Billeder på siden

his lectures were generally composed on the evenings before they were delivered ; and as his literary friends were numerous, and sought his society with great eagerness, there were occasions on which the composition of the lecture was not begun till one o'clock in the morning on which it was to be read to the class. Three-fourths of the lectures were composed in this manner; when the author looked þack at them more at leisure, he found nothing to alter, and they have been given to the world fresh from the original composition, This may have given rise to an apparent prolixity and exuberance of illustration in some parts ; but to it also must be owing that buoyancy and vigour-that glow of the heart and gleam of the imagination, amid the very wilds and fastnesses of metaphysics, which make the lectures of Dr. Brown at once the most instructive and the most delightful book that ever was written upon the subject.

In general it has been the fault of intellectual philosophers, that they have attempted to rise with their philosophy into some airy and imaginary region, above the ken and the feelings of ordinary mortals, as if there were one world for them, and another for the rest of mankind. This appears to have come down from the most ancient times,-to be the exoteric and isoteric distinction of the earliest schools of philosophy; and while it has scared plain men away from the science, it has been the cause of the greater part of the errors and disputes among the philosophers themselves. Facts and phenomena are open to all who can and will see and hear; but when there is an admixture of pure hypothesis-something supposed in supplement to all that is, it is hardly possible that any two men can have the same opinion of it, unless the one be a servile and unreasoning copyist of the other. Up to the time of Dr. Brown, this was the case with the philosophy of the human mind : every man who paid attention to it was either a disciple or a doubter,-the mere verbalist followed in the rut, and he, who thought for himself, was denounced as an unbeliever. As instances of this phantom of philosophy, (and it is a phantom which none but philosophers have ever dreamed of,) we may mention the “operating principle in causation,”-the mysterious something besides the antecedent and the consequent event, which none but philosophers could see, and no two of them could see in the same light; and the “idea,” as something apart from the perceiving mind, and the thing perceived, which could multiply itself through all variety, and continue its existence through all time ; and yet which, like a vestal virgin, did nothing, and was perceptible to nobody but the priests who were admitted within the cella of the mystic temple.

The grand labour of Dr. Brown consisted in the rejection of these phantoms,-in bringing Philosophy down from the limbo of dreams, and teaching her to dwell with man in his ordinary habitation, and converse with him in the language of reality; and having accomplished this, down came the whole fabric of error, whether of ultra or of infra credulity: for the cavils and disputes were all about the gratuitous and supplemental part ; and when that was got rid of, there lay the same appeal to the parts in the philosophy of the mind, as in the philosophy of matter; and the proper designation of Dr.



Brown is “the Bacon of Intellectual Philosophy.” The misfortune however, and it is not a slight one, is, that mental analysis and induction are confined, as compared with physical ; that thus the greater part of those who have occasion to speak of that philosophy, must be simple believers ; and that, therefore, the authority of names still continues, and the career of Brown as a public man was too short for enabling him to raise one, which could place his system so before the world, as to have justice done to his merits. On this account, not a little of the good that he did may be lost ; and many may cling to the old errors, or neglect and avoid the science on account of them, who, if he had lived to the ordinary term of human life, instead of being cut off as he was, in his forty-second year, and at the very threshold of his usefulness, would have been alike instructed by the truth, and delighted with the beauty of that most interesting of all the sciences. We do not mean to say that blood will never again be shed for the “ Universal à parte rei ;” but we have little doubt that, at this moment, there are many drudging and doubting about the more modern phantoms, with Brown's volumes uncut upon their shelves.



“She sung of Love, while v'er her lyre

The rosy rays of evening fell."--Moore's Melodies,

IF thou would'st pause to wake a string

That will not bear to play,
If thou would'st yet unloose the wing,

So chainless yesterday;
If thou be'st not that heartless one,

And false as thou art bright;
With smiles for all-and tears for none-

Sing not-sing not to night.

