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its original form, and in the larger public and private libraries,
where every thing is expected to be laid up, and where few
but deep readers are supposed to go. This remark is not
intended to apply to the works of one or two men of command-
ing minds, who have so impressed themselves upon the philo-
sophy and literature of their countrymen, upon their very
habits of thinking and inquiring, that they can never cease to
be modern ; nor of others of inferior force, whose subjects
are so stirring at all times, that they are almost of necessity
kept forever before the public by one party or another in the
church or in politics. We refer to the somewhat unobtru-
sive company of wits and moralists, and sound practical
preachers, the chroniclers and observers, the satirists of the
day, the shrewd and pedantic critics, — men of retirement
and study, and of quiet, original, desultory reflection, who,
with great intrinsic merit, besides being among the fathers of
our literature, might yet gradually become unfashionable, and
not be generally missed when they were out of the way.

Some reasons might be offered why they have been less gen-
erally known than many even of the early second-rate poets,
yet none were of weight enough to deter authors from. explor-
ing them. For much hio treasure was to be found in them, which
might be safely and usefully turned to account. Much was
there that a patient investigator of truth could not prudently
overlook in tracing the history of opinions and their changing
aspects, and the close connexion between the seemingly
careless suggestions of some early writer, and doctrines that
are now in full credit, or else agitating the highest minds.
Much was there, that the curiosity of the mere scholar would
lead him to study with a zeal as ardent and as well recom-
pensed, as was ever devoted to the more artfully wrought
remains of ancient classical literature.

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1839.] Early English Prose Writers, 2S

And in our times this zeal is more common, more general.
Readers out of the student'3 cell, and never thinking of mak-
ing a book, a lecture, or a review, have yet the patience to
go through large venerable volumes for the thoughts' sake,
and for the many indirect aids they may furnish in the pro-
fessions; for the pleasure of exploring the heaps or disor*
derly prbfusion of facts, opinions, fancies, inventions, feelingSi
just as they crowded from the writer's mind ; inviting us to
such an exercise of our powers, if we would experience
all their truth and beauty, and throw them into new, and it
may be happier forms and groups, as nature herself inspires,
as she lies beneath the eye of the smaller artist, man, who
is to select and arrange, and think himself a creator.

Such thorough readers are the last to endure what are
called the beauties of an author, and extracts to serve as
specimens. They are thought to be delusive. They tell
you only the critic's preference of this and that. A star may
lose none of its beauty and even gain in solemaity, when
seen alone, dividecl, as it were, from the populous realm of
orbs to which it belongs. Not so with a fine literary frag«
ment. A beautiful thought is here separated from much that
would increase its beauty and effect ; and more than this,
you give it something of a character and value that does not
belong to it in its place ; and when you take up the whole
work, as you may be tempted to do, you will be upon the
look out ior such passages all the time, and thus the rest of
the book will be undervalued ; and what you admired so
much before may never pass afterwards for its true worth,
from your having taken it for something it was not. And it
may here be observed, that the American edition of the Old
Prose Writers thus far gives us entire works, so that as far as
we go, we have a fair view of a writer's genius, and are pre-
pared for a thorough study of all his productions. *»

Some may think that one good effect of this publication
will be to undeceive us as to the real worth of many a
writer who has been ostentatiously referred to for years by
learned men, as if he were their property, and they the only
competent judges of his merit. Their word was the only

Sledge that his name should be celebrated among the many.
toce there was a degree of mystery thrown over the less ac-
cessible books in our language, and a natural homage paid to
what the initiated few alone could know. Thus, no doubt, a.

