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higher, or, by the aid of a stronger vision, kept clear of the errors into which they have fallen, that he was nursed in the light of their genius; and that if Wordsworth had not shown him how to worship her, Byron might not have looked on nature with the eye of a poet. If he do really believe in the poetical canons of the last age, it must be as the devils do, who believe and tremble; for there is not a line in Pope which does not speak as much condemnation to his own strong, careless, and free-born muse, as to that of him, whose delinquency he has invoked the departed shade to witness. Whatever may have been the errors which marked the progress of the reformers of our poetical creed, great and redeeming have been the benefits which have resulted from their speculations ; the genius of the land is unfettered, and as the first fruits of this free condition, we have the works of the noble author himself.
This revolution in poetry has been accompanied by a corresponding change, less marked indeed, but not less complete, in every department of literature, subject to the influence of taste, and connected with the feelings of men. In that, in particular, which we set out with considering, it is no longer necessary now to weave a tissue of strange and romantic incidents, and to cull from every scene of life the whimsical peculiarities of mankind. We turn away with loathing from the representation of character and passion, unnatural and exaggerated; and the expression of sentiment, false or artificial. We can no longer be affected by distress, that springs from no sufficient cause, or interested in critical situations, obtained by the sacrifice of truth and probability. We require nothing but good sense and good morals, exhibited in a succession of events, flowing from natural causes, and arriving at a probable issue. We ask not an elaborate display of wit, and eloquence, and repartee; but the conversation of men and women; and according as the persons of the story feel, think, and act, like reasonable and human beings, so do we sympathise with them in the various chances of their life, and mix ourselves up with their history.
The more spirit infused into this the better, no doubt; but these are the channels in which it must flow :-genius must discover itself in the nice discrimination of character, and the expression of natural feeling, and not in attempting to embellish the one, or exaggerate the other.
But an example or two, selected out of multitudes, will prove the fact, and mark the degree of our improvement, more clearly than pages of gratuitous assertion. Thus a single artless expression of natural feeling, in an old Scotch blue-gown, is worth a whole chapter of sentiment, spun from the brain,
instead of flowing from the heart. It is better worth our while to stand for three
minutes, with Waverley, on the field of Clifton, by the setting gleam of a cold December's sun; or to hear a caustic old antiquary, like Oldbuck, in one deeply affecting sentence, moralize the disunion of once firmly attached friends; than to follow the sentimental tourist on his travels, or sigh, “ Alas, poor Yorick !” over his grave. A" simple tale” of the present day, as written by one whom we could name, in reading which a man may chance, on looking up, to find his sight grown dim on the sudden, is worth all the cold and artificial elegance of Mackenzie's volume; who never yet, we will be bold enough to say-beautifully as he writes-wrung one fair and genuine tear from a manly heart.
But two ale writers there are, each the favourite of her generation, whom we would particularly specify, as illustrating in their works the opposite tastes of two successive ages; one still, we believe, in existence, but belonging, as a writer, to the last century; and the other, though coeval with ourselves, now no more, cut short by that early doom, which Heaven has ordained for all of the porcelain clay of human kind. In the lively and spirited caricatures of the author of Evelina and Cecilia, we may see the style of portrait-painting relished by our fathers. Turning from them to the soberly coloured and faithful likenesses of Jane Austen, we may behold that approved by ourselves.
Over the works of the first, we laugh abundantly; but this is an expression which an author should be least anxious to extort. Do we ever experience that agreeable serenity and complacency, which is diffused over the mind by the sensible and pleasant conversation of persons with whose feelings we sympathise? There are a great many turns and changes in the eventful course of the narrative; but do we see, are we at the trouble to see, what produced them ? and if we are so happy as to discern the cause, does it always appear a probable or a sufficiently important one? The hero and the heroine-the lover and the beloved-fall out and in, and out again, through the whole five volumes—do they always know, or even care to understand why? The heroine is constantly in distress-poor lady! does the hard-hearted reader ever take his share of the burden ?- The hero is always a very respectable young manwe have no fault to find with his moral qualities—but do we ever take a jot more interest in him,
well-behaved, insipid young gentleman, with whom it may be our hard lot to ride fifty miles or so on a rainy day? Then there are your villains -marvellous, shrewd, calculating villains--but do they ever plot with the least probability of success? And gay deceivers, too, there are, with whom no woman can be safe in heart or repu
than in any
tation. But are they your men, “ to love, fight, banter, in a breath," and stay by a torrent of wit the angry speech just kindling in the blushing cheek, and glancing eye, and halfopened lip? O no!-mere conquerors they of hearts that beat against the shop-board. Whatever a man's cue is, that he never forgets for an instant. The miser is always most miserly, and always showing it. The proud man has the pride of Lucifer, and that in perpetuity. The bookworm, again, has a trick of absence of mind, and he forgets his dinner till it is clear he ought to die of starvation. The vulgar man is broad, irredeemably, intensely vulgar. The gay, dissipated man rides down hill to the devil, with unlocked wheels, and never spend a thought as to whither he is speeding. But is there not, in this medley of all the vices, follies, and absurdities personified, some intermixture of tenderness and sentiment? Yes; two persons are set apart to talk it-two soft-sighing sentimental souls, who whine and cry through the drama ; and then, heartbroken for the loss of the objects of their separate affection, at the end of the play, club together each other's fragments, and become heart-whole again.