I may have sought, what all would seek,

And knelt, where all would kneel;
The pulse might throb,--the heart be weak,

And yet the lip conceal;
And had I never heard the song,

Or paused upon the tone;
That pulse might yet be free and strong,

That secret still my own.

I might be formed to love, and feel

Love-life-and all decay,-
I was not made to weep, and kneel

As I have knelt to-day:

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

“ LES ORIENTALES.” Par Victor Hugo. This collection of poems, on Eastern subjects, as the title denotes, was published a few days since at Paris. The author, M. Hugo, though but a young man, has been long known as a popular French writer; and the rapidity with which bis works have succeeded each other is very remarkable. These works are various and opposite in their nature, and unequal in merit; but all bear the impress of originality and boldness of conception. As a lyrical poet—as a novelistas a dramatist-he has entered the lists. In each of these characters he has advanced boldly by unfrequented paths; and his countrymen have placed his name with those of Lamartine, Beranger, and Casimir de la Vigne, though his relative rank among those favourite authors of the day depends on particular predilections, on parties in literature, and on parties in politics.

From his very first attempts, M. Hugo openly showed his aberrations from the classical models; and he has persisted in an attachment to what the French and the Italians call the romantic school of poetry. Besides testifying a religious respect for the institutions of chivalry, as seen through the ballowing medium of centuries, for the pomp and magnificence of Catholic rites, and generally for all that is vague and mysterious; besides using liberties of language and versification, unsupported by the example of Boileau, Racine, or Voltaire, he poured forth an odę of deep and devout feeling on the funeral of the late sovereign, Louis XVIII. This was an uncompromising career, and he felt its effects. He was hailed on one side as a poet of feeling and imagination, who, like Lamartine, had broken the trammels of the hackneyed school, and, like him, had found poetical wealth in ideas and associations neglected or despised by the classicists : whilst, on the other hand, he was accused of a vagrant departure from the unalterable codes of order and beauty; styled a borealist, a romanticist, and, consequently, an Ultra. For, in France, romanticism and ultraism (strange as the supposed union may appear) are considered, in a writer, consequent on, and inseparable from, each other;—whilst an undeviating, scrupulous attachment to the authors of the age of Louis XIV., (for, after all, the French idea of classic is nearly confined to them,)--a supercilious contempt for the literature of other countries—a dread of change or innovation, in language, rhythm, or general costume-classicism, in short, as it is understood, is considered as equivalent to liberalism, although it is, in fact, an ultraism in literature.

These unions between parties in politics, and parties in poetry, really exist in France, as we have described them. The fact presents an evident anomaly, and not one of the least curious of our days. For, according to our general notions of things, the parties certainly should be differently assorted. The romantic, or the bold, the innovating, the irregular, in poetry, would ally itself with the speculative, the reforming, the experimental, in politics. On the other side, a scrupulous observance of ancient ordonnances in belles lettres, an exclusive reverence for the works of the great monarchy, for set forms, for the unities, for the dictionary of the Academy, (who determined, in their wisdom, some century and a half ago, that they had fixed the language of their country, which was thenceforth to know neither change nor augmentation)-in short, a devotion to every thing settled, regular, and legitimate, and an abhorrence of novelties and exotics-classicism, in a word, would take refuge in the faubourg St. Germain, the head-quarters of ultraism*.

M. Hugo, as we have stated, is a romanticist; and, with Lamartine, occupies a foremost place in the ranks of the new French school In the romantic, admitting the definition given of that style by its opponents, he would certainly claim precedence of his contemporary; for his flights are incomparably wilder, bis licences in language and versification bolder: the choice of his subjects among night-mares, bats, the Satanic Sabbat, fairies of the North, and peris of the East-among phantoms, vampyres, and djinns,—is more exclusively within the regions of romance. But, as a poet, judging of him as he has appeared in his works up to this day, we consider him far beneath M. Lamartine.

