entraîner dans des systèmes qui pouvoient comiums on the eloquence of Mirabeau, and être contraires à la raison; mais l'esprit de calcul. some of the orators of the first revolution, she qui régularise, dans leur application, les combinai. is forced to confess, that our system of elocons abstraites, la moralisé, qui est la plus expérimentale de toutes les idées humaines, l'intérêt du quence is better calculated for the detection commerce, l'amour de la liberté, ont toujours ramené of sophistry, and the effectual enforcement les philosophes Anglais à des résultats pratiques. of all salutary truth. We really are not aware Que d'ouvrages entrepris pour servir utilement les of any other purposes which eloquence can hommes, pour l'éducation des enfans, pour le sou- serve in a great national assembly. lagement des malheureux, pour l'économie politi. Here end her remarks on our English literaque, la législation criminelle, les sciences, la morale, ture—and here we must contrive also to close la métaphysique! Quelle philosophie dans les.com: this desultory account of her lucubrationsceptions! quel respect pour l'expérience dans le choix des moyens !
though we have accompanied her through "C'est à la liberté qu'il faut attribuer cette little more than one half of the work before émulation et cette sagesse. On pouvoit si rarement se flaster en France d'influer par ses écrits sur les now find room to say any thing of her expo
It is impossible, however, that we can montrer de l'esprit dans les discussions même les sition of German or of French literature and plus sérieuses. On poussoir jusqu'au paradoxe un still less of her anticipations of the change sysłême vrai dans une certaine mesure ; la raison which the establishment of a Republican govne pouvant avoir une effet utile. on vouloit au moins ernment in the last of those countries is likely que le paradoxe füt brillant. D'ailleurs sous une to produce,-or of the hints and cautions with monarchie
absolue, on pouvoit sans danger vanter, which, in contemplation of that event, she comme dans le Contrat Social, la démocratie pure; thinks it necessary to provide her countrymen. possibles. Tout étoit jeu d'esprit en France, hors These are perhaps the most curious parts of les arrêts du conseil du roi: tandis qu'en Angle. I the work:—but we cannot enter upon them
at present;—and indeed, in what we have the ingenious author upon whose work we already said, we have so far exceeded the have been employed; and that, if we had limits to which we always wish to confine confined ourselves to a mere abstract of her ourselves, that we do not very well know what lucubrations, or interspersed fewer of our own apology to make to our readers-except remarks with the account we have attempted the miscellaneous nature of the subject, by extended this article to a still greater length, which we have been insensibly drawn into without provoking the impatience even of the this great prolixity, may have carried them more fastidious of our readers. As it is, we also along, with as moderate a share of fatigue feel that we have done but scanty justice, as we have ourselves experienced. If it be either to our author or her subject-though otherwise—we must have the candour and we can now make no other amends, than by the gallantry to say, that we are persuaded earnestly entreating our readers to study both the fault is to be imputed to us, and not to lof them for themselves.
(I uly, 1806.) The Complete Works, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals, of the late Dr. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Now first collected and arranged. With Memoirs of his Early Life, written by himself.3 vols. 8vo. pp. 1450. Johnson, London : 1806.
Nothing, we think, can show more clearly ,able and unworthy service. It is ludicrous the singular want of literary enterprise or to talk of the danger of disclosing in 1795, activity, in the United States of America, any secrets of state, with regard to the war than that no one has yet been found in that of American independence; and as to any flourishing republic, to collect and publish anecdotes or observations that might give the works of their only philosopher. It is not offence to individuals, we think it should even very creditable to the liberal curiosity always be remembered, that public funcof the English public, that there should have tionaries are the property of the public; that been no complete edition of the writings of their character belongs to history and to posDr. Franklin, till the year 1806: and we terity; and that it is equally absurd and disshould have been altogether unable to ac- creditable to think of suppressing any part of count for the imperfect and unsatisfactory the evidence by which their merits must be manner in which the task has now been per- ultimately determined. But the whole of the formed, if it had not been for a statement in works that have been suppressed, certainly the prefatory advertisement, which removes did not relate to republican politics. The all blame from the editor, to attach it to a history of the author's life, down to 1757, higher quarter. It is there stated, that re- could not well contain any matter of offence; cently after the death of the author, his and a variety of general remarks and specugrandson, to whom the whole of his papers lations which he is understood to have left had been bequeathed, made a voyage to behind him, might have been permitted to London, for the purpose of preparing and dis- see the light, though his diplomatic revelations posing of a complete collection of all his had been forbidden. The emissary of Govpublished and unpublished writings, with ernment, however, probably took no care of memoirs of his life, brought down by himself those things. He was resolved, we suppose, to the year 1757, and continued to his death “to leave no rubs nor botches in his work ; by his descendant. It was settled, that the and, to stifle the dreaded revelation, he thought work should be published in three quarto the best way was to strangle all the innocents volumes, in England, Germany, and France; in the vicinage. and a negotiation was commenced with the Imperfect as the work now before us necbooksellers, as to the terms of the purchase essarily is, we think the public is very much and publication. At this stage of the busi- indebted to its editor. It is presented in a ness, however, the proposals were suddenly cheap and unostentatious form; and though withdrawn; and nothing more has been heard it contains little that has not been already of the work, in this its fair and natural mar- printed as the composition of the author, and ket. “The proprietor, it seems, had found a does not often settle any point of disputed bidder of a different description, in some emis- authenticity in a satisfactory manner, it seems, sary of Government, whose object was to on the whole, to have been compiled with withhold the manuscripts from the world, sufficient diligence, and arranged with con. not to benefit it by their publication; and siderable judgment. Few writings, indeed, they thus either passed into other hands, or require the aid of a commentator less than the person to whom they were bequeathed, re- those of Dr. Franklin; and though this editor ceived a remuneration for suppressing them.” | is rather too sparing of his presence, we are
If this statement be correct, we have no infinitely better satisfied to be left now and hesitation in saying, that no emissary of Gov- then to our conjectures, than to be incumberernment was ever employed on a more miser-led with the explanations, and overpowered
with the loquacity, of a more officious at- | pendent of the maxims of tutors, and the tendant.
