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RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH. public. So Cervantes borrows the playful From the Edinburgh Review-Feb'y.

sbafts of his kindly satire from the quiver The Recreations of Christopher North. Three launches his more envenomed arrows from

of the sage Cid Hamet Benengeli; Swift vols. 8vo. Edinburgh : 1842.

behind the broad back of Captain Lemuel These are in every way remarkable vol. Gulliver; and Sir Walter Scott often lingers umes, whether regarded as illustrative of over the Clutterbucks, Dryasdusts, Tintos, the character of the writer, or of the ten- and Pattisons, who were intended to be the dencies of the criticism of the time, to which mere heralds and pursuivants of his main his influence and example have given so gen. pageant, till they became leading personaeral and decided a direction. It is not in- ges in the procession ;---making the prodeed easy to say, whether the interest which logue not unfrequently threaten to banish their perusal excites is chiefly to be referred the piece itself into a corner. to the very singular combination of moral These fantastic creations, in a case like and mental powers implied in their compo- the present, serve a double purpose. They sition-where qualities which are generally give a unity to detached thoughts and scat. deemed incompatible are found to be united tered views, and awaken a kind of personal in harmony-or to the strong feeling of the interest on the part of the reader; who, alinfluence which this combination, express though he may have little difficulty in de. ing itself in forms of such originality and tecting the incongruity of some of the traits power as to arrest the attention of literary introduced, and easily perceives that the men, and at the same time, to appeal to the portrait is not intended io be received as a ordinary tastes and sympathies of the pub- daguerreotype likeness, for the fidelity of lic, by the use of instruments at once famil. which the Sun himself is answerable, yet is iar and powerful, must have exercised upon satisfied that the features of the imaginary the taste of the time, and the whole tone being whom he contemplates are drawn and spirit of our criticism, as well as its from an original existing in nature; and repform.

resent, though in a playful spirit of intention. The Essays which are collected in these al caricature, much of the real mind and volumes, and which originally appeared in a peculiar character of the writer: while the scattered form in Blackwood's Magazine, author himself thuis obtains the means of are now united by a slender tie. They are giving expression to many things which he announced as “The Recreations of Christo- might have otherwise hesitated to utter withpher North.” We need say little, we pre-out such a mouthpiece. Nor need the mask sume, of the imaginary personage who for this purpose be a very close one. As Aris. claims their authorship, except that, not-tophanes could venture, in the wildest days withstanding the palpably incongruous as of Athenian democracy, to personate and ridsemblage of qualities with which he is in- icule upon the stage the demagogue of the vested, such are the vivacity and pictur- day, with merely the thin disguise of a paintesque truth with which bis sayings and do-ed face, so a few whimsical and grotesque ings have been here depicted, that few crea exaggerations superinduced upon the true tures of the imagination have succeeded in features of the character, are, by a kind of impressing their image on the public with tacit understanding between the author and more distinctness of portraiture, or a stron. the public, held sufficient to perplex the ger sense of reality. Few indeed find any question of identity, to take from the imdifficulty in calling up before the mind's eye, aginary representative all inconvenient rewith nearly the same vividness as that of an semblance to his prototype ; and to entitle ordinary acquaintance, the image of this ven. his caprices to that immunity which is conerable eidolonwho unites the fire of youth ventionally accorded to the sallies of a maswith the wisdom of age, retains an equal in- querade. With these convenient phantasms, terest in poetry, philosophy, pugilism, and too, the writer can play as he pleases; bringpolitical economy-in short, in all the on- ing them prominently forward, or banishing goings of the world around him, in which them into the background, as occasion reeither matter or spirit have a part; andwho quires. In the present case, where some passes from a fit of the gout to a feat of gym- startling transition from grave to gay is in nastics, and carries his crutch obviously less contemplation-some outburst of a wild or purposes of use than of intimidation. humor ibat haply might frighten the groves Most writers who felt that they possess of Academe from their propriety; some feat ed the power of imaginary portrait painting, to be described, more congenial to the wild have been fond of interposing such imagin- gaiety of youth than to the gravity of Budge ary personages between themselves and the Doctors of the Stoic fur, "attired in black


