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tue to preserve, and of genius to exalt. Assumptions were laid down as prin ciples in morals, and inferences logically enough deduced from them, with the determinate purpose of dissolving the oldest and dearest ties of society, in the insane belief that doctrines, of which the inevitable tendency was to reduce man, in his affections and duties, to the irresponsible condition of the brute, must of necessity be alone the true philanthropy.
Such was the state of literature, not only in this country, but throughout Europe, till the French Revolution began to develope itself in events, which could be clearly traced to the frantic maxims of its leaders-events so pregnant with crime and misery, both of personal guilt and of national calamity, that some of the most eminent of the democratical school, startled at the practical enormities of their insane theories, began openly to doubt the soundness of many of their own first
principles. The common sense, even of the vulgar, was roused; and when it was no longer questioned that war, whether undertaken for objects of re ligion or liberty, for colonies or conquest, ambition or revenge, was alike calamitous to the many, it was gene rally allowed that those institutions, which time has hallowed to the affec tion of mankind, have their foundation in nature; and that the world is now too old to dispute the justness of those decisions which successive ages have pronounced, not only in morals, but in all those modifications of art de pendent on sentiment, comprehending whatever relates to taste, philosophy, or experience.
This change, this counter-revolution, had taken place before the appearance of the Edinburgh Review; this was that susceptibility in the public mind, which prepared it to receive a strong sensation (B) from a work conducted professedly on rational and
(B) In speaking of the sensation which the early numbers of the work excited, it may be asked if it includes the effect produced by its personalities? Thelwall, in his Letter to Jeffrey, (and Thelwall, we believe, is the first who gave him a drubbing,) seems to have experienced the sensation in a very vivid degree.
"Some how or other," says the angry author, "the treatment I have received must come before the public. Somewhere or other it must be inquired whether there are no limits to the impudent calumnies, the indecent scurrilities, and the audacious falsehoods and misrepresentations of Reviewers; or to the indecorous confederacies of young advocates, associated to destroy whomsoever such Reviewers may think proper to proscribe? Somewhere or other it must be answered, why the conductors of a literary journal stept out of their way to injure an individual by the unprecedented review of a book that did not come within the regular cognizance of their tribunal? Why they should have interlarded such pretended review with the grossest misrepresentations, the most de monstrable falsehoods, and even the mean insertion of pretended quotations of passages, not in that book to be found ?"
Again to Mr Jeffrey-at him, Thelwall
"Why did you proceed to affirm as facts, upon the authority of that book, circumstances, for which, in that book, there is not a shadow of foundation? Why in such pretended Review, have you attributed to me boasts and ostentatious vauntings, not in that book to be found or in any book-or any printing, writing, or speech, that ever proceeded from me? Why have you put together parts of disjointed propositions, in such a way as to make them insinuate conclusions the direct reverse of what the whole would necessarily demonstrate? and finally, why have you printed within inverted commas, as quotations from that book, passages which, in that book, never existed ?"
If there was any truth in these charges, certainly it is not surprising that the Edinburgh Review did produce a sensation; for it is not to be imagined that the dereliction of critical honesty was confined to Thelwall's case. Be this, however, as it may, it cannot be said that the charge in his case was unfound ed. "You insert," says Thelwall," the following pretended quotations, marked with the distinction of inverted commas, as quotations in Reviews usually are; and as, therefore, nothing but quotations certainly ought to be." We shall quote from the Review itself
"In every page of this extraordinary Memoir, (Thelwall's Life,) we discover traces of that impatience of honest industry, that presumptuous vanity, and precarious principle, (the devil's in it, if this does not look libellous and personal,) that have thrown so many adventurers upon the world, and drawn so many females from their plain work and their embroidery, to delight the public by their beauty in the streets, and their novels in the
ablished principles; and whether Review had or had not been a work eminent ability, such was the desire wholesome and temperate food, er the stimulants of intoxication,
and the nausea of the democratical debauch had subsided, that it was necessarily most welcome, and naturally relished with avidity.
Another preparatory cause essential
ulating libraries. They have all'ardent temperaments,' like Mr Thelwall, irble feelings, enthusiastic virtues, and a noble contempt for mechanical drudgery, 1 regularity, and slow-paced erudition.' These performances need no description.' Thelwall demands of Mr Jeffrey to point out in what page of his lucubrations quotation here marked is to be found. In their answer the Reviewers are not blicit, and they aggravate the cause of the author's sensation, by classing him h the corporation of the persons of precarious and prostitute principles rein described. "It would," they say, "be of little consequence, although part of this impassioned phraseology could be found in Mr Thelwall's Meir; but the truth is, that by far the greater part of it is to be found there, much more than enough, to satisfy the reader, independently of other dence, that the Reviewer has judiciously classed him with persons of a kined taste and disposition. In the beginning of the life, for instance, we have, the ardent and independent spirit, who is the subject of this memoir, 8;) and we soon hear abundantly of "his over irritable nerves," (p. 9. ;) "feelings, which enthusiasm persuaded him were the badges of intellect, the distinctions of virtue," (p. 17;) the "irritability of his mind," (p. ;) his "enthusiasm and his temperament," (p. 42. ;) "his distaste for bu ess," (p. 7.;)" and his indignation and abhorrence of his trade," (p. 13,) &c.
