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deavouring to shake off the philosophy of Oldbuck, who, to tell the truth, is apt to become prozy, “ is there not a great similarity in plan between Hogg's Queen's Wake,' and L. E. L.’s new poem, ' The Golden Violet?'"
“ Why,” replied Penn, “ the plan of either of them is not at, all new. A public competition for a prize in poësy, has often formed the subject of a poem. The idea was probably taken in the first instance from the Greeks, who contended for the mastership in composition at the Olympic Games.”
“ Sir William Jones,” remarked B.,“ has given us a translation of an Eastern poem upon that subject. At an annual fair in Arabia, the bards assembled, and he who recited the best poem, received a reward. The Moallahat, which Sir William Jones has translated, is a collection of the poems recited upon such an occasion."
“We need not go far from home for instances," said Oldbuck; “ our own Chaucer's admirable Canterbury Tales are formed precisely upon the same plan. Our friend T. H. K. has given us an excellent account of the scheme of these tales,' as he terms it, in No. IV. of the Literature of England, and the glorious ' Arabian · Nights,' are something similar."
“ To all these," I rejoined, “ we may add the.. Decameron of Boccacio ;' but pray, amongst these modern competitions, what think you? Is · The Golden Violet' equal to · The Queen's Wake?'”
“ Equal to what, sir!” exclaimed Oldbuck, starting from his seat with a vehemence he is not in the habit of displaying, “ equal to · The Queen's Wake?' Did you ever read • The Queen's Wake,' sir? If you ever did, and have one spark of true poetical feeling in your breast, you must know that it is one of the finest poems published in the present century; and whoever has taken the trouble to peruse • The Golden Violet,' knows the same thing cannot be said of it.”
I ought, perhaps, to inform my readers, that our friend Oldbuck has much of that national Scottish feeling which was so predominant in his worthy relation and godfather, the Oldbuck of Monkbarns. This fact may perhaps in some degree account for the warmth with which he at once espoused the cause of the Scottish poet. I do not retain a very vivid recollection of “ The Queen's Wake," which I have not read for some years, and therefore did not oppose his opinion, but merely answered, “ that the public did not seem to entertain so high an opinion of it as he did, and that it was very little known.”
“ The public opinion,” replied Oldbuck, “ may be of great importance as regards the sale of the work, and therefore is a matter of supreme interest to the author; but public opinion cannot make a bad book good, nor can it take away one particle from the intrinsic merit of a good one. I hate to hear the cant which is at present so prevalent about public opinion,' which, in truth, is nothing more or less than the opinion of á few, and is more likely to be wrong than right. Men now-a-days boast of the freedom of their judgment, but it is all nonsense they are not perhaps priest-ridden, but they
are instead newspaper-ridden, and review-ridden. If a man goes to
" That evening fell so sweetly still,
She sunk upon the trembling tide." Oldbuck prides himself a little upon his reading, and, in good truth, he threw a great deal of poetic feeling into these lines, especially the two last; one might almost have imagined that he saw the waning moon sink“ upon the trembling tide.” Before we had time for remark, he resumed with the following of a very different character---the author's farewell to Ettrick :
" O Ettrick ! shelter of my youth!
Shall sleep unnotic'd and unknown.” “ Is not that beautiful ?" asked Oldbuck. “ Do.not these simple lines contain a demonstration of the powers of this untaught Shepherd ? Hearken also to some of the admirable lines addressed to bis lyre.”
" A maiden's youthful smiles had wove
I knew not if 'twas love or thee." “ I could add instance to instance," said Oldbuck, “ until the proof overcame the most sceptical, but I will not do so. I know that you are too susceptible of the beauties of poetry to doubt for a moment, whatever public opinion may say or neglect to say."
“ You are right," rejoined B.," there is indeed a great deal of true poetry in the extracts you have given us: the first is of that description which suits best the spirit of the present times: it is a fanciful, romantic, and glorious outpouring of the true poetic spirit; the beauty of the second consists in its solemn earnestness, its purity of feeling, its truth to nature; and there is a charming simplicity in the third extract which puts one in mind of the poets of the Elizabethan age. There is no nonsensical parade of imaginary feeling--, nothing visionary-nothing that can exist in the poet's mind, and no where else ; all mankind are susceptible of such impulses, but the poet only can describe them truly.”
“Had you not better say beautifully ?" inquired Penn; “ the rude man may give a true description of his emotions, the poet superadds beauty."
“ Is not truth always beautiful ?" inquired B.; " what say you, Mr. Oldbuck?"
“ Sir," replied he, “ I refer you to those ladies who paint their faces."
“ That,” I remarked, “ is only another instance of the involun. tary • homage which hypocrisy pays to truth ;' but this discussion would lead us too far at present. Is there any thing new amongst you? We have been talking of poetry-how is the world at present affected towards the muses ?”
“ Very poorly I fear,” answered Oldbuck; “ I remarked a few days ago, that amongst the forty-eight new works announced by Murray, and the fifty-two announced by Colburn, there is not one poetical production! and Colburn gives a list of thirty-nine works lately published, and Murray of sixteen, and amongst those the only two that are poetical are Milman's Anne Boleyn, and Dartmoor. Longman's list of thirty-six has only one-The Golden Violet ; so that out of one hundred and ninety-one works sent into the world by the three most extensive publishers in London, there are only THREE volumes of poetry!"
