This is the third attempt which the author has made to convey to the world a detailed account of his personal and literary career; but, whether or not nature designed him for a poet, she certainly never meant him to be an historian — and vain will be the efforts of any reader to gather from any one of his autobiographies a definite notion even of the chief external events in this gentleman's now long life. By laying together his Recollections, published at Geneva in 1825 — his Autobiographical Memoir, dated Paris, 1826 — and the present more copious, if not more elaborate performance, something like an accurate outline might perhaps be formed; but who will take so much trouble to clear up what one who writes perpetually, and hardly now ever writes except about himself, has, by such unheard-of haste and carelessness, contrived to leave still in the dark? His style, however, is always easy, often beautiful: his casual reflections are occasionally admirable; and his own story, in whatever beclouded fragments he doles it out, has some leading features so pregnant with instruction and warning, that we must take this opportunity of shortly inviting our readers', and more especially our young readers', attention to them. Though we can have no hope to acquit ourselves of this task in a manner entirely satisfactory to Sir Egerton Brydges, we shall begin and conclude it with no feelings towards himself personally, except those of admiration for his natural talents and rich attainments, and sincere and respectful pity for the misfortunes that have darkened round the evening of his days.
We know no example to be compared to this, of the comparative worthlessness to a man (and consequently to his country and posterity) of high intellectual gifts, amiable feelings, varied accomplishments, splendid opportunities, and ceaseless activity, all combined, in the absence of a just appreciation of himself, a rational degree of deference to the judgments of society, clear aims, and orderly diligence.
Sir Egerton Brydges was born in the ancient manor-house of Wootton, near Canterbury, in 1762; the second son of a country gentleman of honourable (if not of illustrious) descent, and the possessor, apparently, of an estate amply sufficient to maintain him in the rank of his ancestors. Our author's mother was a lady of the great family of Egerton; whence his baptismal name, and subsequently a large addition of property to this branch of the house of Brydges. He received, of course, the best education, as far as he was willing to avail himself of the opportunities placed liberally within his reach; spent several years at Cambridge; was called to the bar in 1787; and mingled from early youth in the best society, whether in Kent or in London. Not attaining rapid success at the bar, where few, if any, ever do so, he soon wearied of his profession, retired into a country house in Hampshire, and there devoted himself to belles-lettres and English antiquities, until, by the death of his elder brother, he came into possession of the family estates, when he removed into Kent. His love of the scenery of his native county appears to have been one of the strongest feelings in his breast; and here he continued all through the prime of his life, eternally writing and printing; a catalogue of the productions of his private press at Lee Priory would indeed fill one of our pages. A short period, during which he acted as captain of a troop of fencibles — and another, hardly longer, during which he sat in the House of Commons, but without making any figure there — hardly deserve to be noticed as breaking his course of rural retirement in what ought to be, perhaps, the very happiest of all earthly stations. Habits of careless, lavish expenditure, however, gradually crumbled down the very handsome fortune which he had inherited; and being no longer able to maintain the style of living to which he had been accustomed, and moreover thoroughly disgusted with this country for two specific reasons to be hereafter touched upon, Sir Egerton at length quitted Kent and England; and has, with rare intervals, resided on the continent for the last sixteen years. His innumerable publications of this period bear dates almost as numberless — Florence, Rome, Naples, Paris — and latterly, for the most part, that of Geneva. He is now in the seventy-third year of his age: as indefatigable in composition as ever, with all his faculties entire, and with abundance of leisure, at all events, to review calmly a long course of experience.
The result may be thus shortly stated. If we were to judge from isolated passages, no one ever reviewed the life of another with more calmness and fairness than Sir Egerton would seem to have carried over the retrospect of his own. There is not a word, perhaps, which any human being would think it right to say of him, in his literary capacity at least, which he has not said of himself somewhere in the course of these two volumes; and we doubt if there be any criticism honestly due to his course of life as an English landlord, which has not in like manner been anticipated in his own nervous and feeling language. But these things are the "panni;" the main texture of the work is throughout that of complaint and repining — a strain of angry invective against individuals and society at large is constantly resumed; and though he over and over again confesses distinctly his own guilt of every imputation that has been laid to his charge, his own perfect desert especially of the comparative neglect with which his literary efforts have been treated by the generality of his contemporaries, he seems to have these admissions extorted from him in moments of lucid vision, only granted to render more palpable the habitual darkness in which it is his pleasure to wrap his reflections. Sir Egerton may be compared to a man who has a good pair of eyes of his own, and now and then condescends to make good use of them; but who, from some fantastic caprice, has so long indulged in the habit of looking at all the world, his own image included, through an artificially tinted lens, that he is never at his ease when the unfortunate toy is in his pocket.
There are, in a word, two circumstances which have poisoned this accomplished man's existence: first, the failure of his family to satisfy the House of Peers, about the beginning of this century, that they had made out a legal claim to the honours of the old barony of Chandos; and secondly, his own failure in achieving for himself a first-rate name as an English author, by a long lifetime most zealously devoted to the pursuits of literature. With regard to the first of these affairs, we must content ourselves with stating the universal belief of sane mankind, that a tribunal more entirely free from every suspicion than the British House of Lords, acting in its judicial capacity, never existed in this world, and never will exist; and that, whether Sir Egerton Brydges be or be not right in his personal judgment that the claim was made out, no living creature but himself will ever entertain the slightest notion that that claim could have been there disallowed, except in reluctant obedience to the dictates of deliberate conviction. We ourselves incline to believe that the claim was just in itself, but that the evidence was not technically complete; but however this may be, our author's eternal insinuations, that personal pique and spleen were the true motives of opposition on the part of the crown lawyers, are the merest day-dreams of exaggerated self-love. The virulent abuse with which, in numberless publications, he has assailed the memory of Mr. Perceval, then solicitor-general, is wholly indefensible. What possible gratification could it afford to such a man as Mr. Perceval to strain the course of justice in order to exclude a respectable, wealthy, and ancient country-gentleman from the honours of an English barony to which he was really entitled? The crown officers were bound to fulfil a certain course of duty; so were the judges of the high tribunal before which the case was tried. And Sir Egerton ought, at least, to have the matter tried over again, before he dares to hazard one whisper of the injurious tenour thus shortly alluded to by us — once for all, and not, we must own, without some mixture of indignation in our pity. He now, we see, announces himself on his title-pages, and, we are told, signs his letters, as "per legem terrae Lord Chandos of Sudeley." Can this childish vaunt afford even a momentary satisfaction to a high mind?
