Page images

cal writers respecting the manners of epic poetry.—They cer-
tainly mean, that good heroes should be drawn with polite
manners, and evil ones with the reverse. In this respect, it is
true, neither Virgil nor Homer can be wholly acquitted, when
we consider the ungallant courtship of the Trojan chief, and the
foul-mouthed epithets of Achilles. But different, indeed, is Mr
Hoyle's delineation of characters.-Pharaoh, it is true, is as
graceless and remote from good-breeding, and every way as dis-
honourable, as a king of the gypsies might be expected to be;-
bur Moses, besides the simple dignity of his scripture character, is
here invested with the polish and dignity of the soldier, the scholar
and the gentleman. Thermutis having vainly attempted to use
her influence at court in behalf of the unfortunate Hebrews, is
banished for sedition to the land of Goshen. She retires from
the palais-royal in a very dignified lady-like manner, and betakes
herself to the country residence of Moses, to which, in passing
at the ferry of the Nile, she is compared to Xerxes abandoning
Greece,--though from what circumstances of similarity, we con-
fess ourselves unable to perceive. Luckily, however, she finds
the Hebrew leader at home, who receives her with all the cour-
tesy of a kind landlord; and beguiles the evening like an eloquent,
amusing and instructive companion. He regales her first with a
short history of the universal deluge ; and then, by an easy transi-
tion, describes his own flight into the land of Midian, his courtship
of Jethro's daughter, and his subsequent felicity in a conjugal
state. Of all these enchanting passages, it is beyond our power
to give more than a scanty fragment to the reader ; but he may
-take our word for it, that the whole conversation is exceedingly
Pharaoh, in dismissing the princess, thus abuses her-

Halte! avaunt !
Answer me not, but speed thy banish'd steps
To Goshen :- Thame and sorrow with thee go.-
He ceas'd ; and with imperial, prave deport,
Thermutis made obeisance, and withdrew,
And call’d th' attendan! damsels to sustain
Her feebleness, and bent to Goshen's meads
Her fteps. The chafing amplitude of Nile,
Soon they arrived, and soon in fragile bark
Ferried the ftream ; in humiliation like
(But how unlike in virtue) Persia's King,
Xerxes, froni Salamis, through Thracian wilds,
With labour huge escap'd o'er Hellespont,
Despairing fled. Debark'd, they foon attained
Th’abode of Moses; him (the tumult quelld)
Jo evening meditation lone they found.
He tarted at their entrance, and amazed


Beheld the royal dame. With love and awe
To benefactress, as to parent due,
He halted to salute her, and inquire
What chance had prompted, cloudy or serene,
Her sudden coming. She in grief exclaimed :
With age, with anguish, weary and o'erspent,
Outcait. I come
Thermutis ended ; and with earnest words,
Cordial in welcome, Mofes thus replied.-
Here, then, thy country and thy servants tind,
Much honour'd princess ; here relide, and reign
O'er willing hearts. Heaven's treasured comfort, all
With balın of blessing, wait thee, and assuage
Each earthly pang. Ye female train, retire ;
And through the mansion all things so dispose,
As best your royal mistress may allure
To due refection, or restoring sleep.--

Immediate they withdrew.' &c. &c. &c.--Bonk VI. I. 395. After noticing thus imperfectly the subject and characters of Exodus, it still remains to consider, in the third place, the poet's narration, or the manner of his communicating the story, together with the style or diction. With respect to the former of these circumstances, viz. the manner of imparting the story, we think he has greatly the advantage of some of the greatest masters of epic poetry, in one particular. In compliance with that vulgar concern for the distresses of others, which plumes itself on the name of sympathy, it has been usual for epic poets to keep their readers, during two thirds of their performance, in perpetual anxiety for the fate of the poor hero; who, before he gets his business accomplished, is so beleaguer'd and beset by what they call the nodus, or difficulty of his situation, that we see him enclosed, like a reel in a bottle, with scarce the hope or possibility of release. How differently Mr Hoyle has treated his hero, the reader (if he can read, to use the words of Martinus Scriblerus) will discover in the course of these thirteen books. So dexterously is the story managed, that our heart's ease is never for a moment disturbed. Storms, plagues, disasters and difficulties sound in our ears like the rain pattering on the windows of the castle of indolence, only to make our slumber more secure. For Hebrew or for Gentile, for man, woman, devil or sorcerer, we never breathe a sigh, or are defrauded of a single tear. All is comfort and tranquillity in the calm creation of Mr Hoyle; and the excellent treatise on Whist by his illustrious synonim, is fully as likely to betray the reader into unbecoming emotions, as the exemplary Epic of the writer before us.

We venture to say, that not the most abject lover of kings will feel regret for the aillicted majesty of Egypt ; nor is there a whig in the country zealous enough for the cause of liberty, to pant for the deliverance of the Hebrews, as their servitude is painted by Mr Hoyle. It is laudable and salutary to read and cultivate acquaintance with such authors in these perturbed and sentimental times. Who would not prefer sobriety to intoxication,-the security of the money-holder to the tumult of the gamester,--the calm dignity of a mind at rest, to the foolish excitement which romantic readers call the joy of grief, and words that harrow up the soul ?


With regard to diction, our poet's style is the most perfect model that could be imagined for seconding the lulling magic of his múse ;-it breathes the very spirit of repose. Such may be called, perhaps, only the negative merits of this excellent performance. We shall not dispute about words; but we think they are positive qualities, and only such as Herculean labour could achieve; at least, if we may judge of the poet's labour by our own.

