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been, to make us take the same deep interest in their
ancient story, which we now feel, for similar reasons, in
that of the sterner barbarians of early Rome, or the more 25
imaginative clans and colonies of immortal Greece. The
ex^Deriment, however, though there seemed oftener than
once to be some openings for it, was not made. Our
crusading ancestors were too rude themselves to estimate
or to feel the value of the oriental refinement which 30
presented itself to their passing gaze, and too entirely
occupied with war and bigotry, to reflect on its causes or
effects ; and the first naval adventurers who opened up
India to our commerce, were both too few and too far off


to communicate to their brethren at home any taste
for the splendours which might have excited their own
admiration. By the time that our intercourse with those
regions was enlarged, our own career of improvement had
5 been prosperously begun ; and our superiority in the art,
or at least the discipline of war, having given us a signal
advantage in the conflicts to which that extending inter-
course immediately led, naturally increased the aversion
and disdain with which almost all races of men are apt

10 to regard strangers to their blood and dissenters from
their creed. Since that time the genius of Europe has
been steadily progressive, whilst that of Asia has been at
least stationary, and most probably retrograde ; and the
descendants of the feudal and predatory warriors of the

15 West have at last attained a decided predominancy over
those of their elder brothers in the East ; to whom, at
that period, they were unquestionably inferior in elegance
and ingenuity, and whose hostilities were then conducted
on the same system with our own. They^ in short, have

20 remained nearly where they were ; while we^ beginning
with the improvement of our governments and military
discipline, have gradually outstripped them in all the
lesser and more ornamental attainments in which they
originally excelled.

25 This extraordinary fact of the stationary or degenerate
condition of the two oldest and greatest families of man-
kind — those of Asia and Africa, has always appeared
to us a sad obstacle in the way of those who believe
in the general progress of the race, and its constant

30 advancement towards a state of perfection. Two or
three thousand years ago, those vast communities were
certainly in a happier and more prosperous state than
they are now ; and in many of them we know that their
most powerful and flourishing societies have been cor-


rapted and dissolved, not by any accidental or intrinsic
disaster, like foreign conquest, pestilence, or elemental
devastation, but by what appeared to be the natural
consequences of that very greatness and refinement
which had marked and rewarded their earlier exertions. 5
In Europe, hitherto, the case has certainly been different :
For though darkness did fall upon its nations also, after
the lights of Roman civilisation were extinguished, it is
to be remembered that they did not burn out of them-
selves, but were trampled down by hosts of invading 10
barbarians, and that they blazed out anew, with increased
splendour and power, when the dulness of that superin-
cumbent mass was at length vivified by their contact, and
animated by the fermentation of that leaven which had
all along been secretly working in its recesses. In 15
Europe certainly there has been a progress : And the
more polished of its present inhabitants have not only
regained the place which was held of old by their illus-
trious masters of Greece and Rome, but have plainly
outgone them in the most substantial and exalted of 20
their improvements. Far more humane and refined
than the Romans — far less giddy and turbulent and
treacherous than the Greeks, they have given a security
to life and property that was unknown to the earlier ages
of the world — exalted the arts of peace to a dignity 25
with which they were never before invested ; and, by the
abolition of domestic servitude, for the first time extended
to the bulk of the population those higher capacities and
enjoyments which were formerly engrossed by a few. By
the invention of printing, they have made all knowledge, 30
not only accessible, but imperishable ; and by their im-
provements in the art of war, have effectually secured
themselves against the overwhelming calamity of barbar-
ous invasion — the risk of subjugation by mere numerical


or animal force : Whilst the alternations of conquest and
defeat amongst civilised communities, who alone can now
be formidable to each other, though productive of great
local and temporary evils, may be regarded on the whole
5 as one of the means of promoting and equalising the
general civilisation. Rome polished and enlightened all
the barbarous nations she subdued — and was herself
polished and enlightened by her conquest of elegant
Greece. If the European parts of Russia had been

10 subjected to the dominion of France, there can be no
doubt that the loss of national independence would have
been compensated by rapid advances both in liberality
and refinement ; and if, by a still more disastrous, though
less improbable contingency, the Moscovite hordes were

15 ever to overrun the fair countries to the south-west of
them, it is equally certain that the invaders would
speedily be softened and informed by the union ; and
be infected more certainly than by any other sort of
contact, with the arts and knowledge of the vanquished.