The other great grievance is Sir Egerton's literary one. With respect to it, we cannot do better than re-quote an emphatic sentence from Mr. Sharp's "Letters:" namely, "A want of harmony between the talents and the temperament is, wherever it is found, the fruitful source of faults and of sufferings. Perhaps few are less happy than those who are ambitious without industry who pant for the prize, but will not run the race." Sir Egerton has all his days been busy without industry — perpetually panting for the prize, but never sufficiently persevering to make out one real heat.
In vain would he console himself with such fond flattery as the following—
"Genuine poetry lies in the thought and sentiment, not in the dress; and these spring from the native powers of the head and heart, which no study or artifice can give. Memory, artifice, and industry may assist an author in making imitations, but they will want raciness and life. Lord Byron has made a great outcry against pretensions to sensibility; but no one had more intense sensibility than he had; and this outcry was itself an affectation. It is fear to go alone, and frankly to lay open one's own internal movements, which diverts genius from its course, and makes it produce spurious fruit. But I cannot think that any one can so deceive himself as to believe, when he is writing from the memory, that he is writing from the heart. My sensitiveness from childhood was the source of the most morbid sufferings, as well as of the most intense pleasures, &c. &c." — vol. i. p. 5.
Does Sir Egerton seriously believe that Lord Byron ever dreamt of disparaging sensibility? He attacks the professors of ultra-sensibility, because he had observed mankind sharply, and seen that these were often in fact cold-hearted scoundrels; but the glorious gift of Heaven itself he partook as largely and reverenced as profoundly as any of his contemporaries. He, no doubt, despised those who set up for poets with no stock in trade but sensibility; but this was simply because he himself happened to be a great artist, as well as a man of delicate nervous organization; and he therefore very well knew that he owed to intense study of himself and of the world — to most indefatigable industry — the means of stamping immortality on the delineations of mental emotion.
Sir Egerton would fain deceive himself — but he does not succeed even in that: by us, and by all who have observed his career attentively, it is considered as highly probable that, had he done justice to his own powers, had he been able to command his thirst for fame, and brave enough to make one really great effort, and await the result with manly calmness, instead of frittering away his strength in puny lucubrations, each forgotten next morning only to be followed by another equally ephemeral, he might have long ere now taken his place among the best of his age; but if a man, a man of leisure and fortune too, far removed from the necessity of writing for bread, will indulge himself in a fretful career of pettynesses, he must take the consequences. The men whose lot he would fain have partaken were cast in a far other mould than his: they did not confound real literary industry, the noble toil of energetic intellect, with the habit of covering every day a certain surface of paper — they never expected the rewards of first-rate authorship from broadsides and pamphlets, a few hasty novels, and a swarm of black-letter reprints.
But of all this, as we have already hinted, Sir Egerton himself, in his saner moods, appears to be completely conscious. He then feels, as we all see, that the temperament of genius has been his in an exquisite degree, but that his strength of mind and fixity of purpose have never been on the same scale either with that or with his ambition. It is on this point that we wish principally to arrest the attention of young literary enthusiasts. The delicate sensibilities of genius are precious gifts: nothing great can be done without them; but by their means alone nothing either great or good ever has been or ever will be effected in the world of letters. They are but the materials for laborious and patient art to work with; and he who cannot command them within his own bosom, will never command the thoughts and feelings of mankind to such an extent as is required for the erection of an intellectual authority over a cultivated age. Sir Egerton's ambition in this way has evidently been set upon something rather more important than the Barony of Chandos.
Having missed the prize, he is now not seldom in the mood to disparage it; but who does not understand such passages as the following?—
"The wise plan would seem to me, at this too late period of my life, to be, in cases of the most humble competence, to keep aloof from all the paths of human contest or rivalry, and to pass one's days in retirement, despising show, and vanity, and notice, and seeking to while away the time by any innocent and self-dependent amusement. We seek distinction by an inherent propensity; but it is of no worth if obtained. I regret that I ever had any ambition." — pp. 102-4.
The true subject of regret ought to be that he did not either bring up his mental habits to the pitch of his ambition, or lower his ambition to some point of easier attainment. He says elsewhere, however, — nay, it is but at the distance of a couple of pages,—
"In the sphere of higher society — among those whose intellect must guide human affairs, — there is a demand for the genius and talents which see far and wide, — into which individual interests, and the petty management which give selfish advantages at the expense of others, do not enter. There great mental gifts are properly appreciated, and make their way. Thus no man of genius, or superiority of mind, should ever place himself in a narrow neighbourhood." — p. 94.
And this comes from the same pen which can still pour out such eternal diatribes as the following:—
"I now sit at the window of my humble campagne at Geneva, catching a glimpse of the noble lake, and defy or forget a world which once troubled me, and whose spite and other evil passions I once was not strong enough to overcome. Now they pass by me unheeded; they rattle along the road, but do not disturb my calm; and I live in the company of departed poets, and sublime and tender moralists. Many of my feelings have been anticipated by Cowley in his admirable prose-essays, which are models of thought, sentiment, and language. Everything is at the mercy of mind: if we think rightly we are capable of enjoyment under almost any adversity or deprivation. Calumny and detraction may rage; but in retirement we hear it not. There is a noble stanza in Thomson's 'Castle of Indolence,' beginning — 'I care not, Fortune, what you me deny!'" — pp. 105.
We believe we have now quoted enough to let our readers into the secret of Sir Egerton's unfortunate state of mind. His burden is very like that of our old friend Timon of Athens—
The learned pate
Ducks to the golden fool; all is oblique.
We proceed to extract a few specimens of this strange narrative, not with any view of further criticising the author's mistakes about himself, but simply as illustrative of the unhappy consequences which attend an exquisite temperament unaccompanied by strength of mind and firmness of purpose. The mingled tone of self-satisfaction and self-reproach which runs through the whole book is painfully but most interestingly characteristic; but in truth a great many of our extracts have been selected merely for the artless beauty of the language. Sir Egerton very seldom pursues one strain of thought or sentiment long enough to bring out the full impression at which he aims; but it is impossible not to be delighted with the felicitous gleams that every now and then escape him. Thus, nothing can be more exquisitely true and touching than the sketches he gives of himself in early boyhood — what would we not give for such a series of confessions from a Collins or a Chatterton, or any one whom all the world do agree in considering as an ill-used genius? At nine years of age he was sent to school at Maidstone:
"I was so timid on entering into school, and my spirits were so broken by separation from home, and the rudeness of my companions, that in my first schoolboy years I never enjoyed a moment of ease or cheerfulness. Many of those feelings, which I should now consider as necessarily associated to a poetical temperament, I then painfully concealed, lest they should subject me to ridicule; but I always entertained the resolution and the hope some day to break into notice." — pp. 3-5.
