« PreviousContinue »
it seems no unreasonable hope, that his ripened virtues and matured professional acquirements might one day have placed bim at no considerable distance from the fame of Sir Mathew Hale.
It is the idle, and far worse than idle, prejudice of fourth, and fifth-rate minds, that profligacy is the privilege and proper evidence of talent. Because some men of real capacity have debased their genius by their want of morals, the wretched conclusion is drawn, that the ordinary decencies of life were not made for superior intellects: that the temperance, the frugality, the patient industry, the habitual self-denial, enjoined by Christianity, are altogether vulgar virtues, mere every-day qualifications, which it may be respectable enough to possess, but which it is the part of high endowments to overlook or despise, as badges of natural servitude and conscious inferiority. The consequences of this notion are not merely that really gifted minds learn to foster and encourage themselves in what they conceive to be a brave disorder,' and in that practical irreligion which too often ends in speculative infidelity; but that the same licence is assumed by a far greater number without the same pretensions; men who, having heard that poets are apt to be profligate, give us the profligacy without the poetry; and who, because genius is said to pursue the vast, the wonderful and wild, unfortunately infer, that when they have become thoroughly wild,' they are of course all that is vast and wonderful.'
The idolaters of Dermody, Chatterton, Burns and other poets of a similar cast of character, would almost persuade us that vice and genius are convertible terms. To this opinion the history of literature and of Christianity furnishes the best answer. nals of every age attest the perfect compatibility of the highest intellectual faculties with the profoundest, the most genuine, most efficacious sense of religion. In how many instances have the most commanding and comprehensive powers of thought, invention or reasoning, submitted themselves to the lessons of Revelation ? In how
many instances have the brightest, the most rapid, the most electric powers of imagination, served to shed lustre over the purest, most regular, most unimpeachable life! If Christianity were, what assuredly it is not, a matter of precedent and authority, we could oppose to the names of Voltaire, Rousseau, and the rest of the Anakim of French philosophy, other and more exalted names drawn from the literary chronicles of their own country. Or, if we should look homewards, should we not find that the foremost among our own great writers have been not merely the hereditary professors of Christianity, but the active and zealous defenders of its truth and its authority? Let us not be understood to imply that the claims of revealed religion are sufficiently consulted, when it is merely enforced or propounded as a system of belief. It is one thing to be
the dignified advocate of Christianity, and another to be its devoted disciple; one thing to vindicate it with our pens, and another to illustrate it by our practice. But to be the strenuous defender and expounder of truth is at least to pay it homage. Of the great men, to whom we have alluded, some perhaps may have admitted inconsistencies into their conduct, possibly even into their creed; but at least they have repelled the impious pretensions of scepticism, profaneness, and avowed immorality. They have redeemed, as far as the literature of their country was concerned, the pledge of their baptism, and have fought the battles of the Cross without being ashamed of their colours.
That the most splendid powers and acquirements should be found in alliance with religion and good morals will not, on consideration, seem surprising, even without reference to the real reasonableness of religious and moral truth. If we reflect how much of solid ground the sceptic (whether his scepticism be in religion or in morality) throws away, we shall not expect to find him very successful even in that province of reasoning and speculation which he affects to regard as the peculiar theatre of his glory. In rejecting so many established positions, he, in effect, sacrifices a great part of the admitted premises of all reasoning and speculation: his vigour is wasted in destruction; and it would be too much to ask that a superstructure should be successfully raised by him who cannot even settle bis foundation.
It is not merely to the povrers of the understanding that these observations apply. They hold also with respect to the more airy and delicate powers of taste and fancy; though it must be confessed that, in this department, signal cases of exception have sometimes occurred. There can be no doubt that violent and vicious passion may stimulate the sensibilities of the mind to an extraordinary degree of exertion : and that the action so excited in the system will discover itself in highly singular combinations of ideas and daring felicities of expression. This is inspiration, but it is the inspiration of a strange fire;' and, in general, we believe, that the imagination, which burns with the clearest, the loftiest and the most expansive flame, will be that which is fed by the purest sentiments and the freshest affections.
Strong links and mutual sympathies connect
But of our souls the high-born loftier part,
And kindled only by a ray from heav'n. To the canonized nanies at which we have glanced, the author of the compositions before us would, probably, if he had lived, have made a bright addition. Prematurely, indeed, as his career closed, he was spared long enough to display, in active life, an example of great ability, united with the devoutest faith, and the purest morals. In this respect his death may be considered as less untimely than some of the other privations, which this country has, within no long period, sustained, of juvenile talents and virtue. Kirke White, who, perhaps, most nearly resembled bim, was snatched
away in his earliest spring. Bowdler lived to assume a definite station in the community, and to realize, in a degree, the hopes and promises of bis opening youth. Non flosculos, sicut prior, sed jam certos atque deformatos fructus ostenderat. But even if he had performed no other service than that of leaving a collection of writings bespeaking so much reach of thought, and elevation of principle, as that which we are now about to close, we can truly say that we should still have thought him entitled to an honourable rank among the ornaments of his country.
