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are not enough blended together, but each book seems more like an independent episode than a necessary link in a continuous narration: the action is too much frittered away in preparation, the mediæ res too long delayed; probability in time, place and event too little regarded; too much is borrowed from the stores of others; we trace from ancients and moderns single phrases, whole lines, long passages, entire incidents, the most important characters. But all these faults, heavy as they are, we forbear to insist on, for they are all swallowed up by one leviathan, which demands the whole of the little space now left us.
When Mr. Milman was last before us, we were not slow to bestow upon him the praise which he did indeed so amply merit, but we then remarked on the faults of his style. Poets perhaps feel a pride in rejecting the admonitions of critics; and Mr. Milman has exceeded himself on the present occasion in the exuberant defects of his own manner. We desire not to be considered as exaggerating our expressions beyond our sober conviction, or merely framing a pointed period, when we say that in this respect Samor exhibits all that is affected in language, strange even to solecism in usage, involved in construction, and meretricious in ornament. We have really sometimes been at a loss how to extricate the commonest idea from the labyrinth of words in which it is lost. Mr. Milman may be, we are sure that he is, gifted with unusual powers, but this fault is a weight, that might over-burthen and keep down the pinions of an eagle: while the clothing of his thoughts is such as it now is, he never can aspire to the fame of a true poet. Fashion may give his writings a short-lived currency now, and the curious critic dwell on his scattered beauties hereafter, but he never will, we are morally sure, pass in ora hominum, and become, like the real poet, more read and more loved in each succeeding age. These are predictions which he may disbelieve, or disregard, content with that reputation for talent which he has already secured; but the laws of criticism are not conventional; if they were, talent might trample on them; they are the laws of nature, and we only the expounders of them. The laws, therefore, are unerring, and we, in our department, take the best mode of avoiding error by constant reference to the great high-priests, who have most successfully and zealously ministered at her altar. Mr. Milman may safely perhaps deny our jurisdiction; let him then appeal to Homer, to Virgil, and to Milton, by whom we are willing to be corrected. He will find in them as much richness and variety, as much ornament as in Samor; but he will find in them (what will be sought in vain in Samor) a grand simplicity pervading and harmonizing the whole, an agreement of the language with the thought, a freedom from strain and labour; every thing flowing as of course and incident to
the train of ideas, nothing appended for shew and supererogation; he will find an uniform dignity displaying itself by constant self-possession and facility, which puts the reader's mind in a state of complacent assurance that the poet is equal to his task, and will not sink under any difficulty, a dignity which is felt rather insensibly and gradually, and every where, than instantaneously, or in any particular part.
ART. IV.-The Life of Robert Fulton. By his friend Cadwallader D. Colden. Comprising some Account of the Invention, Progress, and Establishment of Steam-Boats; of Improvements in the Construction and Navigation of Canals, &c. New York. 1817. Large Svo. pp. 371.
our readers may be inclined to give us credit for
some knowledge of the character of our transatlantic brethren, yet we can honestly assure them that we were not quite prepared for such a sally as this of Cadwallader Colden, Esq. before the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York.'
• We cannot think,' he says, ' that it will be imputed to an undue partiality if we say that there cannot be found, on the records of departed worth, the name of a person to whose individual exertions mankind are more indebted than they are to the late Robert Fulton.'-p. 2. No;-no'partiality' at all. Our only doubt is whether it will not yet some time before the paramount claim of this prime of men' to the gratitude of the human race,' be universally acknowledged; since we find (in the same volume) the New York Historical Society' contending to raise four or five of his countrymen to a sphere of collateral glory.
"The patron-the inventor, (of steam-boats,) are no more. But the names of Livingstone and Fulton, dear to fame, shall be engraven on a monument sacred to the benefactors of mankind. There generations yet unborn shall read,
GODFREY taught seamen to interrogate
With steady gaze, tho' tempest-tost, the sun,
FRANKLIN, dread thunder-bolts, with daring hand,
In triumph proud thro' the loud sounding surge.
This invention is spreading fast in the civilized world; and though
* A man of the name of Logan, we think, as obscure as Godfrey himself, claimed for the latter the invention of the Hadley's quadrant!-two years after the description of it had, as he says, appeared in the Philosophical Transactions.
excluded as yet from Russia, will, ere long, be extended to that vast empire. A bird hatched on the Hudson will soon people the floods of the Wolga, and cygnets descended from an American swan glide along the surface of the Caspian sea. Then the hoary genius of Asia, high throned on the peaks of Caucasus, his moist eye glistening while it glances over the ruins of Babylon, Persepolis, Jerusalem, and Palmyra, shall bow with grateful reverence to the inventive spirit of this western world.'-p. 368.
With this genuine burst of native eloquence, (in which the modest simplicity of the prose is so beautifully set off by the fervid wildness of the poetry,) we shall not meddle further than to observe that we are almost malicious enough to wish the daring' Benjamin were alive to see with what little ceremony his admiring countrymen have dove-tailed him in between two worthies, one of whom he has himself designated, in his correspondence, as a most dogmatical, overbearing, and disagreeable fellow, who gave himself airs because he had acquired a smattering of mathematics; the other, a man of very humble claims to genius, possessing just talent enough to apply the inventions of others to his own purposes; and, in such application, not always actuated by the most honourable principles.
Our readers will not expect us to enter into the unimportant history of a man of whom his friend and biographer confesses that he can find nothing material to record, from the first year of his life to the fortieth. In fact, we should not have called their attention to the work at all, were it not that the character of this country is, in some measure, affected by the disingenuity of the writer. Omitting, therefore, the topics which more immediately interest the people of America, we shall confine the few observations for which we can find leisure, to the two subjects which bring us into contact with Mr. Fulton-torpedos and steam-boats.
