British Fiction, 18001829

WILKINS, George ?and SHEPHERD William. Body and Soul (1822)

Contemporary Reviews

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 100 (Feb 1823): 175–87.

[Review is of the following works: The Sisters (EN2 1821: 60), Body and Soul, and No Enthusiasm (EN2 1822: 9).]

We presume that the admirable injunction of St. Paul, to be ‘all things unto all men,’ has been the cause which has induced the very godly persons of different ages to vary so greatly their mode of attack on the vanities of this world, and, while ridiculing the fashions of this life, often to attempt that task in a fashionable manner. The first effort made by the righteous over-much, after the Reformation, was to decry all human learning as being in itself something carnal and anti-Christian: but to depose reason by argument, or to exterminate books by writing, was a proceeding too absurd in the eyes even of these enthusiasts themselves; and therefore, as their age was an age of violence, and burning was the mode of the day, they devoutly recommended that all books unconnected with Revelation should be committed to the flames. Reuchlin, who went considerable lengths in accord with these zealots, succeeded, however, in rescuing from their wrath as many authors as he could by his ingenuity torture into a pious and Christian meaning; and a very happy mode of allegorizing, which had before prevailed with some Christian fathers, was now much improved: not only the Logos, but all the mysteries of the Cabala, were soon discovered in the unconscious heathens; and Plato and Aristotle were accordingly treasured as saturated with evangelical tenets.

As time advanced, the common people began to think that a man might read without being either an atheist or a magician; and, indeed, some degree of study became a popular sort of employment. On this change, the fanatics turned inspired: they had longer and more permanent visions than any with which they had before been favored; and their memories and faculties were so much improved, that they were able to retain and to record their spiritual self-abandonments and annihilations. Thus came into the world the exstacies of Jacob Behmen, which are among the earliest specimens of modern godly romances; and in later days the sublime extravagances [175/176] of Emanuel Swedenborg. Under this head, too, may be classed some of the very eloquent rhapsodies of Mr. Norris and of the learned Henry More in England, as also the reveries of the Quietists in France. In fact, while sensuality was spiritualized, and the heats of a fervid temperament exuberated into splendid imaginations, or dreams of some middle state between this world and another, common sense was baffled and criticism completely at fault; for the more incoherent and incongruous the composition, the more just picture would it be of a dream; and the more strange the circumstances, and unsuitable to this state of being, the more fitted might they possibly be to a better. What measure, in short, could there be found for inspiration; or by what rules were the vagaries of a godly imagination to be judged? Surely, no uninspired critic could presume to analyze Jacob Behmen’s wonderful description of the colours of angels, or venture to inquire whether such high matters were intended to convey any meaning.

Other compositions also appeared, and came in fashion nearly about the same time with the visions, which partook more of human transactions: for in them the spiritual conflicts with the powers of darkness, and the advancements of the soul towards truth, were figured after the manner of mortal warfare, and somewhat according to the images of real life. Of this sort we recollect with great admiration Mr. Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress;’ though we cannot go so far as one [1] of the spiritual writers now before us, who would transfer to that singular work the praise bestowed by Johnson on Burnet’s memoir of Lord Rochester. Our modern saint, indeed, stickles a little at the word ‘elegance,’ but on the whole would rather give Bunyan a cap that does not exactly fit him than leave it with Burnet, who was too much a practical man to be beloved by the truly spiritual. All these pious narratives and spiritual fictions, aided by laySermons’ and ‘Crumbs of Comfort for devout Hearts,’ and ‘Divine Breathings,’ and ‘Longings of the yearning Spirit for the Cluster of Canaan’s Grapes,’ and ‘The Riches of God’s Love to the Vessels of Mercy,’ were great advances towards human compositions: but still the practice of general reading, and, above all, the reading of plays and common novels, was deemed very unsuitable for those who would imitate the example of the primitive Christians.

In another age, as the theatres were kept open, (notwithstanding the imprecations of Prynne and Collier,) and the public would go and see plays, whether edified or not, the [176/177] holy ones turned play-wrights, and the Bible furnished ample materials for the tragic muse. On the same principle, since people will be so obstinate and perverse as to read novels, though dehorted and enjoined to forbear from such unsanctified food by their ghostly pastors, the anti-seculars of the present day try to divide this house, and endeavour at length to contend against Satan with this his own arm of flesh. We have often noticed in our pages their pious attempts of this kind: but, recently, the virtuous tirades against all the amusements and pleasures of this life, poured forth under the mask of amusing publications, have assumed a much more considerable and important shape; and the press teems with serious preachments, each in three or four volumes, waging war with the powers of darkness under the arch-enemy’s own colours;—inculcating all the doctrines of asceticism and mortification in splendid types and on fine wove paper; and decrying any compromise with the usages of the world in the slightest matters, while they themselves issue forth under the deceptive and inveigling title of novels and tales.

