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of his own transcendent powers, completed (I remarked) the wonder and the glory of his character. Spoke highly of the clearness, acuteness, penetration, and precision of Hobbes: his foibles arising from the want of feeling, and an attachment to system. Thought highly of Lord Eldon, embarrassed into irresolution, solely from the interior conflict in the vigour and resources of his own mind. Said, that I considered a taste for the fine arts as the sensuality of age.
1817. Jan. 5. Johnson's Diary in North Wales, published by Duppa. Though jejune in the extreme, it bears unquestionable marks of authenticity. Johnson's powers of close observation, applied to subjects the most untoward imaginable to his senses, tastes, and habitudes, are highly curious. His remark on Lord Scarsdale's possessions-" all this excludes but one evil-poverty "-reminds me of an anecdote I heard of Mingay and Lord Lonsdale. His lordship had been taking him a ride about his extensive domain. On reaching an eminence which commanded an immense and diversified prospect, Mingay was admiring the prodigious extent, as well as variety of the view; when his lordship observed-" And now, Mr. Mingay, of all you see, I believe, there is not an acre of ground which is not my own." "Good God, my Lord!" said the barrister, "you must be the happiest of men!" "In the whole compass of this scene, I will venture to affirm," said his lordship," that there is not one so miserable.”
Jan. 6. Looked over Gilpin on Prints. He states that only 7 or 800 good impressions can be taken from an engraved plate, and 200 from an etched one. Of Salvator and Rembrandt he happily remarks, that the former exalted his robbers into heroes, and the latter degraded his patriarchs* into beggars.
Jan. 12. Captain P- called. Gave an interesting account of a maid servant of his, who went to the theatre for the first time, and saw the Maid and the Magpie. Affected as if by reality-laughing-cryingappealing to those around-and at last loudly calling out and attesting the innocence of the culprit. Gilpin calls Lairesse the Dutch Raffaele, and speaks of his draperies as particularly excellent. His book is captivatingly written but the vile affectation of putting "hath" for "has, detest as cordially as Dugald Stewart does. It occurs, in one place, no fewer than four times in seven lines! Reveley mentioned to me that much use was made of his portfolios,† to which, in his father's lifetime, Gilpin had free and frequent access.
GOETHE's TABLE TALK.
THERE can be no question but that Tieck is a man of the most undoubted genius and accomplishments, and there is no one more ready than I to give him that meed of praise to which
he is entitled; but at the same time I am of opinion that persons who compare his genius to mine do err; for in this case they give him an elevation which he does not deserve. In this in
*“And the beggar rose from his hand the Patriarch of Poverty." Fuseli's Lectures, Char. of M. Angelo.-Edit.
† Mr. Hugh Reveley, of Bryn yr Gwyn, Merionethshire, possesses a very rich and curious collection of original drawings and prints, by the old Masters, left to him by his father. In the year 1820, Mr. Green arranged and edited a work called "Notices illustrative of the Drawings and Sketches of some of the distinguished Masters in all the principal Schools of Design, by the late Henry Reveley, Esq. 8vo." An invaluable assistant to the collector of ancient drawings.-Edit.
stance I express my opinion without reserve and ingenuously, for the genius I possess is not my own creation, but a gift. The comparison they would draw, seems to me as egregious as to parallel myself with Shakspeare, -a being of the highest order of human intellect,-that immortal bard, whose greatness I contemplate with veneration and delight.
What a truly astonishing man is Alexander Humboldt! I have had the honour and privilege of his friendship and acquaintance for some years: and it is therefore that I admire him the more, and with the liveliest degree of pleasure. I think I may state, with out being censured for my opinion, that in his peculiar department of science we have not his equal. His accomplishments are universal in their nature, and of the highest order. I have not in the course of my life had the advantage of meeting with a mind so profound as his. On whatever side he may range himself in the field of controversy, he is always harnessed for the conflict, and never fails to come off victor. He pours forth the treasures of his learning with the successive force and power of an inundation.
1 can only compare his wisdom to the waters of a perpetual fountain, which springs forth without intermission.