VOL. I. NO. I. 4

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96 Early English Prose Writers. [Jan,

great deal of vague, exaggerated, and factitious praise has been
bestowed by some modern critics upon these obscure writings,
m the belief that the public would never look into the matter.
And the studious few, in their turn, may have had a false dis-
tinction conferred upon them for their exclusive possession of
a supposed great secret. But let not the idolater tremble, nor
the skeptic begin to exult. No rude violator has broken into
the old darkened temple and found it full of consecrated vani-
ties, which, in the pride of a discoverer, or the hearty love of
truth, he is now for the first time bringing into open day for
public derision. The older literature has never been forced
upon the world. It has worked its own way out of the dusky
alcove and the rare and heavy folio, to the notice of general
and perhaps dainty readers, as well as of scholars, critics, and
professional men. That prevailing activity of mind which
makes men seek for truth in every direction, and for gratifi-
cation in every variety of style and thought, has not only put
the living upon endless inventions and novelties, but awaken-
ed our English dead to set forth fresher forms of thought and
expression, closer sentences of practical wisdom, more luxu-
riant imagery, and more apt, though sometimes grotesque
allusion, than their followers may readily match.

And even if these our less known ancients tell us much
that is not new, either having been said before in Athens or
Rome or elsewhere, or been made familiar to us in the writ-
ings of their later admirers, who have not scrupled to borrow
as well as praise ; and if their most remarkable sayings often
take the form of brief, careless, unpretending hints, whose
lull import might have surprised their authors, and one of
which in these days of complete views and expanded discus-
sion, might fill a volume and establish a writer's name ; yet
all this should not and does not lessen our desire to see these
men at work, to learn their ways, and listen to their very
words. Their diction makes no small part of their originality,
attractiveness, and value. Let the thought be nowise remark-
able, yet it shall be expressed in a way, that will draw
attention, and deepen impressions, make the mind busy upon
related things, and see m a picture what in other writers
might be only a floating generality, a bald abstraction, a
truth to be admitted, but not felt or thought upon. And there
is genius required for this as well as to conceive new things.
And after longer acquaintance with the elder prose, we may

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188S.] Early EngU$h Prose WrUert. HfJ

feel DO alarm at the prospect of our modern English speech
growing more picturesque and elSective under the influence
of the old masters, or rather the fearless children in our lite-*
rature. We need not countenance the revival of an anti-
quated word or turn of expression ; — all that we want is that
the spirit of these men should be upon us, and not that we
should ape their manner, or borrow what was merely outward.

The first volume of the publication named at the head of
this article, contains an account of the life and writings of
Thomas Fuller, and his '< Holy and Profane State." It is pub-
lished with great neatness, and in the most convenient shape ;
and in all respects gives ample assurance that this edition of
portions of the old English JProse Writers is in the hands of
an able editor and of enterprising publishers. As this volume
has been before the public for some time, and the subject of
many favorable notices, we shall pass to the second, and give
one moment to Sir Philip Sidney's " Defence of Poesy."

It may be asked, how could this ^^ Defence " be needed in
the reign of Elizabeth, the greatest poetical age of England.
How could he, who, with Raleigh, was the friend and almost
the idol of Spenser, have thought that such a man's art re-
quired an apology. And as to the encouragement it might be
Supposed to offer to the great minds of the age, could ohak-
speare have ever regarded Sir Philip's views of dramatic
poetry, and yet written plays that were so at variance with
them ? To leave questions and come to the fact ; the young
chevalier seems to have girded himself for a battle against the
pride and narrowness of schoolmen, and the prejudices of the
Ignorant and bigoted, arraying against them learning, argur
ment, expostulation, and satire ; and not forgetting gentle
appeals to those who had not yet decidedly gone over to the
barbarians. His enthusiasm and perfect assurance of the
truth and importance of what he is saying are a little in the
spirit of the discourse on Arms and Letters by another knight,
his contemporary too, and as perfect a gentleman, and more-
over an able vindicator of poetry, if we may jud^e from faia
views of that art in his conversation with the Knight of the
Green Riding-Coat. Sir Philip has gone to his work with
all his heart ; not to write a didactic treatise on poetry, as if
such a work were no more called for then, than in the days
of Aristotle, Horace, or Boileau ; but to correct a present
fittal error in some, to prepare the eyes of many more to

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28 Early English Prose Wnters. [Jan.

look steadily on a new and powerful light ; in short, to ac«
complisfa a great purpose at that time, in the certainty that if
his countrymen were once put in the right way, all would go
on very well afterwards.