It deserves serious consideration from the ultra-devotees, whether, by adopting this plan, they do not run great risk of a worldly as well as a ghostly nature. While they adhered to the old sublime and incomprehensible style, free scope was given to all the glorious excentricities [sic] of their imaginations, and they could range fearless and peerless through either the Elysiums or the Pandemoniums of their own creation:—but, in descending to mere novel-writing, and attempting to describe this present state of existence, they have to depicture scenes which it would be affronting to their condition of exaltation, and of disenthralment, to suppose that they can stoop to observe with much minuteness. They must also encounter, as rivals and competitors, many whose senses have been directed to affairs around them; who live in the unaccountable belief that there is some reality even in these sublunary phantoms; and whose keen relish of enjoyment unfortunately has not been blighted by disappointment, or withered by discontent. It is certainly a most spirited enterprize to put the lovers of cheerfulness to shame by tales of entertainment, to banter good humour out of countenance, and to draw off the thoughts of the reader from this world by giving the most particular descriptions of it which the author’s unpractised faculties will permit. For gravity and solemnity in its proper place, we—grave and solemn old grey-beards ourselves—have all due respect: but, when staid and serious personages become novel-writers, it is the duty of those poor critics who are fated to read their productions to consider them as novels; [177/178] and to animadvert on misplaced seriosities (as somebody called them), and on buskined measures halting in the midst of comedy-tunes. If huge elephants will try to skip and gambol on this uneven earth, after the fashion of silly sheep, spectators must be excused for smiling at their movements; since even in their own paradise, when they wave their proboscis with their best grace and elegance, the satisfaction given partakes in some degree of human diversion.

Though the works before us are very different in detail, they partake of the same general cast and object. All the authors agree in thinking that a person’s faith in some particular tenet is of more importance than any other matter in life, though they vary greatly in their notions about this saving tenet;—and all agree that, if a man be so unfortunate as not to have the same notions with the writer himself, he is in a state of jeopardy. The author of ‘No Enthusiasm’ favors Calvinism; the spokesman of ‘The Sisters’ preaches Calvinistic orthodoxy; and the dissertator on ‘Body and Soul’ upholds anti-Calvinistic orthodoxy. We mention these points of distinction in justice or in compliment to the writers, the inculcation of the favorite doctrine being with each the gist of the composition, and the solemn dissertations being the substance, while the narrative is merely interwoven for ornament;—and, of course, each accommodates the facts of his tale to his own spiritual hypothesis. In ‘No Enthusiasm,’ a young gentleman, who has courted a young lady and gained her affections in his unregenerate state, becomes gradually serious; and, though her regard remains unaltered, he discontinues his addresses because she is no better than she was when he fell in love with her. He then recovers a large estate (‘the good things of this world,’) of which he had been defrauded, and marries a pious lady with whom he had been suddenly smitten before his first courtship. A friend of the hero, who had been only half serious, dies disappointed and miserable, and this furnishes a death-bed scene of much agony and instruction. —Of ‘The Sisters,’ the one who is sprightly decoys the accepted lover of the serious one, is married to him, runs away with a lord, and dies in great misery. A similar death-bed scene is introduced, with many reflections, and grand effect.—In ‘Body and Soul,’ a reverend doctor first confounds a Calvinistic minister of the church; afterward, with the help of his curate, refutes two Calvinists; then beats an Unitarian off the ground; and at last defends triumphantly every assailable corner of the thirty-nine Articles, together with the damnatory parts of the Athanasian creed. In this work, the climax does not occur at the close, for the grand pathetic winding-up is in the middle, [178/179] and a lady decoyed into Calvinism is described as the inmate of a lunatic asylum.—It may be supposed that the writers omit no circumstance of the awful and the terrible in their deathbed scenes, and in the lunatic asylum: yet, to speak honestly, though we perceive nothing of extenuation in these particulars, and no want of dark colouring, we do not think that the forte of any of them lies in the pathetic; and, if we were to indulge in conjectures, we should surmise (on several accounts at least) that some of the works before us were the performance of elderly persons of the fair sex. Our fair readers will give us credit, we hope, for drawing this conclusion from the particular merits of these productions which we are going to mention, rather than from their defects, on which we have been dwelling perhaps too long. Though the stories are not particularly well contrived, nor the incidents uncommonly well managed, and the reasonings or prosings which are the staple are neither very new nor very conclusive, yet in all these tales the niceties of dress, the peculiarities of manner, and the touches of character, are sketched with a superior hand; and the humour and archness, which peer through these descriptions, might lead us to attribute their composition to that sex whose wit, and native shrewdness and gaiété de cœur, even the discipline of austerity can never entirely extirpate.—We shall quote, for the diversion of our readers, from each of the works the passage which we deem the happiest of this kind; regretting that the writers did not discover that they were ‘most themselves’ when they were in these earthly moods.