In his Memoir of 1826, we find a passage on the same subject, which we wonder Sir Egerton has not preserved.
"My unhappiness at this first severance from my home was extreme. I entirely lost my spirits, and became a prey to timidity, shyness, and reserve. Hitherto, for some years, existence had been delight. I had lived almost in the open air, coursing through grass, and flowers, and leaves, unruffled by rivals, unsubdued by petty tyrants: the day was now irksome to me; and I looked forward to the next with dread. All that belonged to my family, and the spot of my nativity and childhood, were constantly before my fancy, in shapes and colours which made them seem like the appendages of Paradise. When Christmas came, and I reached home, my delight was so convulsive, that for two days I was agitated by continued fits of laughter, frightful enough to alarm all my family. About the third day my spirits became calmer. As the holidays came to a close, and at each succeeding return, my suffering was extreme. I remained at Maidstone school four years; and scarcely think that I ever enjoyed an hour there. My only intervening pleasure was to be found in the days spent at Linton," — (a friend's seat on the borders of Coxheath,) — "of which every picture and every incident remains fresh upon my memory." — Autobiographical Memoir. 1826.
We have said that Sir Egerton is quite incapable of narrating anything in a proper or logical order; but we are thankful that, about the middle of his first octavo, a casual mention of the "Biographia Britannica" extracts from him another of these early reminiscences:—
"The form is like Bayle's, but not the spirit. Scarce any article rises above mere compilation. It seems ungrateful to speak thus; for from this work I began at eight or nine years old to contract my passion for biography. I had the work constantly in my hands during the holidays, which I almost invariably spent at home. The volumes always lay in one of the windows of the common parlour at Wootton; and how often have I rejoiced when the rain and snow came, to keep me by the winter fireside, instead of mounting my pony, to follow all the morning my uncle's harriers! and when I was out, how I counted the hours till I could return to my beloved books! The moment dinner was over I drew my chair round to the fire, and one of these large volumes was opened upon my knees. I grew peevish if any one interrupted me; and was so totally absorbed in myself, that I was lost to all that was passing around me. At that time I was much more delighted with this work than with all the books of poetry that offered themselves to me." — pp. 98, 99.
In another of these rambling chapters, he says,—
"At an early age, Buchanan's Latin poetry was a great and intimate favourite with me, and I got Milton's juvenile poems almost by heart. I generally carried these little volumes (the Elzevir of Buchanan) in my pocket. I read them on stiles, on banks, and under hedges, when the season allowed, as well as by the winter fire, when the weather kept me in-doors. Collins also was one of the earliest objects of my enthusiastic admiration. From fourteen or fifteen I dreamed of authorship, and never afterwards gave up the ambition." — p. 114.
Again, after some of his philosophical old man's preachments against worldly ambition, far down in the book, we read:—
"But I used to hear from my earliest infancy of the rise and grandeur of my ancestor, Lord Chancellor Egerton, and of my royal blood. Then, again, I heard of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, who was my father's relation, and of whose education I have heard that my grandfather had the care. The portrait of Chancellor Egerton, in his official robes, hung by the bedside in which I was born, and seemed with his grave countenance to look solemnly upon me. The engraved portrait of the other chancellor always hung over the fireside of my uncle's justice-room. The Gibbon arms were there quartered with the Yorke saltier, and reminded me of the relationship, for I was always observant of heraldic symbols. I have no doubt that these things made an impression on my mind, which operated strongly on my future fate."
No doubt of it: hence the excellent edition of Collins's Peerage — not forgetting the parenthetical section which it devotes to the Chandos claim — hence, indeed, a full half of all that Sir Egerton has ever published; and yet he elsewhere expresses his opinion that
"Whenever a man is gifted with much originality and strength of faculties and feelings, the place of his birth, the rank, habits, and character of his ancestors, or his own early education and society, have but little influence on his own future bents, pursuits, powers, and colours of mind and heart... I begin to entertain the conviction that such circumstances have had no imperative operation on my intellectual propensities and efforts." — Autob. Mem. Paris, 1826.
Was there ever such a delusion! And he goes on to observe, as "the most striking circumstance" in proof of this new theory,
"that Milton and Gray, both the sons of scriveners, must have passed their childhoods in the heart of the city; and yet there exist in no other poetry such natural, fresh, vivid, exquisite rural images as in theirs; nor in any other are these introduced with more enthusiasm and unaffected fondness:"—
as if youths, gifted with such "strength of faculties and feelings" as Milton and Gray, could have failed to taste with more exquisite rapture the beauties of the grove and the mead, because of the contrast of their own early days chiefly "in populous city pent!" The glorious passage in the Paradise Lost to which we allude, paints, no doubt, the ecstatic delight of the boy Milton in his walks about the neighbourhood of London — a district, we need not say, as rich as any in the island with some of the most charming of Nature's beauties.
At Cambridge, Sir Egerton took no share in the mathematical studies of the place; he could, therefore, hope for no academical distinction; and now he loses no opportunity to sneer at his Alma Mater.
"It is curious to look over the list of names of those who took honours on their degrees at Cambridge from 1784 to 1823. Of two thousand nine hundred names, how very few afterwards obtained in life the smallest distinction! even of the septuagint of senior wranglers very few became afterwards known." — p. 65.
"Fame is the spur by which almost all noble efforts are made. How happens it, then, that so few go on after they have once obtained university distinctions? Are they exhausted? Do they rest upon their laurels, or are the requisite tests of talent and mental culture fallacious? I should assuredly say the latter in the majority of cases, not in all. Gray, Wordsworth, and many others, attained no college honours!" — pp. 66, 67.
Sir Egerton, apparently, supposes that the great object of academical institutions ought to be the fostering of poetical talents; but we venture to doubt if Gray ever harboured such a notion; and certainly no man has written with higher enthusiasm of his mother university, than the great living poet here alluded to by our autobiographer. He well knows that poets must educate themselves — that they can do so either "inter sylvas academi," or whistling "behind a plough upon the mountain side," with equal success, so that they have the aim clear in there view, and take the true path to reach it; but that these unrivalled establishments were meant to supply, for the duties of active life in England, a succession of persons imbued with attachment to the civil and religious institutions of their country, and with the feelings of gentlemen; — he knows that nobly have they hitherto served the purpose for which they were endowed; — and he, before he sneered at the paucity of immortal reputations in science, literature, or politics, achieved among three thousand persons distinguished by academical honours at Cambridge, between 1784 and 1823, would have thought it his duty to ascertain how many of these persons had in after years done solid service to their generation as clergymen, physicians, lawyers, and magistrates.