Now, if this is not special pleading, I should be glad to know what is? ctor Johnson wrote, perhaps, all the words used by Mr Jeffrey; and it uld be as much to the purpose to say, that he wrote also the articles writby the critic in the Edinburgh Review. I have thus been so particular poor Thelwall's case, because it was the first, and because also, it affords ne comment on the Whiggish outcry about libels and personalities. The next author who openly expressed his sensations, was Dr Thomson, Remarks on the Review of his System of Chemistry, in which the charges are nilar to those of Thelwall. He accuses the Reviewers of a predetermined rpose to attack his work. They," in the fulness of their hearts, had anunced their intention."
"The Review of my work," says the Doctor, " was committed to the charge of a htleman very well inclined, it was supposed, to tear it in pieces. The manuscript was mpleted in five weeks, and put into the hands of the Editor, with express permission make what alterations on the paper he thought proper. The Editor, who is fond of casm, thought it too tame a performance for the Edinburgh Review, and even dered that the preface alone, in the hands of a good workman, would have furnished fficient matter for filling a whole Review with abuse and repartee. It was thought reisite, of course, to give it a few touches of his own masterly hand; but, instead of nsulting the original, he satisfied himself with the garbled accounts of the Reviewer. leaving out half sentences, and pruning away others, till they answered his purse, he has totally altered the original meaning, he has succeeded in giving the paraaph some point, at the trifling sacrifice of truth and candour."Page 11.
It may be worth while to give the reader a specimen of the perversion of eaning here alluded to.
"The second part of the Preface," says the Reviewer, "rather checked our grow. partiality; for instead of returning thanks to our fellow-labourers on the other side the Tweed, for the almost unqualified approbation which they bestowed on his formier ition, or soliciting the same attention to the present, he boldly sets our whole corpora n at defiance, and denies the competency of our tribunal.”
What is the fact? The following passage occurs in Dr Thomson's Preface: "It would be improper to pass over in silence the many observations on the former lition, with which the author has been privately favoured, or which have made their pearance in the different journals. To these the present edition is much indebted for accuracy," &c.
No wonder, indeed, that such sort of reviewing produced a sensation. How n Mr Jeffrey explain such things?
ly contributed to ensure success and popularity to a work conducted on the rational and literary principles which the Edinburgh Review professed. Criticism, in the English journals, was
become a spiritless analysis, or, at best, a prosing speciality, in which the book under review was alone considered; and the reviewer shewed himself, as it were, acquainted with no other sub
Dr Robert Jackson's "Letter to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review" complains, in the same strain of Thelwall and Dr Thomson, of "garbled statements, supported by rash assertion and pointed invective," (p. 2.); and Lord Lauderdale, much about the same time (1804), also brought similar, and ever greater charges against the Reviewers, on account of his work on Public Wealth In a pamphlet which they published in reply to his Lordship, they endeavour to answer an accusation of malignity, another of want of truth, a third, that the Reviewer of his Lordship's work wished to recommend himself to M Pitt, by attacks on Lord Lauderdale's work. So much, therefore, for the sensation it produced.
It is not easy to imagine a greater blemish in the character of a critic, tha what is implied in the charge of misrepresentation of the author's meanin and malicious misquotations of his sytle and statement. And yet there ar charges against the Edinburgh Review which go even farther, and accuse it e being occasionally lent to purposes of personal pique and detraction. This should hope is not well founded. It is, we believe, true of it, as of other pe riodical works, that besides the articles of regular correspondents, it has now and then illuminated the world with certain efforts on the part of" persons of quality I have been told, that the present Marquis of Lansdowne, when Lor Henry Petty, was a contributor, and that his Lordship favoured mankind wit a review of one of his own published speeches, in which, without saying a wor about the speech, he has spoken in very creditable terms of himself. This is however, not very atrocious; but the Rev. Mr Cockburn, in a pamphlet pub lished at Cambridge, in 1803, entitled, a Letter to the Editors of the Edinburg Review, in conclusion, after exposing a deal of most nefarious criticism, an cloudy reasoning, says:
"Before I take my leave, gentlemen, let me ask one question: Was the criticism my Work really written by any of those gentlemen who usually conduct the Edinburg Review? I think not:-The Introduction contained in the two first pages is, probable by one of yourselves; the neat and terse criticism on my style at the conclusion, t sting in the tail of the wasp, speaks the same acuteness which we have been accustom to admire in your Review; but all the body of the work is dull and confused. If I a not misinformed, you do frequently accept of foreign assistance. Have you not, in t present instance, allowed some disappointed candidate for Mr Buchanan's Prize. vent his anger and ill-will against the Examiners and me, and to bring disgrace up you ?"
