Page images

flee an outcast and a fugitive from the murderous hands of a frantic rabble ; but when they learn that there were not wanting teachers of religion, who secretly triumphed in these barbarities, they will pause for a moment, and imagine they are reading the history of Goths or of Vandals. Erroneous as such a judgment must appear in the eyes of Mr. Clayton, nothing but a ray of his supernatural light could enable us to form a juster decision. Dr. Priestley and his friends are not the first that have suffered in a public cause ; and when we recollect, that those who have sus. tained similar disasters have been generally conspicuous for a superior sanctity of character, what but an acquaintance with the counsels of heaven can enable us to distinguish between these two classes of sufferers, and, whilst one are the favorites of God, to discern in the other the objects of his vengeance ? When we contemplate this extraordinary endowment, we are no longer surprised at the superiority he assumes through the whole of his discourse, nor at that air of confusion and disorder which appears in it; both of which we impute to his dwelling so much in the insufferable light, and amidst the coruscations and flashes of the divine glory; a sublime but perilous situation, described with great force and beauty by Mr. Gray:

“He passed the flaming bounds of place and time :

The living throne, the sapphire blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze,
He saw; but blasted with excess of light,
Closed his eyes in endless night.'

pp. 135 - 138. About two years later, Hall, at the earnest solicitation of highly respected friends, prepared and published his A pology for the Freedom of the Press, and for General Liberty. This treatise, though designed for the times, has ceased to be of value now only because its postulates have become axioms, and its principles the basis of English legislation and jurisprudence. In these works, there is probably no sentiment which the writer would have been disposed to retract or disavow in the latter years of his life, though he soon confessed his utter disappointment at the course of results of the French Revolution, and stood forth as a resolute and active opponent of its principles and influences, when they became more fully defined and developed.

The volume before us closes with a selection from Hall's contributions to the Eclectic Review. The best praise of such compositions is to say, as we can say of these, that in minuteness and thoroughness of criticism, range of thought and dignity of style, they are commensurate with the merits and demands of the works to which they severally relate. Were we to make any exception to this remark, it would be with reference to the review of Belsham's Memoirs of Lindsey, in which Hall, not content to occupy the position of a candid theological opponent, entirely loses his good temper, and is betrayed into an acrid and almost scurrilous personality, which leads us to imagine, that, whatever progress he might have made in other Christian graces, he had not grown more tolerant of honest differences in the twenty years which had intervened since his defence of Priestley, with whom both Lindsey and Belsham bore as close a kindred in virtue as in reputed heresy.

As we have already hinted, Hall left a higher and dearer fame than can accrue to him from his published works. All who heard him in public, or knew him in private, deemed him one of the greatest men of the age. Wherever he preached, he drew crowded audiences, and had among his frequent and most admiring hearers men of all shades and extremes of opinion, from the beneficed Churchman to the sneering latitudinarian. While he was settled at Cambridge, he generally had fifty or sixty of the members of the University, tutors and fellows, in his afternoon audience, and an attempt to check this irregularity was earnestly and successfully resisted by Bishop Mansell, then Master of Trinity College. In his intercourse with all classes of society, he was eminently happy. His radiant benevolence of countenance and manner secured him a welcome in the houses of the poor, while the charm of his conversation made him in every place of his residence the leading mind in a circle of the highest intelligence and cultivation. Only his friend and admirer Foster shrank from his society, in his diffidence, self-isolation, and consciousness of a power which he could wield only by convulsive and exhausting efforts, unwilling to come often into mental collision with one whose resources were always at hand, and poured out with unstinted prodigality.

There was a vein of eccentricity running through Hall's private life, just enough to lead him to say and do sensible and judicious things in the oddest possible way, without vitiating his judgment or impairing his usefulness. Perhaps the strangest transaction to be referred to this head was his courtship and marriage. He had reached the age of forty-four,

had been twice insane, and was hopelessly an invalid. He could easily have chosen a wife from the cultivated circles, with which he was continually conversant; but he reasoned with himself that such a wife must make a large sacrifice of personal comfort, taste, and happiness in ministering to his infirmities, and might after all fail in the capacity to meet the inevitable necessities of his condition. On the other hand, to one drawn from an entirely different sphere the most arduous personal services might seem light and easy, while she might be compensated for her devotion to him by the comparative independence and affluence in which he should be able to place her.

We will give the story in the words of Gilfillan, who could not let such a precious morceau of gossip escape him. " Who has forgot the history of his courtship (not recorded in his biography) ; his going down to the kitchen of a brother minister, where his inamorata lived in the shape of a most respectable and pious domestic ; his lighting the inseparable pipe ; his question, · Betty, do you love the Lord Jesus Christ ?' her answer, I hope, sir, I do'; and his succeeding and conclusive

query, Betty, do you love me ?'" This narrative we have derived in substance from more authentic sources, and have no doubt of its accuracy. The result was a happy union with one, who passed without discredit from an humbler to a higher station, ruled his house with dignity, trained his children with discretion, watched over him in health and sickness with the most tender assiduity, was the means under Providence of warding off the recurrence of his mental malady, and no doubt of adding some years to his life and usefulness, smoothed his death-pillow, and cherished the most affectionate memory of his domestic virtues.