Of Shakspeare, one can scarcely speak; there is something so transcendent in his very name: all that we can imagine of him is below his exalted genius. Many of his characters are of that unearthly nature, as to be scarcely tangible to mortal mind; and are therefore incapable of being represented, as it is only the imagination that can in any measure form an adequate estimate of their beauties. His mind is not to be compressed into scenic forms; a mind whose gigantic expansion was too boundless to be confined to the visible world.
How is it that he is so rich and so powerful? Such is the luxuriance and fertility of his genius, that one of his creative characters would afford a sufficient source of study to an inventive mind for a year. I think I acted judiciously when composing "Goetz von Berlichingen," and "Eg
mont," in refraining from embarrassing those works by any train or line of imagination derived from him. I also consider that Lord Byron was commendable in following the bent of his own genius, and not allowing it to be trammeled by that of Shakspeare's. How many German poets would have been eminent had they adopted this practice; but, unfortunately for themselves, they endeavoured to weave their imagination into the genius of Shakspeare and Calderon, and thus destroyed themselves. Shakspeare presents to us golden apples on silver platters: but we,-who study his writings, and appropriate his ideas,-but we, if we may be allowed to indulge in the comparison, give in return potatoes in silver salvers; thus is the degeneration of ideas between him and us.
Byron may be considered in three distinct respects; first as a man, as an Englishman, and as an eminent genius. His good qualities belonged to the man, his bad ones to the English, and as a Peer of Great Britain;-but as a Poet, his elevation of mind is immeasurable. In all the productions that issued from his pen, he was successful; and it may be truly said, that his inspiration kept pace with his reflection. Byron could not resist the impulse for making poetry, for it existed in his very soul. All that proceeded from him was not only poetry of the heart, but was also perfect in its nature. If I may draw a comparison, I would say that he produced his poems with a similar disposition to that of women, when "enceinte," who, in the hope of producing a beautiful progeny, are unmindful of the sufferings they have to endure; the issue seems, as it were, to be an involuntary production: such is the facile conception of Byron; who had the poetical spirit completely at command. His genius was unique, and of great poetical power; which shone in a degree which I have never seen displayed so grandly in any other poet.
In his external painting, as well as in his knowledge of the human mind, he was alike great with Shakspeare : but Shakspeare is raised above him in the pure individuality of mind. Of this Byron was fully aware; and, from a spirit of jealousy, scarcely ever even mentioned the name of that poet,
notwithstanding he was so familiar as to be able to repeat from memory a great portion of his writings. That elevated yet noble repose of soul which is displayed in Shakspeare, caused Byron some degree of uneasiness. He was fully aware that he could never ascend so high in the scale of human eminence, as to be placed upon a level with the Swan of Avon.
Byron has always been high in his commendations of Pope; because he had nothing to fear from him on the score of a profound poetical genius.
Byron's rank as an English peer was in some measure a drawback to the full scope of his genius; as talent is too frequently embarrassed by the blandishments of the external world, and the secular advantages of high life and fortune. It appears to me that talent more generally shines when placed in a middle course; she seems to court a modest position, as is evident from the many distinguished artists, scholars, and eminentmen, who have sprung from such a source. Byron's insatiable desires would not have been so insurmountable to him, had he been placed in a middle situation in society; but as he was circumstanced, he could not without censure abandon himself to those innumerable vagaries in which he indulged; by this means he was drawn into numerous quarrels, which in the end produced in him an entire contempt for the world.
Generally speaking, the greater part of the life of the English nobility is spent in fighting duels, in hunting, in eloping with females, and all other species of sensual enjoyment.* Lord Byron himself relates that his own father seduced three women, and those married ones; could, therefore, the son of such a father be expected to be more reasonable?
If Byron could have expressed his spirit of opposition in his parliamentary speeches, he would have been more pure as a poet; but, as he was not an orator of impulse, and did not speak in the House of Lords, he secluded himself, and, in the bosom of his own mind, cherished all his bitter sentiments, to which he could give
vent only in his poetical writings, with the bitterest rancour.