20 AH these great advantages, however — this apparently
irrepressible impulse to improvement — this security
against backsliding and decay, seems peculiar to Europe,^
and not capable of being communicated, even by her, to
the most docile races of the other quarters of the world :

25 and it is really extremely difficult to explain, upon what
are called philosophical principles, the causes of this
superiority. We should be very glad to ascribe it to our

^ When we speak of Europe, it will be understood that we speak,
not of the land, but of the people — and include, therefore, all the
settlements and colonies of that favoured race, in whatever quarter
of the globe they may now be established. Some situations seem
more, and some less, favourable to the preservation of the original
character. The Spaniards certainly degenerated in Peru — and the
Dutch perhaps in Batavia ; — but the English remain, we trust,
unimpaired in America.


greater political Freedom : — and no doubt, as a secondary
cause, this is among the most powerful ; as it is to the
maintenance of that freedom that we are indebted for the
self-estimation, the feeling of honour, the general equity
of the laws, and the substantial security both from sudden 5
revolution and from capricious oppression, which distin-
guish our portion of the globe. But we cannot bring
ourselves to regard this freedom as a mere accident in
our history, that is not itself to be accounted for, as well
as its consequences : And when it is said that our 10
greater stability and prosperity is owing to our greater
freedom, we are immediately tempted to ask, by what
that freedom has itself been produced ? In the same
way we might ascribe the superior mildness and humanity
of our manners, the abated ferocity of our wars, and 15
generally our respect for human life, to the influence of
a Religion which teaches that all men are equal in the
sight of God, and inculcates peace and charity as the
first of our duties. But, besides the startling contrast
between the profligacy, treachery, and cruelty of the 20
Eastern Empire after its conversion to the true faith, and
the simple and heroic virtues of the heathen republic, it
would still occur to inquire, how it has happened that the
nations of European descent have alone embraced the
sublime truths, and adopted into their practice the mild 25
precepts, of Christianity, while the people of the East
have uniformly rejected and disclaimed them, as alien to
their character and habits — in spite of all the efforts of
the apostles, fathers, and martyrs, in the primitive and
most effective periods of their preaching 1 How, in 30
short, it has happened that the sensual and sanguinary
creed of Mahomet has superseded the pure and pacific
doctrines of Christianity in most of those very regions
where it was first revealed to mankind, and first


established by the greatest of existing governments ?
The Christian revelation is no doubt the most precious
of all Heaven's gifts to the benighted world. But it is
plain, that there was a greater aptitude to embrace and
5 to profit by it in. the European than in the Asiatic race.
A free government, in like manner, is unquestionably the
most valuable of all human inventions — the great
safeguard of all other temporal blessings, and the main-
spring of all intellectual and moral improvement : — But

10 such a government is not the result of a lucky thought
or happy casualty ; and could only be established among
men who had previously learned both to relish the benefits
it secures, and to understand the connexion between the
means it employs and the ends at which it aims.

15 We come then, though a little reluctantly, to the
conclusion, that there is a natural and inherent difference
in the character and temperament of the European and
the Asiatic races — consisting, perhaps, chiefly in a
superior capacity of patient and persevering thought in

20 the former — and displaying itself, for the most part, in
a more sober and robust understanding, and a more
reasonable, principled, and inflexible morality. It is
this which has led us, at once to temper our political
institutions with prospective checks and suspicious provi-

25 sions against abuses, and, in our different orders and
degrees, to submit without impatience to those checks
and restrictions ; — to extend our reasonings by repeated
observation and experiment, to larger and larger conclu-
sions — and thus gradually to discover the paramount

30 importance of discipline and unity of purpose in war,
and of absolute security to person and property in all
peaceful pursuits — the folly of all passionate and vin-
dictive assertion of supposed rights and pretensions, and
the certain recoil of long-continued injustice on the heads


of its authors — the substantial advantages of honesty
and fair dealing over the most ingenious systems of
trickery and fraud ; — and even — though this is the last
and hardest, as well as the most precious, of all the
lessons of reason and experience — that the toleration 5
even of religious errors is not only prudent and merciful
in itself, and most becoming a fallible and erring being,
but is the surest and speediest way to compose religious
differences, and to extinguish that most formidable
bigotry, and those most pernicious errors, which are 10
fed and nourished by persecution. It is the want of this
knowledge, or rather of the capacity for attaining it, that
constitutes the palpable inferiority of the Eastern races ;
and, in spite of their fancy, ingenuity, and restless
activity, condems them, it would appear irretrievably, to 15
vices and sufferings, from which nations in a far ruder
condition are comparatively free. But we are wandering
too far from the magnificent Baber and his commentators,
— and must now leave these vague and general specu-
lations for the facts and details that lie before us. 20