In ‘No Enthusiasm,’ we have an account of the appearance and conversation of an old low-bred limb of the law, which is very characteristic:

‘The next day Falkland rambled about the town in another direction, and immediately after dinner called again on his relation Mr. Sturdy. That gentleman had returned to town punctually at his appointed time, and our hero was introduced to him without ceremony. His appearance was not calculated to impress a stranger in his favour, though his reception was sufficiently cordial. Sturdy was a man about sixty years of age, with a broad impenetrable face, in which the mouth was not the least prominent feature; remarkably thick-set, and of a height which, if his bulk had not been correspondent to it, would have seemed almost gigantic. He was dressed in a suit of clothes which had formerly perhaps been black, although its tarnished appearance, and patches of snuff and powder, made it difficult to determine with certainty its original hue. He appeared to be much less studious, in his dress, of elegance than of ease, and the pernicious fashion of ligatures seemed to be totally excluded from the style of his habiliments. He was surrounded by papers, or rather buried in them; and on [179/180] Falkland’s addressing him, presented a hand which perhaps had sometimes come in contact with soap and water, though certainly at some remote æra of his life.

‘ “Sit ye down, Cousin Falkland, sit ye down,” said the lawyer, “I am glad to see you in London.—Here, Marshall,” ringing a bell, “let this note go to the city—and—Ah! I read your poor father’s death in the paper—Eh?—Are those costs taxed in the Exchequer? —Oh! and mind Heywood don’t forget to enter that record for trial—No, no, Mr. Falkland,” continued he, observing that our hero made a motion to retire, when he found his friend so much engaged, “sit ye down, I’m not busy—only whenever I happen to be absent for a day—call at Silvester’s too for that conveyance—I can’t imagine the reason, but I always find that no business is ever half so pressing as a marriage-settlement.”

‘All this and a great deal more was delivered in a slow and measured tone of voice, and seemed to be the mere effect of great press of business, and to have in it not a particle of ostentation. But Mr. Sturdy at length found time to direct his undivided attention to his relation’s affairs; and in truth he entered into them with a sagacity from which the latter augured favourably, and with a degree of interest, which the multiplicity of his business seemed by no means to promise. Mrs. Falkland on her husband’s death had taken the precaution of laying her hand on all the papers she found in the house, and her son had brought them with him to town, for Mr. Sturdy’s inspection. This, however, was a task which, as the papers were pretty numerous, and extremely ill assorted, he could not promise to undertake immediately; but Falkland was satisfied to observe he did not intend to delay it long. He was in the mean time extremely anxious to get some intimation of Sturdy’s opinion of his case, not considering that he was as yet totally ignorant of it; but in this he was completely baffled. The cautious lawyer avoided every hint which might by possibility commit him. “But, do not you think it strange, Sir,” said Falkland, “is it indeed possible that my poor father could have been thus completely ruined, without some gross rascality practised by this Monckton? I’m sure his expences would not have done it.”

‘ “Why, Cousin Falkland,” replied the other, “if you had seen as much as I have, of the ill effects of a man’s neglecting his affairs, you would cease to be surprised at any thing. It’s a great pity your father did not consult me when he first found himself embarrassed. But that’s the worst of it, you see. Some men never come to their lawyer, or their physician, till their case is desperate; and then if they can’t do impossibilities, they set them down as a pack of asses.”

‘ “At all events, Sir,” said Falkland, “that will not be our conclusion.”