The English are perfectly justified in saying that they have no other poet to compare with Byron for the peculiarity of his style. It is evident that he is different from all others, and, in most instances, far above them: he, indeed, is the greatest poet of the century.
Lord Byron is only great when inspired with poetical feelings; when he reflects, he is but a mere child. He wanted more resolution to protect himself from the different absurd attacks of his countrymen, who accused him of literary plagiarism. He ought to have answered them with more energy and decision of character. He should have been more explicit, and said how much of what appeared in his writings was his own; and acknowledged what he had taken from living characters, or from the writings of other men, and in their adoption he had done so with propriety.
Sir Walter Scott, as an author, stands unrivalled; and as such it is not astonishing that he should command such an influence over a world of readers. In his works I discover quite a new art, in the application of particular rules. In the subjects chosen, the characters depicted and executed are made by him nervously beautiful, and grand in the extreme. And what is still more delightful, what depth of study is displayed! What lovely truths are detailed! But truths in themselves are sometimes rendered faulty by circumstances: but his art, in all its intricate developements, is so correctly applied as to render it difficult for one to give a correct opinion to the public respecting the grand qualities of his numerous works.
Sir Walter Scott has used a scene in my " Egmont;" and he was perfectly justified in doing so; and as he has done it with great ability and ingenuity, we cannot do otherwise than applaud him. He has also imitated the character of my young "Mignon" in one of his novels. The Devil of Lord Byron is that of mine continued,
* Goethe's ignorance of English society will probably occasion surprise; but it must be recollected that he never had the opportunity of judging of it for himself, -Ed.
"Mephistophiles." Had he attempted to have produced an original one, it would, in all probability, have been inferior. The Mephistophiles of mine sings a song of Shakspeare's; and why not? Why should I have taken pains to compose one, since that of Shakspeare possesses all that I required to answer my purpose? If my exposition of "Faust" bears some resemblance to Satan, mentioned in the "Book of Job," so much the better; I should on this account be more commended than censured.
Moliere, as a dramatist, is so eminent in his line as to astonish his most ardent admirers. The more he is read, the more his beauties are made apparent. In this respect he stands unrivalled and alone. His dramatic delineations are of that high cast, that no one dare attempt to imitate him. His "Miser," in which all his great poetic forces seem to be concentrated, works up this character to such an excess as to destroy the natural affection between father and son. Such are the grand qualities of this work, that it approaches the highest dramatic sublimity.
So charming and valuable is this master in my estimation, that I make it an invariable rule to contemplate him from time to time, and always study some piece of his once a year, after the same disposition which I give to the most eminent productions that have emanated from the pencils of the great masters of the Italian School; for we men of such inferior minds are incapable of preserving, for any length of time, the sublimity displayed in such master strokes of genius; we must, therefore, return to them at stated intervals, in order to recall the images which they have impressed upon our minds and imagination.
A drama intended to produce an effective stage influence, should shadow forth the opening of the plot in gentle gradations, till the whole scheme is worked up to the climax; and each incident should be perfect in itself, yet bear upon the action of the whole, in all the gradual developements of plot, and the tendency of the incidents. Moliere presents a perfect model in this respect. His " Tartuffe" fully entitles him to this distinction. How refined are his dramatic gradations
displayed in the first scene of this play, which gives a prelude to all its forthcoming bearings. It is action itself; and produces this effect both to him who reads and to him who witnesses its performance.
The prolusion of "Minna de Barnhelm," by Lessing, is extremely fine and masterly; but, as regards the perfection of the "Tartuffe," it stands alone and unrivalled in the world, and, in this peculiar respect, constitutes his masterpiece. We find the same theatrical perfection displayed in the dramas of Calderon. His pieces are admirably adapted for the stage; all the parts have been carefully studied and judiciously arranged in order to produce legitimate effect ; from the commencement to the development and termination of the plot, all is life and increasing action.
Paul Louis Courier is a man of the greatest natural genius. The peculiarities of his mind bear an affinity at one and the same time with that of Byron, and Beaumarchais, and Diderot. The first he resembles for the flashing nature of his wit, and that quickness of conception which commands arguments without any effort. Courier invests his subjects with the characteristics of an advocate, and throws around them the ingenuity of a lawyer; and in this instance resembles the address of Beaumarchais and the dialec tics of Diderot, with the whole of their spirit in the highest degree.
