« AnteriorContinuar »
association with some of the most agrecable strain of musical harmony. Such a selection has been the object of the present editor; and although he is well aware that an uniformity of judgement respecting the admission and rejection of particular pieces cannot be expected, he presumes to hope that he shall not be thought chargeable in general either with inserting mean, vulgar, and improper articles, or with omitting those of acknowledged and decided excellence." “ It has been much more a point with the editor to give a select tharra comprehensive collection." (p. xlv. xlvi.)
With these sentiments pleasingly impressed upon my mind, I proceeded to peruse the songs themselves; and must confess, that I experienced considerable disappointment: as many of them did not appear to me to be merely harmless compositions, but to have a decidedly immoral tendency.
Having already published several works on the subject of English songs, and examined the tendency of many of the most popular compositions of that kind, I trust I shall give no cause of offence if I enter at some length into an examination of your work; to which I am encouraged by knowing the liberality of Dr. Aikin's sentiments, and how great an advocate
he is for free discussion. I have the less reluctance in doing this, as the respect which I bear for your character and talents, and the pleasure which I have experienced from several of your works, seem to me as so many pledges in my own breast that I shall not exceed the bounds of decorum-I will add, of Christian charity. In a former publication, when I conceived myself to be called upon to animadvert upon some of Mr. Dibdin's Songs, I had the happiness to find, that so far from producing any unpleasant altercation between that gentleman and myself, it led to a friendly correspondence, and afterwards to his contributing some of his compositions to my collection. I will indulge the pleasing hope that I shall not be less successful in my present undertaking.
At the same time, I must confess, that, were you, Sir, the only person whom I might wish to influence by my remarks, I should not have felt myself intitled to trouble you at all; certainly, not with so long a work, and addressed in so public a manner. But I wish to address your readers and the public at large on the subject of your publication in particular, and on some subjects connected with it; a mode of procedure, I believe, sufficiently sanctioned by
examples in the literary world. I shall therefore in this and some subsequent Letters take into consideration the sentiments expressed in your Essay on Song-writing, and also the Songs contained in each class in your Collection. *
Of the influence which poetry has upon the mind you seem to be perfectly aware. LETTERS
HIS SON (vol. II. L. xii. p. 200.) you speak of “ ideas purely of the imagination, derived from the fascinating images of poetry”; and
you speak of them as operating with other causes to promote a love for the country, and thereby to incline many to an agricultural life. (p. 199.) In your letter on History and Biography (L. xiii. p. 227.) you recommend them “ for the rectifying of those false ideas, which the
* These remarks appear to me now to be more necessary, as, since this was written, that very respectable work, The Quarterly Review, bas spoken in the following high terms of the two publications in question: “ This elegant Collection presents, to those who admire music, means of escaping from the too general pollution, and of indulging a pleasure which we are taught to regard as equally advantageous to the heart, taste, and understanding. Both editions are considerably enlarged by various songs extracted from the best modern poets, and in either shape the work maintains its right to rank as one of the most classical collections of songs io any language." No. VI. p. 492.
theories of speculatists, and the fictions of poets and novelists, are continually obtruding upon our minds, and the combined mass of which probably constitutes a much larger portion of our opinion than we suspect. Every one, even moderately conversant with works of invention, must frequently, I doubt not, when searching for examples to corroborate moral or metaphysical theories, have found himself recurring unawares to the characters and events contained in such works, in preference to those of real life.” In your Letter on the Advantages of a Taste for Poetry (L. xv. p. 256.) you consider poetry as having effect in “ meliorating the heart, and improving the intellectual faculties,” and as presenting “ ideas to the mind not only in the most pleasing, but in their most impressive form." And, again, “ The diction of
The Essays on Song-writing are spoken of with unqualified praise in a Letter from Professor Stewart of Edinburgh, to Dr. Currie of Liverpool, respecting the poet Burns : “ The Collection of Songs by Dr. Aikin, which I first put into bis hands, he read with unmixed delight, notwithstanding his former efforts in that very difficult species of writing; and I have little doubt that it had some effect io polishing his subsequent compositions.” (Life of Buros. Fifth Ed. p. 142.)
These are high authorities to combat: yet I cannot sacrifice to them my persuasion, that there is before me ground for just but candid animadversion.
poetry is language in its noblest dress, nor is it possible to obtain an idea of the full power of words without being conversant with the works of poets. It elevates, points and vivifies all it touches. It paints sensible objects in all the strong colouring of circumstantial and kindred imagery; it renders visible the secret workings of passion and sentiment by their corporeal expressions; and by associating abstract truths with resemblances drawn from external nature, it indelibly imprints them upon the memory. In exquisite poetry every word has its peculiar force, and aids the general impression.” (Do. p. 259.) Speaking of our great English Dra-. matist, you say (p. 265.) “ Considering the universal familiarity with Shakespeare's best pieces acquired among us, either from the stage or in the closet, and the adoption of so much of his phraseology by many of our popular writers, I do not think it is exaggerating the effect of poetry, to suppose that the characteristic English manliness of thought has been greatly indebted to him for its preservation amid prevailing luxury and fashionable frivolity.” In your Essay on Song-writing (p. xviii.) you say, that, “ The share that Lilliburlero had in promoting the Revolution in this country has been noticed by grave historians.” And of the