‘ “No, no; may be not, may be not,” answered Sturdy, in a tone of voice which seemed plainly to indicate he thought the contrary; “but pray, Cousin Falkland—you must be aware that it will take time to unravel affairs of this intricacy, and you should prepare yourself for the worst. What do you mean to do with [180/181] yourself pending the legal proceedings? You must not be a dead weight upon your mother. Her jointure, if I remember right, is but slender.”

‘This was the very point Falkland wanted to lead him to. He therefore quickly took it up, and after expressing the sense he felt of his relation’s kindness, told him that his poor father, never doubting he should leave him a very handsome fortune, had not brought him up to any profession; but that he had received a regular education, which he was now only anxious to turn to some advantage; that his main object was to detract as little as possible from his mother’s scanty provision, and that he had some thoughts of adopting the profession of the law, if no insuperable objections occurred on the subject, to Mr. Sturdy. He thought by showing this predilection for his profession, to conciliate the good opinion of the old gentleman, as well as to make the best use of his information and experience. Whether he judged from Mr. Sturdy’s appearance and conversation, that there were few other subjects on which his opinion would be valuable, or whether, if he did form that opinion, he was correct in it, are points of some doubt. Certain it is, however, that he gave him not the slightest intimation of his dramatic propensity, and did not even consult him whether he should make his first attempt in the sock or the buskin.

‘ “You’ve some thoughts of the law, have you, Cousin Falkland? What—you’d like to wear a gown and wig?”

‘Falkland answered, it was one of the things he had been considering.

‘ “It’s an uncertain profession,” returned the other, “and for one man that makes a figure in it, at least one hundred hardly get salt to their porridge.”

‘ “But surely, Sir,” said Falkland, “industry and perseverance, with a tolerable capacity, will overcome any difficulties.”

‘ “Yes; but a man may have all the industry and perseverance, aye, and all the capacity in the world, and yet if nobody knows of it, he may sit all day with his hands in his pockets, listening to the harangues of those who have not one-tenth of his brains.”

‘ “But suppose, Sir,” said Falkland, somewhat cooled in his legal ardour, “suppose we put out of the case the higher honours of the profession. Do you imagine a man with the qualifications I have mentioned, would be utterly without some chance of at least securing an honorable independence?”

‘ “No, no; not so bad as that neither,” replied the other: “I think if you were now to enter yourself for the bar, and to spend the five years which must elapse before you can be called, in hard reading, and were then to attend regularly in the courts for another five years, it is very probable you might make in a few more years—let me see—aye—I shouldn’t wonder if you made—three or four hundred a year.”

‘This was a most appalling calculation for poor Falkland, and it almost extinguished every ray of hope from the pursuit of legal eminence. He could scarcely believe indeed that it was not an exaggerated picture; but this his cousin’s better information for-[181/182]bad his hoping. At all events, he thought such a phantom not worth the pursuit; and yet, after the first emotions of surprise were over, he could not but wonder, if this representation were correct, how it was that so many men had risen from small beginnings to the first emoluments and dignities in the profession. He knew the fact to be so, but he had yet to learn that a barrister without fortune, if he be eventually successful, must starve the first half of his life, in order to have more money than he can dispose of ever after. Mr. Sturdy, on the other hand, thought he had drawn a very flattering picture of the emoluments of the law; and mistook our hero’s silence and thoughtfulness for acquiescence in his undertaking. He therefore concluded by making him an offer of his assistance, and promised if he made up his mind on the subject, to introduce him to a particular friend of his, a barrister in great practice, under whose direction he thought he could not do better than place himself.’

The biographer of ‘The Sisters’ gives us this description of a learned lady at a ball:

‘ “Oh, Evanmore! fly directly, and bring her to us —you see she does not know where to go,” cried Rosalind, bowing most graciously as she spoke to a young lady of singular appearance, who was standing close to the door, and with an opera-glass held to her eye, reconnoitering the assembled groupe with all the cool composure of a General at the head of his troops. “Yet stay, let me give Felicia some hint of the lady’s character, that she may enjoy the treat more. The object of your well-founded amazement is that most unique animal of the biped species, a philosopher in petticoats. That is, a sort of incongruous, heterogeneous mass of learning, ignorance, and folly; either laughable from its absurdity, or disgusting from its pedantry. She reads her Bible in Hebrew, her Testament in Greek, her Prayer-book in French, and her novels in German—so at least her grandmamma says. Then, as she is always laudably engaged in the pursuit of learning, whenever you meet her you are favoured, in addition to these standing dishes, with a taste of what she is then hashing up for the public, which is generally decided by the fashion of the day, or the situation in which she happens to be placed. Thus, about four years ago, when it first became the rage to crowd every room in your house with flowers and exotics, she was a botanist; quoted whole pages out of Darwin’s Loves of the Plants, and stunned your ears with Monandria, Diandria, Monadelphia, Polyadelphia, Fulcra, Folia, Fructus, &c. &c. And really, while this was her hobby, her rides were as amusing to her friends as herself; but unfortunately happening one evening to describe, rather too minutely, the marriage of a white rose-tree with a black currant bush, from which strange union she expected a sort of magpie-coloured, mule bud, Lord Edgermond laughed so heartily, and teased her with so many questions, her modesty took the alarm; or rather, perceiving that she could no longer show her knowledge without exciting ridicule, she relinquished the study [182/183] altogether (for display is her object), and took to one where she might canter her favourite Pegasus without apprehension or control. At one time she affected to be a mineralogist and lapidary, and then, like the good girl in the fairy-tale, she never opened her mouth but some precious stone fell out of it, from the diamond of Golconda to the pebble of Scotia. She bored you with accounts of spars, crystallizations, stalactites, petrifactions, fossils, bitumens, metals perfect and imperfect, and without mercy, or any compunctious visitings of conscience, tore up the inside of poor old mother-earth to supply her with topics of conversation. She has, in short, a little knowledge of every thing; a little of languages, a little of botany, a little of mineralogy, a little of conchology, a little of chemistry, a little of ornithology, a little of meteorology, &c. &c., and precious little it is. If a philosopher could look into her head, like the lover in the Spectator, who had the privilege of viewing his mistress’s brains, I verily believe he would see much the same as he did, with the addition of some crabbed words, and heads and tails of the sciences. She appears, however, wonderfully wise when you are first acquainted with her; and I have seen as much consternation exhibited in a party where she has, after having been long studying how to display herself to the greatest advantage, pounced upon a poor female acquaintance, as when a hawk or a kite, after hovering some seconds in the air, stoops on a defenceless chick, to the terror of the farm-yard. But these literary alarms soon wear off on acquaintance, for she is all écorce, a mere outside shell of learning, no nut to satisfy the palate after the eye has been sufficiently gratified. Indeed she always reminds me, when she is preparing to strike her auditors dumb with the profundity of her wisdom, of the Turkish cry, “In the name of the Prophet—figs.” —As she is now the inhabitant of a sea-port, conchology will be the order of the day: you are a stranger, and, mark me, she will burst upon you like the rushing of a cataract, in her literary character: therefore be prepared, and don’t feed her egregious vanity by seeming alarmed; for she is never more delighted than when, by some of her enigmas, she sees she has completely puzzled her audience. Meet her with her own weapons. When she cries univalve—do you say bivalve. When she talks of corallines—do you speak of zoophites; and if you find yourself in a dilemma, or as your dear Jenny would say quandary, do as I have often before done, intrench yourself in some high-sounding words and unintelligible phrases, and get handsomely out of the scrape.” ’

The best delineations in ‘Body and Soul’ are those of the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Griper, and of an old Sea-Captain making his advances to a religious widow.

‘When the dinner-hour arrived, Dr. Freeman found the party assembled. After he had addressed Mrs. Trustwell and her daughter, his kind host, taking him by the hand, introduced him in form to Mr. and Mrs. Griper, both of whom returned the salutation with the most grave decorum. There was the struggle of a smile evi-[183/184]dently visible on the lips of Alexander, as he watched this august ceremony, and kept up with his eyes a kind of telegraphic communication with his sister: it required, indeed, some command of countenance to stand this interview. The bride had, by many degrees, passed the meridian of life, and time had set his envious mark upon her. She was “gaunt, lean, ossified, and long;” her face narrow, and striped with wrinkles, over which was suspended a nose which acted as a gnomon to the dial from which it projected. Her reading had, in earlier life,—that is, until she had relinquished the hopes of promotion, and had actually taken out the brevet-rank of Mrs. to her maiden name,—been confined to trifling subjects, to romances, and to tales of slighted love. She had formerly been able to play upon the Virginals, which she now dignified by the name of the Piano; and even till very lately, in the society of those of her own standing, she occasionally ventured to breathe an asthmatic air of olden times. Her dress suited with her years and her new situation. It consisted of a fabric raised upon her head, formed by making every hair to stand as it would on the glass-legged stool of an electrifying apparatus, surmounted by a cushion, placed thereon to imbibe the long wire-pins to which the cap was appended. Her waist was long and tapering, to which was fastened a silver-washed tin cornucopia, there placed for the reception of a large bouquet, which seemed to have been the produce of the kitchen rather than of the flower garden. Her gown was a rich grogram, so thick, that whether in wear or not, it pertinaciously kept its erect position, and when moved, made that strong rustling noise which rendered it unnecessary upon visits of ceremony to announce her approach. When erect, her stature was assisted in its towering height by the aid of two props to the heels of her shoes; two stunted columns of the Tuscan order, which preserved a false perpendicular, by reason of the unequal pressure above. She seemed to possess only one advantage over her brother, and that was in having had greater experience from a longer residence upon earth. She was occasionally cheerful; but the disposition was checked whenever she turned her eye upon Mr. Griper, who maintained the most obstinate and inflexible gravity.

