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No. 20.

London Literary and Critical Journal.


Price 7d.

to the possession of the higher and purer qualities sities, filled by men of distinguished abilities. belonging to his art. Passion, pathos, the power Another science, which has also had its origin in of sweet and beautiful combinations: a facility in our times, is Phrenology, which, without entering all the elegancies of style, and, in some few cele- into an examination of its merits, is another evibrated instances, a clear and spiritual apprehension dence of the scientific disposition of the age; of the mysteries of our human nature, and the for a large Society already exists, which is Division of General Literature-Nature and Design of secret unmanifested glories of universal being-devoted to its diffusion and advancement, and a Periodical Literature-Its Application and these powers and qualities are possessed by some regular Journal is published to promote the same different Styles. of our most popular writers; but imagination, in purposes. Of the Mathematical sciences I need its strength and mighty energy, is unknown among but remark, that, in one of our Universities, them, and, consequently, no poetry, with one or they are pursued nearly to the exclusion of all two exceptions, has lately appeared, deserving others, and that they are made the foundation the highest rank in this department of literature. of even the popular knowledge, which the advoOf works of fiction, it may almost be said that cates of general education are endeavouring to they form the staple of English literature at pre- diffuse. The same is true also of the Mechasent. Novels and romances are the bookseller's nical sciences; every thing is endeavoured to most valuable copy-right, and the author's surest be explained on principle; the invention of the stepping-stone to fortune and reputation: they mechanic is set at work by the study of general are read by all classes; composed by intellects of theorems, and his ingenuity is employed in solvevery different degree of power, and sent forth ing the problem, on the better principles of which into the world in all forms, and taking every tone he has been working all his life. If, now, we turn of sentiment. to consider the causes which have contributed to raise and quicken some of these branches of literature and depress the others, we shall find them in the state of the public mind, which, while it is full of activity, is too much employed on notions of utility to be imaginative; too strong in its tendencies to doctrines of materialism, to be lofty in its moral aspirations; but yet, from both these circumstances, the more likely to be allured by works of light fiction, and in the best of all possible states for the general diffusion and popularity of the sciences. We now come to the more immediate consideration of periodical literature, which we propose to examine first in itself, that is, in its particular characteristics as distinguished from what may here be termed book literature; and, secondly, in its relation to those several divisions of general literature which we have already mentioned.


By the Rev. Henry Stebbing, M.A.

No. II.

In my last Lecture, I took occasion to remark, that, active and vigorous as is the public mind at this period, and determined as it is in the pursuit of knowledge, there are certain drawbacks to the satisfaction we feel at this, and other characteristics to be observed, which, in some measure, prevent society's receiving all the good it might from its state of excitement and activity. One of these traits in the intellectual character of the times, I observed to be a tendency to materialism; a disposition to make physical science of too paramount importance, and to resolve all principles and inquiries into the philosophy of expediency. Another I mentioned was, an unsettledness and impatience, which indispose the great majority of what is termed the reading public, or those who address them, to cultivate any of the higher branches of literature, or those, by the cultivation of which, any great benefits would result to society; and I observed, lastly, that there is a want of literary and intellectual independence, which, by over-rating the obedience due to great names, and the authority of opinion, however stated, exposes the public to attempts upon the right of private judgment, and hinders the free and uncontrolled examination of literary pretensions. I have now to remark, that, in considering the present state of letters in this country, and particularly that of the periodical press, we find these circumstances exercising a very important influence, and giving that modified character of bold activity and shallow philosophy, of eager curiosity and narrow views, of readiness to seek, and credulity in receiving, which strongly colours the whole great mass of the public mind, and gives the tone to the current opinions and tastes of the day.