How overweening is the vanity of many literary men as to the relative importance of their own pursuit! Grant that England has produced within the last fifty years as many really great names in letters as any country ever did within a similar period; and grant, if you will, that any one of these has done higher honour and more lasting good to the world than can come of a score of mere able labourers in any liberal profession, properly so called: but do not forget — mankind at large will never doubt — that any one such able and honest labourer in any of those walks of practical usefulness on which crowds of literati think themselves entitled to look down, is worth a whole regiment of authorlings; is by the universal sense of society more estimable living, and has, moreover, fully a better chance of being honourably remembered when dead. Sir Egerton proceeds to say:—
"We had scarce any poets at that time at Cambridge, unless Dr. Glyn of King's: poetry was never in fashion there even in Gray's time; nothing was valued but mathematics. Gray was neglected, and often even affronted at this University, and it is strange that he continued to live on there; but it had many conveniences for a single man of small income, and there was the attraction of rich libraries — and, above all, habit. Probably more stir in society would have brought out more fruits from a copious mind, which suffered its riches to expire within it. Dante, Petrarch, Tasso, Spenser, Milton, Dryden, — all led active lives. Byron was always in action. Indolence infallibly produces ennui and feebleness. What mind ever did so much as Burke's? and all his days he was engaged in the bustle of public life!"
Gray, true poet as he was, happened to be a little, nervous, effeminate, old bachelor, with many personal habits not unlike those of his quondam companion Horace Walpole; and the giddy undergraduates often quizzed and sometimes hoaxed him! Therefore it was a wonder that Gray should continue to reside at Cambridge! The author of the Elegy understood both men and boys rather better than Sir Egerton.
He gives us, with all this nonsense, some amusing enough sketches of Cambridge society. Take, for instance, this glimpse of Dr. Farmer — the best certainly, after Johnson, of all the Commentators on Shakspeare:—
"Farmer was complacent and indolent, and sat surrounded by his cats and his books, and lost in his own bibliographical amusements; he was lax in his discipline and good-natured in his manners." — p. 64.
Or this, of Dr. Plumptre:—
"He was a sort of petty literary amateur, who wrote petty attempts at jeux d'esprit on cards, in a formal hand, and wore a cauliflower wig curled in the sprucest manner: but he was a good sort of harmless, round-faced, little man, courteous to all, and always ready to do good-natured acts." — p. 60.
These are true academical portraits: but what is to be said of the following?—
"I was once or twice in company with Porson at college. His gift was a surprising memory: he appeared to me a mere linguist, without any original powers of mind. He was vain, petulant, arrogant, overbearing, rough, and vulgar. He was a great Greek scholar; but this was a department which very few much cultivated, and in which, therefore, he had few competitors. What are the extraordinary productions which he has left to posterity? Where is the proof that he has left of energetic sentiments, of deep sagacity, of powerful reasoning, or of high eloquence? Admit that he has shown acuteness in verbal criticism, arid verbal emendation; — what is that? He was one of those men whose eccentricities excited a false notice. The fame of his erudition dazzled and blinded the public."
We hold that there is no better test of the extent of genius than the extent of its sympathies. The man who is blind to excellence, except in one walk, may be as clever as you will, but he cannot have the inventive faculty in great development; for that would necessarily lead to imagine the existence of whole worlds of excellence, in which the possessor himself could never hope to have a part. "A linguist" — "verbal criticism" — "verbal emendation" — How little does Sir Egerton apprehend what he is thus disparaging, in the case of a Porson! There is more of genius — more of poetical invention itself — in the '"deep sagacity" of one of the emendations that have made the European fame of Porson, than in all the writings of a score of modern "originals;" and if Sir Egerton fancies that it is possible to understand Greek as Porson did, without being something more than a "mere linguist," we humbly suggest that Greek books contain something more than Greek vocables. The eccentricities and vulgar indulgences of Porson were against, not for him; neither can be defended: but had Porson been a sentimental sonnetteer, the gentleman who never lets fall a word to the discredit of Chatterton or Burns would have spared this invective — probably found in the same facts materials for a lofty eulogy of the man, and such another fierce fling at the world as the following:—
"The immortal Chatterton drank up the bowl of worldly forgetfulness, that his fiery disappointment might find rest in the grave. What a light among us was there extinguished and lost! It was a guilty impatience! ... The mass of mankind have not the capacity of deep and extended observation: they either take things as they are taught them, or their own opinions are narrow and superficial; they are busied about little matters of their own individual interests, and the rest either lies light upon them, or is entirely neglected. 'Really,' they cry, 'I have not thought much about these things, they are not my concern.' 'Well, but A. says so and so.' 'Oh, yes; but he is a wild man, whose opinions I little regard: he has no solid sense; look how he manages his own affairs!" — p. 93.
Sir Egerton thus records his own first appearance as an author:
"I had, in studying Milton's noble sonnets — noble in defiance of Johnson — convinced myself of the force and majesty of plain language; and I resolved never to he seduced into a departure from it. The consequence was — (the consequence!) — that my first poems were coldly received, though praised in 'Maty's Review' of May, 1785. I would not change my system; but this coldness chilled and blighted me for some years, and from 1785 to 1791 I wrote no more poetry. Then I poured out my unpremeditated strains rather copiously in my little novel of 'Mary de Clifford,' published anonymously in January, 1792, at the age of twenty-nine, which immediately obtained some popularity, and is not yet, after forty-one years, entirely forgotten. It was written with a fervid rapidity, which no one seems to believe; — begun in October, 1791, and the sheets sent to the press by the post as fast as they were scribbled."
