Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ing we cannot call it—and the suitable language, with confused images, and arranged in a style equally difficult to understand, and unpleasing to read.

We are rejoiced that we have turned back to this first jullgment for it is no light advantage to us, who write for love of the cause, and not for the sake of display, to be able to give the very ideas which had arisen in our minds in the words of a work of such reputation as the Edinburgh Review bore in the days of its zenith.. Indeed it is not a little gratifying to find that such a writer as the author of the following passages forestalled us in so many of our ideas. It is more years than we like to mention since we read this paper, and we had only a general recollection of its tendency: we were, therefore, little short of startled when we found our own sentiments in such powerful language. We are quite aware that there are some who regard what we have Lately said on the matters we are about to bring into question as fit only to be sneered at. Of course we cannot attach great weight to such opinions ; still we are most glad to have such strong authority to back us.-The Italics are our own :

The leading vice in Burns's character, and the cardinal deformity indeed of all his productions, was his contempt, or affectation of contempt, for prudence, decency, and regularity; and his admiration of thoughtlessness, oddity, and vehement sensibility ;-his belief, in short, in the dispensing power of genius and social feeling, in all matters of morality and common sense. This is the very slang of the worst German plays, and the lowest of our town-made novels; nor can anything be more lamentable, than that it should have found ä patron in such a man as Burns, and communicated to a great part of his productions a character of immorality, at once contemptible and hateful. It is but too true, that men of the highest genius have frequently been hurried by their passions into a violation of prudence and duty; and there is something generous, at least, in the apology which their admirers may make for them, on the score of their keener feelings, and habitual want of reflection. But this apology, which is quite unsatisfactory in the mouth of another, becomes an insult and an absurdity whenever it proceeds from their own. Am an may say of his friend, that he is a noble-hearted fellow,—too generous to be just, and with too much spirit to be always prudent and regular. But he cannot be allowed to say even this of himself; and still less to represent himself as a hairbrained sentimental soul, constantly carried away by fine fancies and visions of love and philanthropy, and born to confound and despise the cold blooded sons of prudence and sobriety. This apology evidently destroys itself; for it shows that conduct to be the result of deliberate system, which it affects at the same time to justify as the fruit of mere thoughtlessness and casual impulse. Such protestations, therefore, will always be treated, as they deserve, not only with contempt, but with incredulity; and their magnanimous authors set down as determined profligates, who seek to disguise their selfishness under a name somewhat less revolting. That profligacy is almost always selfishness, and that the excuse of impetuous feeling can hardly ever be justly pleaded for those who neglect the ordinary duties of life, must be apparent, we think, even to the least reflecting of those sons of fancy and song. It requires no habit of deep thinking, nor any thing more, indeed, than the information of an honest heart, to perceive that it is cruel and base to spend, in vain superfluities, that money which belongs of right to the pale industrious tradesman and his famishing infants ; or that it is a vile prostitution of language, to talk of that man's generosity or goodness of heart, who sits raving about friendship and philanthropy in a. tavern, while his wife's heart is breaking at her cheerless fireside, and his children pining in solitary poverty.

[ocr errors]

The concluding passage of this we consider most just and beautiful: It is singular that the critic applied no direct blame to Tam O'Shanter, when he incidentally speaks of it; and yet these are the very ideas that the following passage suggested to us, which is at the opening of that poem :

“ While we sit bousing at the nappy,

An' gettin fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots' miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky sullen dame,
Gathering her brous like gathering storm,

Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.Why, the two passages, prose and verse, represent exactly the two different

ways in which a sensible and feeling man, and a drunken and brutal reprobate, look at the same thing, Why should the wife havę the blame of sullenness and sulk thrown upon her, because her profli, gate husband leaves her to sit “by her cheerless fire-side"? He de. serves it, if she do receive him with coldness and reproof-but alas) the chances are fifty to one that her only reproaches are silent tears and heart-break. And how is the man described who causes all this?

