Page images

brain enlarging, till at last the classics made an appearance not altogether despicable. I hope you do not mean to shut out the poets.

You say, ' Is there a condition of life more replete with enjoyment, than that of a young man, with moderately independent circumstances, &c. &c. &c.?' I say, in reply, ‘Is there a condition of life more full of the noblest promise of honour and usefulness, and therefore more replete with enjoyment, than that of a young man, with certain qualities of the head and heart, who no revenue has but his good spirits and inborn energies to feed and clothe him? I have tried the one; you are about to try the other. Both have their disadvantages and their temptations. But yours, I am afraid, is the most dangerous. Man is a creature of so frail and feeble a texture, that we want all appliance and means to boot, and even in some degree the stimulus of stern necessity, in addition to our own original good dispositions, to make us do our duty fully, and not sometimes be found like a faithless centinel, sleeping upon our post. See what


can do to counteract this evil! May your slumbers be short, conducing only to the infusion of new vigour, and not partaking of that lethargy, in which our powers, our honour, and ourselves, are momentarily in danger of being lost without remedy.

You will think it strange in me, if I mention a new book, and by an Aikin. The book is miss Aikin's Memoirs of the Court of Elizabeth. It is a book of no great strength and still less depth. But it contains a vast deal of interesting, and some curious information, that is brought together in no other book. *

No. IV.

Skinner Street, June 29, 1818. I congratulate you upon your good fortune, in being in the British Islands at the time of a general election. This is an instructive, and, in some respects, an animating spectacle. Perhaps I have not fully considered all the advantages and disadvantages of the two modes: but I dislike the French scheme of the people electing an elective body, and then these electors electing the legislature, and that other scheme of some of our reformers, that the members of a county shall be elected by a ballot to take place in every little district and market-town on the same day. I am pleased with the open avowal our electors make of their sentiments. I am pleased with the sympathy excited in their breasts by their general congregating to the place of election, thus reviving (though alas! but once in seven years) the practical and healthful feeling, that they are freemen. I am pleased with the scene of an election protracted for four or five days, and thus nourishing the love of what is right, by some degree of uncertainty and suspense respecting the event I am an enemy to mobs; but this sort of mob, or confluence of mankind, expressly directed by the law, and terminating in a specific act, seems to me to be deprived of the sting, the terror, and the hot-blooded, savage, and dangerous feeling, attendant on bodies of men, called together at their own pleasure, and chusing for themselves the sort of exertion to which their power shall be directed. *

No. v.

Skinner Street, Yuly 24, 1818. You ask me my sentiments respecting the writers generally called the English classics. Let us see

who they are. I suspect that at the head of them are Pope, Swift, and Addi. son. These were all admirable writers, though greatly inferior to the great writers of the age of Elizabeth. They are, however, worth studying, and are even in some respects entitled to a priority, as being to a great degree standards of the language now in use. It is perhaps impossible to excel Pope in his kind, that is, as a man delivering in metre the dictates of good sense, and a certain obvious species of observation on life and manners, seasoned and rendered acute by all the poignancy of an elegant sort of wit and sarcasm. Addison wants strength; but his deficiency in that respect is compensated, in a great degree, by his delicacy and refinement, His humour, wherever displayed, and most of all in his character of sir Roger de Coverly, is inimitable. The third of these men, Swift, is vastly the greatest. The depth of his observation, a quality very scarce in that age, is astonishing, and is most of all displayed in bis Gulliver's Travels. There is not a page of that book, that you may not read six times, before you see all that is in it. And this is rendered more surprising by the unaffected sim. plicity and plainness with which he delivers himself there, and in all his writings. Congreve, the contemporary of Pope,

Swift, and Addison, is also worth your attention. Dr. Conyers Middleton, though something later, is fully entitled to class with these, whom he exceedingly surpasses in copiousness and energy. These are the genuine standards of English style.

You may study the writers since that age, as you may study the writers before, as enlarging the stores of our tongue, but they are to be viewed with a certain caution. They are not our standards. Hume is in a high degree subtle and elegant. Burke is a profound thinker, and a powerful declaimer; but his declamation is over-ornamented and over-done. Johnson is the worst of this trio. We may read him however, sometimes for admiration, still oftener as a melancholy example of something, not to be imitated.

