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so happens that the Houses of Parliament are the only places in which there is any alienation or estrangement between the Aristocracy and the Commons.
So important is this change for improving our constitution, that the people of England cannot too early take it into consideration, or too loudly require it, should the examination of its nature and tendency lead to an opinion in its favour. Let us hope that among the other claims which will naturally and most reasonably arise out of a crisis promoted by the enemies of all improvement-the subject of FREE CONFERENCE will not be forgotten.
That some other important changes of a beneficial nature may arise from the present wild experiment of the courtiers to make a Tory Government, is very probable; that as few should be attempted as the necessities of the case will allow, every one who loves peace, improvement, good government, public liberty-in a word, who loves the people, will at once join in praying from the bottom of his heart.
But if it should unhappily prove otherwise, if too large a reform should be attempted, and too rapidly, let not the reformers be blamed for this evil effect of their implacable enemy's intrigues. He, the adversary of all improvement, will have hastened by ten years the dangerous arrival of hurried changes which might have been safely and gradually undertaken; and on his head, call him by what name you will-Cumberland, Wellington, or Peel, the Tory lay leaders, or the High Church zealot-on his head be the consequences! Nor be their claims to a hateful renown forgotten, who enabled the courtier to do his vile work- the place-loving third-party-whose machinations all along, as the empire now plainly perceives, have occasioned more remotely the revival of Tory domination, and have more immediately, and more recently, helped the present Ministry to retain for a season its discreditable existence !*
There is nothing in the late transactions which has given more pain to the friends of honest policy, and of liberal principles, than to think that such men as the Duke of Richmond and Lord Stanley should have allowed themselves to be drawn for a moment into such party connexions. Their prejudices, however unfortunate upon one or two important questions, are the only barriers that separate them from the Reformers; and yet they have kept in office the party whom in all respects they most widely differ with, and avowedly dislike. Others have done worse; but let us hope that all such breaches will be healed in the Liberal party, and that the nameless and shameless race of mere jobbers will no longer be allowed to rally under such a standard.
ART. II. Selections from the American Poets. 8vo. Dublin: 1834. We have the misfortune, we fear, in common with most of our critical brethren in this country, to stand in a somewhat unpleasing position in regard to our Transatlantic neighbours. We have more than once adverted to the literature of America, in terms, as it appeared to us, of warm praise; we have most cordially acknowledged its present excellence in some departments, and anticipated with satisfaction its high destinies for the future;-but simply, it would seem, because the praise was not unqualified,-because we could not exactly admit that America had yet conquered for herself that place in the republic of letters which was now on all hands conceded to her in the political world, because we professed our ignorance of the literary pretensions of some names which had attained an American celebrity; the compliment is thrown back upon our hands with much indignation :-we are accused of damning with faint praise,' of being actuated by feelings of national jealousy, and the spirit of detraction. Conscious it seems of the rapid strides which America is making in literature, and fearful of the coming eclipse which is to darken the glories of Great Britain, we are all engaged in a comprehensive conspiracy to deny all merit to the literature of the United States; or where that is impracticable, to reduce its claims to the lowest possible amount.
If we had not seen these opinions gravely announced and reiterated in American publications of acknowledged ability and influence, we should have had the greatest difficulty in believing that such impressions could seriously exist as to the temper and tone of British criticism, or the general feeling of literary men in this country. There might possibly be some feeling of jealousy on our part towards America in those matters where her rivalry is practically felt ;-in regard to her commercial enterprise, her growing naval strength, her political importance-though even that's not much,' and the feeling, never very general, seems to us on the decline-but in literature !-we are assured no jot or tittle of such an unworthy feeling exists. Could America rival England to-morrow; were her rolls of fame as crowded with bright names as our own; could she point to some masterpiece on which the stamp of eternity was as visibly impressed as on the Dramas of Shakspeare or the Epic of Milton, we have the most complete conviction that, instead of exciting a feeling of jealousy and disappointment, her triumph would be hailed in Britain with delight as that of a kindred nation, sprung from ourselves,
clothing its freeborn thoughts in the same noble language, and still connected with us by a thousand ties of common remembrances and associations, which neither physical nor political separation-neither differences of government nor of interests can altogether sever.
