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when addressed to Lady Hamilton by ber husband her other admirers, any of that mawkish, morbid, love-sickness, with which her Ladyship seems to glory in having inspired Lord Nelson.
Two letters from his Lordşbip's father to Lady Hamilton are published, we suppose, to prove that the Rev. Mr. Nelson corresponded with her Ladyship; but the early date of these two leta ters, August, 1801, and January, 1802, and the tone of distant respect and dignified piety which they possess, prove that the good man had no suspicion of the equivocal relation which the person he was addressing might bear to his son. Indeed, it appears that his son feared to communicate to him the circumstances of his rupture with Lady Nelson; and the attention of Mr. Nelson to this injured Lady is mentioned in this correspondence with a kind of dissatisfaction and blame that does his memory, at least, infinite honour.
Some letters of Lord St. Vincent and Sir Alexander Ball contain a few fine compliments to Lady Hamilton, and are, for this reason, and to swell the book, inserted ;-at least we can see no other motive for their appearing.
But much the most respectable, or, to speak more truly, the only tolerable part of the publication are some letters from Sir. William Hamilton to his then young wife, in 1792, during a shooting excursion which he made with the King while his Lady remained at Naples. They are written in a style vastly superior to all the others, (except a few trifling notes of Lord Bristol's ;) with the most perfect admiration for her beauty and talents, they mingle a gentle and polite tone of husbandly advice, and though the facts relate only to the shooting of wild boars and stags, they are related with that gentlemanly ease and those good manners which make even such trifles amusing. They throw, indeed, into a lamentable shade all that precedes them, and leave us to regret either that Sir William did not continue his kind-hearted and prudent suggestions to his Lady, or that they have produced so little fruit that she should be guilty of such monstrous want of taste and delicacy as to bave permitted, if she has not conducted, this unhappy publication.
The work is preceded by an advertisement which talks of more than one editor and seems meant as a kind of apology for not dedicating this trash to the people of England. Whoever the editors are, we can assure them, that the people of England will excuse them for not dedicating, till they shall have learned a better style of expression and reasoning than their advertisement exhibits. It is neither grammar nor sense ; its meaning is as obscurre as its construction is barbarous. Would that we could persuade ourselves-would that the public would consent to believe-that the greater part of the letters attributed to Lord Nelson are forgeries, and really written by the profound authors of the advertisement: ART. VI. The World before the Flood, a Poem, in ten Cantos;
with other occasional Pieces ; by James Montgomery, Author of the Wanderer of Switzerland, the West Indies, &e. 8vo. pp.
304. London; Longman and Co. 1813. NO TO book of foreign growth has ever become so popular in
England as the Death of Abel. Those publishers whose market lies among that portion of the people who are below what is called the public, but form a far more numerous class, include it regularly among their sacred classics :' it has been repeatedly printed at country presses, with worn types and on coarse paper; and it is found at country fairs, and in the little shops of remote towns almost as certainly as the Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe. This popularity is, undoubtedly, in great measure ascribable to the style in which it is written ; a style of which Hervey's Meditations and the Pseudo-Ossian* are the worst and the best examples. Untutored intellects are pleased with its frothy sentiment and its florid language, just as young and uneducated eyes are delighted with the gaudy hues of coloured prints in aquatinta.
But though the tinsel of this stilted prose greatly contributed to Gessner's success in this and in every other country where his work has been naturalized, the story was not less essentially in its favour. It acquired from its scriptural subject what may be termed imputed sanctity : and many of its readers while they derived from it the same pleasure as from a novel, had the satisfaction of thinking that they were at the same time meritoriously and even piously employed in reading a good book. We remember to have seen it put into the hands of children under this persuasion on Sundays, by persons who would have regarded a profane book as an abomination against the Sabbath. It will not be supposed that we mean to desecrate the name of Milton, but even Milton owes much of his general estimation to this feeling. There is something to impede his popularity which one of his religious admirers perceived, and was considerate enough to remove, by translating the Paradise Lost into prose, and publishing his version for the accommodation of those readers who were edified with the noble poetry of Mr. Milton, but did not like the manner of his verse,'
A third cause was its pastoral character. The tradition of all nations refers us to the morning of the world, -to a time when the earth and the human race were young, and many or most of those
The Death of Abel was probably one of the models upon which Macpherson formed his Ossianic style. When he tried his hand upon Homer, the intrinsic worth of the manner and the veracity of the translator were equally brought to the proof,
evils to which we are now most obnoxious had no existente. The age of the patriarchs is to us that golden age of which the heathen poets have preserved only a corrupted
remembrance ; and the country of the patriarchs is our Arcadia, -flowing with milk and honey; there we find that pastoral life, those primitive manners which are as congenial to the uncorrupted heart as they are to the youthful imagination :--they come to us with the stamp and seal, not only of historical but of scriptural truth, and with a character of divinity. This character has made severer judges condemn all attempts at mingling fiction with sacred story: the principle upon which their condemnation proceeds is just, and perhaps if it were pursued it would lead to a wide interdiction of historical subjects for the epopea and the drama. But the people never judge severely; the book which pleases them they like because they like it :-with the why and the wherefore they have no concern---stat pro ratione voluntas :„all they require is to be pleased and their state is the more gracious.