sage wisdom's hue"-forth steps, insolent flicker of a sunbeam on the surface, hiding with animal spirits, and attired in the garb of the depth of some perennial well. a reality, the joyous apparition. When, on From this perpetual interchange of the contrary, the writer is to give utterance humor and earnestness, playful trifling to the lessons of wisdom, to the strains of and sound philosophy, these volumes stimpensive reflection on the mixed nature of ulate the feeling of curiosity in a high deman, to the eloquence inspired by strong gree. We soon feel that we have resigned sympathy with all created things—to any of ourselves into the hands of a companion those ennobling thoughts, in short, with and guide, the eccentricities of whose which a good man would fain in life associ- course it is impossible to calculate. The ate his name, and in death his memory-line of curves by which Sterne illustrates then the poet and moralist comes forward the no-progress of Tristram Shandy is its to speak' in his own character—the obe only parallel. Start with him from what dient spirit hies to his confine, and Chris- latitude you may, no one can foresee in topher subsides into a shadow.

what zone the excursion is to terminate, or Considerable changes, we perceive, have through what strange scenes or devious taken place on these Essays since they first wanderings we shall be led. The title of appeared in a periodical form. Large re. the essay, or the nature of the subject, trenchments are here and there perceptible; throws but the feeblest light upon the pro. considerable additions have been made in babilities of its treatment. It is soon perother parts ; greater rounding and compact ceived to be not in the least unlikely that ness are generally discernible;—yet in all, a criticism on Wordsworth may merge in essentially—and wisely we think—they re- a riotous description of a Highland Still ; tain their original character. For, unques or that a dinner with Dr. Kitchener may tionably, not å little of their peculiar charm produce discourse that would have more was derived from the contrast between the fitly graced a banquet with Socrates. In. occasional nature of their origin, and the deed, in the perusal of the “Recreations, depth and permanent importance of the we can scarcely say we are reasonably asviews which many of them embodied ;- sured of any one thing beforehand ; except from observing how frequently it happened that in all probability every mood of mind that slight hints, caught up as if by acci- in which the subject can be viewed will be dent, and handled in a spirit of sportive dal- run through, and in quick succession; the liance, were made by some secret and cun. note of mirth suddenly passing into the ning alchymy to change thier nature and to mournful, and again, by delicate resolution, expand into speculations of deep and wide modulating back into the key of cheerful. significance, connected with human nature, ness. Experience soon teaches us that or the principles of poetry and art ; and the presiding influence under which these how, from a foundation that seemed at volumes were composed is Mutability; and first slender and unsubstantial, if not mean “that nothing here long standeth in one and misplaced, a stately fabric of philosoph. sway." Often, when we have fixed our

c truth, studded with imagery and stored eyes upon what appears to be the veritable with wisdom, rose before us like a bright form of Tragedy, the outlines of the figure and noiseless exhalation. Thus the sight of begin to tremble and waver, till, when ihey a solitary starling, among the decaying re-settle themselves into shape, we find that, mains of an old castle, is found to lead to a by some mysterious occular deception, we majestic passage on Ruins, their deep hold are contemplating the features of her comic on the imaginative mind, and the sources of sister ; or while we have been listening to that influence. The note of the cushat, during the strains of Contemplation, suddenly ena walk in the depths of a dark and primeval ters, with blithe step and changeful vesture, Caledonian forest, is the prelude to reflec- “ Sport, that wrinkled care derides, tions not less striking on the terrors of con- Or Laughter holding both his sides." science, and the longing after immortality. There are some classes of minds to which Under the playful guise of a eulogy on illi. these rapid changes of scale, and this blend. cit distillation, are insinuated views equally ing of different elements within the same kindly, just, and practical, on the character composition, may appear illegitimate and and condition of our Highland population ; barbarous ;-particularly the department of —while in the “Soliloquy on the Seasons,” literary criticism. Many seem to think, like what a world of solemn and touching asso- the French critics and dramatists of another ciation lies beneath that covering of wit day, that humor and pathos cannot dwell and humor which invests the strain and together in unity, and consequently insist disguises its deeper meaning-like the on a separate maintenance for those whom


