« PreviousContinue »
their eagerness to make some effort to save themselves, overlook the risk which they incur of hastening their destruction. We shall, in a subsequent article, produce very satisfactory proof, that the deplorable state of the West Indies, is owing to an excessive cultivation of sugar all over the colonies. While the whole or the greater part of this reaches the market of Europe, there will be a glut, and the price will continue extremely low. No mcasures which our maritime superiority enables us to pursue, can prevent a considerable portion of this produce from finding its way over., Another portion will be captured by our cruizers in its attempts to reach the forbidden markets, and will, of course, come into our own market. In the mean time, the enemy will be enforcing his prohibitions with a rigour not likely to be diminishe ed by our blockade of his islands; he will certainly obstruct the importation of our produce into the continental market, and assist the present tendency of the pepple in many parts of Europe to lessen their consumption of such articles. But, while the prices are thus prevented from rising so high as the West India body expects, the cost of raising the produce will be greatly increased. A war with America must not only raise the price of lumber and • provisions, but increase incalculably the charges of freight and insurance. Let us only reflect, that during the last American war, (long may it be called the last !) West India premiuins rose from five to twenty-three guineas per cent.; that the underwriters were, notwithstanding, ruined ; that in the two first years of the contest, the Americans captured 783 of our ships ;--and we shall be convinced, that the inconsiderable rise in the price of sugar, which is all the planters can expect, will be much more than counterbalanced by the increased expense of making and transe porting it. But we are told, that such a blockade of the enemy's colonies must be enforced, as shall compel their planters to abandon the cultivation of the staple articles. This is utterly impossible, unless we pursue a mode of warfare too horrible to be described. For if our blockade succeeds so as to starve the islands, they will surrender-and by what law of war can we refuse to receive them? No one ever pretended that war gives a belligerent the right to do more than take possession of a subdued enemy; and, surely, the planters do not mean to insist that we should force all the foreign colonies into a state of universal anarchy, like that of St Domingo, in order to raise the price of the sugars in Jamaica and Barbadoes ?
A variety of more general reasonings might be offered to show that the planters cannot expect to benefit by any system tending to increase the difficulties under which the rest of the community at present labour. A diminution of the national income is likely to af
feet, in the first instance, t.ose who raise articles of mere superfluie ty: Bankruptcies and other great misfortunes in the commercial word, nust iniure those most of all who chiefly trade upon borrowed capital : The same class of men is sure to feel most seriously the draining of the money market, which always attends an auge mented scale of public expenditure.But, without entering into these considerations, we believe enough has been said to show, that the immediate interests of the West India body are likely to suffer as much as those of the country at large, by the adoption of the rash counsels which they have lately been pressing upon the government.
The inference which is suggested by the dry and tedious diseussion now brought to a close, is, that there are no points at present in dispute between England and America, so important in themselves as to justify a war. The claim of searching ships of war must, both in justice and in prudence, be abandoned ;--it is at once unfounded and unprofitable. The right of searching merchant ships is clearly ours; it is of some value, and should be insisted upon in the manner formerly pointed out. It is neither our right nor our interest to destroy the American carrying trade; and, in our endeavours to limit the benefit which our eniemies derive from it, we should be satisfied with such regulations as may increase the obstacles already thrown in the way of fraudulent transactions, and perhaps augment the expenses of the circuitous voyage.
The doctrines we have now delivered, will not, we are much afraid, be very popular at this moment among the greater part of our readers; but, if they are substantially right, we have no doubt of their being ultimately adopted. The cry for the vigorous assertion of our naval rights, is partly founded in mere popular clamour, and partly in very rash and erróneous views of policy. Hostility with America can only be justified upon the principle of hostility with all neutrals ; and this, we have attempted to show, leads evidently not to the increase of our trade, but to the suppression of all legal trade whatsoever, and the creation of a vast contraband, by which the enemy would profit at least as much as the power that produced it. We love our country, and are proud of its glory, and jealous of its privileges and customs. We feel intimately persuaded, that, while England remains unconquered, she is happy beyond all other nations, be her rulers as weak or as wicked as they may. But it is precisely because these are our feelings, that we wish to see no new rights asserted, and no new wrongs laid to our charge; and that we look: with regret and aversion to the probable alienation of the only independent state with which we are still in amity,
ART. II. Specimens of the Later English Poets, with Preliminary
Notices. By Robert Southey. 3 vol. 8vo. London. Longa man & Co. 1807.