The next work in my collection of notices respecting the delinquency of the Edinburgh Review, is "A letter to Francis Jeffrey, Esq. by an Anti-reformis Edinburgh 1811." The author imputes to the Review a tendency or desig to render the people " dissatisfied and sulky."
"I am unwilling," says he, " to impute such a design to any set of men; but thous your intentions may have been pointed to another object, certainly your language h always tended to produce this effect. Throughout your pages, the sentiments favour strongly, so systematically, any uncharitable constructions of this nature, that ma will be of opinion, and certainly not without very strong grounds, that you had in vi the full design of exciting general discontent at least, if not absolute insurrection. analyzing the system of criminal jurisprudence, established in France by Buonapar you compare with it the analogous part of our own code. And what must be the fe ings-the indignation of every true Briton, on hearing that our criminal law is conside ed as in many respects inferior to Buonaparte's caricature of justice !"-p. 27. Another of the unanswered accusations of the French and anti-nation predilections of the Edinburgh Review, is from the same work :
"I cannot, sir, bring these remarks to a close without commenting on the almost accountable eagerness with which you seize every opportunity to palliate the revolu crimes of Buonaparte, and to hold him out to the country as irresistible from his taler and resources. In this partiality for him, you are not the only, though the loudest part zan. While we,' exclaimed Lord Melville, with honest indignation, have been bea ing up the spirit of the country, and encouraging the people to encounter manfully difficulties and dangers to which they were unavoidably exposed,” &c.—P. 60.
t than the particular matter immetely before him. The personality d bitterness of a Dennis, and the ilosophy and dignity of a Warbur1 and a Johnson, could no longer
be traced in the meagre and manifold articles of the monthly press. The spirit of the art was at once stale and acrid on particular topics, insipid and odious with respect to others. ~No at
The controversy between the English Universities and the Edinburgh Reew, it is now unnecessary to notice. The ignorance of "the associates," was mpletely exposed, and the result is known to so many of those who were filly interested in the discussion, that it is needless almost to refer to it. But, dependent of the general question, there were particular topics intruded that ght to be noticed, as they serve to prove the ignorance of the Reviewers on every subjects which they affected to discuss most learnedly. For some of these would refer to the Rev. Mr S. Butler's letter to the Rev. Mr C. J. Blomfieldblished at Shrewsbury, in 1810.-The letter respects the Cambridge Eschys, and the Oxford Strabo.
"The Edinburgh Review," says Mr Butler, "observes, that there is reason, hower, to believe, that some of the libraries on the continent conceal manuscripts, more luable than any which have yet been collated by any editor; one in particular, of nerable antiquity, is preserved in the Medicean library at Florence; unless, as it is ost probable, it has been conveyed with the other treasures of that city, to the vast useum of learning and arts at Paris.""" Now from hence," says Mr Butler, "we ust infer that the Medicean MS. has never been collated. The contrary is the fact; have now two very accurate collations of that MS. lying before me, one of which is anscribed from the book already mentioned, [a book which the Reviewer saw,] and as made for Dr Nedham, by Salvini, &c.-I put it therefore to you, my dear sir, hether the Reviewer, in this instance, is not guilty of a most unfair and illiberal insiuation?. He could not be ignorant of what must have stared him in the face in every ote; he must, therefore, have been silent through the basest and most malevolent deign." "_P. 13.
Mr R. Wharton, we ought to have mentioned, in 1809, published "Rearks on the jacobinical tendency of the Edinburgh Review, in a letter to he Earl of Lonsdale," which may, perhaps, account for the violence which as subsequently been expressed by some of the Reviewers against the noble ord and his family; but it is not my object, nor the design of these brief and ursory sketches, to notice matters of this sort. There is, however, an amusing etter by a personage who styles himself Senex, published by Hatchard about he same time, that deserves some attention. Pages 5th and 6th are, indeed, particularly entertaining, wherein the writer alludes to certain physiognomical peculiarities of the writers in the Review, as indicatory of their character; but I cannot afford to quote such passages, and it would destroy their effect to abridge them.
