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which was acted at the Lyceum. As might be expected, from his want of constructive power, it was unequivocally condemned; this settles the question as to the author of Copperfield being a writer of the first class. It is a curious fact that all the first intellects of the age have been progressive; now with the writer before us, his first two works are unmistakeably his best. In 1846 Mr. Dickens was persuaded by some friends to become the editor of a newspaper called the “Daily News,” then about to be established as a rival to the “Times,” on the liberal side of politics. On January 26th, of that year, the first number appeared, but after conducting it for three or four weeks the novelist found the pursuit distasteful, and retired from its management. It was said, at the time, that his salary was one hundred pounds per week, an amount equal, we are told, to an entire year's pay of many men of talent for editing leading daily papers in New-York.
THOMAS NOON TALFOURD.
The author of “Ion” is a very singular instance of the power of circumstance to elevate a man to a considerable station in literature, without the possession of any exclusive qualifications. Totally destitute of poetical genius, he has risen to be considered as a successful dramatist; and while others have struggled for years to get their noble tragedies on the stage, without success, the writer of such artificial elaborations as “Ion” and “Glencoe,” has no difficulty at all in the matter; nevertheless, there is no instance of any of the learned Sergeant's plays being any more than endured. It is certainly an anomaly in human nature that the theatrical world appear to prefer a dramatist, or a manager, in proportion as he has failed. On what other principle can we regard the conduct of the proprietors of Drury Lane, who invariably prefer Mr. Bunn to any other lessee, although it is notorious that they seldom or never get their rent from him. Every attempt has been a total and scandalous failure.
The father of Mr. Talfourd was a respectable brewer in Reading, and married the daughter of Mr. Thomas Noon, a dissenting minister, who having officiated over an independent congregation of that town for thirty-three years, died only a few days previous to the birth of his grandson, which took place on the 26th January, 1795.
Having passed through the earlier years of childhood, he was sent to the Protestant Dissenting Grammar School at Mill Hill, which after a probation of two years, he quitted for the Public Grammar School of Reading, presided over by Dr. Valpy. It was here that he abandoned the ranks of the Dissenters and openly joined the Church of England, to whose doctrines he had for some time inclined, on account of the superior toleration of its discipline. It has been said that he was chiefly moved to this step by his love for drama, which was unequivocally prohibited by the Dissenters. It was also at this academy that he first displayed his liberal tendencies in politics, which was evidenced by his publishing in the “Statesman” newspaper some verses to Sir Francis Burdett, on his liberation from the Tower of London. Under the fostering and correcting influence of his schoolmasters, he published a small volume of poems on various subjects. This comprised the “Indian Tale,” “The Offering of Isaac, a sacred drama,” specimens of a didactic poem on “The Union and Brotherhood of Mankind.” The most striking verses in the volume were some written “On the Education of the Poor,” on the occasion of a visit to that establishment by the celebrated “Joseph Lancaster.” In 1813 he came to London, and placed himself with Chitty, the well known jurist: with him he continued four years, and it is said materially helped him with his celebrated work on “Criminal Law.” This is, however, doubtless an exaggeration, and takes its source from the fact, perhaps, of the young and officious lawyer having occasionally volunteered to correct the proofs. We all know what a vain-glorious man may make out of this simple service; it reminds us of a story told of a self-important friend of Wordsworth; he had asked the great sonneter (for really in sonnets Wordsworth is great) to let him look over the proofs to save the eyesight of the old bard from that mechanical drudgery. When the volume appeared in its chocolate-colored title, the infinitesimal editor of misprints
“The world is too much with us late or soon.”
He cried out—“Ah, that is a fine sonnet, if you like, I helped him there!” “You interest me,” said the reciter; “did you help Mr. Wordsworth in that magnificent burst? What part did you contribute?” “Why, sir,” said the other, “I added the semicolon at the close of the tenth line.” “Good Lord—what would the thing be worth without that semicolon 2’’ In the same year he wrote for a publication called the “Pamphleteer” a paper entitled “An Appeal to the Protestant Dissenters of Great Britain on behalf of the Roman Catholics,” to this succeeded his reply to Cobbett, who had objected to the Unitarian Relief Bill, then agitated in Parliament. “Strictures on Capital Punishment—on the nature of justice—the legitimate design of penal institutions—observations on the pillory—and a strong protest against the act for regulating royal marriages.” But the most interesting production of his was a paper he published in 1815, entitled “An Estimate of the Poetry of the Age.” In this he claims for Mr. Wordsworth the honor of being the first of the modern poets. Considerable merit is due to the youthful critic for the boldness of this article, for it appeared at a time when the full tide of popularity ran dead against the author of Peter Bell, and Talfourd claims the merit of being the first to openly recognise his great claims on the public. When he quitted Mr. Chitty, in 1817, he became a contributor to the Retrospective Review, and to the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. The papers on “Homer, the great tragedian,” and the “Greek Lyric Poems,” are by him. He amused the leisure hours of his life from 1820 to 1832 in writing for the New Monthly Magazine, the Edinburgh Review, and the London Magazine. The life of Mr. Radcliffe, prefixed to his posthumous works in 1826, was also from his pen. It was about this time that he edited an edition of “Dickenson's Guide to the Quarter Sessions.”
We ought to have named that, in 1821, he was called to the Bar by the Society of the Middle Temple, and after four or five years of successful practice as a pleader, he joined the Oxford Circuit and Derbyshire Sessions, and obtained a valuable practice. In 1833 he was made sergeant-at-law, with a patent of precedence; he also became Recorder of Banbury.
In 1822 Talfourd married Rachel, the daughter of John Towell Rutt, and he has a numerous family by her; although nothing can be more unlike than their dispositions, they live together in the happiest possible state. The sergeant enjoys, perhaps, the largest circle of literary acquaintances of any man of the day.
We now approach the great literary event of Talfourd's life, the publication of his classical drama of “Ion;” he had been for many years engaged on this subject, which is taken from Euripides. Towards the close of 1834 he had it “printed for private circulation,” and took his stand as an author. When it is borne in mind that the learned sergeant was in his fortieth year, it might naturally be expected after so long a gestation, and at his mature years, his genius, if he had any, would have produced something better than a diluted Greek poem, although the execution should be so correct as to mislead the critics into a belief of its being “classical.” It is somewhat amusing to hear how the epithet of “classical" is bandied about ! It is a common trick of half educated men to call very tame writing, if tolerably grammatical, by that name; it would seem that in their estimation all that was required to be classical was to have a total absence of force and poetical spirit; in their dictionary the word means tame, cold, spiritless, correct—in short, level writing, according to Lindley Murray; they forget that the great gods of classical literature are Eschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Anacreon, among the Greeks;–and Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Titullus, &c. among the Romans. How far the amiable author of “Ion” partakes of these great writers, we must leave