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PASSAGES FROM THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.
DR. PARR'S SPITAL SERMON.*
WHOEVER has had the good fortune to see Dr. Parr's wig, must have observed, that while it trespasses a little on the orthodox magnitude of perukes in the anterior parts, it scorns even Episcopal limits behind, and swells out into boundless convexity of frizz, the μɛya Oavua of barbers, and the terror of the literary world. After the manner of his wig, the doctor has constructed his sermon, giving us a discourse of no common length, and subjoining an immeasurable mass of notes, which appear to concern every learned man, and almost every unlearned man since the beginning of the world.†
The style is such as to give a general impression of heaviness to the whole sermon. The Doctor is never simple and natural for a single instant. Everything smells of the rhetorician. He never appears to forget himself, or to be hurried by his subject into obvious language. Every expression seems to be the result of artifice and intention; and as to the worthy dedicatees, the LordMayor and Aldermen, unless the sermon be done into English by a person of honour, they may, perhaps, be flattered by the Doctor's politeness, but they can never be much edified his meaning.
Ed. Rev., Oct., 1802. Spital Sermon, preached at Christ Church upon Easter-Tuesday, April 15, 1800. To which are added, Notes by Samuel Parr, LL.D.
† In the edition of Parr's Works, the sermon occupies fifty pages of pica text; the notes fill two hundred and twelve in brevier.
Dr. Parr seems to think that eloquence consists, not in exuberance of beautiful images—not in simple and sublime conceptions—not in the feelings of the passions; but in a studious arrrangement of sonorous, exotic, and sesquipedal words: a very ancient error, which corrupts the style of young, and wearies the patience of sensible men. In some of his combinations of words the Doctor is singularly unhappy. We have the din of superficial cavillers, the prancings of giddy ostentation, flattering vanity, hissing scorn, dank clod, &c., &c., &c. The following intrusion of a technical word into a pathetic description renders the whole passage almost ludicrous:
A PRANCING INDENTURE.
"Within a few days, mute was the tongue that uttered these celestial sounds, and the hand which signed your indenture lay cold and motionless in the dark and dreary chambers of death."
Dr. Parr, in speaking of the indentures of the hospital, a subject (as we should have thought) little calculated for rhetorical panegyric, says of them:
"If the writer of whom I am speaking had perused, as I have, your indentures, and your rules, he would have found in them seriousness without austerity, earnestness without extravagance, good sense without the trickeries of art, good language without the trappings of rhetoric, and the firmness of conscious worth, rather than the prancings of giddy ostentation."
The latter member of this eloge would not be wholly unintelligible, if applied to a spirited coach-horse; but we have never yet witnessed the phenomenon of a prancing indenture.
DR. LANGFORD'S ANNIVERSARY SERMON OF THE ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY.
AN accident which happened to the gentleman engaged in reviewing this sermon proves, in the most striking manner, the importance of this charity for restoring to life persons in whom the vital power is suspended. He was discovered, with Dr. Langford's discourse lying open before him, in a state of the most profound sleep; from which he could not, by any means, be awakened for a great length of time. By attending, however, to the rules prescribed by the Humane Society, flinging in the smoke of tobacco,
* Anniversary Sermon of the Royal Humane Society. By W. Langford, D. D. Ed. Rev. Oct. 1802.
applying hot flannels, and carefully removing the discourse itself to a great distance, the critic was restored to his disconsolate brothers.
The only account he could give of himself was, that he remembers reading on, regularly, till he came to the following pathetic description of a drowned tradesman; beyond which he recollects nothing.
"But to the individual himself, as a man, let us add the interruption to all the temporal business in which his interest was engaged. To him indeed, now apparently lost, the world is as nothing: but it seldom happens, that man can live for himself alone: society parcels out its concerns in various connections; and from one head issue waters which run down in many channels. The spring being suddenly cut off, what confusion must follow in the streams which have flowed from its source? It may be, that all the expectations reasonably raised of approaching prosperity, to those who have embarked in the same occupation, may at once disappear; and the important interchange of commercial faith be broken off, before it could be brought to any advantageous conclusion."
This extract will suffice for the style of the sermon. ity itself is above all praise.
BOOKS OF TRAVEL.†
Of all the species of travels, that which has moral observation for its object is the most liable to error, and has the greatest difficulties to overcome, before it can arrive at excellence. Stones, and roots, and leaves, are subjects which may exercise the understanding without rousing the passions. A mineralogical traveller will hardly fall fouler upon the granite and the feldspar of other countries than his own; a botanist will not conceal its non-descripts; and an agricultural tourist will faithfully detail the average crop per acre; but the traveller who observes on the manners, habits, and institutions of other countries, must have emancipated his mind from the extensive and powerful dominions of association, must have extinguished the agreeable and deceitful feelings of national vanity, and cultivated that patient humility which builds general inferences only upon the repetition of individual facts. Everything
↑ From a review of "Lettres sur l'Angleterre. Par J. Fievée." Ed. Rev. April, 1803
he sees shocks some passion or flatters it; and he is perpetually seduced to distort facts, so as to render them agreeable to his system and his feelings! Books of travels are now published in such vast abundance, that it may not be useless, perhaps, to state a few of the reasons why their valne so commonly happens to be in the inverse ratio of their number.
CAUSES OF ERROR.
1st. Travels are bad, from a want of opportunity for observation in those who write them. If the sides of a building are to be measured, and the number of its windows to be counted, a very short space of time may suffice for these operations; but to gain such a knowledge of their prevalent opinions and propensities, as will enable a stranger to comprehend (what is commonly called) the genius of people, requires a long residence among them, a familiar acquaintance with their language, and an easy circulation among their various societies. The society into which a transient stranger gains the most easy access in any country, is not often that which ought to stamp the national character; and no criterion can be more fallible, in a people so reserved and inaccessible as the British, who (even when they open their doors to letters of introduction) cannot for years overcome the awkward timidity of their nature. The same expressions are of so different a value in different countries, the same actions proceed from such different causes, and produce such different effects, that a judgment of foreign nations, founded on rapid observation, is almost certainly a mere tissue of ludicrous and disgraceful mistakes; and yet a residence of a month or two seems to entitle a traveller to present the world with a picture of manners in London, Paris, or Vienna, and even to dogmatize upon the political, religious, and legal institutions, as if it were one and the same thing to speak of abstract effects of such institutions, and of their effects combined with all the peculiar circumstances in which any nation may be placed.
2dly. An affectation of quickness in observation, an intuitive glance that requires only a moment, and a part, to judge of a perpetuity, and a whole. The late Mr. Petion, who was sent over into this country to acquire a knowledge of our criminal law, is said to have declared himself thoroughly informed upon the subject after remaining precisely two-and-thirty minutes in the Old Bailey.
3dly. The tendency to found observation on a system, rather