1830 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Croly

William Maginn, in "The Election of Editor for Fraser's Magazine" Fraser's Magazine 1 (May 1830) 498-503.



Mr. Coleridge sat down amidst unanimous and enthusiastic applauses and encores; but he declined repeating his most poetical address. Silence having been with difficulty obtained, though not until the Lord Mayor, supported by Sir Henry Hardinge and Mr. Horace Twiss, had commenced the proclamation of martial law, the Rev. George Croly was seen to ascend the temporary steps constructed against the Egyptian pillar, so ornamental to Mr. Soane' s fore-court, and which was, for the nonce, made the rostrum for the various orators of the day. The gentleman, however, could with difficulty gain the summit, owing to the monkey tricks of Mr. Henry Baylis, who clung to the tail of his coat, endeavouring to prevent him from measuring the altitude of the column. Mr. Baylis, it appears, is the proprietor of the Monthly Magazine (and is the individual who, with his printers and printing devils, presented a petition to the House of Commons, praying that the Roman Catholic Relief Bill might not be passed: Lord Tullamore was the green youth who presented such petition), and Mr. Croly is the editor of that same periodical. It could be easily perceived what the object of Mr. Baylis was in thus clinging to Mr. Croly's garment: — to prevent him from shewing his face to the electors, imagining, as he well might, that that gentleman's transcendent abilities would win for him the return as Editor of Fraser's, the emoluments from which being of so large and enticing an amount (not that Mr. Croly cares in the least for money), his right-hand man would he fain to desert the yellow-covered bilious-looking Monthly. But this is our own surmise, for the only words which Mr. Baylis could say were, "For God's sake, Croly!" and these he repeated in a hurried manner for at least five times, when, gasping for breath and ready to choke, he added, "If you leave the Mon-on-thly, what will Be-en-en-tly say, for then we sha-a-ant pu-uff more of his bo-o-o-oks — as the Mo-onthly will be di-i-ish'd?" What he might have continued to say, was Inaudible; for "Shame — shame! down with him! throw him over!" was vociferated on all sides. Mr. Baylis, however, had, it seems, determined, like Cato, that he was only worthy to fall by his own act, and so he accordingly did; for the tail of Mr. Croly's coat gave way, and down came the printer a tremendous wallop on his back, amidst the laughter and derision of the assembled multitude.

Ipse gravis graviterque ad terram pondere vasto
Concidit.

Mr. Croly then stood, a "cherub tall," on the top of Mr. Soane's Egyptian capital; and they who are conversant with the physiognomy of the gentleman will alone be able to conceive what benignant suavity struggled through every pore of his face, and fell, like beams of holiest light, upon the upturned countenances of that populace which was then and there assembled to exercise the boasted privilege of Englishmen — gained by our forefathers by the edge of the sword, and which we, their great-great-great-great-grandchildren, will manfully maintain, until death do us part from all things sublunary, political, and damnable, — FREEDOM OF ELECTION. By this we enjoy every thing good, great., and glorious: — a king steadfast in integrity, and in exceeding love and anxiety, a very father to his subjects — an aristocracy innocent as lambs, and immaculate as sucking doves or pie-pigeons — a representative chamber, the members of which have separated themselves from worldly pursuits and worldly vanities — devout, self-denying, and as so many ascetic saints in the wilderness — wasters of the midnight oil for the good of their fellow-men, and victims to sad disease, induced by a misplaced over-eagerness in the blest cause of British patriotism — which is the reason why, in the United Kingdom, this Epitaph (alas! that good and virtuous men possess not the rejuvenescent faculty of Tithonus, that they might live for ever, to advocate the sacred cause which they, even from their youth's first budding, have severally and collectively espoused!) is so frequent:

HE DIED IN THE CAUSE OF HIS COUNTRY.

But we are wandering from our immediate subject: — the oration which Mr. Croly enounced, with good action and delivery, whilst perched on the top of the pillar in the fore-court of Mr. Soane's mansion. The very contemplation of that gentleman forces away some thousand leagues all recollection of epitaphs, tomb-stones, and death's heads, and makes our bosom glow with risilient humours approaching to vinous hilarity.