‘He was a very tall, thin man, with a long yellow face and sharp visage: his long matted hair, impelled by its own weight, hung straight downwards; while a narrow cravat displayed a neck brown and folded, like the leather of a pair of bellows. He wore a long, black, strait-cut coat without a collar, but with pockets large enough to answer all the purposes of a wardrobe: he had flaps to his waistcoat; thick black worsted stockings, covering a pair of long legs of equal thickness everywhere, and planted in a pair of shoes extravagantly capacious, ornamented by square silver buckles, corresponding with those appended to his breeches-knees. Such was the Reverend Mr. Griper, who had entered into the pale of matrimony to ensure a handsome provision for his latter days, and a patient companion disposed to swallow the doses of religious rhapsody, in which he was a wholesale dealer. [184/185]

‘When dinner was announced, Mr. Trustwell stepped forward to offer his arm to the bride; who, casting a smirk of approbation upon him, and another of encouragement transversely upon Mr. Griper, stepped forward; the rest of the party following in couples, at an awful distance behind them, to admit sufficient space for the trail of Mrs. Griper’s gown; which, in performing the part of a besom sweeping the staircase, was accompanied by a rustling noise, resembling a shower of hail in a thunder-storm upon the stage.

‘The conversation at table was general and animated, supported as it was by the host and hostess, Miss Trustwell, her brother Alexander, and the Doctor; while Vincent and Mr. Griper seemed waiting in reserve, ready only to explode when a spark of religious kindling should ignite them. The bridegroom, however, was too actively engaged in answering the demands of a voracious appetite, to waste the little time which he seemed to think would be allotted to his repast; for though his body, from the length and thinness of it, appeared ill-adapted to the reception of much food, it was astonishing to see with what dexterity, and with what perseverance, he endeavoured to obtain a rotundity of form, and how successfully he washed down with deep, but weak potations, the obstructions which were heaped on the turnpike leading from his jaws to the lower regions of his body. In all this he was the direct reverse of his bride, who kept nibbling at the breast of a chicken, occasionally sipping from a thimbleful of wine, which she as delicately touched with the parchment of her lips, as if she apprehended their coming in contact with aquafortis.’ —

‘The season of love is the season of poetical inspiration; and many were the attempts which the Captain made to assail the strong-holds of the lady’s heart, by exalting her opinion of his talents, and enflaming her with the ardour of his affection. His mode of disclosing the labouring passion of his breast was not so singular as it was affecting; it was expressed in the following rhapsody, which was delivered at the close of an evening visit, with the vice-like grasp of a hard hand, and the upward cast of an enamoured but a blood-shot eye:

‘Oh Cupid, god of wild desires!
Venus, mistress of the loves!
Oh quench, oh quench these inward fires,
Hither drive your purple doves.

‘Waft yourselves upon the ocean
Of the blue and cloudless sky,
For, alas! you have no notion
How very near I am to die—

‘To die—in one ecstatic burst
Of a non-descriptive joy;
I burn, I burn, oh slake my thirst—
Raging loves my senses cloy!

‘Tho’ in battle I’ve been wounded,
And by waves have oft been tost,
Until now I ne’er was grounded,
Ne’er till now have I been lost— [185/186]

‘Lost—in fiercest adoration
Of her many various charms,
Ye gods! accept of my prostration,
Give, oh give her to my arms!