Rousseau is very nearly the best writer of the middle part of the last century; the writer from whose works we may derive the greatest degree of profit.

Montesquieu was a man of great talents. His best work is his Persian Letters, written in his youth. His Spirit of Laws is overrun with affectation. Every sentence is an epigram. And of him we say more truly, what Johnson says of Shakspeare's punning; • An epigram is the Cleopatra for which he loses the world, and is content to lose it.'

I have answered your letter. I am at this moment incessantly occupied in my answer to Matthews on Population, which, I believe, I mentioned to you before you left London.

I think I ought to have named Bolingbroke and Shaftesbury with the authors of the age of Addison, though greatly inferior as standards to those already mentioned. Bolingbroke is manly, but the garden of his language has never felt the pruning hook: the branches of his eloquence choke each other like the branches of a forest. Shaftesbury is a most elegant and amiable thinker, but with perpetual affectation. He dances so much, that he is not able to walk.

No. VI.

Skinner Street, September 11, 1818.

I have looked three times through the Letter of Advice, to endeavour to discover where I have said, Read the great English poets; but do not neglect any of the rest.' But as Shylock says, ' I cannot find it; it is not in the bond. If your quotation had stood, 'Do not neglect the rest,' I should have said, I did not write it, but it is my sentiment.' But do not neglect any of the rest,' is certainly too much for me.

With respect to your choice of them, if you are guarded by common fame, you will not materially err; and it will be good that you should somewhat use your own independent judgment, in saying, “This has been praised too much; and this not enough. You will have much aid in your decision, if you make Shakspeare, and Milton, and Chaucer, and Spenser your standards. The old poets I should recommend for their language, their depth of thinking, and their strength of phrase. I have given you a tolerable list of dramatic poets; and if you grow fond of them, you will feel prompted to read their poetical compositions, not in the dramatic form, and those of the men they tell you they loved. You will hardly miss Dryden and Pope, or even the melancholy Cowley. Remember what I have said, that I have always found one writer in his occasional remembrances and references leading to another,' and trust yourself to that. The living poets I would wish to have some of your attention, but ‘I would have a young person to be very moderate in his attention to new books.' That is the vice of your country.

You ask me for a summary view of the distinguished characteristics of the ages of Elizabeth, Anne, and George III. both for poetry and prose.' That is a large question; and I beg to postpone it. I have furnished some hints towards an answer in former letters.

I recommended the other day in a letter to a young author, whose talents I respect, to undertake a book, to be called the Lives of the Commonwealth Men. My list extended to ten names; Mil. ton, Algernon Sidney, Martin, Vane, president Bradshaw, president Scott, his successor in office, Ludlow, Henry Nevil, Henry Ireton, Robert Blake. This would be a choice book for an Amea' rican to read, though no American could write it as it ought to be written. England in all her annals has produced no men, as public characters, worthy to be ranked with these—not even an eleventh to be added to these ten. They were all to their last breath VOL. XIV.


devoted to the principles of republicanism, and looked upon mo narchy with that generous horror and contempt, which, abstractedly considered, every enlightened and impartial man must regard it. Now every reader that almost at all deserves the name, ought in some degree to play the part of an author, and collate the materials of a subject, nearly as if he were going to treat of it in a book. The materials of the Commonwealth History of England lie principally in a few authors; Clarendon, Ludlow, Whitlocke, Mrs. Hutchinson, Clement Walker, sir Henry Vane, Trials of the Re. gicides, and Noble. To be sure, he who would have his collection complete, should add to these, Rushworth's and Thurloe's Collection of State Papers, and as many of Milton's, and the other notable pamphlets of the time as he can meet with. The whole would not amount to fifty volumes.

I should have answered your letter dated August 20, sooner, but for other occupations, and still more for ill health.

Very truly and sincerely yours,

William Godwin. P.S. I believe I ought to add, as a matter of taste, that you might apprehend my idea, that I confined the scheme of the book to one volume.—Of my heroes Scott was hanged, Bradshaw and Ireton were gibbetted after death, Algernon Sidney and Vane beheaded, Martin was a prisoner twenty years, and Ludlow an exile thirty years, at the end of which time they died.