ART. VII.—Sketches of America. 1 Narrative of a Journey of
Five Thousand Miles through the Eastern und Western States of America; contained in Eight Reports, addressed to the Thirty-nine. Families, by whom the Author was deputed, in June 1817, to ascertain whether any, and what part of the United States would be suitable for their Residence: with Remarks on Mr. Birkbeck's Notes' and Letters. By Henry
Bradshaw Fearon. London. 1818. WE E had proposed at first, to combine our observations on
the present work with those on the · Statistical View which stands at the head of our Number, but a little consideration determined us to devote an Article to each; as the minute details furnished by Mr. Fearon do not readily fall in with the great features of American polity sketched by Mr. Bristed.
There is a numerous set of people in this country who, having grown inordinately rich under its protecting shield, while the rest of the civilized world lay exposed to the ravages of war, are become feverish and discontented, because the return of peace has not instantaneously, and, as it were by magic, shaken from their shoulders the burdens necessarily created by that protracted state of hostility to which their fortune is mainly due. Too selfish to endure any reduction of their extravagant profits, or to await the relief which the re-establishment of tranquillity must gradually effect, they leave their country to support its burdens as it can, and are already on the wing, with their multitudinous acquisitions, for a foreign shore.
Among others of this description, forty families, principally resident, we believe, in the neighbourhood of Southwark, gaily formed themselves into an emigrating party to the United States
Cedere namque foro jam nec tibi deteriùs quàm
Esquilias a ferventi migrare Suburra —to transfer their allegiance and their affections to another government sits as lightly upon them as to remove, in the fashionable season, from the Ward of Farringdon Without to Margate or Rotting Dean. The feeling which ennobled the citizens of Sparta and Athens, and stood them in the stead of many virtues, the love of country, once the peculiar pride and boast of Englishmen, has no residence in the bosom of these persons.
The endearing charities of life, the ties of blood, of society, of early friendships, of kindred habits, are all sacrificed by them to one sordid passion, while, rudely trampling over the graves of their forefathers, they rush in crouds to deposit their wealth where it
be safe from the claims of their native land. Had the amiable con-fraternity of whom we are speaking been agriculturists, they would have transported themselves at once, and blindly plunged into the insatiable gulf which has already swallowed up so many thousands of their countrymen : but they were traders—cold-blooded, calculating men, who, in their own language, deemed it prudent to look before they leaped, and, in the usual mode of business, to send out one of their members as
a kind of Rider, to examine the country, and select the most fa· vourable spot for settling, before they trusted themselves, with their accumulations, to the winds.
The person fixed upon for this purpose was Mr. Henry Fearon :--and as there was an evident solicitude in the party to procure a favourable report from the United States, the choice could not have fallen upon a fitter agent. A democrat fieffé, Mr. Fearon joined to a sovereign contempt for the civil and religious institutions of England, of which he knew little, a blind and sottish
admiration of those of America, of which he knew nothing at all. With the gullibility common to the party, he appears to have swal lowed all the rancorous abuse of this country, and all the outrageous panegyrics on America, which he found in Cobbett, and Wooler, and Sherwin, with equal avidity and delight. Thus happily qualified for an impartial speculator, and furnished with
letters of introduction by Mr. Alderman Wood,' he commences his narrative and his voyage on the 4th of June, 1817. The results of his travels are contained in. Eight Reports’, transmitted, as occasion offered, to the persons by whom he was deputed.
Mr. Fearon would have thought he offered an injury to land of liberty,' had he disembarked on it from the polluted atmosphere of an English ship; he therefore took his passage on board an American vessel, called the Washington; and, as the cabin
passengers were Americans, and one of them was a gentleman in office, undoubtedly anticipated high converse' on the imperishable beauty of Isocracy; and Symposia, at which the legislators of Sparta and Athens might have sat and listened with profit and delight. Such, however, is the frail texture of human affairs, that these reasonable expectations, we lament to say, proved altogether fallacious. Mr. Fearon's sublime idea of American republicanism received a check at the very outset of the voyage. Of the nineteen cabin passengers,' he assures bis friends that they
will be somewhat surprised to learn that Mr. George Washington Adams (eldest son of the HONOURABLE John Quincey Adams, according to American etiquette) and himself were the only warm friends of political liberty::--and 'still more so when, on the anniversary of American independence, kept on board, he has to inform them that the toasts were but indifferent.'- I was not gratified,' he adds, with even an approach to the old English' (modern Whig) 'sentiment of “ Civil and Religious Liberty all over the world.” The steerage passengers, amounting to thirteen, had almost as little relish, it would seem, for Liberty as their betters in the cabin. There was, however, a Mr. Davis among them, an ingenious clever man,' who organized a debating society, which was held twice a week in a sort of dog-hole,' weather permitting.–On one occasion the question was—Which is the best form of government, a democracy or a monarchy?' After a strong contest, it was determined in favour of the former by the casting vote of the chairman, who was seated in presidential state on a water cask. And we almost tremble while we state the alarming fact—that for this narrow escape of Democracy being left in a minority, she was solely indebted to the attendance of young master Adams' and Mr. Fearon, who left the cabin for