The author will not perhaps like to be told so — but we consider this early novel of "Mary de Clifford" as the best work of imagination that has ever yet come from his pen. It has some too luxuriant passages, and the poetry introduced into it appears to us as unlike Milton as possible; but there is a force and vivacity in the whole story and situations, that Sir Egerton has not subsequently equalled. We do not, however, understand him when he talks of "nobody believing in such fervid rapidity" of writing, as produced a little thin 12mo. between October and January. Johnson, we know, wrote "Rasselas" in the evenings of one week; Sir Walter Scott, we have heard, wrote "Guy Mannering" in little more than the four weeks of a Christmas vacation. Dryden dashed off the "Alexander's Feast" in a couple of days. The tradition goes, that Shakspeare began and finished "The Merry Wives of Windsor" within a fortnight. Who needs to be told, that if a man covers only ten pages every morning — no mighty feat, hardly more than two or three average private letters — he will, in the course of a month, have finished a volume of three hundred pages? But what signifies either the rapidity or the quantity of any man's writings? "Mary de Clifford" had, then, a very fair reception. But, Sir Egerton continues,—
"This success did not induce me to consider myself a popular writer; I always was damped in all my efforts by an opposite feeling; and for some years sunk into a genealogist, topographer, and bibliographer. These were unworthy pursuits, in which I wasted much of my precious time; they overlaid the fire of my bosom but did not extinguish it; they suppressed in me that self-confidence, without which nothing great can be done, and bound my enthusiastic spirit in chains. The fire smouldered within, and made me discontented and unhappy. I saw people, whom I considered (as Sneyd Davies says) 'boobies, mounting over my head;' and I felt the incumbrance upon me with scorn, yet could not break it. Perhaps I was more depressed than I ought to have been, and thought more humbly of the estimate the public had made of me than was correct.
"I think that I might have done manifold what I have done, if I had not timidly yielded to discouragement. But spirits a thousand-fold higher than mine, such as that of Collins, have been broken by failure of cheers."
This occurs early in the book: he returns over and over again to the same theme — as thus:—
"Few who are not encouraged, persevere till the strength of their genius comes out. He who expects no reward works carelessly and languidly. He cannot entirely abandon the chase; but he has no energy, because he has no hope. Men who go on successfully, and with cheers, often show at last faculties which no one suspected to be in them," — (no, not even the cheerers?) — "and which they did not even themselves suspect; while others, depressed and blighted, let great genius sink into imbecility and despair. How often, in the course of my clouded life, have I lost my self-complacence, and envied every blockhead who came near me! How often have I seen the aspiring, vain, and empty coxcomb, blown on the wings of fame, till he burst with pride, arrogance, and self-exultation! How could he doubt the justice of popular plaudits! The wind blows in their favour, and they cry, 'It blows, and, as it blows, for ever will blow on!' But, on a sudden, the blast changes its direction, and down they fall to the ground, crushed to rise no more. It is better never to rise, than to rise with the chance of such a fall.
"The fame that is sure is commonly, though not always, slow: it was slow in Scott, but not in Byron. Scott greatly improved under the encouragement of fame, and so did Byron: but fame will draw forth those who have not solid pretensions beyond their strength. Dryden improved to the last; so did Milton; so did Burke. Duly cherished, and kept in due exercise, the mind must improve. When I lose a day of mental occupation, I lose my spirits, and am filled with regret." — pp. 72, 73.
What a strange mixture of strength and weakness in all these passages — what energetic sentences, and what inconclusive paragraphs! He might have much extended his list of great minds that improved on almost to the verge of the grave: it is, indeed, an important fact, that of the very greatest works of human genius, a large majority have been produced at an advanced period of life. With regard to his contrast of Scott and Byron, however, as regards the mere rapidity of fame, Sir Egerton appears to us quite mistaken. Sir Walter's first original publications were those extraordinary ballads, "Glenfinlas," "Cadyow Castle," and "The Grey Brother." Did not these at once raise him to a most eminent station in literature?
We must now give some of our author's striking sketches of his own existence, as settled in his beautiful manor-house in Kent, and devoted, in utter neglect of his fortune and the duties of his personal station as a country gentleman, to the endless series of literary and antiquarian miscellanies, the most important of which appears to us to be the "Censura Literaria." Of the period from his thirty-fifth to his forty-eighth year, he says,—
"My thoughts were always on my books and airy visions. Bailiffs and stewards are very willing to receive every thing, and disburse nothing: when anything is to be paid they always come upon the master. No receiver of money will be honest unless he is very sharply looked to; and in making up a long account a cunning man can turn the balance either way in a surprising manner.... I have an aversion to accounts, and nothing but the most pressing necessity can induce me to examine them. An agent soon finds out this, and step by step goes on from robbery to robbery, till nothing will satisfy the rapacity of his appetite. The difficulty of the task accumulates from day to day, and who that shrinks from examining a month's accounts will undertake those of a year?... It was a life of mingled pleasure and extreme anxiety. I loved its quiet scenery, its solitude, its books, and literary occupations; but it would have required a gigantic strength or obduracy of mind to have suffered its interposing persecutions, without the deepest disturbance of spirits. Among the most comfortless of human miseries, experience has taught me that pecuniary embarrassment stands prominent. It weakens and chains the mind; and perhaps the worst effect of all is in the indignities to which it subjects its victim."
Persecutions, and victim! A squire of good estate chooses to engage in agriculture on a large scale as an amusement,' (these are his own words,) and yet indulges in an "aversion to accounts;" ... "pecuniary embarrassment" is the result — and he dubs himself the "victim of persecutions!" Again—
"Mankind always take the ill-natured side, and confound the expenditure of carelessness and erroneous calculation with the expenditure of vanity. There is nothing, therefore, more unfortunate, from whatever cause it proceeds, than excess of expenditure beyond income. The greater part of the harpies of society live and gorge themselves by taking advantage of this imprudence. Half the population of London live upon it; three-fourths of the ravenous lawyers live upon it; all sorts of agents live upon it; and half the demoralization of society is generated by it."
We quite agree with our author that pecuniary extravagance is the parent of endless and degrading misery; but we should have suggested for this parent another epithet than unfortunate. He continues:—
"I had much seeming leisure for any great work I might have imposed on myself; but my mind was distracted, and therefore could pursue nothing which had not high excitement: but excitement cannot in its nature be permanent, and, therefore, I could do nothing which required a regular perseverance of labour. Whatever I did was fitful and transitory, and required the stimulus of variety. I often worked to exhaustion while the fit was on; then came on ennui and disgust."
This is said, we presume, of his labours in poetry and romance; of his antiquarian pursuits, in which he really did so much service to literature, he thus speaks:—
"The works in which I was engaged for the press occupied much of my time; and the long transcripts necessary were laborious and fatiguing. They were enough to suppress my imagination, and deaden my powers of original thought. It was not the mere love of fame, but the love of literary occupation, which was the spur that led me on — it was to escape from myself and my overwhelming anxieties. Meanwhile, I was not at all satisfied with the way I was making in the literary world: I was pursuing a humble path not suited to my fiery ambition, and this produced a self-abasement which had an evil effect upon my energies."
