Imatges de pÓgina

us to be far from conclusive. "Panin, one day, in the presence of Catherine, when Peter was the subject of conversation, called him the Grand Turk:'_ If he is,' said Catherine, laughing, we must strangle him:' and the Prince de Ligne inters, from this light and open manner of speaking, that she could have no serious thoughts of committing such a crime. The conduct of few sovereigns bas been the subject of so much indiscriminate censure and praise as that of this extraordinary woman. The great events that signalized her reign plainly evinced, that the cabinet of Russia was guided by as much talent and sagacity as that of any power in Europe. The enlightened and tolerating spirit of her principles of legislation -- her endeavours to remove, by instruction, the ignorance and prejudices of her subjects-to introduce the blessings of civilization into remote deserts and solitudes of her empire, by colonies of industrious citizens, have not received more praise than they merit. But it is impossible to offer any justification of the vices which stained her moral character, to defend the corruption and profligacy of her personal favourites, or remove the suspicion that attaches to her memory, of having been instrumental in the deposition and murder of her husband.

It appears from the Preface to the volume, that Dr Clarke intended, if his life had been spared, to have offered some vindication of his former account of Russia, and to have referred to various letters and documents from persons who had resided in that country, in confirmation of his original statements. We cannot say that the loss of this diatribe has very much enhanced our regret at the untimely fate of its excellent author. In respect of his own individual veracity, we believe that no confirmation could ever have been required; and no accumulation of concurring opinions could well have persuaded us that he had not generalized too rashly and uncharitably, and ascribed to a whole nation defects and vices, of which his own very limited experience had, in a very unfavourable conjuncture of its story, presented him with some examples. It is needless to say, that, to a disposition not only candid, but generous in the highest degree, Dr Clarke added something of that irritability and susceptibility of sudden impressions, which seems to belong to warm feelings and sanguine expectations; and that the very quickness and sagacity, which often enabled him to make the most of slight opportunities of observation, was apt to mislead him, when his prejudices had been excited by any close contact with new forms of excellence or deformity. That the bulk of the Russian people have the ordinary vices of slaves, and, with something of an Asiatic versatility and quickness of perception,

are sensual, faithless and thievish, no one can be surprised to learn; and that many of their masters have contracted the vices, which have punished and degraded the masters of slaves in all generations, is equally credible. But that all the Rassian nobles are given to pilfering and fraud, that their persons are covered with vermin, and their choicest hours spent in brutal intemperance, is known, we may say, not to be true, and is not rendered in any degree probable, by the testimony of our learned and lively traveller as to his own observations during his brief and cursory residence in their capital. Their Government, it is admitted, is detestable; and has displayed more of the worst abuses of despotism, in our own times, than we had thought compatible with the age to which it has survived, or the quarter of the globe to which it professes to belong. From the vulgar love of mere conquest and aggrandizement, it has lately proceeded to the loftier task of putting down freedom, even in countries over which it does not yet aspire to reign. In contempt of its constitution, and abhorrence of its public policy, Dr Clarke himself cannot go beyond us; but we believe that it has many subjects who feel sorrow and resentment at these features of degradation, and who are every day becoming more worthy of that better government, for which we have no doubt that they are destined.

ART. IX. I. Annals of the Parish, or the Chronicle of Dalmail

ing, during the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balvhidder. Written by Himself. I vol. 1200. pp. 400. Blackwood. Edin

burgh, 1819. 2. The Ayrshire Legatees, or the Pringle Family. By the Au

thor of Annals of the Parish, &c. | vol. 12mo. pp. 395.

Blackwood. Edinburgh, 1820. 3. The Provost. By the Author of Annals of the Parish, Ayr

shire Legatees, &c. I vol. 12mo. pp. 360. Blackwood.

Edinburgh, 1820. 4. Sir Andrew Wyllie of that Ilk. By the Author of Annals

of the Parish, &c. S vols. 12mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh,

1822. 5. The Steam Boat. By the Author of Annals of the Parish,

&c. | vol. 12mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh, 1822. 6. The Entail, or the Lairds of Grippy. By the Author of

Annals of the Parish, Sir Andrew Wyllie, &c. 3 vols. 18mo. Blackwood. Edinburgh, 1823.

7. Ringan Gilhaize, or the Covenanters. By the Author of

Annals of the Parish, &c. 3 vols. 12mo. . Blackwood. Edinburgh, 1823.

8. Valerius, a Roman Story. 3 vols. 12mo. Blackwood.

Edinburgh, 1820. 9. Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life. I vol. 8vo. Black

wood. Edinburgh, 1822. 10. Some Passages in the Life of Mr Adam Blair, Minister of

the Gospel at Cross-Meikle. I vol. 8vo. Blackwood. Edin

burgh, 1822. 11. The Trials of Margaret Lindsay. By the Author of

Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life. I vol. 8vo. Black

wood. Edinburgh, 1823. 12. Reginald Dalton. By the Author of Valerius, and Adam

Blair. 3 vols. 8vo. Blackwood. Edinburgh, 1823.

