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his family or household not working as a servant or labourer for another party. Even the wealthiest are sometimes reduced to pauperism ; and it is only just that they likewise should contribute their quota to the fund on which, at some time or other, they may be forced to lean for sustenance.
The poor-rate would, under such an alteration as is here proposed, cease very shortly altogether, and be superseded by a General Benefit Society, for the mutual insurance of all the members of the community against destitution. Providence will thus be methodized and guaranteed. The thoughtless and extravagant will be compelled to contribute, while they are able, to that fund upon which they fall back for maintenance whenever their means of self-support are exhausted. Will it be objected that the benefits which all acknowledge to flow from every voluntary system of mutual assurance—whether against fire, casualty, old age, or want of employment, disappear when the contribution is made compulsory 1 We cannot see why this should be so. Government itself, with its vast machinery of taxation, is but a great system of compulsory mutual assurance against the evils of internal disorder and external violence. And may not a tax be levied with equal justice for a mutual assurance against want and extreme distress? Nay, a tax is imposed at present for this very end, but frequently on the wrong parties, and always in a form which gives it a false and mischief-working character. We would have it shifted on the right shoulders, and make it appear what it really is, or ought to be—a mutual assurance of the members of society against destitution. As for the trouble, the expense, or the difficulty of carrying such a scheme into execution, we conceive that,' when methodically and earnestly set about by competent persons, it would be worked with far greater facility than the present clumsy and mismanaged system, and at a tithe of its expense. The same machinery by which it is proposed to work the Government Annuity Act will be allsufficient for this purpose.
Our proposal is but indirectly to compel every individual to take that prudent step which the framers of the Annuity Act (vainly, as we think) wish every one to take spontaneously. We need not enlarge on the vast security against political disturbance and agrarian attacks on property, funded or otherwise, which would accompany a state of things in which every individual in the community shall be possessed of a stake to the amount of his contributions in the accumulated annuity fund, and be thus bound, as it were, in recognizances to that amount for the preservation of order and the general protection of property.
Art. IV.—1. Journal of a West India Proprietor. By the late Matthew G. Lewis. London. 1 vol. 8vo. 1833.
2. Domestic Manners in the JVest Indies. By Mrs. Carinichael. London. 2 vols. 12mo. 1833.
"IT would be a poor piece of business to set about reviewing, -*- in a serious tone, a couple of new books on the subject of the British West Indies. The reflections to which the whole treatment of our colonists during the last ten years, by successive parliaments and governments, must give rise in every impartial bosom, are of a painful kind; the ignorance, the rashness, the blind audacity of too many influential persons—the mean shuffling and intriguery of others—and the hot, heavy, dogged stupidity of the perhaps not ill-meaning agitators, to whose pertinacity the present ministry has at last succumbed—are features in our recent history, on which future times will pause with mingled wonder, contempt, and pity. But the irrevocable step has at length been taken—and we therefore turn to these volumes without the smallest intention of hanging on them a political dissertation. We are to treat them merely as pictures of manners—records of a state of society that has existed in our sugar islands, and which, whether the future course of events shall prove as unhappy as most thinking men seem to anticipate, or as fortunate for all parties concerned, as Mr. Stanley instructs 'the ministerial manifesto' to prophesy, will undoubtedly be curious and valuable in the eyes of the next generation.
The first-named of these books is in many respects, indeed, a curiosity: it is a posthumous production of the author of The Monk, and we are inclined to say, the best of all the creatures of his pen. Why it has been kept lying perdu, during the fifteen years that have elapsed since Mr. Lewis's death, we are not told; but sure we are, the delay has been extremely injurious not only to the reputation of the author, but to what is (or was) of much higher consequence, the cause of the body he belonged to— the West India proprietors. Had this book been published in 1818, or 1819, it might have turned many an enemy of the colouists into a friend. Now, like the excellent work of Mrs. Carinichael, it comes too late to be of any use in that point of view; but it does not come too late to vindicate the talents of Mr. Lewis from the oblivious disparagement into which, from various circumstances, but especially from some scoffing sneers in Lord Byron's diaries, they had been allowed to fall.
And yet Lord Byron had a sincere regard for the man. On hearing of his death, he says—
'Lewis was a good man, a clever man, but a bore;—ad—d bore,one
may may say. My only revenge, or consolation, used to be setting him by the ears with some vivacious person who hated bores especially, Madame de Stael or Hobhouse for example. But I liked Lewis, he was a jewel of a man, had he been better set—I don't mean -personally, but less tiresome, for he was tedious as well as contradictory to everything and everybody. He was a man of many words. Poor fellow: he died a martyr to his new riches—of a second visit to Jamaica.
'I'd,give the lands of Deloraine,
'I would give many a sugar-cane,
To this page of Lord Byron's diary, Sir Walter Scott stuck the following note:
* I would pay my share! How few friends one has whose faults are only ridiculous! His visit was one of humanity—to ameliorate the condition of his slaves. He was one of the kindest and best creatures that ever lived. His father and mother lived separately. Mr. Lewis allowed his son a handsome income, but reduced it by more than one-half, when he found that he paid his mother a moiety of it. Mat restricted himself in all his expenses and shared the diminished income with her as before. He did much good by stealth, and was a most generous creature.'—MS.
