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All this sketch of Swift, indeed, with the exceptior of the statements we have exposed above, a few Carlylistic abruptnesses of style, such as “silence and utter night closed over him-an immense genius, an awful downfal and ruin," &c., is written with great pathos and energy; and if not so elaborate as Jeffrey's celebrated paper, breathes, we think, a finer and more humane spirit.
His treatment of Congreve does not call for special remark, unless this, that we do not think him sufficiently severe on the immorality of that writer's plays. We pause with greater interest over the venerable name of Joseph Addison. There are many writers, as we have hinted before, who have taught us more, and whom we admire more, than Addison--many subtler, stronger, more complete, and profound; but there is scarce one, except John Bunyan, whom we love so well. Ile does not suggest much ; but how he soothes! How soft and rich the everlasting April of his style! By what green pas. tures and still waters does he lead us! What a trenible there is in his beautiful sentences, like that of a twilight wave just touched by the west wind's balmy breath! How he stammers out his mild sublimities; and how much does his stammer, like a beautiful child's, add to their effect! His piety, so sweet and shepherd-like; his kindness, so unaffected; his mannerism, so agreeable ; his humor, so delicate, so sly, so harmless! What a contrast in spirit to Swift and Pope, who alone of his contemporaries could vie with him in popularity or power! We know no better way of rounding off a week's intellectual work, than amid the closing shadows of the Saturday evening to lift up Addison's serious papers, and to allow their honey to distil slowly upon our souls. Burke spent some of the last hours of his life in listening to Addison's papers on the Immortality of the Soul.
Thackeray by one word (a word we had applied to Addison years ere we had ever read a line of the author of “ Vanity Fair'') * gives the character of all that series of periodical literature, which included the “ Tattler," the “Spectator,” the “Guardian," the “Freeholder,” &c.—he calls it "prattle." Both Steele and Addison were fine prattlers; only the prattle
* Sce" Second Gallery”-article “Professor Nichol"
of Addison was directed to higher subjects. Steele prattled, often tattled rather, about politics, and the modes of the day, and the fair sex. Addison prattled about the stars, and the soul, and the glorious dreams of the Arabian heaven; and it seemed a divine prattle, like that of a "child-angel." A certain simple infantine ease and grace, which it were vain now to seek to reproduce, distinguished the language of both. We have mentioned the “Freeholder.” This series, although so strongly recommended by Johnson, is now, we fear, but very little read. We only met with it a year or two since; but we can assure our readers that some of the most delectable tidbits of Addison are therein contained. There is a Tory foxhunter still riding along there, whom we advise you to make up to, if you would enjoy one of the richest treats of humor; and there is a Jacobite army still on its way to Preston, the only danger connected with approaching which is, lest it kill you with laughter.
Well did Addison call himself the “Spectator.” He could not speak, but only prattle in a delightful way. But he could look at all objects and persons, above, below, or around him, with a keen and quiet, a mild and most observant eye. Had he been as profound as he was wide—as eloquent and passionate as he was true, delicate, and refined, he had been our finest prose writer. We cordially coincide with our author's last paragraph :" When he turns to heaven, a Sabbath comes over that man's mind, and his face lights up from it with a glory of thanks and prayer. His sense of religion stirs through his whole being. In the fields, in the town; looking at the birds in the trees, at the children in the streets; in the morning or in the moonlight; over his books in his own room; in a happy party-good-will and peace to God's creatures, and love and awe of Him who made them, fill his pure heart, and shine from his kind face. If Swift's life was the most wretched, I think Addison's was one of the most enviable. A life prosperous and beautiful—a calm death—an immense fame, and affection afterwards for his happy and spotless name."
Who has not heard of Sir Richard Steele? Wordsworth says of one of his characters
" She was known to every star,
And every wind that blows."