After some common-place whining about the freedom of the seas, and the necessity which the United States would be under of establishing a navy,' Mr. Fulton, we are informed, began to turn his whole attention to find out the means of destroying 'such engines of oppression,' as he considered ships of war to be: and out of these enlarged and philanthropic views and reflections (exclaims his biographer) grew Mr. Fulton's inventions for sub-marine navigation and explosions'! There is no disputing about taste: This philanthropic' gentleman, who speaks with such horror of ships of war, (they are, to be sure, British ships of war,) dwells with the most complacent feelings on the construction and employment of those infernal machines, against which no human foresight can guard.' They are (he says) useful and honourable amusements, and the most rational source of my happiness.'
Mr. Fulton's engine, that was, in his own words, to blow a
whole ship's company into the air,' was called a torpedo or nautilus; it was nothing more than a chest containing a certain quantity of gunpowder, which, by means of some clock machinery, might be ignited at a given time under water, and, being placed under a ship's bottom, destroy her by the explosion. Such an application of gunpowder was no new invention. Before the name of Fulton was ever heard of, the effect of exploding gunpowder under water was well known; and one Bushnell had made several attempts to apply it as the means of hostility during the American revolutionary war-but unsuccessfully. It is, in fact, something like the scheme of children to catch swallows by applying salt to their tails.
Mr. Fulton offered his invention, first to the French Directory, but they rejected it: then, to the Dutch government, but the Dutch would have nothing to say to him. Meanwhile Buonaparte became First Consul, and Mr. Fulton hastened to address his proposals to that great man: this succinct mode of murder en masse suited his tranchant genius; and accordingly citizens Volney, Monge, and La Place were appointed to examine the plan. The result was, that Mr. Fulton was sent to Brest, under a promise of destroying our blockading squadron, but did nothing; he was then given to understand that the French government had no further occasion for his services; or, to use the words of his biographer, the French ministers shewed a disposition not to fulfil their engagements with Mr. Fulton.'
It may not be amiss to notice a circumstance here which has unluckily escaped the observation of Mr. Cadwallader Coldeu. Ful-ton had been treated in this country with unreserved confidence and kindness; he had been permitted to reside at Birmingham for eighteen months; and he had received patents for various pieces of useful machinery. With these in his pocket he hastens to France, where he meets with nothing but contempt and insult; in spite of which he perseveres, with a degree of humility worthy of Joel Barlow himself, to press his services on the French, and beg that he may be graciously allowed to assist in the destruction of England. Through the whole season of 1810,' says his delighted biographer, 'did Mr. Fulton watch the English ships off Brest; but though some of them daily approached, yet none came so near as to be exposed to the effect of his attempts. In one instance he came near a British 74, but she changed her position just in time to save herself from being blown into the air.'—p. 4.
Finding himself thus slighted in France, and in Holland, he seems at length to have recollected an old intimacy (which commenced on some canal scheme) with the late Lord Stanhope, and contrived to apprize this second Roger Bacon of his formidable invention. Mystery and paradox never failed to throw a spell round Lord
Lord Stanhope. He spoke with awful forebodings, in the House of Lords, of the sub-marine preparations which were to blow the English fleet to atoms, without the possibility of its offering the least resistance-of an avatar of Archimedes in the shape of an American engineer, &c.; the result of all which was, if we are to credit Mr. Cadwallader Colden, 'a communication from Lord Sidmouth to Mr. Fulton, which had for its object to deprive France of the benefit of his invention and services, (which, be it observed, had been already rejected,) and give England the advantage of them, by inducing him to withdraw from France. Many have thought,' says his biographer, that consistency and morality did not leave Mr. Fulton at liberty to listen to these proposals;' but this only proves that these scrupulous reasoners entered very little into the sublime views which influenced the conduct of Mr. Fulton-he, good man, was persuaded that his conduct, on this occasion, if rightly considered, would not only be pronounced excusable, but justifiable, and even meritorious; for he actually hoped that, by England's adopting his infernal machines, she would work out her own destruction, and thus an end would eventually be put to that maritime superiority with which they were contending for the dominion of the eastern world.' Such pure and patriotic motives are more than sufficient to canonize Mr. Fulton in the hearts of his countrymen; and his conscientious and consistent friend Cadwallader might therefore have spared his apology. But such was the advantage' to be conferred on England!
We remember how greatly the late Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville were ridiculed in the opposition journals for the supposed encouragement given to the Catamaran expedition, as the trial of Fulton's machines against the Boulogne flotilla was called. It now appears that it was a legacy left to them by their predecessors in office, and so left as not to be shaken off in a moment; for it is well known that, when a projector is once fairly fastened upon a patron, and more especially if that patron be a minister, he clings to him like a leech.
Lord St. Vincent, however, appears to have set his face against this unworthy mode of warfare; feeling, as we believe every British officer would feel, that, setting aside the intent, such devices were for the weak, and not for the strong. Fulton says, 'I explained to him a torpedo: he reflected for some time, and then said, " Pitt was the greatest fool that ever existed to encourage a mode of war which they who commanded the seas did not want;" but Mr. Fulton soon found that Pitt' was no such fool. To satisfy his noisy relation in the House of Lords, he appointed, it is true, a commission to examine Mr. Fulton's projects. It consisted of Sir Joseph Banks, Mr. Cavendish, Sir Home Popham, Major Con