« AnteriorContinuar »
tongue is French, he stays at home at present to learn English. The voice is like that of a young child."
In a letter from Paris, dated June 7, 1786, Mrs. B. exclaims,
By the way, I have found out the reason why the French have so little poetry: it is because every body makes verses."
We fancy that a similar propensity to versifying nearer home has not tended to the encouragement of the genuine spirit of poetry. Mrs. B. gets very playfully warm upon the subject of Dr. Fordyce's insinuation against woman's faith in friendship:
“It is not true, what Dr. Fordyce insinuates, that women's friendships are not sincere; I am sure it is not: I remember when I read it I had a good mind to have burnt the book for that unkind passage. I hope the Doctor will give us our revenge, as he has begun his sermons to young men : they were advertised in the papers, was it not a piece of parade unbecoming a preacher? It would be difficult to determine whether the age is growing better or worse; for I think our plays are growing like sermons, and our sermons like plays.”
Mrs. Barbauld was herself one proof, (and we fancy that there are few of our readers who could not adduce many others,) that female friendship (in the best sense of the word) is to be found, and may be depended upon. In a letter to Miss E. Belsham, p. 61, we meet with a pretty little allegory:
“We are preparing to celebrate the birthday of-a prince, shall I say? why not? a king if you please, since he has more power than any monarch in the universe, and we all expect blessings from him of more value than the Indies: perhaps, indeed, we may expect too much from him, for it is natural to hope for every thing under the auspices of a new king; and however we may have been disappointed by his predecessors, we fondly flatter ourselves that the young sovereign will crown all our hopes, and put us in possession of all our wishes. Blessings, invaluable ones, he certainly has in his disposal; but if we have wasted the bounties of his predecessors, would it not become us to mingle a tear to their memories with the joy which bis accession inspires? May the present reign, however, be happy to you and me, and all of us, long I dare not add, except in good actions, because, young as the prince is, it is no presumption to say that his days are numbered ; ihe astronomers have already cast his nativity, nor is it in the power of all the sons of Adam to prolong beyond the appointed term, though but for an hour, the life of the New Year."
Joanna Baillie and her tragedy of De Montfort: “I have received, however, great pleasure lately from the representation of De Montfort, a tragedy which you probably read a year and a half ago, in a volume entitled . A Series of Plays on the Passions.' Iadmired it then, but little dreamed I was indebted for my entertainment to a young lady of Hampstead whom I visited, and who came to Mr. Barbauld's meeting all the while with as innocent a face as if she had never written a line. The play is admirably acted by Mrs. Siddons and Kemble, and is finely written, with great purity of sentiment, beauty of diction, strength and originality of character; but it is open to criticism,–I cannot believe such a hatred natural. The affection between the brother and sister is most beautifully touched, and, as far as I know, quite new. The play is somewhat too good for our present taste.”
The Pedigree and Adventures of Leisure : “She was born somewhere amongst the Chaldean shepherds, where she became a favourite of Urania ; and having been instructed in her sublime philosophy, taught men to observe the course of the stars, and to mark the slow revolution of seasuns. The next we hear of her is in the rural mountains and valleys of Arcadia. In this delightful abode her charms made a conquest of the god Pan, who woulų Vol. VII. No. 41.-Museum.
often sit whole days by her side, tuning bis pipe of unequal reeds. By him sbe had two beautiful children, Love and Poetry, the darlings of the shepherds, who. received them in their arms, and brought them up amidst the murnur of bees, the falls of water, the lowing of cattle, and the various rural and peaceful sounds with which that region abounded. When the Romans spread the din of arms over the globe, Leisure was frightened from her soft retreats, and from the cold Scythian to the tawny Numidian could scarcely find a corner of the world to shel. ter her head in. When the fierce Goth and Vandal approached, matters were still worse, and Leisure took refuge in a convent on the winding banks of the Seine, where she employed herself in making anagrams and cutting paper. Her retirement, however, did not pass without censure, for it is said she had an intrigue with the superior of the convent, and that the offspring of this amour was a daughter named Ennui.
