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Man's Mountain.” “From the great psalm of the autumn blasts to the stammering sparkle of the stars.” “ The ocean--the shadow and wed sister of the earth.” Or the description of Milton-unsurpassed since the Agamemnon of Timanthes—“I saw gods ascending from the earth, and one of them is an old man whose face is covered with a mantle." But the brightest tessera is not a tesselation ; and the fairest collection of stirring sentences would ill represent the poetic power of some of our author's happier passages. Such, for instance, as that page in the review of Godwin, where the sun-dried, storm-beaten figure of the Alchemist—his face pale with watching, his eyes bloodshot with prayer-seems to pass you as in a cold rushing wind. Or that trumpet-blast of the wilderness—the description of the Prophet of Israel. Or the sublime egotism of that Christian rhapsody in which he sets his foot upon the sun, and warns aside the universe from the path of his immortality. But the best tesselation--to keep up our figure—is not the palace it adorns ; and the best passage or chapter in these books is not the ground on which we expect their author's fame to be built, nor on which we rest our claim to consider them, intellectually, among the most important signs of our time.
There are many single papers, and scattered pages, in these volumes, which would be enough of themselves to place the writer high among the best intellects of the day. Such are his masterly estimate of the character of Brougham_"that isthmus uniting two times ;" his critique on Cobbett--that healthy, breezy chapter, clear, bold, and bracing as the air of a shining winter day; his strong, earnest treatment of Isaac Taylor; his brare, great-hearted comparison of Mirabeau-and Danton; the pure, bright, fragrant, streaming eloquence, in which he sets forth Wordsworth's labours ; the fine poetic deprecation, which is as near a description of Coleridge as one who could describe him would dare go; the picturesque and living language into which he renders that strange, rude, wild, distorted, portrait, which Carlyle has given us of his great sturdy soul ; his affectionate over-estimate of Longfellow (whose works are rather golden recollection than present vision, the elegiac words and tender mien, and mellow music, which tell some well-remembered tale of youth, than the poet's outcry at the things seen, or the poet's gesture at words which it is not lawful for a man to utter); and his classic exhibition of those chiselled statuesque creations of Landor, with their purple light of life like the blush of a Greek sunset on an Athenian marble. Such is his chapter on Mrs Hemans; subtle and simple, graceful and strong, generous and severe—the leisure work of a just and genial critic, waiting at ease in the boudoir of the poetess, and dipping her silver pen into her perfumed ink. Such is his tribute to Elizabeth Barrett Browning; the strong, warm, earnest, tender speech -as it were “the admonishing smile” —of that “ man my brother,” to whom this pure-eyed poetess has looked with such touching confidence ; and such the graceful homage to Hersehel's departed sister, the sister of his heart and labours—she who so long loved "some bright particular star," and who, wearied with watching, has at length fallen asleep. Such is the astute and fearless estimate of Macaulay—“Macaulay the wise "-that “gifted but not great” man, who “has played the finite game of talent, and not the infinite game of genius." Such the masterly analysis of “Description" in the essay on Dr Croly. Such is the criticism, brimming with generous acumen, on Lytton Bulwer, “whose style is vicious from excess of virtue, weak from repletion of strength." We could have wished that, while on the subject of Bulwer, our author had given us an estimate of “King Arthur,” not only because its size, ambitions, and the trumpet-clang of its debut entitle it to notice, but because it would have given him the finest evidence of the justice of that nice distinction which he has elsewhere drawn between the gifted and the great-the eminence of development and the excellence of genius, the highest man and the lowest angel. Intellectually speaking, King Arthur is worse than a fault; it is a mistake. The author is an orator, and has tried to be a poet. Does he ask the distinction? The orator works to move others, the poet to move himself. The whole calibre of Bulwer's mind is essentially oratoric, and no amount of that cultivation, of which, perhaps even more than Macaulay, he is the most magnificent existing specimen, can pass, on this side death, that inexorable line which separates the natus from the factus. Dickens's John the Carrier, was perpetually on the verge of a joke, but never made one. Bulwer's relation to poetry is of the same provoking kind. The lips twitch, the face glows, the eyes light—but the joke is not there. An exquisite savoir faire has led him within sight of the intuitions of poetic instinct. Laborious calculation has almost stood for sight; but his maps and charts are not the earth and the heavens. Glorious as some of his novels are, a careful eye can detect his idiosyncrasy ; in the verses of “ King Arthur” it stands naked. His vision is not a dream but a night
You have Parnassus before you, but “the light that never was on sea or shore” is awanting. The whole work reminds you of a lunar landscape-rocks and caves to spare, but no atmosphere. It is fairyland travelled by dark. How you sigh even for the chaos, the “discordia semina” of genius, while toiling through the impotent waste of this sterile maturity!
