Page images


Downing Street, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1801. “ Mr Pitt cannot help entreating your Majesty's permission to express how very sincerely he is penetrated with the affecting expressions of your Majesty's kindness and goodness to himself, on the occasion of the communication with which he has been under the necessity of troubling your Majesty. It is, therefore, with additional pain he feels himself bound to state, that the final decision which your Majesty has formed on the great subject in question, (the motives to which he respects and honours,) and his own unalterable sense of the line which public duty requires from him, must make him consider the moment as now arrived, when, on the principles which he has already explained, it must be his first wish to be released, as soon as possible, from his present sitnation. He certainly retains the same anxious desire, in the time and mode of quitting it, to consult, as much as possible, your Majesty's ease and convenience, and to avoid embarrassment. But he must frankly confess to your Majesty, that the difficulty even of his temporary continuance must necessarily be increased, and may very shortly become insuperable, from what he conceives to be the import of one passage in your Majesty's note, which hardly leaves him room to hope, that your Majesty thinks those steps can be taken for effectually discountenancing all attempts to make use of your Majesty's name, or to influence opinions on this subject, which he has ventured to represent as indispensably necessary during any interval in which he might remain in ottice. He has, however, the less anxiety in laying this sentiment before your Majesty, because, independent of it, he is more and more convinced, that, your Majesty's final decision being once taken, the sooner he is allowed to act upon it, the better it will be for your Majesty's service. He trusts, and sincerely believes, that your Majesty cannot find any long delay necessary for forming an arrangement for conducting your service with credit and advantage; and that, on the other hand, the feebleness and uncertainty, which is almost inseparable from a temporary government, must soon produce an effect, both at home and abroad, which might lead to serious inconvenience.—Mr Pitt trusts your Majesty will believe, that a sincere anxiety for the future ease and strength of your government, is one strong motive for his presuming thus to press this consideration."

The correspondence closes with a short letter from the Duke of York,-to whom, it should seem, the whole had been sent, for his edification, by the King; apparently a superfluous care, as His Royal Highness's answer shows :

« York House, Feb. 13, 1801. 6 Sir, I have the honour to return your Majesty the papers

which you were graciously pleased to allow me to peruse.

“ If my sentiments upon the question of Catholic Emancipation, and of the Repeal of the Test Act, had not been already immutably fixed, the arguments adduced in favour of the measure would alone have been sufficient to have convinced me of the danger, if not of the absolute certainty, of the dreadful consequences of its being carried into execution. I have the honour to be, Sir, your Majesty's most dutiful son and subject,

FREDERICK.” This, too, we presume, is given to the public by the Reverend Editor, as a binding authority in favour of his much-cherished faith in the principles of exclusion and intolerance. Anything more ridiculous we cannot well imagine. The poor Duke-whose death has been much lamented, certainly, for the qualities of his heart, and for the capacity with which he was endowed—receives a cogent piece of reasoning by Mr Pitt—and a bare expression of the King's opposite opinion, unsupported by one single reason of any kind—and he speaks of “ the arguments adduced in “ favour of the measure," as quite suficient to prove “ the dan

ger, if not the absolute certainty of its dreadful consequences !" Such answers to Mr Pitt befit well an acting Commander-inchief.

It is impossible to read the above letters of Mr Pitt, and to mark the honest earnestness and solid grounds of his opinion upon this great question, without marvelling at the audacity of many of those who, calling themselves his followers, and assuming his name, form themselves into associations, the main purpose of which is to oppose the very question he was so sincerely devoted to. What is now called a Pitt Club often signifies little else than a knot of narrow-minded persons, who are banded together by the fixed determination to oppose the principles of Mr Pitt, upon the greatest point on which he ever thought and acted for himself. To their orgies, therefore, we cannot but think that no real friend, no true admirer, of Mr Pitt, can consistently resort. Every feeling of respect for his memory must make them shun such an insult to his name, as could only be outdone by some gang of slave-dealers who should call themselves the Wilberforce Club, and exert themselves, under that appellation, for the perpetuity of slavery, and the revival of the Slave-Trade.

Art. VII.-Jean Paul Frederich Richter's Leben, nebst Charac

teristik seiner Werke ; von Heinrich Doering. (Jean Paul Frederich Richter's Life, with a Sketch of his Works; by Heinrich Doering.) Gotha. Hennings, 1826. 12mo, pp. 208. D R JOHNSON, it is said, when he first heard of Boswell's in

tention to write a life of him, announced, with decision enough, that if he thought Boswell really meant to write his life, he would prevent it by taking Boswell's! That great authors should actually employ this preventive against bad biographers, is a thing we would by no means recommend; but the truth is, that, rich as we are in biography, a well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one; and there are certainly many more men whose history deserves to be recorded, than persons willing and able to furnish the record. But great men, like the old Egyptian kings, must all be tried after death, before they can be embalmed: and what, in truth, are these “ Sketches,” 66 Anas," “ Con“ versations,” “ Voices," and the like, but the votes and pleadings of the ill-informed advocates, and jurors, and judges, from whose conflict, however, we shall in the end have a true verdict? The worst of it is at the first; for weak eyes are precisely the fondest of glittering objects : And accordingly, no sooner does a great man depart, and leave his character as public property, than a crowd of little men rushes towards it. There they are gathered together-blinking up to it with such vision as they have, scanning it from afar, hovering round it this way and that-each cunningly endeavouring, by all arts, to catch some reflex of it in the little mirror of himself; though, many times, this mirror is so twisted with convexities and concavities, and, indeed, so extremely small in size, that, to expect any true image, or any image whatever from it, is out of the question.

