Page images
[ocr errors]

hesitate between separation and connection, is the protection which they receive from us, and which, in addition to that debt, we pay for. Whenever they are in a condition to protect themselves, or to claim with effect the protection of another state, on better terms than they have ours, we must prepare ourselves to expect that they will throw us off. But as they cannot do this, nor even indicate any disposition towards it, without threatening many of our merchants and manufacturers with ruin, there is among us a strong party watching those proceedings of the legislature, by which colonial interests are likely to be affected; and this party, by the attraction of their own concerns, are ever inclined, when they see colonial interests considered but as secondary, to join with those who cry out for a change in the manner of returning members of Parliament.

Thus it is, that if, in the spirit of the times, which is everywhere active and eager for representation, there is a disposition resolved into a principle, which requires a change in the constitution of the British House of Commons, I would say, it will be found not to be produced so much by what is supposed to be amiss in legislating for the united kingdom, as in the effect of legislative enactments caused by, and which affect the colonies. It seems, for example, out of all reason to tax and drain the industry of the people of this country for the expense of protecting the colonies. But how is it possible to raise a fund from the colonies themselves, to assist in defraying that expense, when it is denied to the British Parliament to tax them? Nor is it less unreasonable that the British Parliament should legislate for interests, of which, constitutionally speaking, it can know nothing. In a word, therefore, though it is very well to say, that the House of Commons does not require any reform, it must be held to mean, only in so far as certain home interests are concerned; for, that it does require reform, the state of our colonies, their complaints, and the various expedients from time to time adopted to obviate these complaints, together with the enormous expense for their protection, which falls exclusively on the United Kingdom, all prove that some reform, or some new institution, is requisite. Far and wisely as we have carried the repre


sentative system into our constitution and government, there is yet in it a wide hiatus to be filled up; there is yet wanting some legislative union, not only among the colonies themselves, but between them and the mother country, that will hold and bind them together, and render them all co-operative in their resources to the maintenance of one and the same power.

It may, however, be said, that in this I admit much of what the whig and radical reformers assert, that if the House of Commons were returned on more popular principles, the vast sums squandered on the colonies, and for their protection, would not be drawn from the industry of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom. It may be so and I am willing to admit all that; but then if it is advantageous to our commercial and manufacturing interests and by them to our agricultural, to possess those colonial sources of raw materials and necessaries, and to enjoy the exclusive privilege of their markets for our products, would we possess that advantage, without granting that care and protection to which I have adverted? I hold it to be indisputable, that the possession of our colonies is a vast and incalculable advantage; and I fear that there is something in our existing state of things not calculated to retain it, or at least of such a nature as to blight many of the benefits which we might derive from a more enlarged colonial and legislative policy.

The demand in the spirit of the times for representation in government and legislation, is operating, in a manner singularly advantageous, calmly and silently towards that effect. Several of the colonies and dependencies have regular agents, some of whom are in the House of Commons, in what I may be allowed to call a surreptitious manner, for the purpose of guarding the special interests of their colonial constituents, insomuch, that it may be said there is a palpable converging of the elements of a more extensive legislative representation, gradually pressing on the attention of government, and claiming for the dependencies of the united kingdom, a general constitution, connected with the mother country, quite as strongly and as justly as the Prussians are crying out for the constitution which was promised to them by their king. With us, however, the claim will be satisfied diffe


rently. What we want is withheld partly from prejudice, partly from doubt as to how it may operate, and chiefly from the official inconveniences to which it may give rise. With the Prussians it is denied by a tremendous array of soldiery. The same moral paralysis, however, which, at the beginning of the French revolution, rendered the German armies so ineffective, will seize the ranks of the Prussians, and a volcano will break out under the throne itself, and overwhelm it with ruin and with crimes; whereas our government will, froin the influence of public opinion, either give the subject a full and comprehensive consideration, or endeavour to repair and adapt the old and existing system to meet something like what is required, and which, practically speaking, may "work well" enough.

The next object that presents itself, after contemplating what bears on the State, is the situation of the Church. It is not to be disputed, that the prodigious rush which infidelity made during the last ten years of the last century, has not only been checked, but that there has been a remarkable reedification of all the strong-holds of Christianity-so much, that piety, it may be averred, has become so fashionable, as to be almost a folly; that is to say, the same sort of minds which, five-and-twenty years ago, would have been addicted to philosophy, are inflamed with a churchgoing zeal. Churches, and theological instruction of all kinds, are rising and flourishing everywhere. It has not, however, been much observed, that, although there is an astonishing increase of ecclesiastical edifices, there is no augmentation in the number of church dignitaries, a circumstance which would seem to imply that something of a presbyterian spirit is creeping into episcopacy; or, in other words, the Church of England, seeing that the people were attaching themselves to plain and simple modes of worship, is yielding half-way to that very spirit by which the dissenters have so prospered.

