Page images

refreshing admonitions, to which we turn her province better than, by disturbing her for shelter from the too great heat and husband at his palette, to divert him from asperity of the general satire.

that universality of subject, which has And is there nothing analogous to this in stamped him perhaps, next to Shakspeare, IIogarth ? nothing which attempts and the most inventive genius which this island reaches the heart?”_

-no aim beyond that of has produced, into the "amiable pursuit of “shaking the sides ? ” — If the kneeling beautiful nature,” i.e. copying ad infinitum ministering female in the last scene of the the individual charms and graces of Mrs. H. Rake's Progress, the Bedlam scene, of which I have spoken before, and have dared almost “ Hogarth's method of exposing meanness, deformity,

and vice, paddling in whatever is ridiculous, faulty, and to parallel it with the most absolute idea of

vicious." Virtue which Shakspeare has left us, be not enough to disprove the assertion ; if the sad A person unacquainted with the works endings of the Harlot and the Rake, the thus stigmatised would be apt to imagine passionate heart-bleeding entreaties for for- that in Hogarth there was nothing else to giveness which the adulterous wife is pouring be found but subjects of the coarsest and forth to her assassinated and dying lord in most repulsive nature. That his imagination the last scene but one of the Marriage was naturally unsweet, and that he delighted Alamode,—if these be not things to touch in raking into every species of moral filth. the heart, and dispose the mind to a medi- That he preyed upon sore places only, and tative tenderness : is there nothing sweetly took a pleasure in exposing the unsound and conciliatory in the mild patient face and rotten parts of human nature :—whereas, gesture with which the wife seems to allay with the exception of some of the plates of and ventilate the feverish irritated feelings the Harlot's Progress, which are harder in of her poor poverty-distracted mate (the their character than any of the rest of his true copy of the genus irritabile) in the print productions, (the Stages of Cruelty I omit as of the Distrest Poet? or if an image of mere worthless caricaturas, foreign to his maternal love be required, where shall we general habits, the offspring of his fancy in find a sublimer view of it than in that aged some wayward humour,) there is scarce one woman in Industry and Idleness (plate V.) of his pieces where vice is most strongly who is clinging with the fondness of hope satirised, in which some figure is not intronot quite extinguished to her brutal vice- duced upon which the moral eye may rest hardened child, whom she is accompanying satisfied; a face that indicates goodness, or to the ship which is to bear him away from perhaps mere good-humouredness and carehis native soil, of which he has been adjudged lessness of mind (negation of evil) only, yet unworthy: in whose shocking face every enough to give a relaxation to the frowning trace of the human countenance seems brow of satire, and keep the general air from obliterated, and a brute beast's to be left tainting. Take the mild, supplicating posture instead, shocking and repulsive to all but of patient Poverty in the poor woman that her who watched over it in its cradle before is persuading the pawnbroker to accept her it was so sadly altered, and feels it must clothes in pledge, in the plate of Gin Lane, belong to her while a pulse by the vindictive for an instance. A little does it, a little of laws of his country shall be suffered to con- the good nature overpowers a world of bad. tinue to beat in it. Compared with such | One cordial honest laugh of a Tom Jones things, what is Mr. Penny's “knowledge of absolutely clears the atmosphere that was the figure and academical skill which reeking with the black putrifying breathings Hogarth wanted ?”

of a hypocrite Blifil. One homely expostuWith respect to what follows concerning lating shrug from Strap warms the whole another gentleman, with the congratulations air which the suggestions of a gentlemaniy to him on his escape out of the regions of ingratitude from his friend Random had « humour and caricatura,” in which it begun to freeze. One “Lord bless us !” of appears he was in danger of travelling side Parson Adams upon the wickedness of the by side with Hogarth, I can only congratu- times, exorcises and purges off the mass of late my country, that Mrs. Hogarth knew iniquity which the world-knowledge of even

From common sense of what men were and are :"

a Fielding could cull out and rake together. written,) let a person look till he be saturated, But of the severer class of Hogarth's per- and when he has done wondering at the informances, enough, I trust, has been said to ventiveness of genius which could bring so show that they do not merely shock and many characters (more than thirty distinct repulse ; that there is in them the “scorn of classes of face) into a room and set them vice” and the “pity” too; something to down at table together, or otherwise dispose touch the heart, and keep alive the sense of them about, in so natural a manner, engage moral beauty; the “lacrymæ rerum," and them in so many easy sets and occupations, the sorrowing by which the heart is made yet all partaking of the spirit of the occasion better. If they be bad things, then is satire which brought them together, so that we and tragedy a bad thing; let us proclaim at feel that nothing but an election time could once an age of gold, and sink the existence have assembled them; having no central of vice and misery in our speculations : figure or principal group, (for the hero of let us

the piece, the Candidate, is properly set aside

in the levelling indistinction of the day, one wink, and shut our apprehensions up

must look for him to find him,) nothing to

detain the eye from passing from part to let us make believe with the children, that part, where every part is alike instinct with every body is good and happy; and, with life, — for here are no furniture-faces, Dr. Swift, write panegyrics upon the world. figures brought in to fill up the scene like