Poor Dick was known to every sponging-house, and to every bailiff that, blowing in pursuit, walked the London streets. A fine-hearted, warm-blooded character, without an atom of prudence, self-control, reticence, or forethought-quite as destitute of malice and envy; perpetually sinning, and perpetually repenting; never positively irreligious, even when drunk, and often excessively pious when recovering sobrietySteele reeled his way through life, and died with the reputation of having been an orthodox Christian, and a habitual drunkard ; the most faithless and most affectionate of husbands; a brave soldier, and an arrant fool; a violent politician, and the best natured of men; a writer extremely lively, for this, among other reasons, that he wrote generally on his legs, flying, or meditating flight, from his creditors, and who embodied in himself the titles of his three principal productions--the “Christian Hero," the “Tender Husband," and the “ Tattler;" being a Christian hero in intention—one of those intentions with which a certain place is paved; a "tender husband,'' if not a true one, in his conduct to his two ladies; and a “tattler" to all persons, in all circumstances, and at all times. But besides--and it is this which has made him immortal, and which he himself valued more than all personal fame-he was the friend and coadjutor of Addison. He called him in early to his aid, and found himself, he said, ruined by his ally, as the Britons were when they sought the assistance of the Saxons, a stronger power. It is utterly ridiculous, as Hazlitt and Hunt were wont, to prefer or equal Steele's papers to Addison's. They are more slipshod, indeed, and conversational; they reflect more literally the outer current of the then London life; they contain some very tender and some very picturesque touches, which seem sometimes like the lucky chance of a painter who drops or dashes his brush upon the canvas, and produces striking effects; but in matter, in polish, in delicacy and depth of humor, in beautiful fancy, or in graceful language, they can only be placed beside Addison's by the criticism of caprice, or by the power of prejudice. Steele has no artistic merits. His pathos is that of a fine fellow, maudlin after some great loss or reverse. His glee, as Thackeray well says, is that of a “box full of children at a pantomime.” He has all Goldsmith's spirits and absurdities, without a tithe of his genius. His best sobriquet had been “Sir Richard, or Reginald Rattle.” And how poor and needless in his critic to say, “Steele was not one of those lonely ones of the earth whose greatness obliged them to be solitary.” He might as well have gravely assured us, that Swift was not George Herbert; nor Rochester, Milton; nor Goldsmith, Burke; nor the author of the “ Book of Snobs," the writer of the “ Natural History of Enthusiasm." Towards the close of the chapter, however, Thackeray has an admirable antithetical account of the manner in which Steele, Addison, and Swift have dealt with the one tremendous subject of death : Steele looking up to it with the awestruck face of a child-Addison looking down on it with a quiet, meditative, half humorous eye and Swift stamping on the tombstone, and crying, “Fools, do you know anything of this mystery ?"
In his fourth lecture, after trifling very pleasantly with two ingenious triflers-Prior and Gay-he brings forward his whole strength to prove Pope the greatest literary artist that England has seen, “besides being the highest among wits and humorists with whom we have to rank him," and the “highest among the poets," we presume of that period of poetry. And yet, ere he closes, he goes farther than this, and predicates of the passage which closes the “Dunciad,” that it is the most “wonderful flight” of poetry, the "greatest height of the sublime art.” He compares his early poems, such as the Pastorals, Windsor Forest, and the “Essay on Criticism,” to the first victories of Napoleon !
Pope has, to do him full justice, risen sometimes into the moral sublime; but to that highest form of writing, common in our great poets, which combines moral and material sublimity into one splendid yet terrible whole, in which grand images from nature flock around, and fall down before and combine to illustrate some big emotion of the soul or heart, he has never attained. The lines our author praises so highly are, in our judgment, a mere hubbub of words, composed in equal proportions of mixed metaphors, bombast, and absolute nonsense. Yet perhaps our readers may prefer Thackeray's estimate conveyed in the following language :
“ It is the brightest ardor, the loftiest assertion of truth,
the most generous wisdom, illustrated by the noblest poctic figure, and spoken in words the aptest, grandest, and most harmonious. It is heroic courage speaking—a splendid declaration of righteous wrath; the gauge flung down—the silver trumpet ringing defiance; it is Truth the champion—it is a wonderful single combat !” Had Pope been alive, it would have taken all the counterweight, we fear, of “ Pendennis" and “ Vanity Fair,” to have prevented him adding & codicil to the “ Dunciad," and inserting in it the name of his most ad. miring critic.
The fifth lecture opens pleasingly on a subject ever fresh ard delightful, at least to us---Hogarth, the greatest moral painter of the world. Thackeray, so far as he goes, discourses well on this great canvas-poet. We are no connoisseurs of the “serene and silent art;' nay, are apt to look with considerable contempt upon the jargon of painters, the most disgusting jargon in all the broad realms of pedantry. Our only question about paintings is, how much meaning and mind do they contain ? how high do they prove the tide of soul to have risen in the artist ? and how high do they raise it in us? And looking at Hogarth in this light, we dare pronounce him, with the exception of Michael Angelo and Raphael, the greatest painter that ever lived. Nay, perhaps we should not have made these exceptions; for, if Michael Angelo wrought on more collossal materials, aimed at higher things, and reached a savage grandeur unknown to the Englishman; if Raphael was more graceful, holier in his purpose, more beautiful in his conceptions, and more delicate in his execution, Hogarth's power was magnified by the very coarseness of the materials he used, and by the very commonplace of the objects he painted. The gift of the first two resembled wealth ; that of the third was alchemy. The two first went out, so to speak, to Australia, and collected its ore lying thick as morning dew; the third staid at home, and turned everything he saw into gold. Most of the peculiarly Shakspearian qualities were Hogarth's—wide sympathy, command of tears and laughter, subtle perception of analogies, unconscious power of bending all things into a common centre, and causing them to promoto a common artistic object, so that a very fly murmuring in a room where a great tragedy is concocting or taking place, be