The ohject of this essay is to state the claims of poetry
strongly, even to the putting down of history and philosophy,
should they pretend to equal agency on the minds of men.
" Neither philosophers nor historiographers," he says, " could,
at the first, have entered into the gates of popular judgments,
if they had not taken a great disport of poetry." In pros-
ecuting this oWect, the ripe modern reader may see that
Sir Philip has fallen into some puerilities ; some injustice to
other studies; some excess in pushing a simple thing too
far, that barely deserved mentioning at all. In speaking of
the different forms or classes of poetry, he does not always

!jo enough into their essence or whole character. But he is
uU of spirit upon the one great point, that poetry is the
power to move the mind, — to kindle and elevate, to mould
and purify it ; to give impulse rather than direction, and pic-
tures rather than facts and opinions^

" The philosopher with his learned definitions, be it of vir-
tues or vices, matters of public policv or private government,
replenisheth the memory with many infallible grounds of wis-
dom, which, notwithstanding, lie dark before the imaginative
and judging power, if they be not illuminated or figured forth
by the speaking picture of poesy." p. 25.

And again :

** To be moved to do that which we know, or to be moved
with desire to know, herein of all sciences (I speak still of
human, and according to the human conceit), is our poet the
monarch. For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so
sweet a prospect into the way, as will entice any man to enter
into it: nay, be doth, as if your journey should lie through a
fkir vineyard, at the^yery first give you a cluster of grapes, that
foil of that taste you may long to pass farther. He beginneth
BOt with obscure definitions, which must blur the margin with
interpretations, and load the memory with doubtfulness, but he
cometh to you with words set in delightful proportion, either
accompanied with, or prepared for, the well-enchanting skill of
music ; and with a tale, forsooth, he cometh unto you, with a tale
which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chim-
ney-corner ; and, pretending no more, doth intend the winning
of the mind firom wickedness to virtue ; even as the child is often

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188S.] ' Early Engluh Pro$e Writers. 99

brought to take most wholesome things, by hiding them in such
other as have a pleasant taste ; which, if one should begin to
tell them the nature of the aloes or rhubarbarum they should
receive, would sooner take their physic at their ears than at
their mouth : so is it in men ; (most of whom are childish in
the best things, till they be cradled in their graves), glad they
will be to hear the tales of Hercules, Achilles, Cyrus, ^neas ;
and hearing them, must needs hear the right description of
wisdom, valor, and justice ; which, if they had been barely,
that is to say, philosophically, set out, they would swear they
be brought to school again." pp. 35, 36.

It would be hardly fair, if there were room, to select more
from this little treatise, which every one will read ; and we
leave it with grateful remembrance of the author's wit and
devotedness, of his animated and joyous decriptions, and of
the beauties of language that are scattered over the whole ;
of words and phrases which, however antiquated, have yet,
to us who are little accustomed to them, the newness and
gloss of youth, and the greater force and spirit, because they
^re free from every thing like common-place.

The immediate effect of the " Defence " may not be easily
settled. But we may believe, that so much excellent, gen-
erous sentiment, warmly and yet reasonably set forth, and
coming from a courtier, knight, scholar, and poet, the loved
and admired of all, may have done much to give dignity to
an art, which, from his own account, appears to have been in
little popular esteem, and which he is constrained to call,
" this now scorned skill."

The remainder of the volume is taken up with John Sel-
den's " Table-Talk," a writer who flourished in the first half
of the seventeenth century. What would Philip Sidney have
made of such a man as Selden ? Courteous as he was, and an
admirer of profound learning, still could he have pardoned
such a view of poetry as this, come from whom it might ?

'"T is a fine thing for children to learn to make verse ; but
when they come to be men, they must speak like other men,
or else they will be laughed at. 'T is ridiculous to speak, or
write, or preach in verse. As 't is good to learn to dance : a
man may learn his leg, learn to go handsomely ; but 't is ridicu-
lous for him to dance when he should go.

" 'T is ridiculous for a lord to print verses : 't is well enough
to make thgm to please himself, but to make them public is
foolish. If a man in a private chamber twirls his bandnstringfl.