" That is certainly a singular fact,” continued Penn; “ and it is not less singular, that in the two Miscellanies, Constable's, now publishing, and The National Library, about to be published by Murray, there is not any work announced upon the subject of poetry. This is the more extraordinary in Murray's publication, as that is classified and arranged very methodically; and a National Library will surely be very incomplete without the National poetry, which has so unquestionable an effect in moulding the minds and manners of the
" I suppose the secret is to be discovered,” said B., " in the title-page of Murray's sixpenny hodge-podge; its contents refer to popular knowledge only, and in that description Mr. Murray's editors do not include poetry. By-the-bye, the advertisement of this National Library is rather an extraordinary one: there is one passage in it which puts me very much in mind of Sir Robert Baker, who told the world that if all other chronicles were lost, posterity would be sufficiently informed of every thing memorable in past times, by reading his own ;' so the editors of the National Library inform us that the series of treatises will be sufficiently comprehensive to render it unnecessary even for well-informed men to have recourse to more ponderous works.' ”.
« Ha! ha! ha! modest man!” exclaimed Oldbuck, “ it will be well for Murray, if The National Library does not follow the Chronicle of Sir Robert Baker and The Representative. I doubt whether the plan is not too extensive to succeed : the publication in sixpenny numbers of a Library embracing almost every description of literature, and branching out into about eighty different divisions, seems something like paying off the National Debt by a penny a week Sinking Fund, or the forming an ocean drop by drop-it would be very pretty sport at first, but we should soon tire of it. Besides this, I fear there is something like a political end aimed at, and if so, it never will go on. You observe at the conclusion of the advertisement, it is hoped that a salutary influence may be produced upon the general interests of society by these sixpenny drops, and there is a hint to persons of weight and intelligence to recommend it in their respective neighbourhoods. Now it is pretty well known wlat is meant in Albermarle Street by the general interests of society;' and such a hint, coupled with such a phrase, comes upon the ear exactly like a hint from Downing Street. If the work could be well accomplished, there is no doubt but it would be important and useful; but if it be political, its importance and utility are at once destroyed. And now, gentlemen, suppose we dine together. I have a table provided at G- 's; if you will dine with me, let us go at once."
Oldbuck is a fellow who understands the true value of a dinner, and has a great reverence for Dr. Kitchener; such an invitation could not, therefore, be refused. Here, gentle reader, we part; I have explained to you what I mean by a gossip, and if you like my meaning, I may perhaps pay another Visit to my Publisher.
RECOLLECTIONS OF LONDON.
WESTMINSTER ABBEY. On approaching this Abbey Church, we are at once struck with its noble and venerable appearance. It is presumed that the ancient church, dedicated to St. Paul, and this, dedicated to St. Peter, were among the earliest works introduced by the first converts to Christianity in Britain : and it would seem that their aim was, by the grandeur and loftiness of their style, to bring into contempt the plainness of the Pagan architecture.
The first building is said to have been erected by Sebert, King of the East Saxons, who died in 616, and to have been afterwards repaired and enlarged by Offa, King of Mercia: but being destroyed by ihe Pagan Danes, it was, with the monastery, rebuilt by Edgar: who, in the year 969, granted it many privileges. But, up to the time of Edward the Confessor, the history of this Abbey is very obscure; this pious prince commenced rebuilding it in 1050, and finished the undertaking in 1065.
Henry III. in the year 1200, began to erect a new chapel to the Blessed Virgin here ; but about twenty years after, finding the walls and steeple of the old structure much decayed, he pulled them all down, with tbe intention of enlarging and rebuilding them in a more regular manner; but he did not live to accomplish this great work, which was not completed, it appears, till 1285, about fourteen years after his decease; and this is the date of the building as it now stands.
About the year 1502, King Henry VII. began that magnificent chapel wbich bears his name, and which was prosecuted at an expense unparalleled at that period : for which purpose, he pulled down the chapel of Henry III. and an adjoining house called the White Rose Tavern. This chapel he also dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and designing it for a burial place for himself and his posterity, ordered, in his will, that none but those of the royal blood should be permitted to lie there. The chapel of Henry VII. is nearly square; and viewed exteriorly, it presents a light and airy structure: of the interior, it is no exaggeration to speak, as possessing singular beauty, and as constituting altogether a magnificent specimen of ecclesiastical architecture. Besides its founder, and his queen, whose figures are recumbent in brass, there lie in this chapel the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, and her vindictive persecutor, Queen Elizabeth: under a broad marble pavement, is the royal vault, where repose the bodies of James I., William III., Ann, and George II. From the time of Henry VIII. to the accession of the House of Brunswick, little was done to improve the Abbey. The two western towers were built by Sir Christopher Wren. The whole interior of the church is admirably planned and executed, and the perspective is very good, particularly that of the grand aisle. The new choir is in the ancient Gothic style, and so happily contrived as to produce the most pleasing effect. The altar is very beautiful. On the great west window, which was set up in the year 1735, are representations, finely painted, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the twelve Patriarchs ; Moses and Aaron; and several coats of arms.
On the three windows at the east are figures of St. John the Evangelist, Melitus, Bishop of London, and two Pilgrims. The north window, put up in the year 1722, has the representation of our Saviour, with the four Evangelists, and his twelve Apostles.
This Abbey is built in the form of a long cross, and measures four hundred and eighty-nine feet long; at the west end the breadth is sixtysix feet; the cross aisle, one hundred and eighty-nine: and the height of the middle roof is about pinety-two feet.