It lays open to our view, and to our admiration, the liberality of the eccle siastical establishment of England, in a light that language cannot sufficiently applaud; and when we consider the strict intermarriage in that country between the Church and the State, it must be allowed that the wisdom of this policy of the English church is a glorious demonstration of the enlightened views and temperate principles in the government of the state.

But the strain and tendency of our literature is the best comment on the progressive state of opinion, and, consequently, of national advancement. Except in a few remarkable instances, criticism is the prevalent taste of the times a criticism not confined, as of old, to the execution, orto the manner in which subjects are conceived, but which comprehends, together with style and conception, not only the power employed, but the moral and philosophical tendency of the matter. It is impossible that so much general acumen can be long employed without inducing improvement in all things which are either the subjects or the objects of literary illustration, and these are in fact all things. No greater proof of the advance which has already taken place in the moral taste of the country, making every allowance for cant, need be assigned, than what is involved in the simple questionWould such novels as those of Fielding and Smollett be now readily published by any respectable bookseller? We have seen what an outcry was raised about Don Juan; but is that satirical work, in any degree, so faulty in what is its great proclaimed fault, as either Tom Jones, Roderick Random, or Peregrine Pickle?

I have, however, so long trespassed at this time, that I must for the present conclude. I shall, however, as early as possible resume the subject, and I expect to make it plain to you, that, although the world is overspread with wrecks and ashes, and there is but an apparent restoration of old customs and habitudes, there lies yet before our beloved country a path to greatness and glory, which nothing but some dreadful natural calamity ought, I would almost say-can prevent her from pursuing, to heights that will far exceed all Greek and Ro◄ man fame.

This policy in that church, if it can be called policy which is the expedient result of the force of circumstances, is the first example that has ever appeared in the world of so great, so wealthy, and so powerful a body, and a priesthood too, adapting itself voluntarily to the spirit of the times. Glasgow, 24th December, 1823.



WHEN Anastasius first made its appearance, everybody thought Lord Byron was taking to write prose; for there was no living author but Lord Byron supposed capable of having written such a book. When Byron denied the work, (and, in fact, his lordship could not have written it,) people looked about again, and wondered who the author could be. But, when the production was claimed by Mr Thomas Hope, who had, heretofore, written only about chairs and tables, and not written very well about chairs and tábles neither, then the puzzlement of ratiocinators became profounder than


All that could be made out at all in common between Mr Hope and Anastasius, was, that Mr Hope had had opportunities of getting at the local information which that book contained. He had visited those parts of the world in which the scene was chiefly laid; and had resided in some of them (as at Constantinople) for considerable periods.

But Anastasius, though full of circumstance which necessarily had been collected by travel, was (that circumstance, all of it, apart) a work of immense genius, and natural power. The thing told was good; but the manner of telling it was still better. The book was absolutely crammed with bold incidents, and brilliant descriptions with historical details, given in a style which Hume or Gibbon could scarcely have surpassed; and with analysis of human character and impulse, such as even Mandeville might have been proud to acknowledge. Material, as regards every description of work, is perhaps the first point towards success. It is not easy for any man to write ill, who has an overflow of fresh matter to write about.

But Anastasius was anything rather than a bare compilation of material. The author did not merely appear to have imbued himself completely, with a scarce and interesting species of information, and to have the power of pouring that information forth again, in any shape he pleased; but he also seemed to have the power, (and with

al, almost equally the facility,) of originating new matter, of most curious and valuable quality. He paraded a superfluity of attainment at one moment, and shewed a faculty to act without any of it the next; displayed an extraordinary acquired talent for drawing MAN, as he is in one particular country; but a still more extraordinary intuitive talent for drawing man, as he is in every class, and in every country.

His capacity for producing effect was so extended, that he could afford to trifle with it. Anastasius was not merely one of the most vigorous, but absolutely the most vigorous, of the "dark-eyed and slender-waisted heroes," that had appeared. We liked him better than any of his cater cousins, because the family characteristics were more fully developed in him. The Giaours had their hundred vices, and their single virtue; but Anastasius came without any virtue at all. The Corsairs were vindictive, and rapacious, and sanguinary, as regarded their fellow-men; but Anastasius had no mercy even upon woman.