nature has joined together. A jest jars surdity of that contracted view of tragedy, against their sense of propriety. They will and its aim and instruments, which excluded not allow the even tenor of an argument to from its province the resources of the be quickened even by a flood of humorous comic, the low, or even the common, and illustration. With then the course of cri- which reduced to one regular and conventicism must be a kind of royal progress-tional march, the desultory and unequal measured and decorous as a Spartan march. movements of that world of life, “where

We are not at present inquiring how far good and evil, joy and sorrow, are mingled in these volumes the transitions from grave in endless variety of proportion, and innuto gay, and indeed from the extreme of one merable modes of combination;"—where to that of another, may not at times be too the most startling extremes are constantly violent; or whether the writer may not oc- meeting each other face to face—" in which casionally have resigned himself too unhesi- at the same time the reveller is hasting to tatingly to the guidance of that “Friar's his wine, and the mourner burying his lantern” of wild humors which he follows, friend."* No one has more completely till he leaves both himself and his readers proved the justice of transferring to poetry somewhat wide of the mark ;-or may not combinations found so effective in life itself, at other times have allowed himself to be or more triumphantly vindicated the sucless inspired, than overmastered, by that cess of the union as displayed in the creapassion of sympathy with which he regards tions of Shakespeare.

"Whatever," says all forms of nature, animate or inanimate ; he, “ be his purpose, whether to gladden or so as on the one hand to accumulate, with a depress, or to conduct the story without wasteful excess, the materials of the ludi. vehemence or emotion, through tracts of crous; and on the other to give vent to his easy and familiar dialogue, he never fails to strong sensibilities in words and images too attain that purpose: as he commands us, glowing for the colder temperament of his we laugh or mourn, or sit silent with quiet readers—unprepared for such rapidity of expectation, in tranquillity without indiftransition between the extremes of contra- ference.” dictory emotion. On these points, opinions But if this be so, is not much of the same will probably remain much divided in re- latitude and variety of view which is here gard to these “Recreations:" they are cer- conceded to poetical and imaginative crea. tain, in fact, to differ, according to the tions, to be admitted also as legitimate in varying dispositions and susceptibilities of the critical estimate of such productions ? the reader: one person, from habit and will not the province of high and original education, preferring the so-called classic criticism be enlarged by recognising in the style of criticism, which views every essay critic a right to deal with them in the same as a treatise to be composed in one key, and plastic spirit in which they were according to rules of rigorous deduction ; ceived !—To arrest and pour out with a another leaning more towards the romantic, congenial warmth and homely strength of by admitting the blending of many elements, expression, the shifting feelings-elevated, and employing without scruple the agency pathetic, or ludicrous--which present themof the imagination, or of the sportive faculty selves to a many-sided mind, in the conof humor, even in addressing the reason. templation of a great work of art, as in the But surely, in any view, the principle must observation of nature ? be erroneous which would exclude from the No doubt, this variable and imaginative criticism of poetry and art-or from those style may be unsuited to formal treatises, views and observations on life, and charac- and systems of criticism, of poetry or art. ter, and morals, wbich are generally, though When the main object is to arrange and rather vaguely, classified under the term systematize long-established results; to Essays-a wide field of humor, an extensive present these in a compact shape ; to comrange of excursive fancy, and a union of pile a Hand-Book of Criticism for everyday the comic and serious elements, such as use, we grudge every excursion of fancy, meet us daily in every scene of life itself. and press on

as one who bates not till his In poetical creation, even the sternest and journey's end.' The goal being plain from most formal of critics admit the legitimacy the first, the object is to make the highway of such a union. Dr. Johnson, however lit. to it as short and smooth as possible. But tle he may have extended the rule in prac. it is otherwise with the non inventa sed tice to his own critical investigations, fully quærenda :- Where criticism comes to deal recognized its application to the dramatic with new products of imagination; to sound representation of characters and events. No one saw or felt more strongly the ab- • Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare.


