Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

of his hands and nose. In a moment that he was shutting his eyes and wringing his hands, I took the hand of his daughter and placed it in his hand; upon which, opening his eyes and having perceived what I had done, he cast on me an unutterable look of gratitude, and embraced his daughter. He arrived in town on Sunday. He made great efforts to compose himself

, went to his library and threw himself upon a sofa, quite in a manner that was alarming to me; then, for some moments, joining his hands as in a state of delirium ; but he spoke nothing. A moment after, he got up, took

my arm, went round the room, and appeared to me to be in the state of a man dying of an internal wound.

"On Monday morning he was much worse, with a violent fever, uttering some expressions in a state of perturbation, and complaining that he was distracted.

Dr. Marcet's testimony.-On Sunday evening called in. Sir Samuel complained of an extreme degree of lassitude, particularly about the extremities, where he suffered frequent and severe irregular pains. No attitude afforded him any comfort, and he sat in his chair in a state of great agitation. On Sunday night he declared he did not sleep at all.”

Thomas Bowen, footman.—About two, P. M., Miss Romilly was sitting with her father. He sent her down to the drawing-room, desiring to see Dr. Roget. * The witness, just at this moment, went up to his room. The bed-room door of his master was open,

and Dr. Roget was standing outside. Witness was about to enter, and saw Sir Samuel, as he thought, coming towards the door, in the act of driving the doctor out; it appeared, however, it was to keep him out, for he raised both his hands and fastened the door. He was then bleeding profusely. The door was instantly burst open, and Sir Samuel was found leaning over the washhand-stand. His throat was cut, and the blood flowing from him profusely. A shirt and a blanket were about him. He was quite speechless, but he made several signs with his hands. He was given a sheet of paper, and pen

and ink. The wound was inflicted by a razor. The windpipe was completely severed. He ceased to breathe in about an hour."

[ocr errors]

The jury, without hesitation, returned an unanimous verdict, that the deceased cut his throat while in a state of temporary mental derangement. Of this, indeed, the evidence seems conclusive. It was undoubtedly an act over which he had no control, and for which he was in no way responsible.

Such was the melancholy end of this great and good man; good in his life, great in the objects of that life. Without claiming for him a transcendent genius, can there be a doubt that the latter epithet is most strictly applicable to him. The social

[blocks in formation]

standard is, we know, strangely perverted; we are every day forced to join in plaudits that our souls abhor ; we silently acquiesce in, if we do not actively assist at the ovations of fered to the reigning demagogue of the day, be he who he may; we almost swell the hurrah raised to commemorate the military triumphs that bring but suffering and wretchedness in their train; we unite in the mummeries that France is now performing in memory of the arch-bandit, who is honored at the expense of infinitely wiser and better men; but in the sober silence of our judgment, in the secret chambers of our hearts, shall we refuse the name of greatness, nay, of transcendent greatness, to that unspotted purity which temptation cannot soil—that courageous integrity, which knows no power greater than itself — that laborious and enlightened benevolence, which makes for its end and ain the increased virtue and happiness of the whole race?

Art. II.— The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser. With

Introductory Observations on the Faerie Queene, and Notes, by the Editor. First American Edition. Boston: 1839. Charles C. Little and James Brown. 5 vols.

One of the most important points of resemblance between the present age and that of Elizabeth, is its literary taste. We at this day have a higher admiration for the great works of that period, than has been entertained since the enthusiasm which their first appearance excited had passed away. And our admiration is better founded than that of the century before us; we appreciate better; we praise for different merits; we discover beauties of a higher order; we place the writers of Elizabeth's day higher in the intellectual scale than the critics of the eighteenth century did. Shakspeare has never been so ably commented upon in England, as in our own time. The remarks of Hazlitt, of Mrs. Jameson, and of Charles Knight, upon our great poet, belong to a new order of criticism, and are of the same class as the fine comments of Goëthe and Schlegel-writers who were imbued with the noblest spirit of criticism. Ben Jonson is edited, read, and admired; and to Spenser has been allotted a place

among the first order of poets. It is now discovered, that the Faerie Queene is quite a readable book; that a very little study will put one in possession of the antiquities of the style ; and that none but the softest head need ache in mastering the glossary. It is also found out, that those who do overcome these difficulties, which appear at first infinitely greater than they prove to be, will be well rewarded for the trouble, by opening a rich mine of poetry, whose ore is pure gold.

Hitherto, the works of Spenser have been a sealed book to general readers in America, and have been studied, mostly, as a scholastic exercise. A few English copies have found their way into the public alcoves, or into the libraries of the curious; but, of editions of just such a character, as 10 prevent the author from being extensively read. They were of two kinds : either editions without any notes, and with the glossary appended to the last volume of a large set, which is about as good as no glossary at all, or editions so encumbered with the comments of learned and pedantic critics, that their cost alone placed them beyond the common reach, and limited the use of them to the antiquary and the book

worm.

