Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

The skies were veiled with awful glooms,
And Flora's tribe conceal'd their blooms :
The sun withdrew his shining rays,

And birds sat mute upon the sprays.' &c. &c. &c. What does the reader think of Miss Colling's elegance ? Saith an owl to a nightingale -6Cease your song at my

desire :
Who can such hideous cries admire?
Indeed, your note mine ear annoys-
I beg you'll cease that horrid noise.”
The owl replied :-" That I'll not do;

Sure I may sing as well as you."
Miss Colling thus makes a monkey address an ass :-

• « Is this the way by me you pass ?
You should have made your bow at least,

You stupid and ill-mannered beast.
To which the ass responds in language equally edifying : --

"What obligation am I under
To pay respect to you, I wonder ?
Is’t 'cause you wear a coat outside

Which covers o'er your natural hide ?'We can find nothing whatever in these fables to admire, either as to language, or sentiment. The former is coarse, and the latter despicable, either for its meanness or its malignity. What Mrs. Bray is pleased to call their moral point, is nothing more than a poisoned sting, which this amiable reader of the Bible protrudes upon every occasion, for the purpose of gratifying a paltry spite against her paltry enemies. Her miscellaneous verses are, for the most part, free from this taint; and we should have expected that her bad temper, being silenced amid the scenes of nature, and innocent amusements, she might, if she had a spark of poetry in her temperament, have made it apparent on such occasions. Let her

May Day Dialogue' speak for her simplicity. We rather apprehend that the reader will look upon it as a specimen of the most silly nonsense, that ever was printed in the form of verse.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Dame Danks, too, says, and she must know,
A finer never made a shew.
• All talk is now of May-day's fun,
And who's to wrestle, dance, or run;
You'll see both me and Walter Watts
With flowers and oak-leaves in our hats.

'PHILLIS.
• Then, there's our plough-boy, Jemmy Rook ;
You cannot think how gay he'll look;
Dame said, last night, there won't be seen
A smarter lad

upon

the

green.
And I shall wear a new stuff gown,
And so will Sue and Lucy Brown; ·
And Master says, he does intend
To give us each a groat to spend.
I've been so busy all the week
To make white shirts for Jem and Dick ;
And well employ'd has Dame been too
In trimming caps for me and Sue.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

PILILLIS.

• I don't think I shall sleep to-night:
I'll rise to-morrow with the light;
And milk my cows, and feed my pigs,

And then prepare for May-day rigs.'--pp. 139, 140, After the insertion of such ridiculous trash as this, we are not at all surprised to find a poem, expressive of the writer's gratitude, addressed to Mrs Bray herself: we can only say, that the poetry is worthy of both parties, the inditer and the editor. • Though conscious, dear madam, how great is your goodness,

Yet words to express it I never shall find :
I fear to offend; pray, pardon my rudeness :

Heaven knows that respect with presumption's combined.
• How oft, when the frowns of malignity darted,

From many, whose hatred I never deserved,
I've wept! for, alas ! even hope had departed,

And I thought not a friend like thyself was reserved. · Unconscious that any I ever offended,

Yet assailed, too, by envy, I knew not for what;
By Heaven and by you since I thus am befriended,

My fears and my sorrows will soon be forgot.'—p. 155. In declaring our candid opinion, that verses such as these which we have quoted, and we might add to them almost every poem

in the collection, were unfit to meet the public eye, and very little cal

culated to exalt the reputation of their author, we beg to be understood as objecting rather to the bad taste of Mrs Bray, in bringing them forward, than to the untutored girl who wrote them. When she

gave expression in verse to the feelings, to which the gossip of her petty slanderers gave rise, she most probably was not aware of the rules of charity which she thus habitually violated. When her pride was flattered with the idea of seeing her productions in print, she, doubtless, in her simplicity, thought that they were at least as good as those of John Jones, and quite as worthy of public patronage. Indeed Mrs Bray taught her to believe, that, although not so polished in language as his compositions, her effusions were superior to his in point of conception. This might be true, and yet they might not deserve to be recommended, as they have been, to the attention of the literary world. It is upon Mrs. Bray alone, that the consequences attending such an unjustifiable step must fall; upon her be the ridicule of its failure; she alone' must stand accountable to this poor girl, for the disappointment of hopes that ought never to have been encouraged, and most probably for rendering her discontented with the humble station in life, in which it was the will of Providence to place her.

men.

Art. VII.-Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right

Honourable William Cecil, Lord Burghley. By the Rev. Edward Nares, D. D., Regius Professor of History in the University of Oxford.