We fear that we have given but an imperfect sketch of Hall's genius and character. We have found great difficulty in satisfying ourselves, from the absence of salient points in his mental and moral outline. Had he had great follies or weaknesses, they would have given us shadows for our picture ; but the chiaro-scuro is as essential an element in the ungentle craft of the critic, as it is with the painter, and we ask praise for our humanity in not dropping a subject so unsuited for a fair exhibition of our artistical skill. As we have let the darker colors dry on our palette, we have felt only growing reverence and love for the man, admiration for the untiring

activity of his genius and for the vast amount of intellectual labor, of which we have ample testimony, though not the written record, and gratitude for the legacy of his eloquent example and for the few brilliant memorials of himself, which posterity cannot willingly let perish.

pp. 151.

ART. VI. - 1. Poems. By R. W. EMERSON. Boston :

James Munroe & Co. 1847. 16mo. pp. 251. 2. Poems. By WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING. Sec

ond Series. Boston : James Munroe & Co. 1847.

16mo. pp. 160. 3. Schiller's Homage of the Arts, with Miscellaneous

Pieces from Rückert, Freiligrath, and other German
Poets. By CHARLES T. BROOKS. Boston: James

Munroe & Co. 1847. 16mo. 4. Poems. By William W. Story. Boston: Little

& Brown. 1847. 16mo. pp. 249. 5. Poems. By. THOMAS BUCHANAN READ. Boston:

W. D. Ticknor & Co. 1847. 16mo. pp. 124. 6. The Island Bride, and other Poems. By James F.

COLMAN. Boston: W. D. Ticknor & Co. 1846.

16mo. pp. 164. 7. Poems. By FRANCES ELIZABETH Browne. Cam

bridge: Metcalf & Co. 1846. 16mo. pp. 155. 8. Songs of the Sea, with other Poems. By Epes SAR

GENT. Boston : James Munroe & Co. 1847. 18mo.

pp. 208.

9. Shells from the Strand of the Sea of Genius. By

HARRIET FARLEY. First Series. . Boston: James
Munroe & Co. 1847. 12mo. pp. 300.

One of our critical brethren across the ocean, some years ago, observing the almost countless multitude of books already in being, and the constantly increasing productiveness of the press, remarked in rather a plaintive way, that unless some short-hand process was speedily invented, the art of reading must be given up in despair. The apprehension was not wholly groundless, though it seems exaggerated, for it pro

ceeds on the supposition that books are printed only in order that they may be read; while it is evident, that many books are printed now-a-days without the slightest expectation that they will be read by anybody. As faithful reviewers, bound to watch the proceedings of authors, pretty much as Mr. Flamstead was appointed to look after the stars, we are supposed to know more than most people about “new publications," and to be able to give seasonable notice when any thing remarkable appears above the literary horizon. We are proxies for the public, who now do much of their reading at second hand, and trust to newspapers, magazines, and reviews, for an estimate of books which they are too poor to purchase, or too indolent to peruse.

The office is at all times a sufficiently onerous one ; but at certain periods of the year, it becomes quite intolerable. At the beginning of winter, for instance, there is some demand for pretty gift-books, as acceptable presents for Christmas and the New Year. Dainty little volumes, with hotpressed leaves and vellum-colored or arabesque covers, slip in among new work-boxes, droll bronze figures, and articles of papeterie and bijouterie (we must have French names for our bawbles), as appropriate ornaments for the centretable. No one thinks of reading the books, any more than of using the work-boxes. Only the patient and conscientious reviewer is expected to tell the public if there is any thing entertaining in them. As so little inquiry is made respecting the contents of the volumes, amateur authors gladly avail themselves of the opportunity to inflict their wares upon the public. Essays, tales, sketches, travels, treatises upon moral law, and “elements ” of every science make their appearance almost by hundreds, to deck the bookseller's counters for a week, and his shelves for a century. Great as the demand may be, the supply is still greater.

We are at first disposed to pity the publishers who have hazarded their capital in an enterprise so unpromising. But the worthy bibliopolists need no commiseration ; they are far too shrewd to encounter any such peril. Formerly, it was the fashion for the publishers to pay the authors ; now, the rule is inverted, and the authors alone pay, and very round sums, too, for the use of a publisher's name, and for the privilege of appearing before the public. Most writers now-adays belong to the dilettanti society, and the frequency of

« PreviousContinue »