These difficulties are now obviated for American readers ; a beautiful edition of Spenser's works has been published in Boston, for popular use. The glossary is printed, where alone it can be of any benefit, at the bottom of the page. The comments are enough to interest the reader in the poem, and to explain the text, and nothing more ; they are learned, without any show or parade of learning; they instruct us without appearing to instruct; they invite by their simplicity, and we become engaged in them till we find, at last, that with much pleasure we have received much information.

The appearance of the first edition of Spenser ever published in this western world is an event of some importance ; it will tend to elevate the literary taste of our country; amidst the wagon-loads of trashy novels, on whity-brown paper, which overwhelm us, it is cheering to meet with this beautiful edition of one of the finest poets in our language. It seems as if a new world of poetry were displayed to us. The Faerie Queene has now come to hold her court for us, and she has come with all her glittering array about her. She waves her magic sceptre, and all that is around us vanishes: other scenes, other

and other heroes are before us. The trumpet is sounding, and the pomp of chivalry comes on

ages,

the blazoned shields — the glittering banners — the crested helms the steeds trapped all in red and gold — tournaments and revels-castles and ladies fair-giants and monsters-all the wonders of olden time, start into life, and appear living and acting in our presence.

The idea is prevalent that Spenser is an antiquated poet ; reading his works is considered merely a study in old English, rather befitting the professed antiquary than the lover of general literature ; and, perhaps, a slight apprehension might be found in some minds, that there is a tinge of pedantry in understanding him.

This is not just; the garb of Spenser is indeed a little old-fashioned, and he is thought by many to have affected a more ancient style than was prevalent at his day. It is well known that his model was Chaucer; and it is natural to suppose, that in becoming as familiar as Spenser did with a poet so much earlier than his day, and in choosing him for his master, he must have caught something of his style ; especially when we consider, also, that Chaucer offered the best model of English verse then extant. We have the testimony of Ben Jonson also, that Spenser did write in an oldfashioned style. With regard to the most important particular in which he is thought to have assumed antiquity, that is, in the use of words which were obsolete, it is difficult, if not impossible, now to decide. Upon comparing him with contemporary writers, we are inclined to believe the charge to be, on the whole, just. Though this is far more the case with some of his minor poems, the Shepherd's Calendar, for instance, than the Faerie Queene. The orthography is probably somewhat more old-fashioned also than that of his day; and this gives a look of antiquity to his page which may repel some readers. On hearing the Faerie Queene read, its language seems less ancient than it

appears to the eye. A century ago, it was very fashionable to declaim against the antiquated style of Spenser. His poem had fallen into disrepute with many, from two causes which exerted a powerful influence upon English literature. The first of these was the French taste, which prevailed during the time of Louis XIV., the influence of which was felt strongly in England, especially as the king was deeply imbued with it himself. This taste was equally at war with the depth and purity of sentiment which distinguished Spenser, and with the gushing full flow of his style. French literature was stiff, formal, fashioned upon artificial rules, and yielding to bonds which nature could never endure. Compared with the literature of England, in Elizabeth's time, the literature of the golden age of France, that is, the age of Louis the Great, was like the stiff costume of the seventeenth century, the periwig, the embroidered coat and waistcoat, the knee-breeches and buckles, contrasted with the graceful and poetical costume worn by Raleigh and Sidney. This French taste exerted, during the reign of Charles II., and for some time afterwards, a powerful influence upon English literature ; it introduced impurity, frivolity, and brilliant shallowness; it was utterly at war with the taste of Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton.

Almost equally opposed to the taste of Spenser was that of Johnson, who had little toleration for our bard of fairy land. Johnson had no appreciation for the beauties of the pure old Saxon dialect. He sought to introduce into his style as much latinism as it would bear. Wherever there was a choice, he preferred using a word derived from the Latin to one of Saxon origin; while exactly the reverse of this was the case with Spenser. He denounced Spenser in unqualified language, and his influence contributed to the effect of the French taste, that was beginning to pass away, in banishing the Faerie Queene from familiar acquaintance.

The influence of these two causes may be traced down to a very recent period; and, even now, the Faerie Queene will be found to be held in less respect as a literary work by old people, who, in their youth, imbibed these influences, than by those who were born within the present century.

In those who never felt the influence of the two causes which we have pointed out, but who are disgusted with Spenser merely because the words are quaintly spelt

, and a few of them require the aid of the glossary, it is difficult not to suspect a degree of effeminacy of intellect and softness of head, which renders them unfit for stronger intellectual food than the pap of fashionable novels, or the very innocent diet afforded by annuals, books of beauty, flowers of loveliness, and similar unsubstantial components of boudoir literature. We assure those who have never made the experiment, that a very little perseverance will overcome the obstacles in reading Spenser; half an hour's careful reading will give them the key to the peculiarities of his spelling, and a reference to the glossary, as often as they find any word that is not intelligible, while they are perusing no more than the first book, will save them from

« FöregåendeFortsätt »