“Mademoiselle Ennui was wafted over to England in a north-east wind, and settled herself with some of the best families in the kingdom. Indeed the mother seldom makes any long residence in a place without being intruded on by the daughter, who steals in and seats herself silently by her side.”
Drs. Price and Priestley, and Mirabeau :
“I last Sunday attended with melancholy satisfaction the funeral sermon of good Dr. Price, preached by Dr. Priestley, who, as he told us, had been thirty years his acquaintance, and twenty years his intimate friend. He well delineated the character he so well knew. I had just been reading an eloge of Mirabeau, and I could not help in my own mind comparing both the men and the tribute paid to their memories. The one died when a reputation raised suddenly, by extraordinary emer. gencies, was at its height, and very possibly might have ebbed again had he lived longer: the other enjoyed an esteem, the fruit of a course of labours uniformly di. rected through a long life to the advancement of knowledge and virtue, a reputation slowly raised, without and independent of popular talents. The panegyrist of the one was obliged to sink his private life, and to cover with the splendid mantle of public merit the crimes and failings of the man :- the private character of the other was able to bear the severest scrutiny; neither slander, nor envy, nor party-prejudice, ever pretended to find a spot in it. The one was followed even by those who did not trust him: the other was confided in and trusted even by those who reprobated his principles. In pronouncing the eloge on Mirabeau, the author scarcely dares to insinuate a vague and uncertain hope that his spirit may hover somewhere in the void space of immensity, be rejoined to the first principles of nature ; and attempts to soothe his shade with a cold and barren immor. tality in the remembrance of posterity. Dr. Priestley parts with his intimate friend with all the cheerfulness which an assured hope of meeting him soon again could give, and at once dries the tear he excites.".
“I have been much pleased with Scotland. I do not know whether you ever extended you tour so far: if you have not seen it, let me beg that you will; for I do not think that in any equal part of England so many interesting objects are to be met with as occur in what is called the little tour; from Edinburgh to Stirling, Perth and Blair, along the pleasant windings of the Forth and Tay: then by the lakes, ending with Loch Lomond, the last and greatest, and so to Glasgow; then to the Falls of the Clyde, and back by Dumfries; which last, however, we did not do; for we returned to Edinburgh.' Scotland is a country strongly marked with character. Its rocks, its woods, its waters, its castles, its towns, are all picturesque, generally grand. Some of the views are wild and savage, but none of them insipid, if you except the bleak, fat, extended moor. The entrance into the Highlands by Dunkeld is striking; it is a kind of gate. I thought it would be a good place for hanging up an inscription similar to that of Dante,. Per me si va"
Mrs. Montague and her Letters : “Day after day passes, and I do not know what I do with my time; my mind has no energy, nor power of application. I can tell you, however, what I have done with some hours of it, which have been agreeably employed in reading Mrs. Montague's Letters. I think her nephew has made a very agreeable present to the public; and I was greatly edified to see them printed in modest octavo, with Mrs. Montague's sweet face (for it is a very pretty face) at the head. They certainly show a very extraordinary mind, full of wit, and also of deep thought and sound judgment. She seems to have liked not a little to divert herself with the odd and the ludicrous, and shows herself in the earlier letters passionately fond of balls and races and London company; this was natural enough at eighteen. Perhaps you may not so easily pardon her for having early settled her mind, as she evi. dently had, not to marry except for an establishment. This seems to show a want of some of those fine feelings that one expects in youth: but when it is consider. ed that she was the daughter of a country gentleman with a large family, and no fortune to expect, and her connexions all in high life, one is disposed to pardon her, especially as I dare say she would never have married a fool or a profligate. I beard her say,—what I suppose very few can say,that she never was in love in her life. Many of the letters are in fact essays; and I think had she turned her thoughts to write in that way, she would have excelled Johnson."