The history of Euphrosyne is not only the most powerful feature in Mr Hope's book; but, perhaps, one of the most powerful stories that ever was written in a novel.

There is a vraisemblance about the villainy of that transaction, which it sickens the soul to think of. Crabbe could not have dug deeper for horrible realities; nor could the author of the Fable of the Bees have put them into more simple, yet eloquent and energetic, language. For throughout the whole description of Euphrosyne's situation, after she becomes the mistress of Anastasius-his harsh treatment of her in the first instance, by degrees increasing to brutality-his deliberately torturing her, to compel her to leave him, even when he knows she has not a place of refuge upon earth-her patient submission, after a time, only aggravating his fury, and his telling her, in terms, " to go!" that "he desires to see her no more!" Throughout all this description, and the admirable scene that follows-his leaving her when she faints, believing her ill

*The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan; a novel, in three volumes. London. John Murray, 1824.

bodings that come over him, afterwards, at the banquet, until, at length, he is compelled to quit the party hurries home-and finds her gone! Throughout the whole of this narrative, there is not an epithet bordering upon inflation. The writer never stops to make a display of his feelings; but keeps up the passion as he goes on, merely by keeping up the action of the scene. The simplicity all through, and the natural elegance of the style, catches attention almost as much as the commanding interest of the subject. The tale is one of the most painful that ever was related; and it is told in the plainest, and most unaffected possible

ness to be affected-the nervous fore- the circumstances which lead to his appointment in the Morea. Djezzar (the Butcher) and his atrocities-in the third volume. The court of Suleiman Bey in Egypt, and the march of Hassan Pacha into that country. The nervous terseness and brief style of these details, contrasted with the brilliant eloquence, the lively imagination, the strong graphic faculty, and the deep tone and feeling displayed in such passages as the bagnio-the first field of battle--the flight of Hassan Bey through the streets of Cairo-the death of the Hungarian Colonel-the lives of all the women-and, beyond all, the cemetery near Constantinople, and the reflections which arise on it in the third volume! If, besides all this, we recollect the occasional rich descriptions of local scenery; the wit and spirit of those lighter sketches which abound in the first and third volumes; and, especially, the polished, cultivated tone, and the gracefulness of style and manner, which runs through the whole work, it will not appear surprising that the production of Anastasius by an author of (comparatively) no previous estimation, should have been considered, in the literary world, as a remarkable event.


And it is the great art of Mr Hope, in this story of Euphrosyne, as in the conduct of a hundred other criminalities into which he precipitates his hero -throwing him actually into scrapes sometimes, as though for the pleasure of taking him out of them again—it is the author's great art, that, with all his vices, Anastasius never thoroughly loses the sympathy of the reader. There is a rag of good feeling-a wretched rag it is, and it commonly shews itself in the most useless shape too (in the shape of repentance)-but there is a remnant of feeling about the rogue, (though no jot of moral principle,) and a pride of heart, which, with romance readers, covers a multitude of sins; and upon this trifle of honesty, (the very limited amount of which is a curiosity,) joined to a vast fund of attractive and popular qualities-wit, animal spirits, gay figure, and personal courage he contrives, through three volumes, to keep just within the public estimation.

And apart too from, and even beyond, the interest of the leading characters in Anastasius, there is so much pains laid out upon all the tributary personages of the tale: the work is got up with the labour of a large picture, in which the most distant figure is meant to be a portrait. Suleiman Bey-Aly Tchawoosh-the Lady Kha degé-Anagnosti—the Jew apothecary -Gasili, the knight of industry-even the bravo Panayoti-there is not a personage brought in anywhere, even to fill up a group, who has not a certain quantity of finish bestowed upon him.

Then the historical episodes. The character of the Capitan Pacha, and

But, if it excited wonder that Mr Hope should, on the sudden, have become the author of Anastasius, it will be found quite as surprising, that the author of Anastasius should ever have written Hajji Baba. The curiosity about this book was great; the disappointment which it produces will not be little; not that it is absolutely destitute of merit, but that it falls so very far below what the public expected.