But we are wandering from Gilfillan. Fine and startling as are some of his pages and papers, there is something in these volumes finer and more startling still. Here is an author who has written con amore of thirty-six characters; from Hall to Keats, from Dawson to Bailey, from Moore to Milton, from Cobbett to Shelley, from Pollok to Hood, from Jeffrey to Byron, from Brougham to Coleridge, from Bulwer to Carlyle. Here is a clergyman who regards “Cain not only as Byron's noblest production, but as one of the finest poems in this or any language. It is such a work as Milton, had he been miserable, would have written." Here is a critic boldly renouncing his infallibility, Rosamond Gray, that beautiful story of Lamb's, on which we once, we regret to say, presumptuously passed an unfavourable opinion, but which has since commended itself to our heart of hearts." Here is a poet believing that "scientific culture is sure to beget scientific calm," and preaching from the fulness of the belief. Here is the laborious student, standing side by side with the poet, and “so listening to the melodies of nature, to the march of the eternal hours, to the severe music of continuous thought, to the rush of his own advancing soul, that he cannot complacently lend an ear to the minstrelsies, however sweet, of men however gifted." Here is the essayist, writing in five golden lines the noblest
recipe of history, "a history forming a transcript, as if in the shorthand of a superior being, of the leading events of the age ; solemn in spirit, subdued in tone, grave and testamentary in language, profound in insight, judicial in impartiality, and final as a Median law in effect.” Here is the keep censor who will resist the temptation of a great guilty corpse, and feeling that “mere criticism over such dread dust is impertinent, mere panegyric impossible," turn from it sighing. Here is the genial sympathiser who can place “the Psalm of Life" among those odes by which the children of Israel might have tuned their march across the wilderness,” and listen to Tennyson's “Two Voices” till “ Death seems the one thing lovely in the universe.” Here is an orthodox divine who proclaims that " a powerful cause of our recent refined scepticism may be found in the narrow, bigoted, and unworthy notions of Christianity which prevail, in the obstinacy with which they are retained, and in the contrast thus presented to the liberal and fluent motion of the general age." Here is a man, reverend and grown, who, seeing "that never yet there was an age with so many young, ardent, and gifted spirits,” can look without jealousy on the youth he has left, and apostrophise the infant Hercules, "that young mind of the time," with attesting love and hope, and pride and prophecy. Here is a Celt who speaks Scotch and thinks British, and asks “at" his Caledonian soul questions which it answers from either side the Tweed. Here is a philosopher, the friend of Carlyle, the panegyrist of Emerson, “sitting, and in his right mind," at the feet of Christ. Here is a man, burning in zeal, adamantine in faith, but who steps out to spiritual combat with the difficulties of the day, crying, "It will not do now to skulk from the field under a flight of nicknames. It will not do to call our opponents miscreants and monsters. While we state their doubts let us pity the pain and sorrow, amounting almost to distraction and despair, which attended them; and let us inquire, if we have no difficulties, may it not be because we have never thought at all.” Here is the speculative enthusiast who can yet turn from the ideal to the real, with eyes in which "a meek and humble disciple of Jesus," is that noble moral poem sublimer far than the "Paradise Lost." Ay, this is the true
Paradise Regained.” Here is a trained theologian, who, looking at the "religious authorship of the day," which represents the Deity as a dreadful king of furies, whose dominion is overshadowed by vengeance, whose music is the cries of victims, and whose glory requires to be illustrated by the ruin of his creation"—that authorship which would sacrifice all the records of creation to the arbitrary interpretation of a Hebrew particle," or "to prove Christianity the most excellent of the sciences, raves like a maniac against all science, and cares less for sun, moon, and stars, than for a farthing candle glimmering in the corner of a conventiele," cries out in indignant reprobation, "This, indeed, thank God, is not religion." Here is one who has been on the heights, and into the depths of doubt, and everywhere finds them peopled by men and brothers; who has dived into the mines of disbelief, where the eye of the indweller has lost capacity for sunshine-has stood on that mount of confusion where the sight is blinded with bare light, and with the calm clear voice of sympathy, lays bare the hearts of their inhabitants -the sceptic of the eighteenth and the sceptic of the nineteenth cen
turies.* Here is a comprehensive believer in God and in man, who asks in hope, and hails in love every human effort to solve the great problems of the earth—who feels that “ to believe in man is an indispensable requisite to a proper conception of Deity”_.but looks for their highest resolution to that “unearthly advent, for which the weary world and wearier church are beginning to pant with unutterable groanings." Here is the metaphysician, theologian, philosopher, censor, student, poet, and critic, walking forth in his vocation, with this maxim on his lips, his forehead, and his phylacterios—"LOVE, AND YOU WILL UNDERStand.”