The songs of Beranger are perfect in their way, especially if we bear in mind the sprightly refrain" which his couplets display without these "refrains" the songs would be too spiritual, too serious, and too epigrammatic. Beranger always reminds me of Horace, and Hafiz the Persian, who have both distinguished themselves in this eminent manner, and whose poems are elevated above the times in which they wrote, in painting the manners of the age. I should feel a repugnance to the licentious compositions of Beranger, were they not relieved by the great talents which they display. It is by ridiculing the vices of the age, and delineating the corruption of manners, that he reveals the nobler and better part of his nature.
Cousin, Villemain, and Guizot are authors who hold the highest place in the rank of writers, for their depth of philosophy and knowledge of human nature: what a fine contrast do these men present to the superficial and corrupt style of Voltaire! The deep reasoning and closeness of thought, once exclusively confined to the Germans, is now extensively displayed in the writings of these Frenchmen. It is difficult to do justice to the abilities of these men, in whatever light we view them; whether we consider their perspicacity, their general intelligence, or the scrutinizing spirit which is evident in their works; for they all and alike display a masterly conception of their subjects, in all the component parts and finish of character, inasmuch as in many instances they so thread their subjects as to make them in estimation truly astonishing. They are so eminent in themselves and collectively, that it is difficult to discriminate so as to award the preference of one over the other. It is like presenting to the eye three rich bunches of clustered grapes of equal mellowness and richness of quality; we are at loss which of the three to prefer; but if I must make a distinction I would give the preference to Guizot, as no other author and historian equals him for the deep research which he displays, the profound analysis, the sincere regard for truth, and the support which he invariably receives from his facts; and yet he possesses the charm of throwing a liveliness and buoyancy of spirit around all, so as to relieve it from a mere relation of historical facts. He exercises such a quick discernment, such a sharp and penetrating eye, that from many things, trifling in themselves, he deduces the most grave and important events in history.
Madame de Genlis, was not only right, but is much to be commended for attacking with warmth the licentiousness and extravagance of Voltaire. Such an eminent genius as his, cannot be otherwise than injurious to man, and the best interests of society; for it destroys the reasoning powers, and scorches, as it were, the brain; it weakens in man all character, constancy of principles, and vitiates and depraves the habits, by re
ducing all to the speciousness of ridicule, where reason in its highest order is demanded.
Delacroix, the painter, is a man of extraordinary genius, of a remarkable quality. The character of Faust seems to be the proper element in which he delights, and the subject seems to be congenial with his own feelings and conceptions. He is much blamed by the French writers for the extravagance of his conception, and the savage characters in which he indulges :—that "outre" imagination alone enabled him so correctly to pourtray the varied features found in the Faust, and in which he has so well succeeded. I do hope that he will proceed in the same commendable manner, and I anticipate in some measure the justice which he will do to the poetry of Faust, in his illustration of the representation of the "Kitchen of the sorcerers,' as well as the mountain of "Brocken."* So ably has this great painter illustrated my subjects, as in many instances even to surpass my own imagination.
(To be continued.)
I HAVE not sufficient leisure, nor do I consider it at all necessary, to enter at length into a refutation of all Mr. Corney's observations on the New General Biographical Dictionary, but I cannot resist a desire to make some brief remarks on the only article in the defence of which I am personally interested.
This article is the biography of Ralph Agas, or Aggas. In the first place Mr. Corney contends that Agas's christian name should be Radolph and not Ralph! was not Mr. Corney aware that Ralph is the common contraction from Radolph, and Radulphus in Latin ? In one of the Lansdowne MSS. he writes his name Radulph, and the paper is indorsed as being from the pen of Ralphe Agas, a plain proof that the common deviation was not con
*This mountain is situated in the famous "forest of Hercynia," and is renowned in traditionary legends as the accustomed resort of witches and sorcerers of all grades and all species, both male and female, who repair there in the "Walpurges night," namely on the first day of May.