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ART. I, The Life of the Right Honourable John Philpot Cur.
ran, late Master of the Rolls in Ireland. By bis
THE EDINBURGH REVIEW,
Art. I. 1. Ivanhoé. A Romance. By the AUTHOR OF WA:
VERLEY,' &c. 3 vols. Edinburgh, Constable & Co. 2. The Novels and Tales of the Author of Waverley; comprising Waverley, Guy Mannering, Antiquary, Rob Roy, Tales of My Landlord, First, Second, and Third Serles; New Edition, with å copious Glossary. Edinburgh, Constable & Co. 1820. Since the time when Shakespeare wrote his thirty-eight plays w in the brief space of his early manhood-besides acting in them, and drinking and living idly with the other actors—and then went carelessly to the country, and lived out his days, a little more idly, and apparently unconscious of having done any thing at all extraordinary-there has been no such prodigy of fertility as the anonymous author before us. In the period of little more than five years, he has founded a new school of invention; and established and endowed it with nearly thirty volumes of the most animated and original composition that have enriched English literature for a century-volumes that have cast sensibly into the shade all contemporary prose, and even all recent poetry—(except perhaps that inspired by the Genius or the Demon, of Byron)-and, by their force of colouring and depth of feeling by their variety, vivacity, magical facility, and living presentment of character, have rendered conceivable to this later age the miracles of the Mighty Dramatist.
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Shakespeare, to be sure, is more purely original; but it should not be forgotten, that, in his time, there was much less to borrow
and that he too has drawn freely and largely from the sources that were open to him; at least for his fable and graver sentiment; --for his wit and humour, as well as his poetry, are always his own. In our times, all the higher walks of literature have been so long and so often trodden, that it is scarcely possible to keep
VOL. XXXIII. NO. 65.
out of the footsteps of some of our precursors; and the antients, it is well known, have stolen all our bright thoughts—and not onby visibly beset all the patent approaches to glory—but swarm in such ambushed multitudes behind, that when we think we have gone fairly beyond their plagiarisms, and honestly worked out an original excellence of our own, up starts some deep-read antiquary, and makes it out, much to his own satisfaction, that heaven knows how many of these busy bodies have been beforehand with us, both in the genus and the species of our invention,
The author before us is certainly in less danger from such detections, than any other we have ever met with; but, even in him, the traces of imitation are obvious and abundant; and it is impossible, therefore, to give him the same credit for absolutę originality as those earlier writers, who, having no successful author to imitate, were obliged to copy directly from nature. In naming him along with Shakespeare, we meant still less to say that he was to be put on a level with him as to the richness and sweetness of his fancy, or that living vein of pure and lofty poetry which flows with such abundance through every part of his composition. On that level no other writer has ever stood, or will ever stand-though we do think that there is fancy and poetry enough in these contemporary pages, if not to justify the comparison we have ventured to suggest, at least to save it, for the first time for two hundred years, from being altogether ridiculous. In saying even this, however, we wish to observe, that we have in view the prodigious variety and facility of the modern writer-at least as much as the quality of his several productions. The variety stands out on the face of each of them; and the facility is attested, as in the case of Shakespeare himself, both by the inimitable freedom and happy carelessness of the style in which they are executed, and by the matchless rapidity with which they have been lavished on the public.
Such an author would really require a review to himselfand one too of swifter than quarterly recurrence; and accordingly, we have long since acknowledged our inability to keep up with him, and fairly renounced the task of keeping a regular account of his successive publications; contenting ourselves with greeting him now and then in the pauses of his brilliant career, and casting, when we do meet, a hurried glance over the wide field he has traversed since we met before.
We gave it formerly, we think, as our reason for thus passing over, without special notice, some of the most remarkable productions of the age, that they were in fact too remarkable to need any notice of ours--that they were as soon, and as extensively read, as we could hope our account of them to beand that in reality all the world thought just what we were in