1809 :


1809 :






1811 :


1811 :












1817 :











Crabbe's Poems 53

Reliques of Robert Burns 26

Miss Edgeworth's Tales 121

Crabbe's Borough 63

Scott's Lady of the Lake 37

Alison on Taste 149

Ford's Dramatic Works i

Wordsworth's Excursion 105

Scott's Waverley 126

Wordsworth's White Doe 118

Byron's Childe Harold 94

Scott's Tales of my Landlord 132

Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespeare 21

Crabbe's Tales of the Hall 77

Keats's Endymion 88

Goethe's Wilhelm Meister 159

Memoirs of Baber 173



1773, Oct. 23, Jeffrey born in Edinburgh.
1 78 1-9 1, studies in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
1791-92, studies at Queen's College, Oxford.
1792-93, attends law lectures in Edinburgh.
1794, is admitted to the bar.
1798, visits London ; returns to Edinburgh.

180 1, marries Miss Catherine Wilson.

t8o2, publishes articles in the Monthly Review.

1802, Oct. 10, first number of the Edinburgh Review.

1803, becomes editor of the Edinburgh Review at a salary of ;^300.

1804, is making ;(^240 at the bar.

1805, his wife dies.

1806, visits London; duel with Moore.
1813-14, visits America and marries Miss Wilkes.

181 5, settles at Craigcrook, three miles north-west of Edinburgh.
1829, elected dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh.

1829, resigns the editorship of the Edinburgh Review.

1830, is made Lord Advocate.

1 83 1, is elected to Parliament.

1834, accepts a judgeship in the Court of Sessions; becomes Lord

1850, Jan. 26, death of Jeffrey.

Dictionary of A^ational Biography.



1749, the Monthly Review ; Ralph Grififiths.

1755, ^^ fi^^t Edinburgh Review ; Adam Smith, Blair, Robertson.

1756, the Critical Review ; Archibald Hamilton and Smollett.

1756, the Literary Magazine or Universal Review ; Dr. Johnson a

1793, the British Critic or Theological Review ; Archdeacon Nares.

1802, the Edinhirgh Review ; Jeffrey.

1809, the Qicarterly Review ; Gifford.

1824, the Westminster Reviexv ; Bowring.



1 19. Mr. Weber. Henry Weber was a learned and eccentric Ger-
man who served Scott as amanuensis from 1804 to 1813. Besides his
edition of Ford he published an edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, a
collection of early Metrical Romances, and a collection of Popular
Romances of oriental origin. In 18 13 he went mad and tried to
force Scott to fight a duel with pistols. He died in an asylum in
1818. Cf. Lockhart's Life of Scott, Aug. 1804, and Jan. 1814. His
edition of Ford is now worth remembering only as an early attempt
to make the Elizabethan dramatists better known. Interest in these
dramatists had begun to revive about 1800. In 1798 appeared
Joanna Baillie's Plays on the Passions. In 1802 Charles Lamb
published his John Woodvil, a play that unmistakably drew its in-
spiration from the Elizabethans. In 1805 Gifford brought out his
edition of Massinger. In 1808 Lamb published his Specimens of
English Dra?natic Poets. In 181 1 appeared Weber's Ford 2cad from
that date on editions followed rapidly. The tone of the Edinbtirgh
Review toward this revival was ultimately very favorable. Lamb's
John Woodvil had been contemptuously treated and his Specimens
was passed over in silence. But on the appearance of Weber's Ford,
Jeffrey hastened to use it as the text for a warmly eulogistic discourse
on the Elizabethans. In his essay of 1820 on Keats he takes credit
to himself for having swayed the popular taste toward these older
models. Doubtless his essays were influential ; but it is equally
certain that the Romantic current had been setting with all its force
in the same direction. Coleridge and Hazlitt had lectured and writ-
ten in honor of the age of Elizabeth, and the vogue of the Eliza-
bethans was owing to far more important causes than even the ipse
dixit of " King Jamfray." Bulwer-Lytton explains the return to the
older writers as an attempt to justify innovation by an appeal to pre-
cedent. See his England and the English, bk. iv, chap. 2.