W e opened, with considerable curiosity, a work, entitled, Spee
cimens of the Later English Poets, bearing the name of an editor so conspicuous for the singularity of his tenets in matters of poetical taste. Unable, however, to coincide with the editor in comprehending the distinct object of the publication, we have closed his volumes with the disappointment of perceiving, that nine tenths of his poets so denominated, have no visible title to such a name ; and, that in almost every instance, his selections from the real tribe of Parnassus, are specimens of their secondary, if not of their worst compositions.
The work professes to form a worthy sequel to Mr Ellis's Specimens of the Early English Poets. Mr Ellis ends with the reign of Charles II., this begins with that of James II. The work of Ellis is valuable on two considerations; it contains abundance of good poetry, and it is a cabinet of antiquarian curiosities. But in the tomes before our eye, Mr Southey seems to produce his specimens with no satisfaction to himself. The prefatory notices are generally, though not undeservedly, expressive of contempt for the miserable bard of whom he tosses us a morsel. Nor is this all; the former and the future reader seem to be sneered at, from the implied conjecture, that, as this has pleased so many fools foregoing, it may probably impose on as many admirers in time to come. What value Mr Southey's specimens may contract by the rust of antiquity, or possess an hundred and fifty years from the present time, it is not for hoary-headed reviewers to hope that they shall live to behold. Certain it is, that the editor seems to plume himself on the anticipation, that an extrinsic value of this kind will one day be attached to his Specimens, though composed for the most part of indifferent versification.
• Many worthless versiłyers,” lays Mr Southey, ' are admitted among the English Poets, by the courtesy of criticism, which seems to conceive that charity towards the dead may cover the multitude of its offences again it the living. There were other reasons for admitting here the re. probate as well as the elect. My bufiness was to colle&t specimens as for a bortus ficcus, ont to cull Bowers as for an anthology. I wished, indeed, as Mr Ellis has done, to exhibit specimens of every writer whose verses appear in a substantive form, and find their place on the shelves of the collector. The taste of the public may be better estimated from indifferent poets than from good ones. Cleveland and Cowley,
who were both more popular than Milton, characterize their age more truly. Fame indeed, is of low growth. Like the Hebrew language, it has no present tense. Popularity has no future one. ' *
It seems to be here directly announced, that the object of this compilation is not to collect á body of valuable poetry, but to afford a key to posterity to judge of the prevailing poetical taste of the British public, from the reign of the Second James to the latter years of our present sovereign George III. Now the present publication, we conceive, with the help of a few others, such as the entire works of Dryden, Thomson, Pope, Akenside, Gray, Cowper, Collins, &c. &c. will enable posterity to guess pretty clearly, that some tolerable verses have been written from the date of the British to that of the French Revolution. But we really think, that by itself, it would scarcely warrant such a conclusion ; for so little of the genuine poetry of that interval has been given, that we cannot calculate, without remorse, the vast expense to which the gentle reader of the twentieth century will be put, in addition to the probably advanced price of Mr Southey's collection), before he can imbue his mind
* We quote the last sentence of this paragraph, less for the sake of noticing its grammatical solecism, which gives Fame and Popularity, two honeft substantives, the tenses of a verb; than for remarking the affected disdain of contemporary opinion which it conveys. To say that popularity has no future tense, which, if it means any thing, implies that it cannot protract its existence, is treating an inoffensive word with too much contumely. Shakespeare was popular in his own day, and will be popular, we venture to say, in spite of this new rule about the future. The affertion that Cowley was more popular in his day than Milton, we do not believe, in the more respectable sense of the word. If popolarity mean the opinion of women and children, or the lower clafs of readers, the novels of the circulating library are at this day more popular than Paradise Lost. But, among good judges, Milton was early and classically worshipped. He was early translated into foreign languages,—which Cowley, we believe, never was. At all events, the popu. larity of Cowley is to be regarded rather as an exception to the rule <that demerit will not be overrated in its own day,—than a confirmation of the contrary. Cleveland was never so popular as Milton, in his own day, or in any other. The supposed neglect of Milton among his contemporaries has been greatly exaggerated. Neither the filence of Dryden, nor the political malignity of Winftanly, prove that the seventeenth century was not deeply sensible of his excellence, any more than Voltaire's laughing at Paradise Lost in the eighteenth century, proves his being contemned by the moderne.
with the best specimens of the modern muse. If he seek for' the beauties of Otway, * he will be forced to draw his purse for a
* The Specimens begin with the following Ode of Otway.
· The Poet's COMPLAINT OF His Muse.
"I am a wretch of honett race,
They left me heir to no disgrace.
It shook my brain, and from their fealt my frighted seoses fled: • From thence fad difcontent, uneasy fears,
And anxious doubts of what I had to do,
Gay coxcombs, cowards, knaves and prating fools;