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in the “ Prometheus," has failed in building up a long and lofty poem upon a mystical plan—that alone, of British men in this age, Coleridge so thoroughly comprehended the trans. cendental system, as to have been able to write its epic, which he has not done—that much of the oracular poetry of the day is oracular nonsense, the spawn of undigested learning, or the stuff of morbid dreams-that the day for great mystical poems may yet come, but that meanwhile we are tempted to quote Dr. Johnson's language (whose spontaneous and sincere sayings, by the way, are seldom if ever mistaken), in reference to William Law, and to apply it to our Brownings, Herauds, Patmores, &c. "Law fell latterly into the reveries of Jacob Behmen, whom he alleged to have been in the same state with St. Paul, and to have seen unutterable things; but, were it even so, Jacob would have resembled St. Paul still more, by not attempting to utter them."
Chaos, no doubt, in its successive stages, was a poem, but it was not till it became creation that it was said of it, “It is very good.” So often the crude confusions, the half-delivered thoughts, the gasping utterances of a true poet of this mystical form, have a grandeur and an interest in them, but they rather tantalise than satisfy; and when they pretend to completeness and poetic harmony, they are felt. to insult as well as tantalise.
So far as Delta has erred on this subject, it is in that he has decried mystic poetry per se, and has not restricted himself to the particular and plentiful examples around him of bad and weak poetry “hiding itself, because it was afraid," among trees or clouds-intricacies of verse or perplexities of diction. But, even as from science advancing towards its ideal there may be expected to arise a severe and powerful song, so, when man becomes more conversant with the mysteries of his own spiritual being—more at home in those depths within him, which angels cannot see—and after he has formed a more consistent and complete theory of himself, his position in the universe, his relation to the lower animals and to the creation, his relations in society and to God-after, in one word, what is now called mysticism has become a clear and mighty tree, rising from darkness and clothing itself with day as with a garment, then may it not become musical with a sweet, a full, and a far-resounding poetry, to which a himself, notwithstanding all the characteristic triangular sharpness of his intellectual perceptions, would listen well pleased ? It is this hope alone which sustains us, as we see the new gaining so rapidly upon the old, in the domain not only of thought but of poetry The pseudo-transcendental must give place to the true.
It may indeed be said, “But will not thus much of what is indefinite—and, therefore, the fairy food of our poetic beesdisappear ?” We answer, as we have replied before in reference to science, Yes, but only to be replaced by a more ethereal fare. The indefinite will be succeeded by other and other shapes of that infinitude which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. And, however perfect our future systems may be, there will always appear along their outlines a little mist, to testify that other fields and still grander generalisations lie within and beyond it.
Our space is now nearly exhausted, otherwise we had something more to say about these lectures and their author. The faults we have had occasion to mention, and others we might name, have sprung from no defect of capacity or taste, but partly from the accident of his local habitation, partly from the generous kindliness of his heart-a noble fault, and principally from the false position he and all are compelled to assume, who enter on that grand arena of mutual deception and graceful imposture called the lecture-room. Having felt long ago, by experience and by observation, what grave lies lectures generally are, what poor creatures even men of genius and high talents often become ere they can succeed in lecturing, and how we yet want a name that can adequately discriminate or vividly describe the personage who feels himself at home on a lecture platform, we were abundantly prepared, by the words "six lectures," to expect a certain quantity of clap-trap, and are delighted to find that in the book there is so little. Wo rejoice to see, by the way, from a recent glance at that repertory of wit and wisdom-Boswell's “ Johnson”—that old Samuel entertained the same opinion with us of the inutility of lectures, and their inferiority to books as a means of popular education; and that, too, many years ere they had become the standing article of disgust and necessary nuisance which they seem now to be.
But, instead of dwelling on Delta's faults, or quoting any of the eloquent and beautiful passages in which his lectures abound, we close by calling on our readers to peruse for themselves. His book is not only worthy of his reputation, but is really one of the heartiest, sincerest, and most delightful works of criticism we have read for many a long year.
We almost tremble now to begin a criticism on any ad. vanced and long-known author. While we were writing a recent paper on Joanna Baillie, the news arrived of her death. While expecting the proof of the above article on “Delta," the melancholy tidings of his sudden decease reached us. Shall we say, in the language of Lalla Rookh,
"I never rear'd a fair gazelle,
To glad me with her soft black eye,
And love me, it was sure to die?"