In 1809, an Expostulatory Letter was addressed to the Editor of the Edinburgh Review, published by Longman. It seems to have been called forth by the want of critical discernment in the review of the works of Miss Baillie. "You have uniformly," says the author, "treated all feminine attempts in literaEure as King Lear's fool describes the cook-maid to have treated the live eels that she was putting in a pye. Whenever they lifted their heads, she rapped them on the coxcombs with a stick, and cried, Down, wantons, down." **** "Witness the unmanly and illiberal treatment of your fair and ingenious countrywomen, Mrs H. and Miss B. The pretensions of the first to poetical elegance, in the very limited department which she has modestly chosen, have been already acknowleged by the public, to whom you, as well as she, must finally submit, as your ultimate judge."***"Miss B. without pretensions to learning, and too much occupied by the duties of a life singularly useful and innocent, even to find leisure for extensive reading, has been urged, by the irresistible impulse of a daring and truly original genius, to throw into a dramatic form the noble conceptions of her untutored mind. Thus circumstanced, and thus impelled, she certainly claims every indulgence." P. 20.
But the author, in a subsequent paragraph, says,—
"It is not altogether the matter, but the caustic harshness of the manner, to an author so modest, defenceless, and respectable, that produced general disgust."
It was about 1808-9, that the Edinburgh Review reached the acme of insolence. It had then become fearless and infatuated, and the cry began to rise from all sides against it. Among others who attacked it at that time, the
tempt was made to govern or direct public taste, or public opinion, but only to puff to palling the works of the trade-hacks, and to sentence, in a single sentence, the labours of uncon
nected students, to ridicule and cotempt. The persons concerned in the inglorious profession of a London reviewer of that period, were unknown; and the ignorance of the world, which
deadliest wound it received was from a pamphlet entitled, "The Dangers of the Edinburgh Review; or a brief Exposure of its Principles in Religion, Morals, and Politics." The writer accused it " of infidelity in religion; licen tiousness in morals; and seditious and revolutionary principles in politics." P.4. And, with considerable ability and great temper, substantiates the first of these grave accusations. "As these Reviewers," says he, "recommend infidel books, so, in perfect consistency, they despise the Scriptures."
"We shall leave it," (say they, No. 13, p. 99:)" to others to decide, whether the taste of that critic be very good, who prefers the harp of the Jews to the lyre of the Greeks; and who plucks the laurel from the brow of Homer, to place it on the head of good King David." P. 6.
And as the Edinburgh Reviewers despise the Scriptures, so of course they reject their doctrines.
"We do not," (say they, No. 14, p. 418 and 419,) "know the designs of the Crea tor in the construction of the universe, or the ultimate destination of man. The ide of its being our duty to co-operate with the designs of Providence, we think the most impious presumption !" "Now, Christians do know the ultimate destination of man; they know that he will arise at the last day from the dead, and will be either eternally happy or eternally miserable. Infidels do not know this." &c. P. 8.
In No. 24, p. 357, they scruple not to call Plato, Zeno, and Leibnitz, the "sublimest teachers of moral wisdom."-" Now believers in the Gospel think that Jesus Christ is the sublimest teacher of moral wisdom," &c. P. 10.
The writer of the pamphlet, after shewing the infidel spirit that pervaded the Review, proceeds with the proofs of its licentiousness.
"Now," says he, no man of strict moral principles can speak of vicious and lewd books but with reprehension; but the Edinburgh Reviewers speak of Voltaire's Candide, one of the most obscene books, as a work which afforded them much pleasure." ***•* “ A work, whose great object it was to ridicule a Providence, and which abounds with the most lewd and licentious incidents and descriptions." P. 16.
Upon the subject of its seditious tendency I shall say nothing. Party spirit at the time ran high, the Whigs had been expelled from office by the late King, and they were still, like the outcast devils of the Paradise Lost, weltering in the torments of mortified ambition, fallen from such a height.
I have already said that it is unnecessary to notice the controversy re specting "The Calumnies of the Edinburgh Review against the University of Oxford;" but I have before me an Edinburgh pamphlet, written by Mr H. Home Drummond, in which it appears that the Reviewers were ignorant of the subject on which they had written; and that their observations, instead of applying to the then state of the University, referred to a period long prior. "It is strange," says Mr Drummond, "that while these authors can set at defiance the anti-commercial decrees of Buonaparte, and present their readers with such inge nious and interesting pictures of foreign literature; that while Paris, and Petersburgh, and Turkey, the East and West Indies, and the whole continent of America, are open to their researches, their supplies of information from the West of England should be so miserably scanty, that ten long years shall elapse before they are perfectly aware that a new system of education is established at Oxford." P. 71.
The Reviewers probably knew as little of the state of literature in other countries as they did of the University of Oxford. But these notes have already extended to such a length that I must conclude them. They are sufficient to shew that a work, which failed so essentially in all the rules of just criticism, could not possibly endure long. Smartness and pertness for a time may amuse; but qualities of a more solid kind are requisite to preserve the public approbation.
It was my intention to have mentioned the conduct of the Review towards the late amiable Mr Grahame's beautiful poem of the "Sabbath;" but as Mr Jeffrey personally expressed his grief and contrition for the spleen he indulged on that occasion, it is unnecessary.