And yet he says elsewhere — and we wonder he did not remember this, when he was lashing at Porson—
"A man of genius cannot even compile without showing something of his own spirit. Though he may extract and copy, still he will select and combine in a manner which mere labour will never reach."
Justly and truly is this said; and the truth of it is exemplified in some of our author's own antiquarian lucubrations.
The bitterness with which Sir Egerton perpetually rails against his Kentish neighbours is one of the least amiable, or indeed intelligible, features in these Memoirs; yet, from his own showing, they had some little reason not to be too much his admirers.
"I never could hear the talk of country squires; and as they suspected this, my society was a wet sheet upon them. They never forgave me the allusions they thought they perceived in my novel of 'Arthur Fitzalbini.' They were very foolishly sensitive, for no one would have understood them if they had not owned that the cap fitted. There was only one character that came very close, and that page was cancelled, at the earnest entreaty of a relation of my own, before publication. The claim to the barony of Chandos was poison to our country neighbours, which turned them sick, and they joined in clans to depress and calumniate us.
"I will admit that my own manners were not easy or conciliatory. I was apt to see a little too much in a look or a tone; and the knowledge that whatever I said or did would be misinterpreted, made me suspicious and embarrassed. I could not talk of sheep or bullocks; examine a horse's mouth, or discuss his points. I could not tell what wind would give a good scenting day; nor what course the fox would probably take, when he broke cover. If I attempted a joke, no one felt it; and if I made an observation, every one stared. That happy nonchalance and reckless raillery, which make such agreeable companions, were beyond my reach. I dared not mention a book, or enter into a political argument; if I did, a cant phrase or two of some jolly joker of the company soon put an end to it. If I mentioned some public man, who I thought had risen beyond his merits, there was an instant union of sarcasm, as if I spoke from prejudice and passion.
"The higher classes of aristocratical commoners have commonly some intellectual man among them, who gives a tone to the rest: it was not so in East Kent; they were all of the character and temperament of the squirearchy." — pp. 85, 86.
"They, who have no studious turn, are not merely indifferent to books: they hate them; — the sight of them they feel to be disagreeable. When my neighbours came in, and found my tables loaded with a chaos of volumes, they turned sick. They seemed to say to themselves, 'What a strange, dry, dull life, to be thus enveloped in the lust of old folios and black-letter books! O, what a musty damp they exhale! Give me the fresh air — let me mount my horse again, and scamper over the hedges and ditches.' They came upon me sometimes with my looks abstracted, my visage pale, and my spirits grave. I detested their interruptions: they said to themselves — 'He is a mere bookworm; he can tell nothing; he knows nothing; he has a confused mind, and wants common sense!' I felt self-abased to have any communication with persons of such a temperament, and such incomprehensiveness; and grew more and more resolved to discourage acquaintance of this caste." — p. 144.
Our squire-hating Squire escaped, as we mentioned, from this course of life and letters, twice — each time for but a short interval. During the alarm of French invasion, he took the command of a body of fencibles, and for a short while enjoyed the busy existence of a camp on the Kentish downs. He soon, as may be supposed, got quite sick of the whole affair; he gives, however, some amusing reminiscences in this chapter. Then, early in 1812, he was returned to the House of Commons; but here, from the sensitive nervous temperament which our preceding extracts have so often exhibited, he could never have had much chance of distinction — not even if he had begun at an earlier period of life. But some of his sketches of the new world in which he now mingled may probably be to many the chief attractions of these volumes. For example, he says—
"As to the talent of speaking, an over-anxiety and ambition to excel may at first defeat the end; but perseverance and gradual self-possession, which is the consequence, will gradually prevail. But this is not to be done when we begin late. In parliament great orators are rare; and one may be a very useful speaker in defiance of occasional embarrassment, and imperfect expression or manner. I have seen men gradually gain the attention of the House by mere self-confidence and boldness, who had no one ingredient of oratory. I remember that even Canning used often to hesitate a good deal in the commencement of his speeches. Lord Castlereagh was generally embarrassed even to the last; Vansittart was slow, and could not be heard — his voice was so faint; Grattan, at the period when I knew him, was laboured, tautologous, and energetic on truisms; Whitbread was turgid and foamy; George Ponsonby spoke in snappy sentences, which had the brevity but not the point of epigram; Garrow was 'vox et praeterea nihil;' Frederick Robinson spoke with vivacity and cleverness, and in a most gentlemanly tone, but wanted a sonorous flow.... Charles Grant, who rarely rose, poured out when he did rise a florid academical declamation, of which kind indeed Canning's speeches often were; Huskisson was a wretched speaker, with no command of words, with awkward motions, and a most vulgar, uneducated accentuation; Tierney had a manner of his own — very amusing — but entirely colloquial; he seldom attempted argument, but was admirable at raillery and jest. It is difficult to describe the manner of Sir Francis Burdett; — it was generally solemn, equable, and rather artificially laboured, in a sort of tenor voice; but, now and then, when it was animated, it approached for a little while to powerful oratory. I once or twice heard Stephens, the master in Chancery, make a good speech; but the tone was coarse and vulgar. Wilberforce had a shrill feeble voice, and a slow enunciation, as if he was preaching; and his language was of the same character as he used in his writings, with great ingenuity and a constant course of thought out of the common beat; but there was something between the plaintive and the querulous, which was rather fatiguing. Mackintosh was often eloquent, but generally too studied, and much too learned for his audience; and he was not sufficiently free from a national accent; his voice too was deficient in strength. Romilly spoke as a patriotic and philosophic lawyer, full of matter and argument, but perhaps a little too slowly and solemnly for such a mixed assembly as the House of Commons. Plunkett was one of the most powerful speakers, but better in the acuteness of his matter than in his manner. Vesey Fitzgerald had a bold, forward, lively flow of words.... Of all the men who struck me at once, Lord Lyndhurst's talents made the greatest impression upon me.
"He who has matter to communicate must be singularly deficient in language and delivery, if he can gain no attention, after a little practice, and that command of nerves which a repetition of efforts will secure. At first every sensitive man is frightened at the sound of his own voice."