Those who are acquainted with Mr. Croly's person need not be told of the eloquent cast of his face and the marked character of his features, now dealing destruction like a cloud of fearful omen — now, by the amenity of their smile and their dallying irradiating and vernalising whatever that smile and jocundity consecrate by tipping and touching, — producing, in short, a miraculous illumination. His commanding stature was saluted with a universal shout of approbation:

Like Maia's son he stood,
And shook his plumes: that heavenly fragrance fill'd
The circuit wide;

and thus began:—

"Sir, Ladies, and Gentlemen: — I present myself to your notice on this memorable occasion, having from the first resolved to become one of the proud combatants in a struggle which I hesitate not to affirm will, in after times, have many an eagle-flighted Pindar for its historian. For what, in comparison to this, were the so-vaunted games held on the banks of the Alpheus? — a river the name of which you who are ignorant know nothing, but which we transcendental Grecians describe as 'serpentising in most beautiful meanders' through the sacred territory of Elis. (Immense applause.) The advertisement by Mr. Fraser was very puerile in phraseology. Advertisements are most difficult things to manipulate, — should, in fact, never be intrusted to breathing mortal save to him who by national assent is considered a genius of the first order. In application to genius, what the poet of Venusia has said of money will stand good: 'Et genus et virtus, nisi cum re, vilior alga est.' If, however, an application had been made to me (not that I arrogate to myself those indescribable attributes which genius can bestow, although my labours do stand recorded in no unworthy characters amidst the too many soiled pages of our native literature) — (Hear, hear, and cheers) — I would in such case, without hesitation, have, currente calamo, given a few hasty lines, which, in the absence of every thing else, might have answered the purpose of congregating this superlative meeting. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I will not speak of my own pretensions (cheers); my opinion on that head shall lie dormant in my own bosom (cheers) — alta mente repostum, — ensconced in the cavities and lengthy depths of my own stomach. (Hear.) Gentlemen, I am well to do in the world; my fame is blazoned amongst all the town booksellers, and I can get the inditing of as many books as I choose to put finger and thumb to. The case, therefore, of 'Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides' is not mine. Long did I contemplate transmigrating, with my household chattels and my Lares, to those Rhenane banks which Byron — the rhyming driveller and no poet, the fiend of the true Satanic school, the disgrace to his kind, the incarnation of infamy — which Byron — the moral Polyphemus — has, by some odd trick of fancy, so beautifully described. You may remember 'The castled crag of Drachenfels,' &c. But if you elect me to the exalted station of Editor of this Magazine, I will settle amongst you, and be for ever your instructor and friend; or, as the woful Andromache says of her Trojan lord, you shall find 'A father, friend, and brother all in me!' — (Cheers.) Not that I would exactly do all the laborious portion of the work, — that is not the occupation of a scholar, who should be left in listless quietude, that fancy might roam unshackled from 'heaven to earth, from earth to lowest hell!' — but, if the salary were noble — which such a noble magazine as Fraser's could well afford — if I had two understrappers in the shape of — to use an Americanism — helps, I would take upon myself to give advice whenever it might be required, to write an occasional paper — for which I must, however, be paid; in fact, to be what Jeffrey was latterly to the Edinburgh Review — nominal editor of the work, but regular pocketer of the salary. (Bravo, bravo, on all hands; immense applause, amidst which 'Croly for ever!' is heard 'as thick as autumnal leaves in Valombrosa.')

"Gentlemen, the style of composition for a magazine is of so peculiar, exclusive, and delicate a nature, that it is necessary I should say two words on the matter, — they shall be [Greek characters] but very different from those of that ruffian Horne Tooke. Each sentence should come forth as round as a turnip, and as hard as a cannon-ball; and should, moreover, follow each other with such rapidity, that the clatter of a troop of heavy dragoons crossing the broad expanse of the ice-ribbed Zuyder-Zee, should be but as the weak whistle of a child to the instantaneous fire of three companies of sharpshooters. Your single hit is nothing. What a paltry animal is your backwoodsman, although he may be an incomparable marksman, merely because he gives an occasional solitary fire! — but how great is the glory of a corps of British infantry, who can give nineteen rounds of popping in seventy-three seconds and three quarters! (Cheers, loud and long.)

"Gentlemen, here is an instance of fitting composition for a magazine. A magazine editor must be of all trades — he must treat of war and divinity, navy and army, church and state, worsted stockings and Wormwood Scrubs, Wellington and his fell assailant, 'middys' of the fleet and dandies of St. James's Street bells, horse-races, and Hyde Park-knavery, foolery, and humbug. Such are among the omniana that a magazine editor should shower down with unmitigated ferocity on an attentive world. To 'watch for the wind that blows,' says an older orator than myself, and to be ready for every wind, that is the thing which gives 'the sailor fair weather wherever he goes.' The spirit of a weathercock should be the actuating principle of an editor. He should be a politician, royalist, republican, or reviewer. No man alive ought to know the turns of the wind half so sensitively! If Nelson dies — two smart articles for the little midshipmen! the quartos are anticipated. If Portugal be at odds with Brazil — a fire and fury article for Miguel or Pedro, it matters little. If Wellington be in Spain — a subaltern's correspondence. The great Captain is reposing upon his laurels — Sketches of the Peninsular War! If the Editor, like old North, should wish to have a slap at every thing and every one, a something like the Noctes Ambrosianae. Write for the West Indians, — write for the East Indians, — write up Protestantism, — write down Jerry Bentham. The Methodists are an ungleaned field — a slap-dash attack on the sinners. Some old women have thought that the kibe of the Church has been trodden on — a philippic for the honour of the Church, by way of embrocation! Thus all times and tastes are provided for with a commercial keenness equally dexterous, practised, and profitable. This can only be done by those who have lived long in town; for thereby comes the practical knowledge. This it is that makes the fortune of the trader on the Guinea shore: cast gunpowder for the slave-merchant, Birmingham silver for King Joe, glass jewellery for the ladies of the harem, and Moses's gross of green spectacles for the general population. (Tremendous applause — Mr. Soane's house nods assent to the popular voice.) Thus it is, to take a nearer and more domestic emblem, that the Jew boy stocks himself with oranges for the winter theatres; valentines for February; sixpenny knives for the tender season, When young gentlemen carve young ladies' names on trees and summer-houses; and fire-works for the fifth of November! (Applause repeated.)