1 88 NOTES.

2 30. The Reformation . . . dut one symptom. The essay on Ford
is specially interesting because of Jeffrey's frequent use of the his-
torical method. This mention of the Reformation is a case in point;
later, he explains historically the prevalence of French fashions in
English literature ; and still further on, he accounts for the English
love of Shakspere as owing to the accommodation of Shakspere's
"forms of excellence" to "the peculiar character, temperament,
and situation," of the English nation. The other essays of Jeffrey
that best show his grasp of the historical method are those on
Madame de Stael's De la Litterature, etc., and on Goethe's Wilhelm
Meister. Madame de Stael's book was itself a plea for the use of
the historical method in the study of literature ; she wished " to
show that all the peculiarities in the literature of different ages and
countries may be explained by a reference to the condition of
society, and the political and religious institutions of each." The
book appeared in 1812, but it is plain from this essay on Ford that
Jeffrey was by no means indebted to it for an introduction to the
historical method.

5 17. Jeremy Taylor. Jeffrey shared his admiration for Taylor
with the Romanticists. Coleridge's fondness for Taylor was pro-
verbial. Peacock makes Mr. Flosky, who in Nightmare Abbey
stands for Coleridge, appear on one occasion, " jeremitaylorically

8 20. This 7iew Continental style. The pseudo-classicism of mod-
ern German criticism. Cf. Korting, Grundriss der Geschichte der
englischen Litteratur, p. 272.

12 16. Akenside and Gray. Jeffrey's sneering mention of Gray
seems hard to explain. The decorative beauty of Gray's Odes, their
combination of imaginative splendor with sanity of mood and free-
dom from transcendental affectations, are the very qualities that
might be expected to catch Jeffrey's applause.

13 20. The mawkish tone of pastoral innocence. Cf. the attacks on
Wordsworth in the essay on Crabbe's Poems, p. 58. and in the essays
on the Excursion and the White Doe, pp. 105 and 118. Of these,
the essay on Crabbe (1808) is the earliest.

15 26. Forms of excellence . . . accommodated to their . . . char-
acter. This view of the relativity of artistic excellence will be found
more adequately expounded in the essay on Madame de Stael's T>e
la Litterature, etc. (181 2) " With regard to the author again, ©r artist
of any other description, who pretends to bestow the pleasure, his
object of course should be, to give as much, and to as many persons

NOTES. 189

as possible ; and especially to those who, from their rank and edu-
cation, are likely to regulate the judgment of the remainder. It is
his business, therefore, to ascertain what does please the greater part
of such persons ; and to fashion his productions according to the
rules of taste, which may be deduced from that discovery. Now, we
humbly conceive it to be a complete and final justification for the
whole body of the English nation, who understand French as well
as English and yet prefer Shakespeare to Racine, just to state mod-
estly and firmly, the fact of that preference ; and to declare, 'that
their habits and tempers and studies and occupations, have been
such as to make them receive far greater pleasure from the more
varied imagery — the more flexible tone — the closer imitation of
nature — the more rapid succession of incident, and vehement bursts
of passion of the English author, than from the unvarying majesty
— the elaborate argument — and epigrammatic poetry of the French
dramatist. For the taste of the nation at large, we really cannot
conceive that any other apology can be necessary."

19 14. Shakespeai'e, Cf. Matthew Arnold : " Shakespeare him-
self, divine as are his gifts, has not, of the marks of the Master,
this one : perfect sureness of hand in his style. Alone of English
poets, alone in English art, Milton has it." Mixed Essays, ed. 1883,
p. 200.

21 4. An encomium on Shakespeare. The book was published
in 1817; 2d edition, 1818. It was dedicated to Charles Lamb.
" Hazlitt received ;!^ioo for it. The first edition went off in six
weeks; the sale of the second was spoilt, as he thought, by an attack
in the ' Quarterly Review.' For this and a later assault Hazlitt
revenged himself by a vigorous letter to William Gifford." Diet, of
Nat. Biog. § Hazlitt.