It is not easy to get at the solution of a failure like this. Mr Hope evidently means to do his best. He sets out with all the formality of a long introduction-Hajji Baba is only a prelude to much more that is to be effected. And yet the work is not merely, as regards matter, interest, taste, and choice of subjects, three hundred per cent at least, under the mark of Anastasius; but the style is never forcible or eloquent; and in many places, to say the truth, it is miserably bad. Some of this objection may be comparative; but objection must be so, and ought fairly to be so. If an author takes the benefit of a certain accredited faculty to get his book read, it is by the measure of that accredited faculty, that he

must expect the production to be tri- transparently, with Gil Blas in his eye, ed. We can drink a wine, perhaps, of and never considers that a character thirty sous, as a wine of thirty sous, perfectly fitted for a hero in one counbut we will not submit to have it try, may not be so well calculated to brought to us as claret. We might fill the same role in another. The atmanage, upon an emergency, to read tention to Gil Blas is obvious. The a dozen lines of Lady Morgan; but chapters are headed in Le Sage's manwho would read half a line, if she were ner.-"Of Hajji Baba's birth and eduto get herself bound up as Lady Mon- cation." "Into what hands Hajji tague? There are chapters in Hajji Baba falls, and the fortune which his Baba that may amuse-there are a razors prove to him."-" Hajji Baba, great many, most certainly, that will not in his distress, becomes a Saka, or waamuse; but, perhaps, the easiest way ter-carrier."-" Of the man he meets, of making its deficiencies apparent, will and of the consequences of the encounbe to give a short outline of the pro- ter," &c. &c. There are occasional duction itself. imitations too, and not happy ones, of the style coupée of some of the French writers. An affectation of setting out about twenty unconnected facts, in just the same number of short unconnected sentences. A rolling up, as it were, of knowledge into little hard pills, and giving us dozens of them to swallow, (without diluent,) one after the other. This avoidance (from whatever cause it proceeds) of conjunction, and connecting observation, leads to an eternal recurrence of pronouns-rattling staccato upon the ear. It makes a book read like a judge's notes of a trial, or a report of a speech of a newspaper. And, indeed, throughout the work before us-(we can scarcely suppose the author to have written in a hurry)-but, throughout the work, there is a sort of slovenliness; an inattention to minute, but nevertheless material, circumstances; which could scarcely, one would think, have been overlooked, if it had been cautiously revised.

Mr Hope sets out, in the character of "Mr Peregrine Persic," by writing to "Doctor Fundgruben," chaplain to the Swedish Embassy, at the Ottoman Porte-a letter which explains the intention of his book.

Mr Persic is dissatisfied (and, perhaps, fairly, may be) with all existing pictures of Asiatic habits and manners; and he suggests the advantage of inditing, from " actual anecdotes" collected in the East,-a novel upon the plan of Gil Blas, which should supply the (as he views it) deficiency. Dr Fundgruben approves the idea of Mr Persic, but doubts how far any European would be capable of realizing it; he thinks an oriental Gil Blas would be most conveniently constructed, by procuring some "actual" Turk, or Persian, to write his life. The discussion which follows between the friends, would not convey a great deal to the reader. What the Swedish Doctor opines-we will give his own words "That no education, time, or talent, can ever enable a foreigner, in any given country, to pass for a native ;"this (for a Doctor, who should mind what he says) has a smack of exaggeration; and Mr Persic's charge of obscurity against the Arabian Nights, (so far as he himself illustrates it,) seems to amount to nothing. At a period, however, subsequent to this supposed conversation, Mr P. (who is employed himself upon an embassy to Persia) saves Hajji Baba, a Persian of some station, from the hands of an Italian quack Doctor; and, in gratitude for certain doses of calomel, by the English gentleman administered, the Ispabani presents his written memoirs, for the benefit of the English public.

Now here is a blot in the very outset of the book. Mr Hope starts, most

Hajji Baba, however, is the son of a barber at Ispahan, and is educated to follow his father's profession. He learns shaving upon the "heads" of camel-drivers and muleteers-a field of practice more extended than barbers have the advantage of in Europe -and having got a smattering of poetry, and a pretty good idea of shampooing-some notion of reading and writing, and a perfect dexterity at cleaning people's ears;-at sixteen, he is prepared to make his entrée in society.

Starting as a barber, is starting rather low; and it is one material fault in our friend Hajji Baba, that, from beginning to end, he is a low character. Obscure birth is no bar to a man's fortune in the East; nor shall it be any hinderance to him among us; but

« PreviousContinue »