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same time, by honestly and sincerely abandoning the struggle with Hungary, accepting the ancient constitution of that country and leaving its amendment in the hands of the people themselves, she may once more reconcile them to her sceptre, and unite them to the amalgamated portion of her empire. They will be sturdy, free-spoken, and somewhat troublesome subjects; but, on the other hand, they will again become, as they have been heretofore, incomparably the most reliable portion of her military strength, to say nothing of material resources. Thus relieved and thus fortified, Austria, for all avowable and valuable purposes, would be more powerful than ever.-Or there is another solution, less easy and demanding more time for its accomplishment. Austria, unable either to reconcile Hungary or to conquer it, might allow the Magyars, as well as the Venetians, to separate and form more natural connexions further east, and might concentrate her efforts upon becoming the nucleus and the head of a really powerful and united German empire, a combination that, if once fairly and soundly carried into effect, would create a central European state irresistible for conservative ends. A united Austria or a united Germany would, either of them, supply that element in the balance of power which our statesmen desiderate so much.
But the future of Turkey is far more perplexing; and any arrangement of it, consistent at once with safety, permanence, and the clear principles of political morality, does not, we confess, present itself to our minds. The Ottoman race is scanty in proportion to the number of its subjects, and, in Europe especially, is still dwindling away. In spite of some excellent qualities, it is inherently, and by virtue of its religion also, an unprogressive race. It reigns not over one conquered people, but over several, some of which are superior to itself in energy, in skill, in capacity for improvement-in fact, in all the qualifications for advanced civilisation. It is surrounded by covetous enemies, and it has at least one powerful, intractable, and semiindependent vassal; its hold over many of its provinces is feeble, and its government in all parts is corrupt and weak in the extreme. It has already lost one considerable portion of its dominions, and has often been in imminent peril of losing more. For a long period the Ottoman Empire has owed its continued existence (as a European Power, at all events), not to its own means of resisting either external or internal foes, but to the mutual jealousy of England, Russia, France, and Austria, who keep the decrepit state alive because they cannot agree what to do upon its death. It is obvious, therefore, that Turkey presents one of those instances spoken of above, of artificial and unnatural political arrangements, which can only be upheld by force, and therefore ought not, prima facie, to be upheld at all. Left to herself, dissolution in some form, by internal confusion or by foreign conquest, must be her speedy fate. What, then, should be done? If we stand aside altogether and let matters take their course, Russia would seize the best portion of the European territory, and France the best portion of the Asiatic, and England would only be withheld by moral considerations from claiming her share of the spoil. If we adhere to the strict principle of non-intervention ourselves and enforce it upon others, the almost certain issue would be an independent and a weak Egypt, Syria convulsed and perhaps deluged in blood, and the Roumelian and Albanian provinces rendered a scene of confusion and anarchy which would seriously endanger the tranquillity of the adjacent countries. This state of things assuredly would not, and perhaps ought not, to be long endured by the more settled Powers of Europe; yet to interfere authoritatively and effectually would almost be to take the government of Turkey into their own hands; and if they are to govern it they might as well possess it. On the whole, the only conclusion which is clear to our minds is, that our former errors in this matter have entailed upon us a plentiful harvest of coming difficulties, much peril, and perhaps even some inevitable wrong.
The tendency of the age is, then, as we have shown, towards the production of a state of stable equilibrium; and as this tendency is just and wholesome, we hold it to be ultimately irresistible. Those who comprehend it and aid it will, on its rising wave, ride into influence and empire. Those who ignore it and fight against it will be baffled, and may be crushed. Now, to seize the living conception of the age—to speak its thought, to understand its need, to help it to express itself, and act itself out, as it were—is the true work of a practical statesman. To do this, whether in literature or in politics, is to become popular and powerful. We are disposed to believe that Louis Napoleon has grasped this conception : we are quite sure that our ministers have not. The Emperor of the French has the establishment of his dynasty more at heart than any other object. He sees that, though he himself may be able to maintain his position, his son could not retain the sceptre for a year, unless Europe were settled and at rest. That settlement and rest he seeks in that condition of stable equilibrium in which alone it can be found. He wishes to leave behind him no open questions to distract and endanger his successor. He labours, therefore—fitfully, irregularly, and tortuously, no doubt-to restore the violated affinities, and liberate the compressed democracies of Europe; to break the galling fetters that cannot always be
"Wot, of nationality is only the outer Popular
endured; to set free the upheaving aspirations that must have vent. He thinks that it is only the crushing of the popular will that makes it dangerous—that it is only the outrages inflicted on the sentiment of nationality that makes it insurgent. He saw that France would have glory and democracy: he gave her the one, and wields the other. He saw that Italy would have unity and freedom: and he interfered to help her, and has done so even more effectually than he designed. He sees that Hungary will have administrative independence, and we expect that, when the time comes, he will aid her cause; believing that when Hungary is reconciled and Venetia sold or lost, Austria will be, not crushed, but tranquil. What further conclusions he may draw from the conception which he has grasped, we will not attempt to predict.
ART. II.-MEDIEVAL ENGLISH LITERATURE:
The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman. Edited from a con
temporary Manuscript, with an Historical Introduction, Notes, and a Glossary, by Thomas Wright, M.A., F.S.A., &c. In two volumes. Second and revised edition. Russell Smith.