Accepting for a moment the dictum that “Shakspere was the greatest of men because he was the widest of sympathisers,” we shall have difficulty in denying to the author of such a moral cosmos the title of a great man. In fact, when considering a book of this kind, the proper point of view is not literary but personal—our business is with the author more than with his work. We ought not so much to ask, “ are these portraits, or lectures, or poems, or conversations, or soliloquies?” but, “who or what are you, George Gilfillan, who have thought your portraits, or lectures, or poems, or conversations, or soliloquies, of sufficient importance to paint, sing, or say them, in the eyes and ears of men ?" For this is no time for small ambitions. We leave to the silkstockinged century behind us, all stieking of flies, bombarding of sparrows, and fencing with buttoned foils; all elaborate paring of nails, pruning of beards, polishing of pebbles, carving of cherrystones, and dilettante luxury of microscopic proprieties. No man need now think to stand before the world and count the moles upon a hero's face.
He who would come forward with the name of critic must be prepared for nothing less than this, to sit as moderator in the sublime assembly of this age. He who is not addressed to this candidature may step out of the sight and hearing of men. It is expedient for the assembly that the chair of arbitration be filled ; but we are assembled in times too awful, for objects too momentous, with gifts too imperative, and with determinations too earnest, to waste any time upon unqualified aspirants. Neither must the chair be filled " by commission," lest, as. Louis Napoleon well said of another authority (whence hath the man this wisdom?) “in place of effecting a fusion of opinions we only arrive at a neutralisation of force." The youth of that age in which “there never were so many young, ardent, and gifted spirits,” have come together. We will have no dictator or king, for “the former things are passed away;" not a leader, even, for we know not as yet who is “ among his companions ;” not a president, for we are unorganised ; not a chairman only, for we are “in permanence." But we would hail gladly some lay elder, some apostolic Episcopos, who, coming to us by the right divine of superior wisdom and superior love, young enough to “ be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” too old to be “tempted like as we are”-learned in all that has been-hopeful in all that will be and heedful of all that is with one hand clasping Carlyle's, and touching with the other the hem of the garment of the LORD—should sit down in the midst of us with the light of the future on his face, the
* See page 418 of the “ Second Gallery."
wind of the past stirring the unsilvered locks about his ears, and his eyes turned now with tenderness to the earth, and now with trust to the heavens. To repeat: the moderator whom we require must not seek to be a tutor—for some of us are born to teach ; nor must he degenerate into a servant-for the young must not rule till they have conquered ; no autocrat—for he comes to develop not his own power but ours ; no demagogue-for we think little of numbers, we who have set at nought the universe of men—the peoples, and tongues, and languages, of the innumerable past.
As the alchemist subjects the forces of nature, he must tame us by the purged pre-eminence of fasting, and watching, and prayer, and knowledge, and patience. He must stand before us as the virgin before the lion; he must ride us as the ship the sea—by the skill of earth and the winds of heaven. We must find the critic, the theologian, and the philosopher, with the soul of a saint, and the smile of a friend, and the face of a man. Critic, theologian, philosopher-a word of these. Unhappily, Criticus is a large genus. The most frequent critic is a kind of spiritual mechanic, an adept in literary mensuration, a solemn-faced artisan, mighty in scales and gauges, who takes his stand upon avoirdupois and the footrule. This man tries the line of beauty by the perpendicular, and throws it aside with the superiority of a carpenter; or he weighs the gas of genius on his steelyards, and casts from him in disdain the imponderable skin-sometimes, by good fortune, into the fire of his hearth, where it explodes to the singeing of his beard and the scorching of his eyes—haply, also, to the burning of his house and the conflagration of a city. A grade higher, and he has done all when he has given you the gravity of the sun, and the square yards of the holy of holies. A grade higher, and he is a chopper of dog-latin formulæ, a master of cedents, a doctor of authorities, a very alphabet of the letter of the law. A grade higher, and he is a tailoresque Lavater, in the outward visible sign oracular. Higher still, and he is the pen and ink general of engineers (deep in sapping and mining, scarp, counterscarp, approaches, covered ways, and every art of assault, entry, or reconnoissance from without), who draws you, by his science, a plan of the beleaguered town in black strokes, that serve alike for street and river, field and garden, inn and temple, cot and palace, things public and private, holy and profane ; and who stands at last an inmate, but no citizen, in the heart of the city whose walls his bombs have dismantled, and whose homes and sacred places his entry has made desolate. All these men begin from without ; the true critic commences from within. His first care is to apply the idiosyncratic rule of each to the performance of each, and show where each is to himself untrue. He cannot damn Carlyle because he is not Addison or Pope. He dare not think that a volume is to be demolished by an article, and the “Sartor" answered by a review ; but he may fearlessly assay the thoughts of this great thinker, by tests which the thinker himself would acknowledge ; may show him, for instance, how often he mistakes a reductio ad absurdum for a demonstration-how often the sorites on which he relies is but the Greek analysis which should have proved the futility of his hypothesis, and how often in an eager overbelief in his own imagery, he declares of his facts what is only true of his metaphors, like some Egyptian priest, who should teach of the unseen