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80 Early Engluh Froit Writers. [ita.

or plays with a rush to please himself, 't is well enough ; but if
he should go into Fleet-street, and sit upon a stall, and twirl a
band-string, or play with a rush, then all the boys in the street
would laugh at him.

'< Verse proves nothing but the quantity of syllables ; they
are not meant for logic." Vol. ii. pp. 230, 231.

The " Table-Talk " is a collection of remarks, &c., that fell
from Selden in familiar conversation, and were preserved bj
his secretary. They are probably well enough reported.
They certainly have a marked character throughout. The
wit and humor, sometimes a little homely and cynical, the
strong sense, the sturdy independence, the easy use of learn-
ing, tne knowledge of every thing that is going on, and a
clear opinion about it, — these all belong to one and the same
naan. But the reader will be most likely to remember his dry,
pleasant way of saying grave things ; as in these passages :

" A king outed of his country, that takes as much upon him
as he did at home, in his own court, is as if a man on high, and
I being upon the ground, used to lift up my voice to him, that
he might hear me, at length should come down, and then
expects I should speak as loud to him as I did before." Vol. ii.
p. 186.

'' Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old
shoes ; they were easiest to his feet." p. 169.

'' 'T was an unhappy division that has been made between
faith and works. Though in my intellect I may divide them,
just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat, but
yet put out the candle and they are both gone." p. 165.

** Catholics say, we out of our charity believe they of the
church of Rome may be saved, but they do not believe so of
us ; therefore their church is better according to ourselves.
Is that an argument their church is better than ours, because
it has less charity ? " p. 141.

Our observations and selections have been necessarily
brief; and we should feel more regret for having given so
slight a view of two remarkable men, if we could not refer
our readers to the sketch, which the editor has placed before
each work, of the life and writings of the author, and suffi-
ciently full, both in facts and criticism, to prepare one for
what is to follow.

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18B9.] New Tranilatian of the Piaim. 81

Art. VL — A New Translation of the Psalnu^ with an
Introduction^ by George R. Notes. Boston. Grey &
Bowen. 1831. 12mo. pp. xxviii and ^2.

The author of this translation is the same distinguished
scholar who published '^ An Amended Version of the Book
of Job," in 1827 ; a version which was very favorably re-
ceived and deservedly commended. For, while great respect
was shown to the language and style of the common version,
which are endeared to us by habit, those obscurfties in this
version which arose from not duly regarding our vernacular
idioms, and from false notions of fidelity, and sometimes from
misconception of the original, were removed, to give place
to expressions always intelligible, and founded in patient,
critical inquiry.

We are pleased to find that Mr. Noyes has proceeded far-
ther in this kind of critical labor on the same principles, and
that he has applied it to the Book of Psalms ; a book so
dear to every devout reader of the Bible ; containing so
many hymns fraught with devotional sentiment and fervor,
and suited to the solemn services of those who worship the
same God, in all ages of the world.

In the Introduction to his version, Mr. Noyes speaks of
the character and value of the Psalms, of the authors, of the
titles, of the collection, and the division into books, and of
the means of understanding the compositions.

All persons of taste, apart from the pious uses of the
Psalms, are sufficiently agreed in estimating their poetical
excellences. These are various ; and the hymns proceeded
from diflferent authors. It may well be supposed, that, in
general, they are the productions of the persons whose names
they bear ; and it might have been so in their origin ; but
some confusion has taken place in this respect, and the au-
thorship is not always determined with certainty by the inscrip-
tions. Those which are not ascribed to any author are by
some attributed to David ; but this notion has arisen from his
being most prominent among the authors. There is another
part of the inscriptions prefixed to many of the Psalms, which
indicate the kind of composition ; or the occasion and subject
of the hymn ; or something pertaining to the music, to the
chief performer, or to the accompanying instruments. All

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8S New Translation of the Psalm. [Jao.