THE revival of modern taste for olden literature (if the taste ever really ceased) is a curious subject, and worthy of more attention than it has yet received, or can now be given to it here. It is a general opinion in this country, that the appearance of Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, in 1765, first directed the public mind to our old writers. But it may be doubted whether this conclusion does not confound cause with effect, attributing a change in the national taste to the influence of a single volume, whereas the change had probably been growing for some years. What Percy unquestionably did, was to eschew the solemn tediousness and minute trifling of the mere archæologists, and to bring an elegant literature and an agreeable criticism to the illustration of antiquarian subjects, thus appealing to a larger number of readers. But he was too immediately followed by labourers of a similar class to justify the ascription of the entire results to his example. In 1774, Warton produced the first volume of his History of English Poetry. In the following year, Tyrwhitt began the publication of his learned and elaborate edition of Chaucer. Ritson, though he died in 1803, was young enough to have been influenced by the publication of the Reliques, had he not been “an original in every sense of the word. He can scarcely be called elegant or agreeable either as a writer or a man; but his industry, acuteness, and causticity almost forced attention to a subject of which he treated. These, however, are only leading names. From before the publication of Percy up to the close of the last century, various collections, or historical sketches, of our old poetry appeared, indicative of the current of the public mind. Dodsley and Hawkins sent forth Old Plays; the Maitland Collection of Ancient Scottish Poems, and Pinkerton's Scottish Poems, reprinted from scarce editions, appeared; Alexander Campbell produced his Introduction to the History of Scottish Poetry from the Thirteenth Century, and George Ellis his Specimens of the Early English Poets. These, and others of a like kind, might seldom possess the elegance of Percy, though they were often more accurate. But while they aided in promoting an archæological taste, they also proved its direction. For though enthusiasts may publish books at a loss, or even a publisher may now and then commit such a mistake, a class of works for which there is no demand will soon cease to be brought out.
But the taste for olden literature did not terminate in the republication of old books. So strong an interest was excited towards our literary antiquities, that a Record Commission was appointed about the close of the last century. This body lasted nearly forty years, under various formal reconstitutions'; doing little compared with its means and opportunities, and grossly neglecting its duties in many things. At last public opinion, gradually roused by the pertinacious attacks of the late Sir Harris Nicolas and others in exposing the insufficiency and jobbery of these Commissions, caused the dissolution of the Sixth Commission. This was soon after followed by the inauguration of the new system under the auspices of the late Lord Langdale, continued by the present Sir John Romilly. The change was a very great improvement. A stop was put to the careless or wanton destruction of the Records; steps were taken to collect them into one national depository, under one uniform control, instead of allowing them to be scattered through the country, often in careless or indifferent custody. Our public muniments have now been classified and reduced to order, and made readily accessible to the inquirer,—a most important point. The publication department is perhaps not altogether so great an improvement upon the old commissions as its friends believe, except in greater activity and regularity. For if the old commissioners were occasionally injudicious in the choice of muniments for publication, and cumbrous in the form of their volumes, their successors have now and then been slight in matter and merit. However, the broad improvements over the old system are vast, though somewhat of the old leaven, or of the exclusiveness of the bibliomania, still lurks about them. For instance, so little of a business spirit is found, that it is difficult to ascertain what works they have published.
While these proceedings were going on as regards the public records, the literary world beyond the official archäologists and archivists was steadily diffusing the taste for olden literature. Bibliomania, which rose to such an absurd and costly height during the first dozen or twenty years of the present century, at least made attention to old books a fashion. One of its results—the prices of the Roxburghe sale, where a book, whose only distinction was its bibliographical rarity, sold for 2,2601.-originated the various Clubs and Printing Societies, -as the Roxburghe, the Bannatyne, the Abbotsford, the Camden, and the like,—for republishing scarce books, and printing manuscripts. And though some of these societies may have been tainted with bibliomaniacal exclusiveness, or occasionally have printed trivial things, while they might undoubtedly have shown more liberality in allowing the sale of particular publications, yet they have preserved curious or valuable documents that otherwise might have perished, and rendered many things accessible, if somewhat difficult to reach.
During this time, too, individual authors were labouring, perhaps still more effectually, in calling attention to the wits, wisdom, or maybe dulness of our ancestors. Among those who may be termed the last generation, if they did not really belong to the last century, George Ellis, Leyden, Weber-all friends of Walter Scott-may be mentioned. But Scott himself stands preeminent over all, not excepting Percy, for stimulating the public attention to the past. And perhaps he did this more by his novels and poems than by his direct antiquarian labours, though these were not inconsiderable. Of able, and, what is more, of sensible, antiquarians belonging rather to the present than the past generation, and who value antiquities more for their use than their age, the late Sir Harris Nicolas, the late Sir Francis Palgrave, Singer, Wright, Halliwell, Hunter, are the most popularly known; but there are others of equal powers, if employed on more recondite subjects. Nor has “the trade” been indifferent to the subject: publishers have produced works in which their legitimate objects of profit must have been subordinate to their feeling for literary antiquities.
Sir Francis Palarly known; bundite subjects. have produced