These little sketches, imperfect as they are, will be curious and valuable hereafter. Mr. Huskisson, however, improved in his style of speaking in his later years, to an extent of which Sir Egerton seems to have had no notion; and we do not believe that Sir J. Mackintosh's Scotch did him any great harm with the House. His brogue was certainly a mere nothing to the late Lord Melville's, who was always a favourite speaker; nay, it was not in fact broader than Lord Brougham's, or Lord Plunkett's. Perhaps Sir James was too desirous to disguise his native accent, and one glimpse of affectation does more damage, in such a place as St. Stephens' used to be, than the steady undeniable daylight of many a more serious fault; but the real mischief was, that he had a professorial tone, and that never answers out of the chair.
Sir Egerton has a very good passage on the late Lord Liverpool:—
"I remember a remark of his when he dined with me, in 1794, from his encampment near Dover, as colonel of the Cinque Port's' Fencible Cavalry, which struck me as a proof that he was a man of sentiment and moral reflection. He seemed to other eyes to be then in the bloom of his successful career. We were talking of the enjoyments of youth: I believe he was at least nine years younger than I was; but he had already had some experience of public life. 'No,' he said, 'youth is not the age of pleasure; we then expect too much, and we are therefore exposed to daily disappointments and mortifications. When we are a little older, and have brought down our wishes to our experience, then we become calm and begin to enjoy ourselves.'
"I assert that Lord Liverpool's talents were much under-estimated. He had a meek spirit — too meek for a premier, — and Canning's overbearing temper was too much for him; but he was a far wiser statesman than Canning, though not, like him, a splendid rhetorician. He was too much of a Tory in his principles, which had been bred in him: but he was very mild in their applications. Though he had abilities and great knowledge, he had not genius; he could not originate, but he could judge with calmness and correctness on the data submitted to him, though perhaps not very quickly. I have no doubt that he meant honestly, and had the interest of his country at heart. After Lord Castlereagh's death he lost himself; his faculties began to wear out — they had been overstretched. Altogether, with many faults arising from his ductility, I consider him to have been an able and wise, though not brilliant, minister.
"Lord Castlereagh appears to me to have had this advantage of him, that he was more bold and decided. His knowledge was not so accurate, nor his judgment so calm; but he also, whatever vulgar clamour and party prejudice may say, was a man of very great abilities and a statesmanlike head. The courtesy and elegance of his manners were truly engaging; and as he had more ease and apparent frankness than Lord Liverpool, whose address was repressively cold, he had in these respects a great advantage over him." — pp. 181, 182.
All this is very just. No public man in our recollection had such perfect manners as the late Lord Londonderry. No man inspired those of his own party with such a mixture of confidence and affection — no one, by the mere dignity of his character and aspect, could so effectually overawe the insolence of unprincipled antagonists. Our author has spoken of this high-minded nobleman, and most able statesman, on various other occasions, in the same tone of well-merited eulogy; — but we must whisper — indeed we believe it is no secret — that Sir Egerton owed his baronetcy to the favour of Lord Castlereagh. It is generally very easy to connect this author's opinions with the incidents of his own life. Thus — will he forgive its for suspecting that the key to the greater part of his tirades against Mr. Pitt is to be found in the first six words we are about to quote?—
"I was never introduced to Pitt: I saw him sometimes in the field, on hunting days, when he came down to Walmer. He seemed to delight in riding hard, with his chin in the air; but I believe had no skill as a sportsman — seeking merely exercise, and thinking, as Dryden says, that it was 'Better to hunt in fields for health unbought, | Than fee the doctor for his noxious draught.'"
Was there any harm in this? and for Sir Egerton Brydges, of all men, to sneer at Mr. Pitt for not being a sportsman! He has just been telling its that he himself could never "discuss a horse's points," or give any guess as to the "course the fox would probably take." But alas!
"Pitt had no poetical ideas or feelings, and for this want many will say that he was the better statesman — an opinion which I cannot at all admit. Pitt did not see far enough, because he saw nothing by the blaze of imagination. Pitt drew about him a few cunning old placemen; but they were mostly servile minds, and of a secondary class, who submitted without struggle to the ascendency of his mind."
We need not defend Pitt's memory against these vague sneers. Where was the contemporary mind that did not submit, either with or without struggle, to the ascendency of his? Have we not had enough, since his days, of people that "see things by the blaze of imagination?" We are more disposed to listen to Sir Egerton when he deals with his own kindred of the literary world. His sketches of some minor poets and authors of various sorts are lively, and we believe, on the whole, true. Thus, of "the Swan of Litchfield," he says:—
"Miss Seward had not the art of making friends, except among the little circle whom she flattered, and who flattered her. She both gave offence and provoked ridicule by her affectation, and bad taste, and pompous pretensions. It cannot be denied that she sometimes showed flashes of genius; but never in continuity. She believed that poetry rather lay in the diction than in the thought; and I am not acquainted with any literary letters, which exhibit so much corrupt judgment, and so many false beauties, as her's. Her sentiments are palpably studied, and disguised, and dressed up. Nothing seems to come from the heart, but all to be put on. I understand the Andre family say, that in the 'Monody on Major Andre,' all about his attachment, and Honora Sneyd, &c., is a nonsensical falsehood, of her own invention. Among her numerous sonnets, there are not above five or six which are good; and I cannot doubt that Dr. Darwin's hand is in many of her early poems. The inequalities of all her compositions are of the nature of patch-work."
To come to higher game — here are his brief and stinging reminiscences of Cumberland:—
"He had a vast memory, and a great facility of feeble verbiage; but his vanity, his self-conceit, and his supercilious airs offended everybody. He was a tall, handsome man, with a fair, regular-featured face, and the appearance of good birth. For many years he resided at Tunbridge Wells, where he affected a sort of dominion over the Pantiles, and paid court, a little too servile, to rank and title. He wrote some good comedies, and was a miscellaneous writer of some popularity; but in every department he was of a secondary class, — in none had he originality. He was one of Johnson's literary club, and therefore could render himself amusing by speaking of a past age of authors and eminent men. He was a most fulsome and incontinent flatterer of those who courted him."
We think there is a deal of good sound sense in the following passage:—
"I never saw a man more humble in manner, without losing his dignity, than Robert Bloomfield; but he was not easy in the company of men born and moving in a rank of society much above him; and I do not think he gained anything by suffering himself to he drawn into it.... The surface of manners will probably be conformable to the station of one's birth and early familiarities; but that is of little importance. Genius is not limited to births or to the want of it. The manners of different stations will not bend to one another without servility on one side, and humiliating graciousness on the other. It is better for both that they should keep apart, except upon rare occasions."