“ Ae market night,
Tam had got planted unco right;
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither;
They had been fou for weeks thegither.
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter;
And aye the ale was growing better :
The landlady and Tam grew gracious ;
Wi' favours, secret, sweet, and precious :
The souter tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himself amang the nappy ;
As bees flee hame wi' lades o treasure,
The minutes wing d their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,

O'er a' the ills o' life victorious.", We beg our readers will pay particular attention to this passage, for it is that from which the admirable specimen of art, which has occasioned this notice, is taken. Let them recollect that the wife is left pining at home, and then let them ask themselves what sort of a heart that man must have had, who describes in these glowing colours of fellowfeeling this conduct of the husband abroad. Our English readers too must remember, that the direct translation of the line which gives the reason for Tam loving Johnny“ like a very brother," is that

“They had been drunk for weeks together.”!! It is bur opinion that this poem fully substantiates all the accusations of bad taste, bad feeling, low profligacy, and indecent writing, which have before now been brought against Burns. There is a couplet in the foregoing passage, which nothing could have induced us to. quote but the necessity of shewing that our accusations are not lightly grounded. It conveys ideas which are the very last that should ever be publicly pictured. And we have thus been driven, that we may not be accused of slander and injustice, to print expressions which we strongly reprobate. We regret, therefore, infinitely, that the seeing these statues involves the putting the poem into the hands of every one who goes—for there are passages in it which cannot bear the truest criterion of propriety—they are quite unfit to be read aloud to women. We hope, however, that the strong Scotch dialect will save a considerable number from annoyance.

On this point, also, the 'Edinburgh Review' agrees with us :“ Instead of suing for a smile, or melting in a tear, his muse deals in nothing but locked embraces and midnight rencontres; and even in his complimentary effusions to ladies of the highest rank, is for straining them to the bosom of their impetuous votary. It is easy, accordingly, to see from his correspondence that many of his female patronesses shrank from the vehement familiarities of his admiration."

The bragging praise, indeed, which Burns lavishes upon drunkenness the most bestial, and sensuality the most gross, is of great frequency in his writings.

He is perpetually (says the Edinburgh Review) making a parade of his thoughtlessness,inflammability and imprudence, and talking with much complacency and exultation of the offence he has occasioned to the sober and correct part of mankind. This odious slang infects almost all his prose and a very great proportion of his poetry; and is, we are persuaded, the chief, if not the only source of the disgust with which, in spite of his genius, we know that he is regarded by many very competent and liberal judges.

We hope that we are at least liberal judges, whether we be competent or no. But the accused person is not the only party concerned. Society has a right to a voice. We shall now notice only two points more.

The first is, we consider Burns's conduct after his marriage wholly to exclude him from the slightest pretence to goodness of heart. On the contrary, it stamps him with the most despicable selfishness. He had obtained, by the exertion of his talents a full competence—not richesbut more than he had ever possessed before, and quite sufficient to keep him and his family in comfort and happiness, with any thing approaching to the denial of his selfish vices. But his wife he treated as Tam O'Shanter did his—drunkenness and debauchery of every kind constantly kept him from her—and she, poor, poor creature, had married him under circumstances which would have bound for ever any being with a heart.

The other point we wish to notice is this. Burns's vices have been defended as those of a man of genius. The 'Edinburgh Review,' in the quotation we have given, says, it is quite unsatisfactory. It is more, it is a contradiction. For, from him to whom the strongest powers of mind are given the most virtuous conduct should be demanded. Burns had great gifts; and, with them, we think it undeniable that both in his life, which has been so unduly brought forward, and also in his writings, he has done much evil, and very little good.

561

PHILOSOPHY OF DRESS, EXERCISE, AND SLEEP.

linen."

HAVING discussed the subject of diet pretty fully in some of our late numbers, we are induced to add a few remarks on the kindred Hygiénique consideration of clothing, upon which, as might be expected, our French authorities are somewhat diffuse. If there be one quality in which the French excel more than another, it is that of a most exact minuteness of explanation. We have already given one or two specimens of this excellent virtue, and, in ushering in the article “ des Vêtemens," we have another: e. g. “Toute substance immédiatement appliquée sur le corps, dans le but de le garantir de l'impression des objets extérieurs, a été appellée vétement. En effet, tous sont destinés à accomplir cet objet, soit qu'ils protègent la peau contre le calorique extérieur ou l'humidité, soit qu'ils tendent à conserver à la surface du corps une partie du calorique qu'il dégage.”