oracles of literary patrons. We do not propose to give any thing like a The consequences of living in a refined and regular account of the papers contained in literary community, are nearly of the same these volumes. The best of them have long kind with those of a regular education. There been familiar to the public; and there are are so many critics to be satisfied--so many many which it was proper to preserve, that qualifications to be established so many ricannot now be made interesting to the general vals to encounter, and so much derision to be reader. Dr. Franklin, however, is too great hazarded, that a young man is apt to be dea man to be allowed to walk past, without terred from so perilous an enterprise, and led some observation; and our readers, we are to seek for distinction in some safer line of persuaded, will easily forgive us, if we yield exertion. He is discouraged by the fame and to the temptation of making a few remarks on the perfection of certain models and favourites, his character.
who are always in the mouths of his judges, This self-taught American is the most ra- and, " under them, his genius is rebuked," tional, perhaps, of all philosophers. He never and his originality repressed, till he sinks into les sight of common sense in any of his a paltry copyist
, or aims at distinction, by exspeculations; and when his philosophy does travagance and affectation. In such a state pot consist entirely in its fair and vigorous of society, he feels that mediocrity has no application, it is always regulated and con- chance of distinction: and what beginner can trolled by it in its application and result. No expect to rise at once into excellence? He individual, perhaps, ever possessed a juster imagines that mere good sense will attract no anderstanding; or was so seldom obstructed attention; and that the manner is of much in the use of it, by indolence, enthusiasm, or more importance than the matter, in a candiauthority.
date for public admiration. In his attention Dr. Franklin received no regular education; to the manner, the matter is apt to be neand he spent the greater part of his life in a glected; and, in his solicitude to please those society where there was no relish and no en- who require elegance of diction, brilliancy of couragement for literature. On an ordinary wit, or harmony of periods, he is in some danmind, these circumstances would have pro- ger of forgetting that strength of reason, and duced their usual effects, of repressing all accuracy of observation, by which he first prosorts of intellectual ambition or activity, and posed to recommend himself. His attention, perpetuating a generation of incurious me- when extended to so many collateral objects, chanies: but to an understanding like Frank- is no longer vigorous or collected;-the stream, lin's, we cannot help considering them as divided into so many channels, ceases to flow peculiarly propitious; and imagine that we either duep or strong ;-he becomes an unsuccan trace back to them, distinctly, almost all cessful pretender to fine writing, or is satisthe peculiarities of his intellectual charac- fied with the frivolous praise of elegance or ter.
vivacity. Regular education, we think, is unfavour- We are disposed to ascribe so much power able to vigour or originality of understanding. to these obstructions to intellectual originality, Like civilization, it makes society more in- that we cannot help fancying, that if Franklin telligent and agreeable; but it levels the dis- had been bred in a college, he would have tinctions of nature. It strengthens and assists contented himself with expounding the methe feeble ; but it deprives the strong of his tres of Pindar, and mixing argument with his triumph, and casts down the hopes of the port in the common room; and that if Boston aspiringIt accomplishes this, not only by had abounded with men of letters, he would training up the mind in an habitual veneration never have ventured 10 come forth from his for authorities, but, by leading us to bestow a printing-house; or been driven back to it, at disproportionate degree of attention upon any rate, by thé sneers of the critics, after the studies that are only valuable as keys or in- first publication of his Essays in the Busy struments for the understanding, they come Body: at last to be regarded as ultimate objects of This will probably be thought exaggerated; pursuit; and the means of education are ab- but it cannot be denied, we think, that the surdly mistaken for its end. How many contrary, circumstances in his history had a powerful understandings have been lost in powerful effect in determining the character the Dialectics of Aristotle ! And of how of his understanding, and in producing those much good philosophy are we daily defraud- peculiar habits of reasoning and investigation ed, by the preposterous error of taking a by which his writings are distinguished. He knowledge of prosody for useful learning! was enco
ncouraged to publish, because there was The mind of a man, who has escaped this scarcely any one around him whom he could training, will at least have fair play. What- not easily excel. He wrote with great brevi. erer other errors he may fall into, he will be ty, because he had not leisure for more volusafe at least from these infatuations: And if minious compositions, and because he knew he thinks proper, after he grows up, to study that the readers to whom he addressed himGreek, it will probably be for some better self were, for the most part, as busy as himpurpose than to become critically acquainted self. For the same reason, he studied great with its dialects. His prejudices will be perspicuity and simplicity of statement. His those of a man, and not of a schoolboy; and countrymen had then no relish for fine writhis speculations and conclusions will be inde- | ing, and could not easily be made to under