Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

their inherent qualities, is such as affords some countenance to the belief that they may not altogether fail in usefulness. They partake largely of the character of an introduction, in successive chapters, to the works of great authors living or deceased. Sir Archibald Alison has testified to the correctness of the view given of his political theories; and it may be added that Mr. De Quincey expressed a very favorable opinion of the essay to which his name is appended. It must not be thought that the writer affirms on every occasion the views he endeavors to define: but to open the way, though defectively, to an intelligence of

any mind exercising a powerful influence upon the age, must always be a task of importance.

The papers on Mrs. Barrett Browning, on Mr. Tennyson, and on Mr. Ruskin are, with several others, now first published. To these more weight is attached than to the earliest essays. It struck the author, in glancing over his paper on Mr. Ruskin, that the very strength of his convictions had impeded him in exhibiting their grounds, that his feeling of the total powerlessness of his opponents had made him careless in the use of his weapons. There are things too ghostly to stand the blow of an argumentative club; it passes through them as through air ; and so profound is his belief that a large proportion of the critical accusations brought against Ruskin are of this sort, that he was unconsciously heedless in his assault upon them. It may be added that he fell into a mistake as to the identity of one of the reviewers whom he attacks; a

mistake, however, which he hardly regrets and does not alter, since no man is better entitled to bear blows intended for the real, than the supposed, reviewer.

The writer cannot refrain, before letting fall his pen, from expressing in one word his sense of the manner in which the American press treated his former appearance before the American public. Frankness, cordiality, unmerited and exaggerated generosity characterized the welcome received by one totally unknown, the native of another land. The thought of this will be ever among his most proud and sacred recollections: and has added one other to those manifold and profound considerations, which had formerly drawn him, in admiration and affection, accompanied, he ventures to think, by a more deep and manly intelligence than is common in Great Britain, towards the American people. If the present publication is received less favorably than the last, if even it draws on itself decided disapproval and rebuke, he will be liable to no mistake as to the reason of the change.

BERLIN, April 18th, 1857.

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

ESSAYS

IN

BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM.

I.

THOMAS DE QUINCEY AND HIS WORKS.

On entering upon the study of De Quincey's writings, the first thing with which we are impressed is a certain air of perfect ease, and as it were relaxation, which breathes around. “The river glideth at his own sweet will ;” now lingering to dally with the water lilies, now wandering into green nooks to reflect the gray rock and silvery birch, now rolling in stately silence through the rich, smooth meadow, now leaping amid a thousand rainbows into the echoing chasm, while the spray rises upwards in a wavering and painted column. Mildness, or majesty, or wild Titanic strength may be displayed, but the river is ever at the same perfect ease, all unconscious of the spectator. “My way of writing is rather to think aloud, and follow my own humors, than much to consider who is listening to me;" these words, used with express reference to the mode in which he composed the “Confessions,” may be taken as characterizing, in a degree more or less eminent, De

« ForrigeFortsæt »