‘The conclusion of these lines was truly poetical, because it was the height of fiction in the author to represent himself as possessing two arms, when he evidently had but one. This mistake did not, however, escape his observation, and if he could have altered the sentiment without altering the rhymes, he would have done so; but it was revolting from his mind to represent himself as a dismembered lover; besides, as he had once possessed the full compliment of limbs, he suffered the stanza to remain. But the result of all this was not what he had anticipated; for though the lines breathed an unequivocal avowal of his love, yet the lady’s sensibility was altogether shocked at the profanation of invoking heathen deities, which, she said, were only other names for demons; and the offer of prostration to them amounted, in her opinion, to sheer idolatry. Her displeasure, therefore, was wofully excited by this unhappy effusion, and would probably have proved, for some length of time, fatal to his suit, had he not soon afterwards offered a more congenial, serious, and approved effort of his muse.

‘Here, a vile but contrite sinner
Seeks a saint endow’d with grace,
Fain and fairly would he win her
In the semblance of thy face.

‘Holy maiden! know I love thee;
Religion’s voice in thee I hear;
From thy presence do not drive me;
Methinks I feel an holy fear.

‘Storms and tempests I’ve not heeded,
They were all the sports of Fate,
Other lessons I have needed
To remind me of my state.

‘With vice in every shape infected,
From thy sight I ought to flee,
But I feel myself elected,
To partake of bliss with thee.

‘Can’st thou wish to stop the torrent,
Or the trade-wind in its course?
Can’st thou meet the storm abhorrent,
Or unshrinking stem its force.

‘Then, seek not, lady, to reject me,
Nor my fondness to reprove;
To thy sweet embrace elect me,
Let me revel in thy love!’

These are happy specimens. The writer of ‘No Enthusiasm,’ however, except in drawing the character of the attorney, and [186/187] that of a plausible gentlemanly barrister, is uniformly dull. The author of the tale of ‘The Sisters’ is of a much higher cast: but the moral reflections are endless, and are often mere scraps of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. H. More recooked: though sometimes the thoughts are taken from other writers, so unfortunately disguised or misapplied as to be scarcely recognized. The writer of ‘Body and Soul’ is directly opposed to the others on the point of amusements, and many of the observations on that subject are very cleverly expressed: but the poetry interspersed, by no means sparingly, is not always equal to the verses which we have extracted; and sometimes the lines have an Irish air, as when a wish is expressed to rise like the setting sun:

‘So, when my pulses cease to play,
Serenely close my evening ray,
That I may rise, death’s slumber done,
Glorious like thee, sweet setting sun!’ (P. 98.)

[1] The author of ‘No Enthusiasm,’ vol. i. p. 248.

Notes: Format: Crown 8vo. pp. 400; price 12s. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Co (details are for Body and Soul). A footnote is appended to the header, regarding Body and Soul: ‘We apprehend a mistake in the price marked on this publication. Dear as books are, we should not expect to find twelve shillings charged for a single volume, such as would formerly have been sold for four, or four and sixpence’ (p. 175).

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 104 (Aug 1824): 402–04.

This volume is the sequel of a work which we examined in our Number for February, 1823, p. 175. It is written in the same style and spirit as the preceding part; and though, as we before hinted, we may deem it questionable how far it is well judged to render books of amusement the vehicle for inculcating doctrines of divinity, and particularly for conveying information on speculative and controverted points, yet, if such matters are to be introduced, they are not likely to be discussed in a better feeling or with more temper than the writer generally displays in the production before us. He every where reprehends, those dark and gloomy views which are calculated to render religion a terror rather than a consolation, and which would invest the Supreme Being with the character of a tyrant over his creation. On the other band, cheerfulness, instead of being considered as a criminal propensity, is very justly represented as the natural result of the proper discharge of the relative duties, and as the attendant and evidence of an unclouded conscience. The exercise of the social affections is also warmly recommended, and a rational indulgence in the amusements and pleasures of life. Besides all this, the author explains the doctrines of grace, of a second birth, and other high points, in such a manner as to remove from them much of the mysticism in which they are frequently involved; and he confines the sin against the Holy Ghost to the wilful infidelity of those who witnessed the miracles of Christ, and who, recognizing an extraordinary interposition, nevertheless perversely attributed it to the agency of evil spirits. Such an interpretation of this obscure text has been before laid down by Dr. Maltby, at some length, in a note to one of his sermons; though the [402/403] present writer does not on this or on other occasions make references to any authority.