List of books recommended to the same person by Stephen Lee, Esq. librarian to the Royal Society.

Mathematics.-Simson's Euclid, Robinson's Conic Sections, Bridge's Algebra, Trigonometry, Conic Sections, and Mechanics, Bonnycastle's Arithmetic, Le Croix, Cours de Mathematiques, Woodhouse's Trigonometry, Hutton's Mathematics, * Mathematical Tracts, and Mathematical Dictionary, Cagnoli's Trigonometry, Newton's Principia, La Place, Mecanique Celeste, Brook Taylor's Elements of the Linear Perspective, Robinson's Elements of Mechanical Philosophy,t Taylor's Logarithms, Callet's ditto, Hutton's ditto,

Physico-Mathematics, and Mechanical Arts.-Prony, Architecture Hydraulique, Nicholson's Carpenter's New Guide, Joiner's Assistant, Principles of Architecture, Mechanical Exercises, Student's Instructions in the Five Orders, Stalkart's Naval Architecture, Steed's ditto, Vince's Astronomy, Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy, Biot, Precis (ou Traité) Elementaire de Physique Experimentale, Montucla, Histoire de Mathematiques, Smeeton's Works, Singer on Electricity, Berthoud, Traité d'Horlogerie, Paynant, Traité de Geoderie.

Natural History, Agriculture, &c.—Linnæus, Systema Naturæ, Shaw's Zoology, Miller's Gardener's Dictionary, Kaimes' Gentleman Farmer, Reports of the Board of Agriculture, Arthur Young's Experimental Farmer, Cuvier, Anatomie Comparatif, Blumenbach's Comparative Anatomy by Lawrence, Kirby's Entomology, Wood's Conchology, Smith's Introduction to Botany, Block's Icthyology, Bakewell's Geology, Parkinson's Organic Remains of a Former World.

* Dr. flutton considers the American edition the best. # Edition by Brewster.

Miscellaneous.-Russel's History of Modern Europe, Pinkerton on Medals, Biographical Dictionary by Chalmers, Dictionnaire Historique, Blan's Chronology, Johnson's Dictionary, Lowth's Grammar, Murray's Grammar, Elegant Extracts, La Harpe, Lycée, Smith's Wealth of Nations, Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, Locke on the Human Understanding, Eustace's Classical Tour, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopedie Methodique, published in parts.

Course of Law Study, by the late lord Ashburton (Mr. Dunning).

1. Hume's History of England, particularly observing the rise, progress, and declension of the feudal system. Minutely attend to the Saxon government that preceded it, and dwell on the reigns of Edward I, Henry VI, VII, and VIII, James I, Charles I, and II, and James II.

2. Blackstone. On second reading turn to the references. 3. Mr. Justice Wright's Tenures.

4. Coke upon Lyttleton, especially every word of Fee Simple, Fee Tail, Life, and Years.

5. Coke's First and Second Institutes, with serjeant Hawkin's Compendium.

6. Coke's Reports and Plowden's Commencing; and in succession the Modern Reporters.

Additions to this list, by an eminent Irish barrister. Sullivan's Lectures on the Feudal Law, Cruise's Digest, Gwil. lim's edition of Bacon's Abridgment, particularly the head of leases for years, as explanatory of the different heads in Coke; Gilbert on Rents, and on Replevins, Phillips on Evidence, last edition, Reeves' History of the Common Law.


Published in the same volume with Mazeppa.'
Ou Venice! Venice! when thy marble walls

Are level with the waters, there shall be
A cry of nations o'er thy sunken balls,

A loud lament along the sweeping sea!
If ], a northern wanderer, weep for thee,
What should thy sons do?-any thing but weep:
And yet they only murmur in their sleep.
In contrast with their fathers—as the slime,
The dull green ooze of the receding deep,
Is with the dashing of the spring-tide foam,
That drives the sailor shipless to his home,
Are they to those that were; and thus they creep,
Crouching and crab-like, through their sapping streets.
Oh! agong-that centuries should reap

« PreviousContinue »