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In the death of Professor Wilson, well may the fields of literature and the shrines of philosophy be shrouded in gloom, and well may the genius of Scotland weep over the loss of one of her most gifted spirits— one whose talen: has exercised perhaps not less influence on the moral and social developments of modern times than upon its triumphs in literature. Those who have read Blackwool's Magazine, must know with what singular ability, and with what zealand devotion it has maintained the supremacy of its own party principles for the last four and thirty years. It has not only triumphed in party polemics over the old and well established despotism of the Edinburgh Review, but has built up a solid and substantial character for refinement and taste, for sober judgment and sound criticism, which has never before been so well sustained in the whole range of periodical literature.
Professor Wilson-a true lover of nature—with poetic susceptibilities of the first crder, with a warm heart and generous affections, with an ardent and enthusiastic temperament, when thrown in this political arena, soon manifested an originality which placed him among the best writers of the age. In his literary productions his knowledge of nature in all her amptitude and beauty, in all her loveliness and grandeur, enabled him so skillfully to strike the cords in the bosom of every right-feeling reader, as to make them responsive to his own. Warm hearted, with more kindness than austerity in his disposition, the cauterizing power of his criticism was exercised not in wantoness, but in suppressing some criminal obliquity, or some growing depravity in the moral tendencies of the political world around him.
As a poct, he wanted neither imagery nor inspiration, but his poetry found its best expression in his prose writings. His pen had the power of portraying scenes in lowly life, the success of which was mainly dependent upon their truth to nature, their unaffected simplicity, and the deep and overpowering pathos which characterized them. Like the Cottager's Saturday Night, of Burns, his pictures stand out in bold relief before us, and we can scarcely destroy the illusion that some shifting scenes, some substantial actors are not in transitu before us. The Lights and Shadows of Scotish Life, The Trials of Margaret Lindsay, The Foresters, are gems of this kind, and gems of the first water. For force and clearness of style, for truth to nature in the secret workings of the deeper emotions of the heart, for purity and elevation of moral sentiment, and above all, for the power and influence which they exercise, they will forever stand as lasting monuments of the genius which planned them. These are however but a smalt portion of the writings on which the fame of Wilson reposes. It is not our purpose to bring these in review, but to introduce a few reflections. which we sketched some twelve years ago, after reading the Miscellanies of this gifted author, first collected and published in Philadelphia, about the year 1812. This manuscript we found among our old papers which we were assorting the other day, with view of preserving some, and burning others. We are doubtful whether we ought to send it to you or the spirit of Caliph Omar. If you think it worthy of publication, please give it a place in your Journal.
The Critical and Miscellancons Essays of Christopher North,
This is the title of a work recently published embracing all the essays of the gifted editor of Blackwood's Magazine, from 1828 up to the present time. At the name of Christopher North, how many pleasing associations are awakened in our memories, when, in looking back through the dim vistas of the past, and through the hazy light tinged with the softened and mellowed hues of distance, we behold the shadowy forms of the blooming fields of heather and hawthorn, through which we have passed with one who was as "the voice of a solemn and sportive spirit,” throwing around us a veil of silver frostwork, and investing the living forms of bird and bee, and flower, of mountain and low land, of cottage and hamlet, of lake and river, of torrent and mountain mist, with a beauty and poetry all their own.
Christopher North! why God bless the man who, in the loneliness of the wilderness, when we reclined among the odor breathing oranges of another clime, came like a spirit of paradise on purple wing spotted with gold, and communed with us in the deep and, pensive musings not of melancholy, not of gloom, but of pure, chastened and sublimated adoration which consecrated nature and
nature's God in the secret chambers and spotless shrines of the temple within.
"Mirrored in tho'ight methinks to me
The perished and the past arise.” And we are again in the field, and over the moor, and on the mountain side, near some happy shieling, and hear the distant notes of the bag-pipe, the merry ringing voices of children, and the glad murmurings of the brook, all mingling as they swell and fall in softened cadence, coming like a spirit on the breeze; or like the voice of some Naiad from the snow-white foam which settles upon the dimpled waters of the gurgling stream. Amidst scenes like these we again see our companion in his sporting jacket_his tall and stately form, a noble presence-his radiant face richly glow-, ing with benignity-his sportive smile telling of a heart all at ease with itseif_his mischievous and quaint gravity, indicative of the fanciful associations in his own mind, of the incongruous with the symmetrical, the imaginative with the real — his quiet eye full of benevolence, and beaming with kindness and sympathy for all human kind - for none have known better how to shed gracefully a tear over the infirmities and the sorrows of life ; whilst the joyful spirit which has sported with the beautiful vageries of his own midnight and midsummer and winter dreams, has left some traces of playfulness on his furrowed cheek. With one thus formed, could you not consent to journey along through green lanes and hawthorn copses and yellow harvest fields, and purple heather the balance of your days, and
“Muse on Nature with a poet's eye ?” But from these regions of the treasured past let us turn back to the subject of our thoughts—the book. Start not, gentle reader, we are not about to write a criticism, for in doing so we should be much more likely to write a rhapsody, and fly off to climes where the solitary bee is humming in the flower cup on some lonesome desert with its brown vesture of stunted grass, or where the lonely rose is blooming on some moss-covered and mouldering and forgotten ruin of temple or tower amidst the deep solitude of the arid and sandy plain. For our spirit likes not the sober russet garb or the precise habiliments of a cold and passionless carping about words and style, and plots and figures; for as the rudest dress may conceal a bosom in which there glows the proudest and noblest aspiration and the holiest affections, so words as a rude covering may conceal gems of feelings and emotions, which can find no expression in these symbolical representatives of conventional modes of speech.