The characters introduced in this volume are not described with any extraordinary ability, and some of the attempts at light composition, particularly in the chapter on matrimony, are very unsuccessful: but the remarks of Dr. Freeman, with which that chapter closes, are written in much better taste; and we extract the passage as displaying unaffected seriousness and solemnity:

‘ “My dear young friends! hear the words of one whose sand is nearly run, and who has experienced both joy and sorrow, happiness and affliction. I began life with ardent expectations; my heart beat in unison with one, whose many virtues excited hopes that were soon blasted by the chillness of death; but the memory of them still lives, in dear and honoured characters. I lost my wife, I gained a child,—one, in whom was imaged the dear picture of my lost Emily, and one, who, alas! too, like her, in early life followed her mother to the house appointed for all living. To-morrow completes the five-and-twentieth year since my Emily was called hence. God only knows, whether, on that day, ‘my soul may be required of me.’ But why do I mention these things? Why throw over this day of brightness the cloud of darkness? Why infuse into the cup of pleasure the ingredient of woe? Why selfishly talk of my sufferings, when your hopes are burning with fondest anticipations? It is, my young friends, to teach you, that life, however its morning rises with sunshine, is liable to continual glooms, and obnoxious to encroaching clouds. It is to warn you against indulging, what, indeed, is natural, in the hope of uninterrupted happiness. How kindly soever affectionate you may be, however well disposed to promote mutual comfort, you must not expect to pass your days without being the cause, of some pang to one another, or dimming, though transcendently, the mirror of one another’s joy. Besides this, which will sometimes happen, and well for us that it does, there are and will be rougher and more unyielding monitors that will convince you of the futility of allowing earthly joys to engross all your attention, or make you believe that this world is your home. We need all the trials and afflictions which we have to encounter, to wean us from unsubstantial pursuits, and engage us more heartily in the service of that Sovereign, who claims our duty from the cradle to the grave. There is no true happiness but in religion. Where it is the directing star, all other enjoyments are incalculably enhanced. Never, then, forget who and what you are, and for what purpose you were born. Let not the comforts of your happy condition sensualize your hearts: rather, whilst your hearts burn with affection, ripened and mellowed by a continued reciprocation of domestic duties, let them also burn, as the disciples’ at Emmaus, with that flame which derives its influence and effect from your Saviour, and which, under God’s grace, depends for its continuance on your own exertions. Oswald, [403/404] your hand; cherish, as you have sworn, this lovely plant—shield her from rougher cares, but exclude her not from your inmost self:—support, direct, love her!,—Maria, your hand; secure your husband’s affections by gentleness, by confidence, by deference, by affection. Heaven bless you, my children Be good, be religious; be happy!” ’

We, have praised the liberal tone which, in general prevails through this, work, and, we are sorry to mark exceptions: but the following passage is so grossly unjust in the reflections which it casts on two respectable sects of Christians, that we feel it our duty to quote it, and expressly to reprobate the exclusive and unchristianlike spirit by which it seems to have been dictated:

‘He found her strongly tinctured with the sentiments of a sect that assumes the title of Baptists, as if no other denominations of Christians had claim to that appellation, except themselves. Like another class of religionists, who in their self-sufficiency, by forming a Deity carved to the standard of their understandings, assume the distinction of Unitarians, whilst at the same time they cannot fail to be conscious, that there is no body of Christians (a name they abjure [1]) which is not as much unitarian in worship and belief as themselves; and certainly which has not much better pretensions to Christianity than the disciples of Priestley or Lindsay.’

The statement, that Unitarians abjure the name of Christians is directly false in the obvious sense of the words; and something more than a quotation from Bishop Home is necessary to justify such an assertion on the ground that they abjure the name of Christians by construction. It is surely mere intolerance to deny the name of Christians to a class of persons who believe not only the divine mission of Christ, but the reality of his miracles, and who acknowlege the genuineness of the writings left by his apostles.

[1] ‘ “It is a truth, that calls for the most serious consideration of all those who draw up systems of religion exclusively of Christianity, that neither Heathens, Jews (in their present state of unbelief), Mahometans, Deists, Arians, or Socinians, worship the true God. For all that is manifested of the true God in his word is manifested of him as existing in three persons, Father, San, and Holy, Ghost. The Son and the Holy Ghost they have not, for they deny him; and it is written, ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.’ (1 John, iii. 25.) And, if he has neither Father, Son, nor Holy Ghost, he has not the true God, and if he has not the true God, he has no God, because there is but one God.”—Bishop HORNE.’

Notes: Format: 12mo. pp. 380; price 9s. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Co.

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