21 14. Our own admiration. Jeffrey takes too much credit for
his admiration of Shakspere ; even the eighteenth century was
alive to Shakspere's merits. For a list of dates marking the
course of the Shakspere revival in the eighteenth century, see
Korting, Grundriss der Geschichte der englischen Litteratur^ p. 313.
Cf. Hettner, Geschichte der englischen Litteratiir, p. 529.

22 6. A fine sense of the beatities of the author. In this work of
Hazlitt's, Jeffrey has chanced on a genuine piece of impressionistic
criticism and he treats it on the whole very sympathetically. He
himself never loiters over a poem, yields luxuriously to the mood it
induces, and fashions a new bit of imaginative Hterature out of the
dreams it suggests. He is much too responsible a person to practice

190 NOTES.

such intellectual vagrancy, but he looks on it in others tolerantly
and even sympathetically.

24 3. Relative to merital emotioji. Cf. Selections, p. 91, 1. 27,
p. 150, 1. 18, and p. 152.

262. Stephen Duck (b. 1705, d. 1756). He was for many years
a farm-laborer, but became interested in reading, got together a
few books, and gained some familiarity with literature. About 1729
he began to be known as a writer of verse. In 1730 he was
brought to the notice of Queen Caroline, who made him keeper of
one of her libraries and gave him a pension of £y:) a year. Later
he took orders, preached for a time in Kew Chapel, and in 1751
received a living in vSurrey. In 1756, in a fit of despondency, he
drowned himself in the Thames. He had the honor of having
his poems edited, in 1736, by Joseph Spence, "late Professor- of
Poetry in the University of Oxford"; and "an account of the
author" was prefixed, written in 1730, in which Spence gives many
curious details about Duck's study and reading, his ideas on poetry,
his methods of composition. A few lines from one of his earliest
poems will illustrate the character of his effusions. The poem is
addressed " to a gentleman who requested a copy of verses from the

" I have before the Time prescrib'd by you,
Expos'd my weak Production to your view ;
Which may, I hope, have pardon at your hand,
Because produc'd to light by your Command.
Perhaps you might expect some finish'd Ode,
Or sacred Song, to sound the Praise of God ;
A glorious thought and laudable ! " etc., etc.

26 2. Tkofuas Dertnody. He rivalled Chatterton in precocity
and misfortunes, and surpassed him in learning, but had little
poetic genius. He was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1775;
at the age of nine he was assistant in Greek and Latin in his
father's school, and before fourteen was thoroughly at home in
Greek, Latin, French and Italian, and knew some Spanish. He was
taken up by Henry Grattan, Bishop Percy and other influential men,
but ruined all his chances by persistent dissipation. He lived in
London for a time, where he finally died in destitution in 1802. A
two-volume life of Dermody was published in 1806 and his complete
poems appeared in 1807. His best work was done about 1791 in
imitation of Burns. Such lines as the following, in memory of an
old crony, might almost be mistaken for the Scotch poet's :

NOTES. 191

" No curate now can work thy throat,
And alter clean thy jocund note ;
Charon has plunip'd thee in his boat,

And run ahead :
My curse on death, the meddling sot !

Gay Johnny 's dead."

A couple of stanzas from My Oivn Elegy are also worth quoting :

" Gude faith ! with all thy roguish trick,
Thy Pegasus has got a kick ;
Flat as a tomb-stone, dumb as stick,

Thou liest at last :
God send, thou gang'st not to old Nick

For frolics past ! "

" I do remember thee right well ;
Thou didst in witty pranks excel ;
Can all thy deeds of sly note tell,

Thou great verse-fighter ; *
But, ah ! auld Death has borne the bell,

And bit the biter."

32 ]0. Gej'tnan plays. Between 1796 and 181 5 the English stage
was overrun with translations and adaptations of the plays of the
German dramatist Kotzebue ; during these twenty years there were
published no less than eighty-nine editions of one or another of his
plays. Die Sonnen-Jiingfrati was perhaps the greatest favorite.
Monk Lewis's translation, called Rolla, was published in 1797 and
reached a second edition in 1799. Sheridan's adaption, Pizarro, was

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Online LibraryFrancis Jeffrey JeffreySelections from the essays of Francis Jeffrey → online text (page 17 of 21)