The last object of attention in an epic poem criticized on regular principles, is the moral. That of the work before us is in the highest degree just and interesting. It is, we think, that people oppressed on account of their religion, will be supported by Providence in their endeavours after emancipation; and that bloody tyrants are apt to come to an untimely end. The first, we think, has a direct reference to the case of the Irish Catholics. The second, we imagine, to be intended for the use of Bonaparte.

ART. VII. Letters from England. By Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella. Translated from the Spanish. 3 vol.

London. Longman & Co. 1807.

This publication appears to us to be pretty evidently the work

of some experienced English bookmaker : and by no means a despicable specimen of the progress which has been made in that laudable art. The name of Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, in the title-page, is no doubt placed there, however, for very useful purposes. We have of late been so overrun with travels, tours, walks and journals, through every nook and corner of the island, and they have been presented to the public in such a variety of forms and styles,-picturesque, sentimental, agricultural and evangelical, that it was hardly possible any longer to attract attention to works of this description, by any effort of native ingenuity. Observations on our own country by a stranger or foreigner, on the other hand, never fail to excite curiosity, and obtain at least a temporary circula

tion. We are all anxious to know what other people say of us ; and are apt to suppose, perhaps not very erroneously, that we gain a new knowledge of familiar objects, by seeing them with the eyes of a stranger. This alone would afford a sufficient temptation to the deception which has here been attempted; but the ingenious person who practises it has many other advantages. He is enabled, in the first place, to fill up his pages with a series of trifting and familiar details, that never could have been tolerated in his own character. He has, besides, much greater latitude and freedom allowed him, if he chooses to discuss the more den licate subjects of politics and religion, and if he brings his hero from a part of the world where we can reasonably suppose him to be ignorant of the arts and refinements and peculiar manners of our country, he can very successfully employ him in exposing the follies and vices that have been introduced with these refinements. This is admirably exemplified in the Lettres Persannes of Montesquieu.

The author before us has made ample use of the first of these privileges ; and has contrived to fill a large portion of his book with such triling and minute descriptions of the inns, roads, stages, &c. as would have been quite insufferable and ridiculous in his own person. What Englishman, travelling in his own country, would be allowed to enlighten the minds of his countrymen with such information as the following? • They burn earth coal every where; it is a black shining stone, very brittle, which kindles slowly, making much smoke and much ashes ; but as all the houses are built with chimnies, it is neither unwholesome nor disagreeable.'-— The hearth is furnished with a round bar to move the coals, a sort of forceps to arrange them, and a small shovel for the cinders ; all of iron, and so shaped and polished as to be ornamental. Besides these, there is what they call the fender, which is a little moveable barrier, either of brass or polished steel, or sometimes of wire painted green and capt with brass, to prevent the live embers from falling on the floor.' In this manner, every article of household furniture is described ; and we have equally full accounts of the different modes of travelling, with a most accurate description of all the varieties of stage-coaches, mail-coaches, long-coaches, &c.

To maintain the character of Spaniard, Don Manuel is of course represented as a most zealous member of the Holy Catholic Church, which naturally affords the author an opportu. nity of filling many pages with' lamentations over the miserable heresy which prevails in our unhappy country; but, except enabling him to spin out his book to the requisite length with the least possible exertion of intellect, it serves no good purpose either to himself or his reader, as it necessarily checks all free discussion on the nature and tendency of the Establishment, and harmonizes very ill with the tone of philosophical liberality and intrepid reasoning which is assumed on most other occasions. The same thing may be said with regard to his political remarks ; although, in the variety of miscellaneous discussions which occur in these volumes, enough is said to convince us, that the author possesses such a laudable zeal for freedom and love of peace, that however we may be inclined to differ from him in many speculative points, we are satisfied of his philanthropy and the innocence of his intentions.


From what we have already said, our readers may perceive, that we do not think very highly of the plan of this book : indeed, we are pretty well convinced, that if the author had abstained from all attempt at writing in character, he would have been much more successful. He evidently holds the pen of a practised writer ; and though he frequently gives proofs of a bad taste in composition, particularly in his attempts at wit, to which he is unfortunately too much addicted, yet there are many passages which display a command of language and power of de scription far above the common pitch ;-we allude particularly to the account of an excursion to the Lakes, which is extremely well executed, and, in our opinion, by far the best part of the book.

Of his powers of reasoning we cannot speak very highly : he goes to the bottom of nothing ; when his subject leads him to discuss any of the nicer points of political economy, or any subject which requires minute investigation, or close reasoning, he is uniformly superficial and declamatory, and, at the same time, deFivers his opinions in the most dogmatical and peremptory man

He belongs indeed, on the whole, rather to the sentimental than to the reasoning class of composers; he is continually enveighing against the present constitution of society, and holds in the greatest abhorrence all those great commercial and manufacturing establishments, which, while they enable the rich to revel in all kinds of luxurious enjoyment, infallibly tend to sink the great mass of the community into a state of the most abject slavery and misery.' Accordingly, whenever he approaches any great manufacturing town, instead of any expression of admiration at the wonderful exertions of ingenuity and industry. which are there displayed, we are sure to be presented with a luighly coloured and most lamentable picture of the misery and vice into which a great portion of the inhabitants are plunged, in consequence of their hateful and pernicious pursuits; and the certain and total ruin of the country is most emphatically denounced, if we are mad enough to continue this system. But his discontent is not confined to the remarks on our trade, and com

merce :

« PreviousContinue »