But that larger half of Hogarth's works, stage choruses, but all dramatis personæ : which were painted more for entertainment when he shall have done wondering at all than instruction (though such was the sug- these faces so strongly charactered, yet gestiveness of his mind that there is always finished with the accuracy of the finest something to be learnt from them), his miniature ; when he shall have done adhumorous scenes,-are they such as merely miring the numberless appendages of the to disgust and set us against our species ? seene, those gratuitous doles which rich

The confident assertions of such a man as genius flings into the heap when it has I consider the late Mr. Barry to have been, already done enough, the over-measure have that weight of authority in them which which it delights in giving, as if it felt its staggers at first hearing, even a long pre- stores were exhaustless ; the dumb rhetoric conceived opinion. When I read his pathetic of the scenery-for tables, and chairs, and admonition concerning the shortness of life, I joint-stools in Hogarth are living and signiand how much better the little leisure of it ficant things; the witticisms that are exwere laid out upon “ that species of art which pressed by words, (all artists but Hogarth is employed about the amiable and the ad- have failed when they have endeavoured to mirable ;” and Hogarth's “ method," pro- combine two mediums of expression, and scribed as a dangerous or worthless pur- have introduced words into their pictures.) suit,” I began to think there was something and the unwritten numberless little allusire in it ; that I might have been indulging all pleasantries that are scattered about; the my life a passion for the works of this artist, work that is going on in the scene, and to the utter prejudice of my taste and moral beyond it, as is made visible to the “ege of sense ; but my first convictions gradually mind,” by the mob which chokes up the returned, a world of good-natured English doorway, and the sword that has forced an faces came up one by one to my recollec- entrance before its master; when he shall tion, and a glance at the matchless Election have sufficiently admired this wealth of Entertainment, which I have the happi- genius, let him fairly say what is the result ness to have hanging up in my parlour, left on his mind. Is it an impression of the subverted Mr. Barry's whole theory in an vileness and worthlessness of his species ? or instant.

is it not the general feeling which remains, In that inimitable print, (which in my after the individual faces have ceased to act judgment as far exceeds the more known sensibly on his mind, a kindly one in favour and celebrated March to Finchley, as the best of his species ? was not the general air of comedy exceeds the best farce that ever was the scene wholesome ? did it do the heart

[ocr errors]

hurt to be among it? Something of a by a perception of the amiable ? That riotous spirit to be sure is there, some tumultuous harmony of singers that are worldly-mindedness in some of the faces, a roaring out the words, “ The world shall Doddingtonian smoothness which does not bow to the Assyrian throne,” from the opera promise any superfluous degree of sincerity of Judith, in the third plate of the series in the fine gentleman who has been the called the Four Groups of Heads; which the occasion of calling so much good company quick eye of Hogarth must have struck off together ; but is not the general cast of in the very infancy of the rage for sacred expression in the faces of the good sort ? do oratorios in this country, while “ Music yet they not seem cut out of the good old rock, was young ;" when we have done smiling at substantial English honesty ? would one fear the deafening distortions, which these treachery among characters of their expres- tearers of devotion to rags and tatters, these sion ? or shall we call their honest mirth and takers of heaven by storm, in their boisterous seldom-returning relaxation by the hard mimicry of the occupation of angels, are names of vice and profligacy? That poor making,—what unkindly impression is left country fellow, that is grasping his staff behind, or what more of harsh or con(which, from that difficulty of feeling them- temptuous feeling, than when we quietly selves at home which poor men experience leave Uncle Toby and Mr. Shandy riding at a feast, he has never parted with since he their hobby-horses about the room? The came into the room), and is enjoying with a conceited, long-backed Sign-painter, that relish that seems to fit all the capacities of with all the self-applause of a Raphael or his soul the slender joke, which that facetious Correggio (the twist of body which his wag his neighbour is practising upon the conceit has thrown him into has something gouty gentleman, whose eyes the effort to of the Correggiesque in it), is contemplating suppress pain has made as round as rings, the picture of a bottle, which he is drawing does it shock the "dignity of human nature" from an actual bottle that hangs beside him, to look at that man, and to sympathise with in the print of Beer Street,—while we smile him in the seldom-heard joke which has at the enormity of the self-delusion, can we anbent his care-worn, hard-working visage, help loving the good-humour and self-comand drawn iron smiles from it ? or with that placency of the fellow ? would we willingly full-hearted cobbler, who is honouring with wake him from his dream ? the grasp of an honest fist the unused palm I say not that all the ridiculous subjects of that annoyed patrician, whom the licence of Hogarth have, necessarily, something in of the time has seated next him ?