this is consonant with the practice of ancient, Oriental'^poets ;
but bow far the inscriptions are to be relied on in the case
before us, is not agreed among biblical critics. These sub-
jects, as well as the means of understanding the Psalms, are
discussed by Mr. Noyes with clearness and brevity. Among
the means of understanding the Psalms, he enumerates the
importance of some knowledge of Jewish antiquities ; of the
subject, occasion, and author of the psalm ; and of the char-
acter of Oriental poetry, abounding in the use of figurative
and metaphorical language, far beyond that of the Western
world. *

The translator has given good evidence of his own know-
ledge in these particulars, and of his attention to them in the
accomplishment of his work. No careful reader can compare
his translation with the common version, to any considerable
extent, without perceiving that many ambiguous expressions
are altered for such as are clear, and many apparently un-
meaning ones, for such as give a definite sense. Now this
is far better than to leave the ambiguous or unmeaning ex-
pressions, as if it were for the purpose of trying the skill of
the English reader. The whole ground of criticism is still
left open no less than it was before ; and in case of mistake
or failure, no graver charge rests upon the translator, than
that of fallibility.

We subjoin a single specimen from Mr. Noyes's translation,
to verify our remarks, so far as one example will do it, con-
cerning his improvements on the common version.

" 1. The heavens declare (he glory of God;

The firmament showeth forth the work of his hands.

2. Day uttereth instruction to day

' And night showeth knowledge to night.

3. They have no speech, nor language,
And their voice is not heard ;

4. Yet their sound goeth forth to all the earth,

And their words to the ends of the world.'' Psahn xix.

<« JVbto. V. 2. Day uttereth instrnction to day, i. e. One day gives the
lefoon of praise to God to the foUowing."

Here it will be seen that the ambiguity of the phrases " day
unto day " and " night unto night " is removed. A wholly
different sense is given to the beginning of the third verse^
and, as we are satisfied, the true sense. The beautiful per-
sonification of the material world is preserved, without any

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1883. J Author of the Letters of Junius. 88

real inconsistency. Though this sublime system does not
utter audible, articulate sounds, it is still vocal with instruc-
tion, every where proclaiming the majesty and glory of the

Concerning a word in the fourth verse ; their line is gone
out, — their sound goeth forth, — there has been a diversity
of opinion among critics. The primary meaning of the origi*
nal word is a line, or measuring line ; and in a sense not
more remote than the meaning of various words deduced by
inference, a chord or string of a musical instrument ; and
hence the sound itself, here used figuratively no doubt ; for
the actual sound, or the music of the spheres, though an old
imagination, and described so remarkably in Cicero's account
of Scipio's dream, is by no one, we believe, pretended to be
signified by the words of the Psalmist.

We take leave of this valuable work, by recommending it
to every studious and intelligent reader of the Bible, if not
as a substitute for the common version, at least as an impor-
tant aid in understanding this version.

Akt. VII. — 1. An Essay on Junius and his Letters ; em-
• bracing a Sketch of the Life and Character of William
Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and Memoirs of certain other
Distinguished Individuals ; with Reflections Historical^
Personal, and Political, relating to the Affairs of Great
Britain and America, from 1763 to 1786. By Benja*
MiN Waterhouse, M. D., &c. Boston. Gray & Bowen.
1831. 8vo. pp. 449.

2. Letters on Junius, addressed to John Pickering, Esq.
showing that the Author of that celebrated Work was
Earl Temple, By Isaac Newhall. Boston. Hilliard,
Gray, Little, & Wilkins. 1831. pp. Ixxxiv and 276.

If the real Junius has not yet been discovered, it is not
because few have made the attempt, nor because there has
been any lack of public interest and curiosity. Numbers,
both in England and in our own country, have labored on
the question with abundant industry and zeal ; and during
the past year, the two works named at the head of this arti-
cle have been published in our own neighbourhood, evincing
critical skill and the confidence of successful effort.

VOL. I. NO. I. 5

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84 Alitor of the Letieu of Ju$m$i. [Jao.

The Letters of Junius were in great repute at the time they
were written^ partly from their inherent value, and partly
firom the circumstance of mystery that belonged to them.
They were important in themselves ; for they discussed with
the ability of a master, in the style of a classical scholar, the
doctrine of kmgly prerogative and the rights of the Com*

Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 5 of 54)