Richter was much better-natured than Johnson; and took many provoking things with the spirit of a humourist and philosopher; nor can we think that so good a man, even had he foreseen this work of Doering's, would have gone the length of assassinating him for it. Doering is a person we have known for several years, as a compiler, and translator, and ballad-monger, whose grand enterprise, however, is his Gallery of Weimar Authors ; a series of strange little biographies, beginning with Schiller, and already extending over Weiland and Herder now comprehending, probably by conquest, Klopstock also, and lastly, by a sort of droit d'aubaine, Jean Paul Frederich Richter, neither of whom belonged to Weimar. Authors, it must be admitted, are happier than the old painter with his cocks: for they write, naturally and without fear of ridicule or offence, the name and description of their work on the title-page; and thenceforth the purport and tendency of each volume remains indisputable. Doering is sometimes lucky in this privilege ; for his manner of composition being so peculiar, might now and then occasion difficulty, but forthis precaution. His biographies he works up simply enough. He first ascertains, from the Leipzic Conversationslexicon, or Jörden's Poetical Lexicon, or Flögel or Koch, or other such Compendium or Handbook, the date and place of VOL. XLVI. NO. 91.


the proposed individual's birth, his parentage, trade, appointments, and the titles of his works (the date of his death you already know from the newspapers): this serves as a foundation for the edifice. He then goes through his writings, and all other writings where he or his pursuits are treated of, and whenever he finds a passage with his name in it, he cuts it out, and carries it away. In this manner, a mass of materials is collected, and the building now proceeds apace. Stone is laid on the top of stone, just as it comes to hand; a trowel or two of biographic mortar, if perfectly convenient, being perhaps spread in here and there, by way of cement; and so the strangest pile suddenly arises; amorphous, pointing every way but to the zenith-here a block of granite, there a mass of pipe-clay; till the whole finishes, when the materials are finished--and you leave it standing to posterity, like some miniature Stonehenge, a perfect architectural enigma.

To speak without figure, this mode of life-writing has its disadvantages. For one thing, the composition cannot well be what the critics call harmonious; and, indeed, Herr Doering's transitions are often abrupt enough. His hero changes his object and occupation from page to page, often from sentence to sentence, in the most unaccountable way-a pleasure journey, and a sickness of fifteen years, are despatched with equal brevity; in a moment you find him married, and the father of three fine children. He dies no less suddenly;– he is studying as usual, writing poetry, receiving visits, full of life and business, when instantly some paragraph opens under him, like one of the trap-doors in the Vision of Mirza, and he drops, without note of preparation, into the shades below. Perhaps, indeed, not for ever : we have instances of his rising after the funeral, and winding up his affairs. The time has been that when the brains were out, the man would die; but Doering orders these matters differently.

We beg leave to say, however, that we really have no private pique against Doering : on the contrary, we are regular purchasers of his ware; and it gives us true pleasure to see his spirits so much improved since we first met him. In the Life of Schiller, his state did seem rather unprosperous : he wore a timorous, submissive, and downcast aspect, as if, like Sterne's Ass, he were saying, “ Don't thrash me-but if you will, you may !” Now, however, comforted by considerable sale, and praise from this and the other Litteraturblatt, which has commended his diligence, his fidelity, and, strange to say, his method, he advances with erect countenance and firm hoof, and even recalcitrates contemptuously against such as do him offence. Glück auf dem Weg! is the worst we wish him.

Of his Life of Richter, these preliminary observations may be our excuse for saying but little. He brags much, in his Preface, that it is all true and genuine; for Richter's widow, it seems, had, by public advertisement, cautioned the world against it; another Biography, partly by the illustrious deceased himself, partly by Otto, his oldest friend and the appointed editor of his works, being actually in preparation. This rouses the indignant spirit of Doering, and he stoutly asseverates, that his documents being altogether authentic, this biography is no pseudo-biography. With greater truth, he might have asseverated, that it was no biography at all. Well are he and Hennings of Gotha aware that this thing of shreds and patches has been vamped together for sale only. Except a few letters to Kunz, the Bama berg bookseller, which turn mainly on the purchase of spectacles, and the journeyings and freightage of two boxes that used to pass and repass between Richter and Kunz's circulating library; with three or four notes of similar importance, and chiefly to other booksellers, there are no biographical documents here, which were not open to all Europe as well as to Heinrich Doering. Indeed, very nearly one half of the Life is occupied with a description of the funeral and its appendages,-how the “ sixty torches, “ with a number of lanterns and pitch-pans," were arranged ; how this Patrician or Professor followed that, through Friedrich-street, Chancery-street, and other streets of Bayreuth; and how at last the torches all went out, as Doctor Gabler and Doctor Spatzier were perorating (decidedly in bombast) over the grave. Then, it seems, there were meetings held in various parts of Germany, to solemnize the memory of Richter; among the rest, one in the Museum of Frankfort on the Main; where a Doctor Börne speaks another long speech, if possible, in still more decided bombast. Next come threnodies from all the four winds, mostly on very splay-footed metre. The whole of which is here snatched from the kind oblivion of the newspapers, and

lives in Settle's numbers one day more."

We have too much reverence for the name of Richter to think of laughing over these unhappy threnodists and panegyrists; some of whom far exceed anything we English can exhibit in the epicedial style. They rather testify, however maladroitly, that the Germans have felt their loss—which, indeed, is one to Europe at large; they even affect us with a certain melancholy feeling, when we consider how a heavenly voice must become mute, and nothing be heard in its stead but the whoop of quite earthly voices, lamenting, or pretending to lament. Far from us be all remembrance of Doering and Company, while we speak of Richter! But his own works give us some glimpses into his

« PreviousContinue »