them to make us like them ; some are see nothing “dangerous” in the indifferent to us, some in their natures contemplation of such scenes as this, or the repulsive, and only made interesting by the Enraged Musician, or the Southwark Fair, or wonderful skill and truth to nature in the twenty other pleasant prints which come painter ; but I contend that there is in most crowding in upon my recollection, in which of them that sprinkling of the better nature, the restless activities, the diversified bents which, like holy water, chases away and and humours, the blameless peculiarities of disperses the contagion of the bad. They men, as they deserve to be called, rather have this in them, besides, that they bring than their “vices and follies,” are held up in us acquainted with the every-day human a laughable point of view. All laughter is face,-they give us skill to detect those not of a dangerous or soul-hardening ten- gradations of sense and virtue (which escape dency. There is the petrifying sneer of a the careless or fastidious observer) in the demon which excludes and kills Love, and countenances of the world about us; and there is the cordial laughter of a man which prevent that disgust at common life, that implies and cherishes it. What heart was tadium quotidianarum formarum, which an ever made the worse by joining in a hearty unrestricted passion for ideal forins and laugh at the simplicities of Sir Hugh Evans beauties is in danger of producing. In this, or Parson Adams, where a sense of the as in many other things, they are analogous ridiculous mutually kindles and is kindled to the best novels of Smollett or Fielding.

I can


THE poems of G. Wither are distinguished be convicted of a libel when he named no by a hearty homeliness of manner, and a names but Hate, and Envy, and Lust, and plain moral speaking. He seems to have Avarice, is like one of the indictments in the passed his life in one continued act of an Pilgrim's Progress, where Faithful is innocent self-pleasing. That which he calls arraigned for having “ railed on our noble his Motto is a continued self-eulogy of two Prince Beelzebub, and spoken contemptibly thousand lines, yet we read it to the end of his honourable friends, the Lord Old Man, without any feeling of distaste, almost the Lord Carnal Delight, and th Lord without a consciousness that we have been Luxurious.” What unlucky jealousy could listening all the while to a man praising have tempted the great men of those days to himself. There are none of the cold particles appropriate such innocent abstractions to in it, the hardness and self-ends, which themselves ? render vanity and egotism hateful. He seems Wither seems to have contemplated to a to be praising another person, under the degree of idolatry his own possible virtue. mask of self: or rather, we feel that it was He is for ever anticipating persecution and indifferent to him where he found the virtue martyrdom ; fingering, as it were, the flames, which he celebrates ; whether another's to try how he can bear them. Perhaps his bosom or his own were its chosen receptacle. premature defiance sometimes made him His poems are full, and this in particular is obnoxious to censures which he would otherone downright confession, of a generous self- wise have slipped by. seeking. But by self he sometimes means a The homely versification of these Satires is great deal,—his friends, his principles, his not likely to attract in the present day. It country, the human race.

is certainly not such as we should expect Whoever expects to find in the satirical from a poet “soaring in the high region pieces of this writer any of those peculiarities of his fancies, with his garland and his which pleased him in the satires of Dryden singing robes about him ;' nor is it such or Pope, will be grievously disappointed. as he has shown in his Philarete, and in some Here are no high-finished characters, no nice parts of his Shepherds Hunting. He seems traits of individual nature, few or no to have adopted this dress with voluntary personalities. The game run down is coarse humility, as fittest for a moral teacher, as general vice, or folly as it appears in classes. our divines choose sober grey or black ; but A liar, a drunkard, a coxcomb, is stript and in their humility consists their sweetness. whipt ; no Shaftesbury, no Villiers, or The deepest tone of moral feeling in them Wharton, is curiously anatomised, and read (though all throughout is weighty, earnest, upon. But to a well-natured mind there is and passionate) is in those pathetic injunca charm of moral sensibility running through tions against shedding of blood in quarrels, them, which amply compensates the want of in the chapter entitled Revenge. The story those luxuries. Wither seems everywhere of his own forbearance, which follows, is bursting with a love of goodness, and a highly interesting. While the Christian hatred of all low and base actions. At this sings his own victory over Anger, the Man day it is hard to discover what parts of the of Courage cannot help peeping out to let poem here particularly alluded to, Abuses you know, that it was some higher principle Stript and Whipt, could have occasioned the than fear which counselled this forbearance. imprisonment of the author. Was Vice in Whether encaged, or roaming at liberty, High Places more suspicious than now ? Wither never seems to have abated a jot of had she more power; or more leisure to that free spirit which sets its mark upon his listen after ill reports ? That a man should