We ask the reader's pardon for speaking with so much levity of works, which, after all that can be said in detraction, are monuments of genius. The exaggeration of nature-the everlasting sameness of character—the perpetual acting—the want of truth in the incidents—of simplicity in the structure, and above all, of moral beauty in the tone and sentiments of the story, are the faults of that bad taste which she derived from her contemporaries. Great talents seldom or never err, but in compliance with the fashion or feeling of the age; and what a mist these can spread before the eagle vision of high-soaring genius, may be abundantly seen in the memorable example of Dryden. But the cleverness and spirit, the humour and acuteness, the observation, at once discriminating and deep, which had given its admirable possessor more experience of the world and knowledge of man at nineteen, than most have at ninety, belong solely to their author; and, in an age of female excellence, justly entitled her to the friendship of Johnson, and the gallant admiration of Burke—“Miss Burney die to-night!” She has, doubtless, in the course of a long life, heard and read her praises, till she can repeat them by rote; but this deep and emphatic expression of admiration will be found written in legible characters, on her heart. She has, however, lived to see herself superseded in the public favour by writers, perhaps, then unborn ; and the absolute failure of her latest production, must have brought home the sorrowful conviction of having outlived the admiration of her countrymen.
Born in the same rank of life, familiar with the same de
of a lively fancy, and an acute perception of character, with the single advantage of belonging to a later generation, the author of Persuasion and Mansfield Park has produced works of much fresher verdure, much sweeter flavour, and much purer spirit. Without any wish to surprise us into attention, by strangeness of incident, or complication of adventure,—with no great ambition of being amazingly facetious, or remarkably brilliant.--laboriously witty, or profoundly sentimental,--of dealing out wise saws and deep reflections, or keeping us on the broad grin, and killing us with laughter ;-the stream of her Tale flows on in an easy, natural, but spring tide, which carries us out of ourselves, and bears our feelings, affections, and deepest interest, irresistibly along with it. She has not been at the trouble to look out for subjects for her pencil of a peculiar and eccentric cast, nor cared to outstep the modesty of nature, by spicing with a too rich vein of humour, such as fell in her way in the ordinary intercourse of life. The people with whom her works bring us acquainted were, we feel certain, like those among whom she herself shared the good and ill of life,
with whom she thought and talked—danced and sung-laughed and wept-joked and reasoned. They are not the productions of an ingenious fancy, but beings instinct with life;-they breathe and move, and think and speak, and act, before our mind's eye, with a distinctness, that rivals the pictures we see in memory of scenes we ourselves have beheld, and upon the recollections of which we love to dwell. They mingle in our remembrances with those, whom we ourselves have known and loved, but whom accident, or coldness, or death, have separated from us before the end of our pilgrimage.
Into those of her characters in particular, who engage our best affections, and with whom we sympathise most deeply, she seems to have transfused the very essence of life. doubtless, the finest of her compositions, and with reason; for she had only, on any supposed interesting occurrence of life, to set her own kind and amiable feelings in motion, and the tide sprang up from the heart to the pen, and flowed in a rich stream of nature and truth over the page. Into one particular character, indeed, she has breathed her whole soul and being; and in this we please ourselves with thinking, we 'see and know herself.
And what is this character?-A mind beautifully framed, graceful, imaginative, and feminine, but penetrating, sagacious, and profound. A soul harmonious, gentle, and most sweetly attuned, --susceptible of all that is beautiful in nature, pure in morals, sublime in religion ;-a soul-on which, if, by any accidental contact with the vulgar, or the vicious, the slightest
shade of impurity was ever thrown, it vanished instantaneously, like man's breath from the polished mirror; and, retreating, left it in undiminished lustre. -A heart large and expansive, the seat of deep, kind, honest, and benevolent feelings.-A bosum capacious of universal love, but through which there flowed a deeper stream of domestic and holy affections, -as a river through the lake's broad expanse, whose basin it supplies with its overflowing waters, and through which its course is marked only by a stronger current.-A temper even, cheerful, gladdening, and serene as the mild evening of summer's loveliest day, in which the very insect that lives but an hour, doth desport and enjoy existence.--Feelings generous and candid,-quick, but not irritable,-sensitive to the slightest degree of coolness in friend or lover, but not easily damped ;-or, if overwhelmed by any heart-rending affliction, rallying, collecting, settling into repose again, like some still and deep waters disturbed by the fall of an impending rock.-Modest in hope, sober in joy, gay in innocence,-sweet soother of others' affliction,-most resigned and patient bearer of her own. With a sunny eye to reflect the glad smiles of happy friends,—dim and cloudy at the sight of others' grief; but not revealing the deep seated woes of the remote chambers of her own breast, by aught but that wild, pensive, regardful, profound expression, which tells nothing to a stranger or acquaintance, but, if a parent or friend, might break your heart but to look upon.—The beloved confidante of the young and infantine-at once playmate and preceptress ;the patient nurser of their little fretful ailments ;-the more patient bearer of their rude and noisy mirth, in her own moments of illness or dejection ;-exchanging smiles, that would arrest an angel on his winged way, for obstreperous *laughs ;-and sweet low accents, for shrill treble screams. The friend of the humble, lowly, and indigent; respecting in them, as much as in those of highest degree and lordliest bearing, the image of their common Maker. Easy, pleasant, amusing, playful, and kind in the intercourse of equals—an attentive hearer, considerate, patient, cheerfully sedate, and affectionate in that of elders. In scenes of distress or difficulty, self-dependent, collected, deliberate, and provident,—the one to whom all instinctively turned for counsel, sympathy, and consolation. Strong in innocence as a tower, with a face of serenity, and a collectedness of demeanour, from which danger and misery-the very tawny lion in his rage--might flee discomfited,-a fragile, delicate, feeble, and most feminine woman !
Whether, in this enumeration of female excellencies, one of those deeply attached friends, of whom she was sure to have had many, might recognize some, or most of the admirable