Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]





LORD JEFFREY, like many remarkable men of our era, is a striking instance of many-sidedness: critic, lawyer, politician, judge, are some of the phases in which he has exhibited his spirit in the course of a long and active existence. As a critic, he has stood in “glorious and wellfoughten field” side by side with the chivalry of Hazlitt. As a pleader, he was equalled at his native bar by Cockburn alone. As a philosopher, besides the general vein of subtle reflection which pervades all his writings, he has, in one beautiful region of metaphysics, excelled the elegant Stewart, and the captivating Alison. As a politician, he has been a model of uprightness and consistency. And as a judge, he has, it is understood, gathered new and verdant laurels.

With the name of Jeffrey the idea of The Edinburgh Review is inseparably connected. For nearly thirty years he was its conductor; and though backed by a host of varied talent, he might truly be called its life and soul : the spirit of the editor was seen in every article, in every page. Even the bolder, coarser, and more original writers who con. tributed to it, became insensibly tinctured by the pervading tone-of polite badinage, of refined sarcasm, of airy cleverness—which was the established esprit de corps. To this, the wild sallies of Sidney Smith, the fiercer sarcasms and darker passions of Brougham, the eloquent gall of Hazlitt, had all to be subservient; and smoothed down they must often have been under the cautious and gentlemanly influ. ence of the editor, ere they met the public eye. And hence the rapid and boundless popularity of the Review. It succeeded because it came forth, quarter after quarter, not a tissue of jarring though ingenious speculations, but a regu. lar and brilliant whole; and the instrument of fusion was unquestionably the accomplished mind of Jeffrey. During the earlier part of his career he was the ideal of an editor, not writing the half, or perhaps the tithe of his periodical, but, far better, breathing his own spirit as a refining and uniting principle over the whole.

Lord Jeffrey's character as a critic is now very generally agreed on. When he criticises an author whom he thoroughly appreciates, he is a refined, and beautiful, and just, and discriminating judge. He throws his whole spirit into the work; he executes his analysis in a fine and rapid style ; he brings out, not merely the meaning, but the soul of his author; he throws a number of pleasing, if not profound, lights upon his subject; he weaves the whole into a tissue of beautiful and buoyant, rich and rapid diction; and there stands a criticism airy as the gossamer, brilliant às the glow-worm, yet solid as the pillared firmament. Witness his reviews of Crabbe, which, by their timely aid, lifted

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the modest and exquisite, but half-forgotten, writer into the
full blaze of his reputation, threw a friendly veil over his
frequent asperity and coarseness, and were, in short, his
salvation as a poet, just as Burke's fatherly interference was
his fortune as a man. Who that has read, retains not a
vivid and pleasing memory of his reviews of Campbell's
« Gertrude," and Campbell's “Specimens of the English
Poets,” particularly the latter; of his kindly and most
eloquent panegyricon Hazlitt's “Characters of Shak-
speare's Plays;" of his laboured and masterly analysis of
Moore's "Lalla Rookh ;" of his honest and powerful article
on Lord Byron's Tragedies; and high above all these, of
the finest piece of elegant philosophizing in the language,
the review of Alison's “ Taste," afterwards matured and
expanded into the article “Beauty,” in the Encyclopædia
Britannica. Nor have his doings in the way of quiz and
cutting-up been at all inferior in their way. We will not
soon forget that most witty and wicked running commen-
tary which he kept up for many years on Southey's inter-
minable productions ; nor did the laureate. We entertain
a keen memory of the soreness of sides wherewith we
perused, many years after its first appearance, his account
of Walker's “ Defence of Order," an unfortunate bundle
of stiff pompous inanities of verse, which the worthy man,
singed and heated, without being inspired by his acquain-
tance with Burns, had inflicted on that minority of the
public who chose to buy it. (Poor old Josiah! we remem-
ber him well as a Professor of Humanity ; not a little
partial, but kind-hearted, a gauger-looking man, with a
big brow, but mean unpoetic face, well read, with rather
a nice vein of critical discrimination, who prided himself
on his classical English style, and elegance of translation.
He got a little weak-minded in his old days, and proved

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ent as


« AnteriorContinuar »