Sir Egerton had before written so largely and so nobly on the subject of Lord Byron, that we hardly expected to hear more about him at present: but he recurs to a favourite theme with as much zeal as ever; and here let us call attention to a truly generous feature in Sir Egerton Brydges. He has been bitterly disappointed in his literary career — but there is not the slightest trace of envy in any of his remarks on his more successful contemporaries. To this his mind is wholly superior: he appears to have been all along among the most enthusiastic admirers of all the great poets of his time. He says:—
"The spring of the year I came into parliament, Lord Byron's genius began to blaze upon the world. The first canto of 'Childe Harold' was published early in 1812. I was then in London, and well remember the sensation it made. I walked down Bond-Street the morning of its publication, and saw it in the windows of all the booksellers' shops. I entered a shop and read a few stanzas, and was not surprised to find something extraordinary in them, because I myself had anticipated much from his 'Hours of Idleness.' Lord Nugent's 'Portugal' was published the same day, but had a very different reception; yet at that time Lord Nugent was considered to be of a much more flourishing family, and moving in a much higher sphere; so that the public does not always judge by mere fashion."
(What an important admission in favour of this wicked and unjust world, that it did not after all prefer "Portugal" to "Childe Harold!")
"This mighty fame was the affair of a day — nay, of an hour — a minute. The train was laid — it caught fire, and it blazed. If it had missed fire at first, I doubt if there would have been a second chance. It began at noon; before night the flame was strong enough to be everlasting. Did it contribute to his happiness? I believe it did: it went a great way towards his occasional purification; if it had not burst out, it would have burnt sullenly within and consumed him. The triumph at home was, no doubt, transitory; it was scarcely more than three short years — 1813, 1814, 1815. But then came Switzerland, and Italy, and Greece. There he had periods of darkness: but also how much splendour! None of these would have been lighted but for that propitious day of the spring of 1812, which set fire to the train of his genius in London!"
Sir Egerton, in his admiration of this said "propitious day in the spring of 1812, in London," appears to forget the many propitious days and nights of labour which Lord Byron had devoted to writing his poem, out of London, in 1809, 1810, and 1811. How can he talk of his "propitious day," as "setting fire to the train" of that genius which had already produced such a work as the two first cantos of Childe Harold? The next paragraph is equally just and vigorous—
"There are many who will ask whether all the intense feelings expressed by Byron in these places were not factitious extravagancies in which he was not sincere, and which his life belied? I say, sternly, no! it is a mean and stupid mind which can suspect so; no one can feign such intensities as Byron expresses: when he wrote, he was sincere, but his feelings were capricious, and not always the same. If it can be contended that inconsistency destroys merit, wo be to human frailty!" — vol. i. p. 257.
Those who like lively and spirited sketches of men and manners, diversified with short critical digressions, sometimes wise, always clever, will find a large fund of entertainment in these volumes. We have perhaps bestowed more space on them than some readers may think they deserved; but the truth is that Sir Egerton Brydges possesses the temperament of genius in as high perfection as any author of our times, and that we believe him to have here painted that temperament more minutely than any writer of loftier rank ever will, being perfectly sane, set himself to do. The book thus acquires a degree of value which we hardly venture to attach to any of the imaginative creations of the same pen. It is a most curious study for the psychologist — it ought to be placed in the hand of every young author. Every susceptible mind will be delighted with a thousand passages; and there are not a few which ought to fix themselves on his memory, chasten his judgment, and control his conduct. How exquisitely beautiful, and, alas! how melancholy, are these paragraphs, with which, for the present, we take our leave of this deep-cutting self-anatomist!—
"Men must work progressively and uninterruptedly, — not by fits, — to find the extent of their own powers; and they who are diffident work only by fits, when some momentary impulse overcomes their fears. Thus I passed at least forty years of my life. How different would have been the effect of a perseverance in a regular, unchecked plan! I wrote no long poem; I undertook no great work; I finished very few things, even of those which I began. Yet to have written numerous fictions would have been very easy; and those perhaps would have found a vent. Hayley talks of 'The cold blank bookseller's rhyme-freezing face;' — what would he have said if he had lived now? He would have found the check of the frost increased tenfold."
(When will authors understand that booksellers are merchants, and that when they throw cold water on any literary project, it is simply and solely because they do not think it would be a profitable one for themselves? What right has any man to expect that a trader will sacrifice capital merely for the chance of gratifying his literary vanity or ambition? The bookseller who carries into his trade any principle of action but what animates any other tradesman, is a fool — and worthy of publishing for such poets as Hayley. But this "par parenthese.")
"After all, there is but one pleasure, which is, to escape from the world, and indulge one's own thoughts uninterrupted. All show and luxury is idle, empty, satiating indulgence: calmness, leisure, and, above all, independence, with that humble competence which is necessary for the support of life, are all which are requisite.
"I know not why a cottage, neat and well situated, should not be as pleasant as a castle or a palace. I love solitude, and do not think that I ever should be tired of it: I wish I had never quitted it. I have met with little else but mortification and trouble. My imagination would then have been undamped, and my literary labours undistracted. I have undertaken to tell my feelings; these are among my leading and perpetually renewed regrets. I cannot be sure of other men's feelings; but I never met with one who seemed to have the same overruling passion for literature as I have always had. A thousand others have pursued it with more principle, reason, method, fixed purpose, and effect: mine I admit to have been pure, blind, unregulated love. The fruit has been such as mere passion generally produces — of little use and no fame. Wasted energies have ended in languor, debility, and despondence."
Our author's highest ambition has not been gratified; but he has, after all, secured a very graceful reputation; and he ought not to be discontented. How many in any generation do so much?
Let us be forgiven if we close with one piece of advice. It is tendered with kindness and with respect. Sir Egerton Brydges never has written, never will write, a really great work: the want of logical movement in his mental processes must ever render it impossible for him to do so. But if any one else furnished him with a good plan, we know no author who could fill it up with more grace and liveliness of detail; and we venture to suggest to him, that he might yet earn high distinction by a Dictionary of English Literary History, after the fashion of Bayle. The alphabetical arrangement would supply the place of logical ordonnance: and the constant variety of persons and topics, with the perfect liberty of lengthening or shortening every article at pleasure, would, we think, be found admirably suited to his taste and talents.
We ought to observe, in closing this book, that it contains a highly interesting and beautiful series of letters from Mr. Southey — and some others by the late Lord Tenterden, who was Sir Egerton's constant friend from childhood to the hour of death. That great judge, in point of fact the law-reformer of his age, had, it seems, retained to the last a warm predilection for the classical studies of his youth.