• Milton,

writings, as much as a prelominant feature whose singing furnishes pretence for an occaof independence impresses every page of our sional change of metre: though the sevenlate glorious Burns ; but the elder poet syllable line, in which the main part of it is wraps his proof-armour closer about him, written, is that in which Wither has shown the other wears his too much outwards; he himself so great a master, that I do not is thinking too much of annoying the foe to know that I am always thankful to him for be quite easy within ; the spiritual defences the exchange. of Wither are a perpetual source of inward Wither has chosen to bestow upon the sunshine, the magnanimity of the modern is lady whom he commends the name of Arete, not without its alloy of soreness, and a sense or Virtue ; and, assuming to himself the of injustice, which seems perpetually to gall character of Philarete, or Lover of Virtue, and irritate. Wither was better skilled in there is a sort of propriety in that heaped the "sweet uses of adversity;" he knew measure of perfections which he attributes how to extract the “precious jewel” from to this partly real, partly allegorical personthe head of the “toad,” without drawing any age. Drayton before him had shadowed his of the “ugly venom along with it. The mistress under the name of Idea, or Perfect prison notes of Wither are finer than the Pattern, and some of the old Italian lovewood notes of most of his poetical brethren. strains are couched in such religious terms The description in the Fourth Eclogue of his as to make it doubtful whether it be a misShepherds Hunting (which was composed tress, or Divine Grace, which the poet is during his imprisonment in the Marshalsea) addressing. of the power of the Muse to extract pleasure In this poem (full of beauties) there are from common objects, has been oftener: two passages of pre-eminent merit. The quoted, and is more known, than any part of first is where the lover, after a flight of his writings. Indeed, the whole Eclogue is rapturous commendation, expresses his wonin a strain so much above not only what der why all men that are about his mistress, himself, but almost what any other poet has even to her very servants, do not view her written, that he himself could not help with the same eyes that he does. noticing it; he remarks that his spirits had been raised higher than they were wont, “ through the love of poesy." The praises of

Nay, I muse her servants are not

Pleading love; but 0! they dare not. Poetry have been often sung in ancient and

And I therefore wonder, why in modern times ; strange powers have been They do not grow sick and die. ascribed to it of influence over animate and

Sure they would do so, but that,

By the ordinance of fate, inanimate auditors; its force over fascinated

ning, crowds has been acknowledged ; but, before

So each gazer limiting,

He can see no more of merit, Wither, no one ever celebrated its power at Than beseems his worth and spirit. home, the wealth and the strength which this For in her a grace there shines,

That o'er-daring thoughts confines, divine gift confers upon its possessor. Fame,

Making worthless mon despair and that too after death, was all which To be loved of one so fair, hitherto the poets had promised themselves

Yea, the destinies agree,

Some good judgments blind should be, from their art. It seems to have been left

And not gain the power of knowing to Wither to discover that poetry was a

Those rare beauties in her growing.

Reason doth as much imply : present possession, as well as a rich reversion,

For, if every judging eye, and that the Muse had promise of both

Which beholdeth her, should there

Find what excellences are, lives, -of this, and of that which was to

All, o'ercome by those perfections, coma.

Would be captive to affections. The Mistress of Philarete is in substance a So, in happiness unblest,

She for lovers should not rest." panegyric protracted through several thousand lines in the mouth of a single speaker, The other is, where he has been comparing but diversified, so as to produce an almost her beauties to gold, and stars, and the most dramatic effect, by the artful introduction of excellent things in nature ; and, fearing to some ladies, who are rather auditors than be accused of hyperbole, the common charge interlocutors in the scene; and of a boy, against poets, vindicates himself by boldly

« Sometime I do admire
All men burn not with desire:

There is some concealed

« PreviousContinue »