Vols. II. and III. 4to. London : Colburn & Co. 1830-31. A LEARNED and profound philosopher, of a former age, has declared, that there are no greater flatterers of princes, than clergy

Had this writer lived in the present times, he would have found the objects of clerical devotion not a little varied; for instead of courting princes by soft dedications, as was anciently the case, the great body of the order are now engaged in supporting the most foolish and most mischievous prejudices. He would have seen how intensely they are occupied in nourishing the flame of religious bigotry; how sedulously they bend the whole of their energies, their industry, their talents, and erudition, to the recovery of every element of social discord, which, in the lapse of time, and by the progress of charity, had fallen into oblivion. This object they pursue under a thousand varied disguises. The shapes of history, romance, poem, and light essay, and we may now add the inviting one of biography, have been successively assumed, for the purpose of more securely effecting the desired end. We should think it quite impossible, for any dispassionate man to peruse the leviathan quartos before us, without being convinced, that the author had far different purposes in view from the ostensible one ; namely, the illustration of Lord Burghley's life. We are not aware, in the first place, what new lights have been obtained by Dr. Nares, to justify him in usurping the office of biographer to Lord Burgh

ley. There is not an important fact, throughout his pages, which may not be read in numerous volumes; nor indeed have we discovered, amongst the impressions derived from this work, the slightest variation from those notions of Burghley's character and conduct, to which the most ordinary accounts of that eminent man have given rise. We have, therefore, much regret, in being obliged to repeat the judgment which we applied to the first volume in 1828, that the ostensible hero of the plot is denied altogether his proper proportion of the business of the scene, and that the attention of the spectator, instead of being employed as he expected, is wasted over a series of incidents and episodes, that have neither novelty nor interest to render them attractive.

Far between as are the confines of Dr. Nares's memoirs of Burghley, how little is there, even by accident or mistake, to be found in all he has written respecting Burghley, which deserves to be considered within the true meaning of biography. He presents this great statesman to our view, at the most distant possible point, and between us and the object of our curiosity, this blundering enchanter has created a dense atmosphere, in which politics, and theology, and the dust of the schools, unite to mar the transparency of the medium. We have therefore no fair opportunity of becoming acquainted with such of those exact features in the character of the principal person, which it is the well established business of biography to expose. We are admitted to no private or secret interviews with him, either amongst his domestics or in his closet. He is never presented to us in any of the relations of social life ; he is never, in short, brought upon the scene, except in the capacity of a statesman, surrounded with all those pomps and circumstances, which are so effectually calculated to disguise the real man. Whilst then Dr. Nares has devoted himself to the very superfluous task, of recording the political transactions in which Lord Burghley was engaged, he wholly neglects that department of his duty, which most urgently required to be discharged.

In a work, intended by its author, as we presume this to be, to take its place amongst the historical records of our country, one would expect that a necessary degree of attention would be paid to the style and diction of its contents. The consent of mankind, throughout the civilized world, seems to have assigned to history, as essential to its dignity, a seriousness of tone, a propriety of language, a careful and cautious vigilance, such as will denote an adequate sense on the part of the narrator, of the important task which he has undertaken. How little of any of these qualifications does Dr. Nares appear to possess! His text widely departs from every species of regular jurisdiction recognized in our literature. Like a wild and wayward current, it pursues its devious way, sometimes rushing on in angry violence, and sometimes declining into the stagnant state. It is quite pitiable to behold Dr. Nares, struggling amidst the mighty events of Queen Elizabeth's reign. In

stead of arranging those events with a firm and steady hand, he appears confounded by their multiplicity and importance. The result is a misshapen and totally disorganized narrative ; desultory facts; abrupt transitions from one subject to another; numerous repetitions ; forming altogether such a compound, as is but little calculated to maintain the good reputation of our literary character.

If such be the fair estimate of Dr. Nares's powers, in comparitively small things, we cannot surely expect to find him possessed of those more exalted qualifications, which are indispensable to the true historian. In vain do we seek in his pages, any traces of that discriminating mind, which, from the superabundant harvest of former events and incidents, winnows the precious moral; to be for future ages the seed of political virtue and national probity. In vain do we seek his aid, as a guide, to direct us to the right path in that wilderness of intrigue and secresy, of which the policy of Burghley was altogether made up. Neither has he varied the dull narrative, with any thing like a grace or an ornament drawn from good taste or ingenuity. Notwithstanding the lofty pretensions of our author, and though, at this moment, he be the incumbent of the chair of modern history, in the classic territory of Oxford, yet, we must declare, that a more thorough misapprehension of the nature and design of writing history, was never before so palpably exemplified, as in the work before us.

A great deal of light, however, is thrown upon the causes of all these errors, when we reflect, that it was not to write the life of Burghley, or to illustrate in detail the influence of his great powers of mind on the interest of these countries, that Dr. Nares undertook his performance. In choosing this particular subject, he was guided by a determination to dwell upon that critical era in our annals, which offered the most appropriate materials, for enabling him to indulge that spirit of theological hatred against all who differ from him in creed, which we have already charged upon his profession. The history of the rise and progress of the “ Reformation," is accordingly hashed up once more, with all the piquant accessories, with which a modern divine knows so well how to surround such a service for the public palate. Imputations long exploded ; calumnies self-repealed; slanders, over which time has drifted a mound, that ought to have secured to them an everlasting oblivion ; these are the momentous topics, which are to constitute the chief portion of the index, to be appended to Dr. Nares's memoirs of Lord Burghley.

Although we cannot promise to regale the reader with any thing novel, which may have been discovered by Dr. Nares, respecting the great subject of his work, we do not yet think ourselves at liberty to discard the opportunity, however awkwardly it has presented itself, of referring to some of the principal events in the life of one of our most eminent statesmen. The circumstances of the times in which Lord Burghley acted so conspicuous a part, pre

« ElőzőTovább »