About two months ago, the lamented dead opened up a communication with us, which promised to ripen into a long and friendly correspondence. Dis aliter visum est. Delta the Delightful is no more. On a visit in search of health, he reached Dumfries, a town dear to him on many accounts, and principally because there sojourned a kindred spirit-Thomas Aird—one of his oldest and fastest friends. On the evening of Thursday, the 3d of July, as the amiable and gifted twain were walking along the banks of the Nith, Delta was suddenly seized with a renewal of his complaint-peritonitis—a peculiar kind of inflammation, and it was with great difficulty that his friend could help him home to his hotel. There, fortunately, were his wife and one of his children. He was put immediately to bed, and every remedy that could promise relief was adopted. On Friday he rallied somewhat. Dr. Christison was summoned from Edinburgh, and came, accompanied by the rest of Delta's family. On Saturday he grew worse, and early on Sunday morning he expired, surrounded by his dear family, and by two of his old friends, one of the
Messrs. Blackwood and Mr. Aird. On Thursday the 11th, he was buried in Musselburgh, where he had long officiated as a physician, universally respected and beloved. He was only fifty-three. For nearly thirty-three years he had been a popular contributor to “Blackwood's Magazine.” His principal literary works are, “A Legend of Genevieve, with other Poems" (which includes the best of his poetical contributions to the magazines and annuals), “Mansie Wauch," and the “ Sketches of Poetical Literature," above criticised. He published, also, several medical works of value, as well as edited the works of Mrs. Hemans, and wrote the “Life of John Galt," &c.
We have spoken briefly, but sincerely, in the article, of Delta's intellectual merits; it remains only to add, that, although we never met him in private, we can testify with perfect certainty, that a better man, or a lovelier specimen of the literary character, did not exist : he had many of its merits, and none of its defects; he used literature as a “staff, not a crutch”-it was the elegant evening pastime of one vigorously occupied through the day in the work of soothing human anguish, and going about doing good. Hencc he preserved to the last his child-like love of letters; hence he died without a single enemy; hence his personal friends--and they were the clite of Scotland—admired and loved him with emulous enthusiasm. Peace to his fine and holy dust! reposing now near that of the fine boy, whose premature fate he has sung in his “Casa Wappy”—one of the truest and tenderest little poems in the language, to parallel which, indeed, we must go back to Cowper and his verses on his Mother's Picture. In all the large sanctuary of sorrow, there is no chamber more sweetly shadowed than that in which the dear child reposes, embalmed in the double odors of parental affection and poetic genius.
Note.-Since this paper appeared, Mr. Aird has collected Delta's poetry into two volumes, and prefixed to them a Life, which, in beauty of language, depth of feeling, and unity of artistic execution, has seldom beer equalled.
N 0. IV.---THACKERA Y.*
We do not intend to dwell in this paper on Thackeray's merits and defects as a writer of fiction, else we might have steered a course somewhat different from that of other critics; and while granting his great powers of humour, sarcasm, and interesting narrative, his rare freedom from cant, and his still rarer freedom from that tedious twaddle which disfigures the fictions of many writers of the present day, we might have questioned his true insight into, and conception of, Man, deplored his general want of spirituality, laughed over his abortive attempts—few as well as abortive to be imaginative, and wondered with a great admiration at the longitude of the ears of those critics who name him in the same day with the author of “Rienzi,” the “ Last Days of Pompeii," the “ Caxtons," and “ Zanoni.” But our business now is with him entirely as a critic, and his only work at present on our table is his series of lectures on the English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century.
We may, before opening our battery of objections, first premise, that, as a readable book, this has seldom been surpassed. Whatever quantity of summer-salmon, hotch-potch, veal pie, and asparagus you may have been discussing, and however dreary you may feel after your dinner, Thackeray's amusing anecdotes and conversational style will keep you awake. Next to Macaulay and Hazlitt, he is the most entertaining of critics. You read his lectures with quite as much gusto as you do “Pendennis," and with infinitely more than you do such dull mimicry of the past as is to be found in “ Esmond." Clever, too, of course, sagacious often, and sometimes powerful, are his criticisms, and a geniality not frequent in his fictions, is often here. Sympathy with his subject is also a quality he possesses and parades ; indeed, he appears as one born out of his proper time, and seems, occasionally, to sigh
* Thackeray's English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century. London: Smith & Elder, Cornhill.