The Pythoness was supposed to be inspired only when fully under the influence of some deadly drug, but however inspired, we
would defy the fairest Pythoness, who ever sent forth her decrees, to find a single poppy blossom in the beautiful and diversified fields over which we have just travelled with solemn, not grave, cheerful, not frivolous footsteps with Christopher North.
One who cannot relish the sweet poetry with which nature is everywhere mantled as with a veil of frostwork in these pages, has no soul responsive to the influence of poetical imagery, and justly deserves to be smothered and shrouded in the canvass of the amiable old gentleman who toils cheerfully along the waysides and broad surface of nature, cheering by his presence, and filling by his reminiscences our minds with solid lessons of instruction, not bound in the iron bands of an acetic philosophy, but in bright links of gold festooned and tied with fillets of roses.
The moral sentiments and the poetic beauties displayed in the essays before us, flow from such a deep source of social and religious feeling blended with all which can sublimate and purify the grosser affections, and their refining influences wind themselves so insensibly and silently around the heart, that criticism would be disarmed of its power, and yield a just tribute to the grace, the elegance and the artistic skill with which they have been presented before us.
Christopher North is one with whom no one would fall out by the wayside. There is so much kindliness of feeling, so much playfulness of humor, and simplicity of manner, so much that is chaste and beautiful, delicate and refined in the pencilings presented before us, that we feel more in the spirit of reveling among the brightest creations which he has thrown around us than of critically examining their defects or the want of conformity, in particulars where the whole is blended in such inimitable beauty.
We are not rhapsodists, we are not carried away by a morbid sentimentality, we are not dazzled by the multiplicity of beautiful images which are presented before us. In our ministrations we make no apotheosis to men or names, or distinctions, but we have an instinctive and abiding admiration, nay veneration, for genius wherever found, whether in the palace or hut, in the magnate or the peasant, or the shepherd on the hill side, who in his idylian song sends his invocations to the silver queen of night to reflect his thoughts to the now distant object of his love, whose gentle eyelids are closed by the rosy fingers of the dimple cheeked urchin who presides as chief magician with wand in hand over the shifting scenes which float in shadowy forms through her sweetest midnight visions.
But let us return, from wandering among the beautiful creations which the reading of these essays have inspired us, to the substance embraced in some of them.
There we have one of them fixed, as a child who has pinned some gilded moth with its velvet dotted wing to the wall, not that we regard it exactly in the light of an insect of an hour, but as one whose vigorous and freshened breathings are eternal. We may examine, not analyse it strictly, not that its gaudiness dazzles us so as to preclude the possibility of seeing every lineament of beauty, every outline of grace. But "Christmas Dreams,” what dost thou think of them, reader? What a crowd of beautiful associations rise up before us at the sound of this household word! Associations enbalmed among the choicest treasures of the memory of the past. Who can look back on the days of childhood and youth, and the periodical return of this gladsome holiday passed in the sportive gambols and frolics which greeted the smiling and fleeting hours as they floated along as joyously as light, without a feeling of pleasure mingled with sadness? The experience of one individual will differ materially from that of another, and materially different will be the images which crowd the individual recollections of everyone, when he threads the mazy and lengthened pathway through which he has passed from the earliest dawn of his spiritual existence to the period, when he is casting backwards his shadowy reminiscences.
Christmas, with its happy faces, with its boisterous or more quiet enjoyments, with its physical and spiritual pleasures, does not in the experience of every one present the same aspect. We are made to realize the beauty and force of these recollections in "Christmas Dreams,” where the scenes which have been witnessed, and the associations connected with them, were from the experience of one whose form is bent with age, and whose hair is sprinkled by the frost of time; a period at which we delight to dwell on the thick coming and beautiful memories of the past. Who does not feel, in having these associations aroused from the slumber in which they have so long reposed, that memory has consecrated and enshrined them in a light more rosy and etherial than that which invested them as the sober realities of a fleeting exist. ence? Beloved and happy faces are now smiling on our earliest manifestations of a gladness and joy which knew no cause but that others were around us and happy, and the kindling sympathy which dawned as a feeble light reflected back on the sources from whence it was borrowed, that which carried comfort and solace to the innermost soul. But the happy faces of those fond and aged parents where are they? On the slope of yonder hillside with its green church yard, its snow-white tombstones, its mounds covered with the tangled rose and eglantine, beneath the shade of the mournful willow with its graceful solemn trailing on the breeze, sleep the forms of those who smiled upon our days of innocence. Quietly do they sleep; and yet wethinks that in the quiet tranquilty of this lonely place, where the weary spirit would fain rest from its toils, they do not sleep, but on angel wings have soared to other climes where tranquility and peace, and chastened and sublimated love shed their mild and rosy radiance over the dawning