Two other of the sacred poems of the Germans were translated in the same manner as the Death of Abel : Klopstock's Messiab and Bodmer's Noah. Both are written in hexameter verse; the style therefore into which they were rendered was wholly unlike the manner of the original; they were in every respect miserably done into English, and totally failed of exciting any at+ tention in this country. This would bardly have happened to the former work, if the translator had possessed the commonest requisites for his undertaking, for the faults of Klopstock, like those of Young, would have past current as beauties with the multitude here as well as in Germany. But in both poems the charm of that Arcadian character was wanting which was the chief cause of Gessner's success; and neither the passion, of the one (disfigured as it was in a bald and unfaithful version) nor the fable of the other was of sufficient interest to supply its place.
The scriptural fact which Mr. Montgomery has chosen for the basis of his poem is the assumption of Enoch; a subject possessing the religious, and susceptible of the pastoral interest of Gesse ner's work. The history of the world, from the creation the deluge, is so briefly related by the sacred writers, that, "he,' says Mr. Montgomery, who fixes the date of a fictitious narrative within that period, is under obligation to no other authority whatever, for conformity of manners, events, or even localities; he has full power to accommodate these to his peculiar purposes.' But," he pursues, 'here is a large web of fiction involving a small fact of scripture! Nothing could justify a work of this kind, if it were, in
any way, calculated to impose on the credulity, pervert the principles, or corrupt the affections of its approvers.
Here then the appeal lies to conscience. * As years enlarged his form, in moody hours, His mind betray'd its weakness with its powers ; Alike his fairest hopes and strongest fears Were nursed in silence, or divulged with tearsHeloved, in lonely indolence reclined, To watch the clouds, and listen to the wind; But from the north, when snow and tempest came, His nobler spirit mounted into flame; With stern delight he roam'd the howling woods, Or hung in ecstacy o'er headlong floods. Meanwhile excursive fancy long'd to view The world, which yet by fame alone he knew: The joys of freedom were his daily theme, Glory the secret of his midnight dream; That dream he told not, tho' his heart would ache, His home was precious for his mother's sake. With her the lowly paths of peace he ran, His guardian angel, till he verged to man; But when her weary eye could watch no more, When to the grave her timeless corse he bore, Not Enoch's counsels could his steps restrain ; He fled, and sojourn'd' in the land of Cain. There, when he heard the voice of Jubal's lyre, Instinctive Genius caught the etherial fire ;
rather than to taste, and the decision on this point is of infinitely more importance to the poet, than his name among men, or his interests upon earth. It was his design, in this composition, to present a similitude of events, that might be imagined to have happened in the first age of the world, in which such scripture characters, as are introduced, would probably have acted and spoken, as they are here made to act and speak. The story is told as a parable only, and its value in this view must be determined by its moral or rather by its religious influence on the mind and on the heart. Fiction though it be, it is the fiction that represents truth, and that is truth. Truth in the essence, though not in the name; truth in the spirit though not in the letter.'
The poem consists of ten cantos, in the heroic couplet. The time chosen is when one of the giants or children of Cain has established by the sword an universal monarchy, the whole world being subdued, except a part of the land of Eden, on the eastern side of the Euphrates, where Enoch and the descendants of Seth reside, and which the tyrant is now invading.
The action of the poem commences with the flight of Javan from the Cainites' camp. Javan was of the race of Seth, he and his mother had escaped alone, while all their family were destroyed by an earthquake, and Enoch bad bred him up. But that sin by which fell the angels' had seduced him.
And soon, with sweetly-modulating skill,
And cast away his birthright for a name.'
years had elapsed since his flight from the patriarch's glen. His dreams of ambition had been realized, but successful ambition brought with it no happiness. He was the favourite minstrel of the Great King, whose furious passions were assuaged by his music; and having now in the course of attendance upon his person been brought back to the confines of his native country,
His home of happiness in earthly years,
And still the home of all his hopes and fears,' the sense of duty prevailed, being aided by affection. During these years of absence, a boyish attachment had continually been gaining strength in his imagination and his heart;-he had left Zillab, but borne away with him a deep and bitter love, whicb, like an amulet, preserved him from inconstancy or vice ;-and now, at the trying moment, when ambition made its last struggle in his soul, and had almost prevailed, passion came in aid of virtue, and the remembrance of Zillah brought him back to the ways of his fathers.
He reaches the laurel thicket where they had taken their last farewell: a bower had been made there, in which Zillah herself is lying asleep upon the moss.
Moments there are, that, in their sudden flight,
“Thus on the slumbering maid while Javan gazeg,
Their golden wreaths from her reclining head;