and fathom the currents and tendencies of | has found expression—and have applied to a new literature, springing up out of the the study and appreciation of these, the changing aspects of things; to point out same variety of view and range of emotion the mode of its growth, the probability of which they would have permitted to themits direction; its relation to that which pre- selves in poetical representation--that most ceded it ;-in what respects it is the inde- of what is original or valuable in our critipendent expression of the individual mind, cism is to be traced. in what the result of a mere social neces. It will perhaps be said, that though this sity; what in it is likely to be permanent may be true as a general principle, the oband unchangeable-what the mere reflec-jection, in this case, lies rather to its applition of temporary tastes and fashions and cation ; that, on the one hand, the test of prejudices, soon to be superseded by other the ludicrous, as applied to the criticism of modes, as transitory, in their turn;-fully literature, is too systematically employed, to perform this task, criticism must be in. and urged beyond its due bounds; and, on dulged with a Poetry no less than a Philo. the other, that the opposite feeling of adsophy. Not breadth of view alone, or clear miration and reverence which great works logical deduction, but deep and luminous awaken in the minds of poetical spirits, insight into men, is necessary; the critic though vivifying the composition wiih the must not only look around, but into, and eloquence of conviction, is apt to overeven beyond the things with which he deals. power the judgment, and to result in vague He must strive to penetrate the true nature eulogy rather than discriminating criticism. of that complex and perplexing whole which Either would be a formidable objection if it he contemplates; not by the mere appli- existed ; and we are prepared to expect, cation of the judgment and the reasoning that to some minds both may seem apparent faculties, which will at best furnish him in these volumes. To our own, it appears only with its outward measurement and very plain that the two charges in a great proportions, but by flashing upon it also the measure neutralize each other--that they light of imagination, nay, testing it at times are, in fact, inconsistent in their nature; in the fire of ridicule and playful wit,-ill, and that in neither case does there exist under the influence of so many combined any substantial ground of objection. forces, its true essence is yielded up, and If, indeed, the writer of these volumes its vital spirit apprehended.

had applied his power of presenting what Hence, almost all our great or original he pleases in the most irresistibly comic criticism has been the production either of light, to things which, either in nature or poets, or of those who, though they never art, should be exempt from ridicule, we

penned their inspiration,' had in them should be the last to vindicate such a per. much that was akin to poetry. It is by version of talent. But from this charge he such discoveries that the first meridians are is completely free. Those feelings which drawn across the map, and the first passage the human heart consecrate as holy, are made into unexplored climes. Afterwards sacred to him. Religion, love, honor, selfthe new country is soon occupied, and its devotion—all the charities of the soul-are cultivation or further survey may be safely cherished and embalmed by him in words committed to inferior hands. Judgment, of music. In no instance, so far as we are scholarship, patient study of prior models, aware, is that which is truly good or great will do much where the great landmarks presented by him under a ludicrous point have been once set up by minds of inventive of view. Even in dealing with the great power; but when the path was first to be creations of art, the same feeling of vene. sought through the wilderness, imagination ration is perceptible. When he seeks to and sympathy, the main constituents of fathom their spirit, or explain their strucgenius, were necessary to raise the critic cure, the reverence of his words denotes to something of the level of the poet, and his consciousness that a certain sacredness enable him to see as from a tower the end resides within. But all compositions in of all.'