Further on, in a letter to Mrs. Fletcher, dated Sept. 1813, this subject is again alluded to:
“I am now reading the third and fourth volumes of Mrs. Montague's Letters. To me, who have lived through all the time she writes of, they are interesting, independent of the wit and talent, -as recalling a number of persons and events once present to my mind: they are also, I think, very entertaining, though, as letters, somewhat studied. With all her advantages she seems not to have been happy. She married not Mr. Montague from affection. It is evident she looked upon him as a wise and kind friend, but nothing more;-a little too wise sometimes, when he kept her in the country longer than she liked. To a person so married, nothing will fill the mind and give a permanent interest to life, but chil. dren. She lost her child; and notwithstanding all that nature and all that fortune ! had given, and high cultivation, and chosen society, and public esteem, she speaks of life as a thing to be got through, rather than to be enjoyed.”
Want of space compels us to pass over many interesting notices of then important events, chiefly of a literary nature. Her opinion of Charles Lamb's specimens of old plays is expressed in brief but favourable terms. A caution to Mrs. Taylor, against allowing mind to wear out body, or, as Leigh Hunt phrases it, not “ seeing fair play between them," is so lively, and, at the same time, so just, that we must give it for the benefit of any sedentary liver who may happen to open our Review:
“Mind is often very hard upon his humble yoke.fellow, sometimes speaking contemptuously of her, as being of a low, mean family, in comparison with him. self; often abridging her food or natural rest for his whims. Many a head-ache has he given her when, but for him, she would be quietly resting in her bed. Sometimes he fancies that she hangs as a dead weight upon him, and impedes all his motions; yet it is well known, that though he gives himself such airs of superiority, he can in fact do nothing without her; and since, however they came to. gether, they are united for better for worse, it is for his interest as well as hers, that she should be nursed and cherished, and taken care of."
As a more continuous specimen of Mrs. B.'s epistolary style than any we have yet selected, we quote the following, dated Stoke Newington, Dec. 1813:
“If you ask what I am doing-nothing. Pope, I think, somewhere says, • The last years of life, like tickets left in the wheel, rise in value.' The thought is beautiful, but false; they are of very little value,--they are generally past either in struggling with pains and infirmities, or in a dreamy kind of existence : no new veins of thought are opened; no young affections springing up; the ship has taken in its lading, whatever it may be, whether precious stones or lumber, and fies idly flapping its sails and waiting for the wind that must drive it upon the wide ocean.
h of , im
“ Have you seen Lord Byron's new poem, The Bride of Abydos ? and have you read Madame de Stael's Germany? You will find in the latter many fine ideas, beautiful sentiments, and entertaining remarks on manners and countries: but in her account of Kant and the other German philosophers, she has got, I fancy, a little out of her depth. She herself is, or affects to be, very devotional; but her pressed upon us at our birth, along with a taste for beauty, for music, &c. As far as I understand her account of the German school, there seems to be in many of them a design to reinstate the doctrine of innate ideas, which the cold philosophy, as they would call it, of Locke discarded. They would like Beattie and Huiche son better than Paley or Priestley. I do not like Lord Byron's poem quite so well as his last; and I cannot see any advantage in calling a nightingale bulbul, or a rose gul, except to disconcert plain English readers."
We should be happy to enrich our excerpta from these interesting volumes, with Mrs. B.'s remarks on Goldoni's plays, p. 153, and on Ramsay's History of the American Revolution, p. 157, but that we feel the necessity of omitting these in order to make room for her testimony on a much disputed, and not unimportant, matter, -the character of Dr. Johnson.
“We are reading in idle moments, or rather dipping into, a very different work, Boswell's long expected Life of Johnson. It is like going to Ranelagh; you meet all your acquaintance : but it is a base and a mean thing to bring thus every idle word into judgment-the judgment of the public. Johnson, I think, was far from a great character: he was continually sinning against his conscience, and then afraid of going to hell for it. A Christian and a man of the town, a philosopher and a bigot, acknowledging life to be miserable, and making it more miserable through fear of death; professing great distaste to the country, and neglecting the urbanity of towns; a Jacobite, and pensioned ; acknowledged to be a giant in literature, and yet we do not trace him, as we do Locke, or Rousseau, or Voltaire, in his influence on the opinions of the times. We cannot say Johnson first opened this vein of thought, led the way to this discovery or this turn of thinking. In his style he is original, and there we can track his imitators. In short, he seems to me to be one of those who have shone in the belles lettres, rather than, what he is held out by many to be, an original and deep genius in investigation."