Such we venture to say would be the feeling with which Great Britain would regard the literary preeminence of America, even if the sun of the latter were in the ascendant, and ours, after a long day of glory, towards heaven's descent had sloped his westering wheel.' But-(and let our American brethren believe we say this without the slightest wish to undervalue their literary progress) that day is yet distant-far too distant, we think, to excite either fear or jealousy on our part, or to warp our judgment in regard to their productions. America has already done much; but a national literature, and particularly a poetical literature, is the growth of centuries, the last product of leisurewith perhaps a touch of luxury-and the result of a long and picturesque train of old recollections and associations. For America, that period has not yet arrived; and perhaps it is less likely to be of speedy occurrence in that country than in many others. In all that is practical, all that leads to immediate and available results; in the discoveries of science, in the improvement of legislation, in the study of government, she will doubtless proceed as she has begun, with vigour and success; but in the more impalpable and immaterial-in philosophy, in classical literature, in poetrythe chance of her rapid progress seems more questionable. It is but reasonable, no doubt, that the necessary should precede the agreeable; but the intensely commercial spirit of the nation, and the unceasing interference with the machinery of politics, which results from the democratic constitution of the government, are unquestionably likely to be injurious to the meditative character, and retired leisure, which a real devotion to literature, in its more exalted sense, requires. In America, doubtless, as in other countries, master minds in literature will arise in time; but not suddenly, we hope, even for her own sake, for nothing is permanent which is not gradual: ages must elapse before the niches in her temple of Fame are filled up, though some of them have already found worthy occupants, not likely to be pushed from their stools' by posterity. Jealousy in such circumstances is out of the question; and it is really hard that those who have always been among the first to do justice to the claims of America, even in those points where they came most strongly in collision with our own, should be accused of being influenced by such motives in their estimate of her literary pretensions; simply because though they do most potently believe'
in the future excellence of America in this as in other matters, they cannot exactly confound the America that is, with the America that is to be ;-because they hesitate a little when asked to discount, at sight, those Transatlantic drafts upon posterity, and to hand the amount across the table to the holder in the shape of ready praise.
Has America ever yet produced a work of original genius in literature, which has not instantly found admirers on this side of the Atlantic, as enthusiastic-though perhaps a little more discriminating, than at home? Was it in his own country, or in this, that the graceful humour of Washington Irving was most felt or most warmly acknowledged? We shall be told that the popularity of the author of the Sketch Book' was owing to his English tendencies,―to his preference of our institutions, to his flattering pictures of our society, to his sensibility to all those historical and romantic associations, on which we love to dwell. It is true there was something uncommon and unexpected in all this; but we will venture to say that had Irving never written one word in praise of Old England; were all his flattering pictures of Christmas life in old ancestral halls,-of generous and noble landlords, honest yeomen, contented peasants, and the other personages whom he has arrayed in such holiday colours,-to be at once swept away, his fame would at this moment stand as high in Great Britain as it does: we should still point to the exquisite quaintness and subdued humour of his Rip van Winkle, and his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and place him, in these respects, a little, and but a little, lower than Addison.
We doubt very much if the powerful conceptions of Brown were ever duly appreciated in America, till the public mind in this country had felt the fascination of his mysterious sources of interest; and acknowledged in the author of Edgar Huntly, and Arthur Mervyn and Wieland, a spirit of kindred power and gloom with that which had portrayed the sufferings of St Leon, and the struggles of Falkland. Where, we would ask, has all that is really excellent in Cooper's novels, been more warmly admired? The empire of the sea had been conceded to him by acclamation; in the lonely desert, or untrodden prairie, among the savage Indians, or scarcely less savage settlers, we equally acknowledge his dominion. Within that circle none dares walk but he.' But surely all this was not to blind us to the undeniable fact, that he who was a mighty magician within his circle, was but a very common person, nay, somewhat of the mountebank beyond it; that when taken from the quarter-deck or the desert, Where wild in woods the noble savage ran,' and placed on terra firma among civilized society,-particularly where he ventured a descent
on the shores of Great Britain,-he sank rather below the mark of a second-rate novelist. Because he fettered our imagination by his powers, when he guided his vessel through rocks and shallows amidst the howling of the storm and the roaring of the sea, were we to be insensible to the childishness of the incidents on shore, the tediousness of some of the scenes, the melo-dramatic bombast of others? Let any one take up his later romances, in which, leaving his vantage ground, he has placed himself on a level with the writers of this country, and attempted to rest the interest of his tale on the associations of the past, and the delineation of stronger passions-as in the Bravo, the Heiden Mauer, and the Abbot, and if he can venture to say that they rise in the least above the rank of second-rate novels, he must be less critical or more American than we can pretend to be. Cooper, in short, is the master but of one element; Scott moves with grace and security in all. America has reason certainly to be proud of her son; but if she persist in placing him beside his great original, it will be long before Europe be disposed to ratify the judg
Irving, Brown, Cooper, are distinguished and original names-a worthy triumvirate,-heralding, we hope, in due time, an Augustan age. Are there others? Possibly; but if there are, we can only say in all candour, with Roderigo, It hath not appeared.' The Arnes, Adams, Buckminsters, Madisons, Jays, to whom we are referred, are doubtless men of great ability-not one of them, so far as we can see, a man of genius. They deserve, we doubt not, their American popularity, but it will be long before their names be familiar in our mouths as household words, like those of the men of genius to whom we have above alluded. We turn to the literary criticism of the continent, as well as our own, and ask, where is the place which Fame has awarded to these worthies, and Echo answers, 'Where?' If we are wrong, it is at least a comfort to think we err in company with all Europe; and a still greater consolation to know, that, far from judging of American literature in a spirit of unkindness, and with a wish to depreciate, we are conscious of the most opposite feelings of a warm admiration of the genius which has already illustrated her literary career, and of the strongest hope and belief that every succeeding age of her annals will furnish its full complement of those names which 'in Fame's eternal temple shine for aye.'
We can hardly hope, after the misconceptions which have already taken place, and the strange misconstruction which has been put upon our intentions and motives, that, in recurring to the subject of American literature, and expressing our candid opinion of the poetical specimens before us, we shall not run