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ance, when we reflect that they sprung from the same sổurce as his genius, and may be considered as almost the inevitable condition upon which that order of genius can be held. Their source was in his imagination. The same ardour and sensibility which rendered him so eloquent an advocate of others, impelled him to take too impassioned and irritating views of questions that personally related to himself. The mistakes of conduct into which this impetuosity of temperament betrayed him cannot be defended by this or by any other explanation of their origin ; yet it is much to be able to say that they were almost exclusively confined to a single relation, and that those who in consequence suffered most, but who, from their intimate connexion with him, knew him best, sáw so many redeeming qualities in his nature, that they uniformly considered any exclusion from his regard, not so much in the light of an injustice, as of a per. sonal misfortune. *** There was a time when such considerations would have failed to appease his numerous accusers, who, under the 'vulgar pretext of moral indignation, were relentlessly taking vengeance on his public virtues by assiduous and exaggerated statements of private errors, which, had he been one of the enemies of his country, they would have been the first to screen or justify. But it is hoped, that he was not deceiving himself when he anticipated that the term of their hos tility would expire as soon as he should be removed beyond its reach. “The charity of the survivors to use his own expressions) looks at the failings of the dead through an inverted glass ; and slander calls off the pack from a chase in which, when there can be no pain, there can be no sport ; nor will memory weigh their merits with a niggard steadiness of hand.” But even should this have been a delusive expectation-should the grave which now covers him prove an unre. spected barrier against the assaults of political hatred, there will not be wanting many of more generous minds, who loved and admired him, to rally round his memory, from the grateful conviction that his titles to his country's esteem stand in defiance of every imperfection of which his most implacable revilers can accuse him. As long as Ireland retains any sensibility to public worth, it will not be forgotten, that (whatever waywardness he may have shown towards some, and those a very few) she had, in every vicissitude, the unpurchased and most unmeasured benefit of his affections and his virtues. This is his claim and his protection that having by his talents raised himself from an humble condition to a station of high trust and innumerable temptations, he held himself erect in servile times, and has left' an example of Political Honour, upon which the most scrutinizing malice cannot detect a stain.'., 11. pp. 475-479. natin
Art. II. Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and
Men. Collected from the Conversation of Mr Pope, and other eminent Persons of his time ; By the Rev. JOSEPH SPENCE. Now first published from the Original Papers, with Notes, and a Life of the Author ; By SAMUEL WELLER SINGER. Carpenter, London. Constable & Co., Edinburgh. 1820.
THERE is no species of composition, perhaps, so delightful as
that which presents us with personal anecdotes of eminent men: And if its chief charm be in the gratification of our curiosity, it is a curiosity at least that has its origin in enthusiasm. We are anxious to know all that is possible to be learnt of those who have at any rate so honoured a place in our remembrance. It is not, merely, that every circumstance derives value from the person to whom it relates : but an apparently insignificant anecdote often throws an entirely new light on the history of the most admired works, or the most brilliant actions. Intellectual discoveries, or heroic deeds, though they shed a broad and lasting lustre round the memory of those that have achieved them, yet occupy but a small part of the life of any individual : And we are not unwilling to penetrate the dazzling glory, and to see how the remaining intervals are filled up; to look into the minute details, to detect incidental foibles, and to be satisfied what qualities they have in common with ourselves, as well as distinct from us, entitled to our pity, or raised above our imitation. The heads of great inen, in short, are not all that we want to get a sight of: we wish to add the limbs, the drapery, the background. What would we not give to any modern Cornelius who would enable us to catch a glimpse of Pope through a glass door, leaning thoughtful on his hard, while composing the Rape of the Lock, or the Epistle of Eloisa ; or riding by in a chariot with Lord Bolingbroke, or whispering to Patty Blount, or doing the honours of his grotto to Lady Wortley Montague! How much, then, are we not bound to the writer who gives us a portrait of him, with any thing like tolerable fidelity and exactness, in all these circumstances !—We like to visit the birthplace or the burial-place of famous men, to mark down their bifth-day, or the day on which they died. Cicero's villa, the tomb of Virgil, the house in which Shakespeare was brought up, are objects of romantic interest, and of refined curiosity to the lovers of genius; and a poet's lock of hair, a fac-simile of his handwriting, an ink-stand, or a fragment of an old chair belonging to him, are treasured up as relics of literary devosion. These things are thus valued, only because they bring us into a sort of personal contact with such characters; vouch, as it were, for their reality, and convince us that they were living men, as well as mighty minds. Sir Joshua Reynolds relates, that when he was very young, he went to a sale of pictures, and that, shortly after, there was a cry of Mr Pope, Mr Pope !' in the room; when the company made way for him to pass, every one offering his hand in salutation; and that he himself contrived, from where he stood behind, to touch thế skirt of his garment. Who, in reading this account, does not extend his hand in involuntary sympathy, and rejoice at this unequivocal testimony and cheerful tribute of applause to living merit,-at this flattering foretaste which the elegant poet received of immortality ?