We gather from the above what Mrs. Barbauld must have thought of Capt. Medwin's Conversations of Byron; and in a letter to Mrs. Estlin, from Stoke-Newington, dated Nov. 23, 1824, we have her opinion of the noble bard himself: after mentioning some little Greek boys, who, she says, are protected by Mr. Bowring, she asks, “ By the way, are you not sorry Lord Byron is dead, just when he was going to be a hero? He has filled a leaf in the book of fame, but it is a very blotted leaf.”
In some of her latter epistles, Mrs. Barbauld speaks with much unaffected pathos of her own perception of the failing state of her bodily and mental powers. To us she appears to have been intellectually young and healthy to the last.“ Age could not wither, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” She lived on, making glorious but blood less conquests, and, much as she had written, she had the proud and repaying consciousness, that there was not
“One line which, dying, she could wish to blot.” To be the affectionate, faithful, and impartial biographer of such a being was a task reserved for the kindred spirit of Lucy Aikin, and she has performed it as only herself could have done, and as even Mrs. Barbauld might have wished.
SELECTED FOR THE MUSEUM.
CRITICISM ON FEMALE BEAUTY. Eyes.—The finest eyes are those that unite sense and sweetness. They should be able to say much, and all charmingly. The look of sense is proportioned to the depth from which the thought seems to issue; the look of sweetness to an habitual readiness of sympathy, an unaffected willingness to please and be pleased. We need not be jealous of
Eyes affectionate and glad,
That seem to love whate'er they look upon. They have always a good stock in reserve for their favourites; especially if like those mentioned by the poet, they are conversant with books and nature. Voluptuaries know not what they talk about, when they profess not to care for sense in a woman. Pedantry is one thing: sense, taste, and apprehensiveness are another. Give me an eye that draws equally from head above and heart beneath; that is equally full of ideas and feelings, of intuition and sensation. If either must predominate, let it be the heart. Mere beauty is nothing at any time but a doll, and should be packed up and sent to Brobdignag. The colour of the eye is a very secondary matter. Black eyes are thought the brightest, blue the most féminine, grey the keenest. It depends entirely on the spirit within. I have seen all these colours change character; though I must own, that when a blue eye looks ungentle, it seems more out of character than the extremest diversity expressed by others. The ancients appear to have associated the idea of gladness with blue eyes; which is the colour given to his heroine's by the author just alluded to. Anacreon attributes a blue or a grey eye to his mistress, it is difficult to say which: but he adds, that it is tempered with the moist delicacy of the eye of Venus. The other look was Minerva's, and required softening. It is not easy to distinguish the shades of the various colours anciently given to eyes; the blues and greys, sky-blues, sea-blues, sea-greys, and even cat-greys. But it is clear that the expression is every thing. The poet demanded this or that colour, according as he thought it favourable to the expression of acuteness, majesty, tenderness, or a mixture of all. Black eyes were most lauded; doubtless because in a southern country the greatest number of beloved eyes must be of that colour. But on the same account of the predominance of black, the abstract taste was in favour of lighter eyes and fair complexions. Hair being of a great variety of tint, the poet had great license in wishing or feigning on that point. Many a head of hair was ex
Cæsio veniam obvius leoni. Catullus. See glaucus, crxuleus, &c. and their Greek correspondents. Xapotos, glad-looking, is also rendered in the Latin, blue-eyed: and yet it is often translated by ravus, a word which at one time is made to signify blue, and at another something approximating to hazel. Cæsius, in like manner, appears to signify both grey and blue, and a tinge of green,