But the question is, what are the best and safest means of effecting these necessary purposes ? The ingenuity of man, aided by the astounding perfection of science, has provided ample materials, not only to protect our bodies from the effects of heat and cold, but to indulge our fancy, and to pamper our pride with “purple and fine

It has searched diligently the vegetable kingdom, and obtained from the animal infinitely more objects than are necessary for our mere comfort : “ Le chanvre, le lin, le coton, pour le règne végétal; la soie, la laine, les poils, les cuirs, pour le règne animal, sont les matières premières qui, mises en @uvre par des mains industrieuses, servent à nous préserver de l'inclémence des températures et des choses extérieures.'

We shall not follow our Encyclopedists through all their very minute examination of the properties of the different articles of clothing, but shall content ourselves with observing, that “ Les étoffes de coton" are very bad conductors of heat, and that they are quently well adapted for cold seasons and climates; but some people's skin is so delicate that it cannot bear the irritation which cotton cloth will sometimes produce. “ La soie est douce au contact;" but flannel possesses, in a high degree, all the combined advantages of silk and cotton.

We must pause here, to offer a few observations of our own upon the wearing of flannel

. Many persons have a strong, and an unconquerable aversion to this indulgence, as they consider it a mark of very considerable effeminacy; others object to it, because it irritates their skin, producing very considerable inconvenience. We think we can set both parties right. To a man in'robust health, of an active disposition, unencumbered with obesity, and subject to no inflammatory affection, the use of this luxury may be, perhaps, unnecessary and disagreeable; but by individuals of a contrary condition, it ought never to be dispensed with, as least in the winter. We have known many a troublesome malady prevented by wearing flannel next the skin, and much mischief caused by not doing so. In one instance, we have JUNE, 1829.

2 Q

conse

every reason to believe, that we saved the life of a young lady, by the recommendation of this simple prescription. It can be no proof of effeminacy to adopt any plan which is likely to ensure the greatest of all blessings-health.

But then, flannel irritates the skin, and is so uncomfortable. No such thing. If the vétement be made-as it always ought to be of the very finest Welsh flannel, we will affirm, without fear of contradiction, that, after the first three days, no inconvenience whatever will be experienced; but on the contrary, the most delightful comfort, and benefit. And we therefore beseech all sticklers to the use of flannel waistcoats, from this time forth, to cast aside their prejudices—to “ wear flannel”—and be well.

One caution, however, we must give them—and that is—to be very careful of the mode in which they leave off this luxurious investment. There are many individuals who ought to wear it winter and summer ; but in most instances, a calico waistcoat may be substituted in the warm weather, the flannel being resumed on the approach of cold.

With regard to clothing in general, our own feelings must be our principal guide. Those persons who are subject to inflammatory affections of particular organs—as the throat, lungs, stomach, &c. should be particularly careful to defend those organs from the action of the external air; and, in all cases, the feet should be kept dry and warm ; for, if this be not attended to, the blood will not circulate equally, but will be detained in the internal organs, imparting to them a more abundant sensibility, and a greater degree of susceptibility, than are safe or salutary. “Attention to little things," says the proverb, “ will prevent great evils ;” and this truth is never more forcibly exemplified than by inattention to articles of diet and clothing, and more especially to the latter. We must again observe, that persons in high health, and blessed with a good constitution, may play as many tastic tricks before high heaven," as suits their fancy; but invalids, and those who are of a weak and delicate constitution, ought to be particularly attentive to “little things.” They should avoid all extremes, and diligently defend themselves against the abrupt variations of temperature, which occur so incessantly in this country: they will find themselves very egregiously and sadly mistaken, if, despising this friendly caution, they attempt to invigorate their frames, or to wear out” their constitutional debility, by acting in direct and obstinate opposition to the dictates of reason and sound sense.

It would seem that fashion-of all tyrants, the most tyrannical—has adopted every means to render the present style of dressing as inconvenient and as injurious as possible. Let us look-with patient complacency if we can-upon the starched and incarcerated carcase of a modern exquisite. His coat is made to fit so close to his person, that if there be but the shadow of a wrinkle, Stultz or Weston will have it thrown upon his hands. The sleeves are tight-so tight, that, with the exception of an ungainly projection on the shoulder, they compress the arms, and render them almost motionless. The waistcoat, as a wag has observed, may be truly called a strait one-while the waistband of the “nether integuments” is made so wide and short, as to compress with considerable force, the “chylopoetic viscera.” But this

“ fan

« ForrigeFortsæt »