Literature in general, for the sake of giving some degree of clearness to our speculatious upon the subject, may be divided into three great branches, to each of which belongs a class of compositions peculiar to some of the ruling faculties of the mind, or appealing to certain principles in the mental constitution. According to this, we have the works which belong more particularly to the imagination, those which are employed in the investigation of our moral nature, or in seeking for its amelioration; and, lastly, those which are composed from the results of philosophical inquiry into natural causes, and from the invention or arrangment of new principles of science. I made a few cursory observations on the present state of these three great divisions of literature, at the close of my last Lecture; and I shall now do little more than add to them such reflections, as may illustrate the opinions I have started as to the actual state of the public mind. With regard, then, to the first of the three branches into which I have divided our literature, it may be observed, that works of imagination are of two kinds, the one consisting of the loftier species of poetry, the other of poetry of a lower class, and the lighter essays of fiction. Of the former, we have at present in England mot a single true specimen, here being no living yoet who can lay any claim


Of the next branch, or that of moral literature, it may be safely asserted, that, as a distinct branch of national literature, it never was at a lower ebb. Of metaphysical writers, we cannot mention one single distinguished name, or, at least, one that is attached to a work of importance; and it would appear as if the study of mental philosophy were to be banished from England, which, we believe, it would be, were it not for the labours of our Scottish friends, or the occasional importation of some German treatise. Of ethical writers, or those on practical morals, we possess almost as few; and even most of these are distinguished, rather by their attachment to some particular dogmas, than by their pure, elevated, and devout love of all that can enoble our nature, from whatever sources it can be drawn, for whatever sacrifices of selfishness it may call, or on whatever basis it may rest, besides the pillars we are able to Periodical literature, then, has primarily for its hew out from, or set up in memorial of, our own purpose the gratifying of the interest men take in triumphs. In respect to the theological branch of observing the manners of their contemporaries or moral literature, I have already observed, I think, associates; in hearing speculations on the mothat we have none at present which deserves to tives which have led to this or that mode of be called so; and whoever examines, or knows acting in well-known characters; or in laughing any thing about, those great and magnificent at the witty exposure of their follies and affectaworks which the Taylors, and Hookers, and Bar- tions. The painting of manners, or delineation rows, of a former age, bequeathed to us, cannot of human character in its slight perversions and but look with astonishment, as well as regret, at eccentricities, was, in fact, the original object the state of theological literature in a country which periodical publications had in view, and to which has been almost consecrated as the pecu- which the first, and, perhaps, the most really poliar sanctuary for its study. But leaving these pular, of them were devoted. The Tatler,' which branches in the state of which we see so little was started by the witty and accomplished Steele, cause for feelings of gratification, we approach and whose eye was keen enough to catch the most the last part of our division,-namely, the scien- trifling peculiarity in the manners of society, was tific and philosophical branch of our litera- read and admired for its pointed and vivacious ture. And, in respect to this, we certainlylive in sketches, and its satires on the lighter circuman era of which we have reason to be proud; stances of public morals. The Spectator,' which for never was there a day in which every depart- followed it, had merits of a higher order, and Adment of natural philosophy was pursued with dison, by the grace and elegance of his style, such vigour, or cultivated with such success. the unlaboured beauty of his preceptive essays, Chemistry we have seen undergoing an almost the new and popular manner of his criticisms, and, complete revolution in all her principles, her modes above all, by the inimitable vein of Shakspearian of operation, her designs, and her application. humour for which the characters he delineated were Geology has had her birth in our times, and the distinguished,-by these excellencies that celesame may be said, with nearly equal truth, of Mi-brated writer gave a superiority to 'The Spectator,' neralogy. sciences depending on principles not only over its predecessor, but over the greater and reasoning, they can scarcely be said to have part of those which succeeded it. The serious tone, existed in England half a century ago; and now also, of Addison's papers bestowed importance on they are pursued with a most persevering patience the work, and, it is probable, in a good measure, of investigation and research; are endowed with influenced the style of the other writers in it. a carefully arranged nomenclature, and have The elegance of his manner and the purity of his professorships belonging to them in the Univer-idiom, which was such, that, as his humour was


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