It has been made an objection to the biography of literary men, that the principal events of their lives are their works;
and that there is little else to be known of them, either interest· ing to others, or perhaps creditable to themselves. We do not
feel the full force of this objection. It is the very absence of grave transactions or striking vicissitudes that turns our attention more immediately upon themselves, and leaves us at leisure to explore their domestic habits, and descry their little peculiarities of temper. In the intimacy of retirement, we enjoy with them calm contemplation and poetic ease.' We see the careless smile play upon their expressive features: we hear the dictates of unstudied wisdom, or the sallies of sportive wit, fall without disguise from their lips. We draw down genius from its airbuilt citadel in books and libraries; and make it our play-mate, and our companion. We see how poets and philosophers • live, converse, and behave,' like other men. We reduce theory to practice; we translate words into things, and books into men. It is, in short, the ideal and abstracted existence of authors that renders their personal character and private history a subject of so much interest. The difficulty of forming almost any infera ence at all from what men write to what they are, constitutes the chief value of the problem which the literary biographer undertakes to solve. In passing from the public to the private life of kings, of statesmen and warriors, we have, for the most part, the same qualities and personal character brought into action, and displayed on a larger or a smaller scale,--and can, at all events, make a pretty tolerable guess from one to the other. But we have no means to discover whether the moral Addison was the same scrupulous character in his writings and in his daily habits, but in the anecdotes recorded of him. Sir Isaac Newton's Principia do not imply his verses to his dog Tray: there is nothing to show that the writer of the epistle of Eloise to Abelard was a little, deformed person, or a Papist : nor could we be sure, without the testiinony of contemporary writers, that Steele was really the same good-natured easy soul that Isaac Bickerstaff is represented to be. Some of the most popular writers among the ancients, as well as the moderns, (from Plutarch and Montaigne downwards), have accordingly been those who have taken this task of biography occasionally out of the hands of others, and made themselves not the least agreeable part of their sub. ject. It has been observed, that we read the lives of Painters and artists with a peculiar relish. And this seems to be, because the traditions that are left of their ordinary habits and turn of mind present them in an entirely new point of view. We had before studied them only in their pictures, and the silent images of their art: but we now learn, for the first time, what to think of them as individuals. If we wait with some uneasiness to see how a celebrated Poet or prose writer will aca quit himself of a few sentences of common English, it is not surprising if we are still more at a loss what a great painter will have to say for himself, or how he will put his thoughts into words. We attend to him as to some one attempting to speak a foreign language; make allowances for a difference of dialect ; or are struck with the unexpected propriety and elegance of tone. It was a long time before people would believe that Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote his own Discourses. 's avd e
One principal attraction of Boswell's Life of Johnson, is the contrast which, in some respects, it presents to the Doctor's own. works. The recollection of the author is a foil to the picture of the man : We are suddenly relieved by the abruptness of his manners and the pithiness of his replies, from the circumlocu. tion and didactic formality of his style. Instead of the pompous commonplaces which he was too much in the habit of piling together, and rounding into periods in his closet,--his behaviour and conversation in company might be described as a continued exercise of spleen, an indulgence of irritable humours, a masterly display of character. He made none but home thrusts, but desperate lounges, but palpable hits. No turgidity; no flaccidness; no bloated flesh:-all was muscular strength and agility. He threw aside the incuinbrance of pedantry, and drapery of words. He became a thorough prize-fighter, or; what he himself would term, an intellectual gladiator: 'threw down no challenge that he was not able and willing to take up; assumed no pretensions that he did not sturdily maintain; descended from the stilts of his style into the arena of common sense and observation, and scuffled with all comers for the mastery: Took all advantages, and gave any odds--came off triumphant when in the right, or made the best of a bad cause
instantly seized the weak side of his adversary's argument
wrested what was doubtful to his purpose-made it a drawn battle with the sturdiest of his rivals-or fluttered' his politer antagonists • like an eagle in a dovecot !' It was this vigorous and voluntary exercise of his faculties, when freed from all restraint in the intercourse of private society, that has left such a rich harvest for his biographers and it cannot be denied that it has been well and carefully got in.
The amiable and modest Author of the volume before us, has not been less fortunate in the interest of the principal figure, Pope; nor is the circle of his associates assuredly less brilliant and imposing than that which surrounded Dr Johnson: but he has not been equally bold or happy in the treatment of his subject. The Anecdotes of Pope, compared with Boswell's Memoirs of Johnson, want life and spirit, and connexion. They furnish curious particulars, but minute and disjointed :they want picturesque grouping and dramatic effect. We have the opinions and sayings of eminent men : but they do not grow out of the occasion: we do not know at whose house such a thing happened, nor the effect it had on those who were present. The conversations seldom extend beyond an obser« vation and a reply. We have good things served up in sandwiches; but we do not sit down, as in Boswell, to“ an ordinary of fine discourse. '- There is no eating and drinking going on. The different characters have labels with certain words on them put into their mouths, with authentic signatures : but that is all. We have nothing like Wilkes's plying Johnson with the best bits at Dilly's table, and overcoming his Tory prejudices by the good things he offered, and the good things he said : Nor does any Goldsmith drop in after tea with his peach-coloured coat, like one dropped from the clouds, bem wildered with his finery and the success of a new work!. One never has the idea, as Dunning said to Sir Joshua Reynolds of one of his literary parties, that, while these people were talking, all the rest of the world was quiet. Each person is limite to a sentence, at a time; and the sense, for want of the context, is often imperfect. There is a gap between each conclusion, and at the end of every paragraph we have a new labour to begin, They are not scenes, but soliloquies, with which we are presented: And in reading through the book, we do not seem travelling along a road, but crossing a series of stepping stones: consequently, we do not get on fast with it. It is made up of