If, however, M. Hugo be not spoiled by that flattery, which, in the French capital, is bestowed with such prodigality, and in such a

* We differ greatly from our contributor. First, we disbelieve in any such di. vision of writers into factions as connected with politics—we think that individual opinions have a much greater preponderance; and secondly, judging from a pretty wide observation of modern French literature, we also believe that the liberaux are the least servile in their adherence to classical models.

[ocr errors]

variety of ways—from the laudatory letter prefixed to the poet's volume *, to the confined but merveilleur article in the friendly journal - from the noisy plaudits of the crowded saloon, to the whispered enthusiasm of the Cabinet de Lecture, (where poetry and politics are eschewed at the cheap rate of about two-pence a sitting)—from the hotel of virtuosi, in the Castiglione, to the mercer's shop in the Rue Saint Honoré t-if, we say, he be not spoiled by all this, as so many clever young men have been before him, we may entertain the hope, that the years of study and improvement that are before him may be so employed, as to render him, with the talent and strength he undoubtedly possesses, a poet, whose success shall be independent of modes, and schools, and party associations.

Though we ourselves (were we brought before the tribunal of the classicists) should certainly not be considered as free from the romantic or boreal taint I, yet we could wish to see the romantic soinewhat more soberly indulged in-kept a little within the bounds of reason and probability, and restrained from encroaching on the regions of frenzy. At the same time, we would suggest to M, Hugo, that there is an abundauce of subjects, novel, striking, and (if he must have them so) unclassical, in the visionary, and even in the material world, without his recurring to the ghastly and disgusting. He says boldly, in his preface to the volume before us—" Il n'y a en poésie, ni bons, ni mauvais sujets, mais de bons et de mauvais poètes. D'ailleurs, tout est sujet; tout relère de l'art; tout a droit de cité en poésie." This, perhaps, is generally a good belief to hold, and is certainly likely to lead to brighter results than are to be derived from the hemming in the districts of art, and confining the opera

This abuse, which prevails among the French anthors of the day, cannot be too severely deprecated. To M. Hugo's present volume there is a fulsome article of the sort attached, under the title of “ Prospectus,” which extols him most outrageously, throws him in the balance with some of the greatest names of French literature, and enhances his merit at their expense. There is a disgusting babble about his “ ame complète de poèle;" he is asserted to be the only poet since Pindar, that has conceived the ode, “ dans toute sa naïveté, et dans toute sa splendeur." His romances are applauded à outrance. llis drama--his every thing, and all that he has done, marvellous as it is, is nothing to what lie is going to do! His being a young man is dwelt upon several times; and the winding up of the article is in these pompouš terms," Le drame appartient à l'uge de la virilité la plus máre. Or, le dix-neuvieme siècle est bien jeune encore, et Victor Hugo est plus jeune que le siècle." An author is not, in justice, to be rendered accountable for the exaggerations of his friends and admirers, or the puffs of publishers; but for the sake of good taste-for decency he ought not to permit them, in the form of a long, regular article, to precede, and to be bound up in a volume which he gives to the public. The praetice, however, with a very few exceptions, is general: it has been carried to the greatest extent in the Vicomte d'Arlincourt-the supernatural genius, whose works have afforded delight to fourteen nations, translated in the idiom of each. M. Lamartine's volumes have none of this “damuing” over-wrought praise. M. Beranger's unfor: tunately have too much of it.

$ The marchands de modes, mercers, &c. at Paris, are quick at catching names and circumstances from the novels, poems, and plays that obtain any popularity. Thus, we have the costume à la Dame Blanche-écharpe à l'Elodie-robe à la Solitaire -voile à l'Ipsiloé, &c. &c. I remember, some years since, all the fashionables of Paris were dressed, froin top to toe, in D'Arlincourt's romances, and the Vi, comte felt Hattered at this manner of their testifying an admiration of his genius!

1 The French critics took this word, boreal, in the sense they so politely apply it to us and the Germans, from the grandiloquent Italian, the late Vincenzo Monti.

« ForrigeFortsæt »