poetry and art are not great compositions ; We believe, then, that it is to those few, indeed, are entitled to the name, though thinkers who have approached the criticism they may have enjoyed a wide popularity, of poetry or art, in this spirit-and have and perhaps may have been entitled to it. viewed the great productions of literature, Nor are even those which may be justly innot as mere combinations of dead elements, cluded in the class of great works, without joined together by dexterous opposition, Aaws and blemishes, some of which strike but as so many living forms, in which the deep into, and deform their whole struc. spirit of humanity, under a divine guidance, ture. But more particularly among the productions of our own age, or of a com. | being once ascertained, why should not our paratively recent date, how strangely min- criticism avail itself of all the resources of gled in general are great beauties with ludicrous combination ;-that weapon which great faults ;-strange misconceptions of in society itself, and in the dealings of man human nature as a whole, with partial ex with man, is found, like the dagger of mercy hibitions, which are both true and beau. in the days of chivalry, to be the shortest, tiful; or limited and exclusive views as to sharpest, and most conclusive end of strife? the nature of poetry or art, leading to erro. Does the power of this weapon, or the neous, though often ingenious and plausible consciousness of the effect with which it theories of style-affectation, mannerism, can be wielded, lead necessarily, or even monotony of execution. Are such compo- probably, to its abuse? We do not well sitions, powerful, brilliant-or better than see why it should be so; for, in general, the brilliant, it may be-to be entitled to the very minds in which the sense of the comic same immunities as those which we accord most readily arises, are those which are the to the great poets of antiquity, or the elder first to appreciate the solemn, the sublime, worthies of our own country—“the dead or the profound. For both spring from one but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule our power, and rapidity of apprehension, which, spirits from their urns ?” The thing, if it in its own nature, embraces all the elements were desirable, would be impossible; for of nature with indifference; and though, by no effort can we invest the present with like streams which have flowed from a the same feeling of reverence with which common fountain, they in some cases we regard the past. Let their force, then, diverge widely enough, so as never again their freedom of movement, their beauty, to be brought within the same range of be admitted, in a spirit of generous ac- vision ; yet, in other and happier instances knowledgment : but let their affectations, they flow on in channels which run side either in thought or style, their perverse by side, and which, by a thousand currents theories, their false vehemence, their phi- on the surface or underneath, are perpetulosophical commonplaces, their occasional ally intermingling their waters. But, as gross ignorance of human nature, be ex- the best practical refutation of such belief, posed with the same openness and candor. we would ask with confidence, in the preAnd how is this to be best done, if not by sent case, whether the author's almost une. directing against them the same weapon by qualled command of the humorous and the which in real life such follies most effectu- ludicrous has tended in any degree to imally are exposed ? Against a grave argu-pair his sensibility to what is really elevated ment addressed to a man's follies or pre- or poetical ? or whether the consciousness judices, some show of argument can always of his power of ridicule has led him to use be opposed; sometimes, in the opinion of it tyrannously or like a giant? Has its tenothers, the party challenged may even leave dency been to convert the writer into a crithe field a victor; but present the obnoxious tical Dragon, treating the field of literature weakness in its naked absurdity, surround as a province bound to supply him with an it with all its comic accessories, cover it annual contingent of youthful victims? with a pile of ludicrous absurdity,--and it On the contrary, towards true poetry, or shall go hard but that conviction will be even the very germs and indications of poproduced, if not in his own mind, at least etry—and towards all who cultivate it in sinin those of all who witness the gentle Pas. cerity and truth, however unknown to fame, sage of Arms.

or of however little mark or likelihood He who does this, as it is done occasion, there never, perhaps, was criticism so inally in these volumes, and still more so in dulgent and encouraging. Justly is he enother compositions of the same kind, (not titled to the praise he claims for himself, of included here-only, we hope, because they "guarding from mildew the laurels on the are reserved for a Second Series,) does an brow of the Muses' sons." if, amidst the essential service to literature. A bold and noisy Babel of ephemeral strains which assweeping application of ridicule does more sails his ear, he catches the melody of the to clear it of false taste, conceit, or exag- simplest verse that embodies in truthful geration, than all the sapping and mining of words a true emotion, he does not willingly subtle argument, or logical deduction could let it die. It is to him a labor of love to ever effect. Let us make sure that the preserve it, to prolong its echo into the subject is one which deserves ridicule; that world; to find for it, by graceful and kindly we are not presumptuously pointing our introduction, 'fitaudience and that not few.' shafts against mail of proof, from which And where beauties are seen struggling they will recoil upon ourselves; but, that with faults, but a true poetical instinct is


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