Again; Byron, in his 'Detached Thoughts,' has this anecdote—
'Lewis, at Oatlands, was observed one morning to have his eyes red and his air sentimental: being asked why? he replied, that when people said anything kind to him it affected him deeply, " and just now the Duchess (of York) has said something so kind to me, that''— here tears began to flow: "Never mind, Lewis," said Colonel Armstrong to him, " nevermind—don't cry—she could not mean it."' Here Sir Walter Scott has another note, viz.—
'Lewis was fonder of great people than he ought to have been, either as a man of talent, or as a man of fashion. He had always dukes and duchesses in his mouth, and was pathetically fond of any one that had a title. You would have sworn he had been aparvenu of yesterday —yet he had lived all his life in good society. . . . I had a good description from Mr. T T of Fox, in his latter days, suffering the
fatigue of an attack from Lewis. The great statesman was become bulky and lethargic, and lay like a fat ox which for some time endures the persecution of a buzzing-fly, rather than rise to get rid of it, and then at last he got up and heavily plodded his way to the other side of
the room Mat had queerish eyes—they projected like
those of some insects, and were flattish on the orbit. His person was extremely small and boyish. He was indeed the least man I ever saw to be strictly well and neatly made. I remember a picture of him, by Saunders, being handed round at Dalkeith House. The artist had ingeniously flung a dark folding mantle around the form, under which
was was half-hid a dagger, a dark lantern, or some such cut-throat appurtenance. With all this the features were preserved and ennobled. It passed from hand to hand, into that of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, who, hearing the general voice affirm that it was very like, said aloud, "Like Mat Lewis! Why that picture's like a Man!" He looked, and lo! Mat Lewis's head was at his elbow. . . This boyishness went through life Avith him. He was a child and a spoiled child—but a child of high imagination, and so he wasted himself on ghost-stories and German romances. He had the finest ear for the rhythm of verse I ever met with—finer than Byron's."—MS.
One more quotation :—On the lines in 'English Bards and Scotch Reviewers'—
'Oh wonder-working Lewis! Monk or bard,
Lord Byron's editor gives us the following note :—
'Matthew Gregory Lewis, M.P. for Hindon, never distinguished himself in parliament; but mainly in consequence of the clever use he made of his knowledge of the German language, then a rare accomplishment, attracted much notice in the literary world at a very early period of his life. His Tales of Terror—the drama of the Castle Spectre—the romance called the Bravo of Venice (which is, however, little more than a version from the Swiss Zschokke)— but above all, the impious and libidinous novel of The Monk, invested the name of Lewis with an extraordinary degree of celebrity, during the poor period which intervened between the obscuration of Cowper, and the full display of Scott's talents in the Lay of the Last Minstrel—a period which is sufficiently characterized by the fact, that Hayley then passed for a poet. Next to that solemn coxcomb, Lewis was for several years the fashionable versifier of the time; but his plagiarisms, perhaps more audacious than had ever before been resorted to by a man of real talents, were by degrees unveiled; and writers of greater original genius, as well as of purer taste and morals, successively emerging. Monk Lewis, dying young, had already outlived his reputation.'—Life and Works of Byron-, vol. vii. p. 241.
Unless the present 'Journals of a West India Proprietor' had at length seen the light, the few scattered sentences which we have been stringing together, and Sir Walter Scott's introduction to his 'Lay of the Last Minstrel,' in which, with his usual candour and sense, he pleads the veniality of so boyish a transgression as the Monk, and so gracefully acknowledges his own obligations to its author's early admonitions respecting purity of rhymes—would probably have been all that posterity would ever have cared to read on the subject of M. G. Lewis. But we are mistaken if the impression of the posthumous work be not such as to call forth, from some quarter, a distinct summary of the life of this very clever and amiable, though conceited and affected, man. If he has left many letters, and they at all resemble his diaries, the materials for such a biography will be copious and highly valuable; and perhaps the public might not be indisposed to welcome a selection from his early writings, thus prefaced. The literary name of Lewis is one that can never be altogether forgotten; and it appears to us to be the duty of his relations to take care that his personal character shall not rest with posterity on merely a few obiter dicta of Scott and Byron.
And yet, we believe, these Journals, of themselves, would take good care of the author's reputation, as to many of the most important parts of a human character. In them the kindly, gentle, warmly-benevolent disposition of the man is manifest everywhere; together with a shrewd common sense and sagacity, which few might have looked for in one so devoted to the veriest 'cloudland' of imagination—and, moreover, not a little of that practical tact in the details of business, for which the evening life of a London diner-out would, in general, be considered as poor a preparation as the morning reveries of a Germanized romancer. As to the literary merits of the posthumous book, we have already expressed our high notion of them—and, indeed, on that point, there can, we think, be little difference of opinion. The graphic power displayed, whether in sketching scenery, manners, or incidents, appears to us not only high but first-rate ; such as entitles the ' West India Proprietor' to be ranked with Washington Irving, in such pieces as the ' Visit to Palos,'—with Mr. Matthews, in the very best pages of the ' Diary of an Invalid,'—nay, we hardly hesitate to say, with Miss Edgeworth, in the brightest chapters of Castle Rackrent,'—or Lord Byron himself, in his lighter letters from Venice and Ravenna. The quiet humour, and the plain sterling English of these pages, are equally delightful.
The narrative of the Monk's first voyage to the West Indies is in itself a charming performance. Familiar as we are with Captain Hall's 'Fragments,' and newly risen from the perusal of ' Tom Cringle's Log,'* it is easy even for us to detect some inaccuracies in his use of sea-terms; but this is a trifle. Nay, perhaps, perfect accuracy would have rather diminished than improved the pleasure of the reader. His very blunders help to keep before us the idea of a fondled little dandy-lion of forty, fresh from his own
* We are happy to see that this work—perhaps the most brilliant series of Magazine papers of the time—has at length been published in a separate form. It was at least as worthy of such a distinction as 'The Ayrshire Legatees,' or 'The Subaltern,' or the ' Diary of a late Physician,' or'Peter Simple,' or the ' Old Bailey Experiences'—productions, each of which has now taken a merited place of its own in the Engliah library.