We have been sometimes accused, we observe, of partiality

, , to the writers of our own country, and reproached with helping middling Scotch works into notice, while far more meritorious publications in England and Ireland have been treated with neglect. We take leave to say, that there could not possibly be a more unjust accusation : and the list of books which we have prefixed to this article, affords of itself, we now conceive, the most triumphant refutation of it. Here is a set of lively and popular works, that have attracted, and very deservedly, a large share of attention in every part of the empire-issuing from the press, successively for four or five

years, in this very city, and under our eyes, and not hitherto honoured by us with any indication of our being even conscious of their existence. The causes of this long neglect it can now be of no importance to explain. But sure we are, that our ingenious countrymen have far greater reason to complain of it, than any aliens can have to impute this tardy reparation to national partiality;

The works themselves are evidently too numerous to admit of our now giving more than a general account of them :-and indeed, their authors emulate their great prototype so successfully in the rapid succession of their performances, that, even if they had not been so far ahead of us at the starting, we must soon have been reduced to deal with them as we have done with him, and only to have noticed their productions when they had grown up into groups and families—as they increas


ed and multiplied in the land. In intimating that we regard them as imitations of the inimitable novels, which we, who never presume to peep under masks, still hold to be by an author unknown,-we have already exhausted more than half their general character. They are inferior certainly-and what is not ? to their great originals. But they are the best copies which have yet been produced of them į and it is not a little creditable to the genius of our beloved country, that, even in those gay and airy walks of literature from which she had been so long estranged, an opening was no sooner made, by the splendid success of one gifted Scotsman, than many others were found ready to enter upon them, with a spirit of enterprise, and a force of invention, that promised still farther to extend their boundaries and to make these new adventurers, if not formidable rivals, at least not unworthy followers of him by whose example they were roused.

There are three authors, it seems to the works now before us ;--so at least the title-pages announce; and it is a rule with us, to give implicit faith to those solemn intinations.

We think, indeed, that without the help of that oracle, we should have been at no loss to ascribe all the works which are now claimed by the author of the Annals of the Parish, to one and the same hand; But we should certainly have been inclined to suppose, that there was only one author for all the rest, with the exception, perhaps, of Valerius, which has little resemblance, either in substance or manner, to any of those with which it is now associated.

In the arduous task of imitating the great novellist, they have apparently found it necessary to resort to the great principle of division of labour; and yet they have not come near to equal the work of his single hand. The author of the Parish Annals seems to have sought chiefly to rival the humorous and less dignified parts of his original, by large representations of the cha: racter and manners of the middling and lower orders in Scotland, intermingled with traits of sly and sarcastic sagacity; and occasionally softened and relieved by touches of unexpected tenderness and simple pathos, all harmonized by the same truth to nature and fine sense of national peculiarity. In these delineations there is more vulgarity, both of style and conception, and less poetical invention, than in the corresponding passages of the works he aspires to imitate; but, on the other hand, there is more of that kind of humour which depends on the combination of great naïveté, indolence and occasional absurdity, with natural good sense, and taste and kind feelings in the principal characters--such combinations as Sir Roger De Coverley, the Vicar of Wakefield, and My Uncle Toby, have made familiar to all English readers, but of which we have not hitherto had any good Scottish representative. There is also more systematic, though very good-humoured, sarcasm, and a more distinct moral, or unity of didactic purpose, in most of his writings, than it would be easy to discover in the playful, capricious, and fanciful sketches of his great master.

The other two authors have formed themselves more upon the poetical, reflective, and pathetic parts of their common model; and have aimed at emulating such beautiful pictures as that of Mr Peter Pattison, the blind old women in Old Mortality; and the Bride of Lammermoor, the courtship at the Mermaiden's Well, and, generally, his innumerable and exquisite descriptions of the soft, simple, and sublime scenery of Scotland, as viewed in connexion with the character of its rustic inhabitants. Though far better skilled than their associate in the art of composition, and chargeable, perhaps, with less direct imitation, we cannot but regard them as much less original, and as having performed, upon the whole, a far easier task. They have no variety of style, and but little of invention,-and are mannerists in the strongest sense of that term. Though unquestionably pathetic in a very powerful degree, they are pathetie, for the most part, by the common recipes, which enable any one almost to draw tears who will condescend to employ them. They are mighty religious too,-but apparently on the same principle; and, while their laboured attacks on our sympathies are felt, at last, to be somewhat importunate and puerile, their devotional orthodoxies seem to tend, every now and then, a little towards cant. This is perhaps too harshly said; and is more, we confess, the result of the second reading tlian the first, and suggested rather by a comparison with their great original, than an impression of their own independent merits. Compared with that high standard, it is impossible not to feel that they want manliness, freedom, and liberality; and, while they enlarge, in a sort of pastoral, emphatic and melodious style, on the virtues of our cottagers, and the apostolical sanctity of our ministers and elders, the delights of pure affection, and the comforts of the Bible, are lamentably wanting in that bold and free vein of invention, that knowledge of the world, and rectifying spirit of good sense, which redeem all that great author's fights from the imputation either of extravagance or affectation, and give weight, as well as truth, to his most poetical delineations of nature and of passion. But, though they cannot pretend to this rare merit, which has scarcely fallen to the share of more than one since the days of Shakespeare, there is no VOL. XXXIX. NO. 77.


« AnteriorContinua »