"Gentlemen, I will not much longer occupy your too valuable time. (Go on, Croly for ever! &c. &c. &c.) Gentlemen, one main consideration for my thus offering myself for the editorship of Fraser's, was the difficulty you must of necessity encounter in a prudential selection. Lockhart would not do for your editor, because he is simple enough to fancy the Quarterly is more influential, because thicker and older, than the Magazine of Regent Street, or REGINA, as I will call it. (The Egyptian column is, from its 'muckle glee,' ready to cut a somerset from its fair foundation, being nearly annihilated by the applausive concussion issuing from the brazen, though sweet, throats of the multitude: Lord Nugent, Tom Gent, and Yates's elephant, are placed against it for props: much confusion: Mr. Croly shews fear at his exaltation, but, the Columnus Aegyptiacus being brought to its senses, the speech is continued.) I have named Mr. Lockhart, and given a future appellation of endearment for the Magazine, and let me continue. Macvey Napier will not do for the editorship. (Macvey Napier faints from vexation.) Macvey's nose is too long. Bowring will not do: he is a Benthamite, and therefore a materialist. (Bowring is seen sneaking off.) Pierce Gillies of the Foreign Quarterly will not do: he smokes, and smoking is not the thing. (Gillies takes his meerschaum from his mouth, and squalls out with open jaw;

Am Rhein! am Rhein!
Da wachsen unsre Reben, &c. &c.

but a missile brick-bat being aimed at the cavity occasioned by the labial retraction, it goes plump down the thorax, and spoils his singing.) Fraser — no relation of the publisher, but he of the Foreign Review — will never do, because he curls his hair, keeps a cab., and is a dandy of the first magnitude. (Fraser looks beautifully irate, his gills taking the delicate hue of the rose, and appearing, as to his whole person, very like a frog in a convulsion.) Buckingham (a general hiss), he I say, will never do, for he is a quack of supremest order. (Applause.) Old Kit North will not do, for he is not sedate enough, and is too gouty; besides, the old fellow is getting into his dotage. Tom Campbell will never do, for he is both Cockney and old woman, breviter — Old Cockney Queen. He of the United Service Journal will not do, for he knows nothing of the principles of grammatical construction. Jerdan it would be a pity to take away from the Literary Gazette, for he does his work in so peculiarly superior a manner, that his rival or successor could not easily be found. There remains but one magazine unmentioned — the Monthly; on that head I shall be silent — I stand before you. (Uproarious cheers.)

"Sir, Ladies, and Gentlemen: — The editor of a magazine should be a divine, a Grecian, a Latinist, a dramatist, an historian, a poet, a novelist, a politician, an orator, an honest, honourable, independent man, a thorough-going ultra-Tory. Under this conviction I have presented myself to your notice, and entreat your support" (Cheers for forty-five minutes.)

As Mr. Croly descended from the rostrum, he kicked down Mr. Henry Baylis, who at the outset had fainted away against the column, and had continued there in a trance. When the reverend gentleman had taken his seat by the side of the venerable chairman, Mr. Richard Bentley having sidled up to him, and, having plucked him by the ear, whispered, "Mr. Croly, Mr. Croly, don't join Fraser's, we'll make it better worth your while; better write for the first publishers in London, No. 8, New Burlington Street, than for any one second rate;" at which Mr. Croly, in indignant fury, gave him a kick, which, raising Colburn's partner from the ground, sent him with a flying curvet right over the immediate heads of the multitude into the great square, where, falling in the midst of a set of mischievous boys, they seized hold of him, and tossed him well in a blanket, and then pumped upon him,

And fill'd his paunch with water like a bag
Of goat-skin — so the fellow could not wag;
Had he but been a duck, the lymph profuse
Had harm'd him never — Oh most simple Goose!