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he thrusts them into an inclosure, from which they cannot get out, and bids them accommodate their differences as fast as possible and live thenceforward in amity. With what success this method is likely to be attended, in the case, for example, of sects and parties, we need not say. Enthusiastic men, worshippers of one principle or opinion, such as in all cases make up the vitality of party, are insensible to ridicule. They take in right earnest the business of this life, and treat all who laugh at it as triflers. Wit, therefore, makes no impression on them, and though severe satire 'may gall their flanks it will not turn them from their course or impede their progress. And the reason is, that they are deaf to the explosions of merriment taking place around them ; and if they behold the lips move, are more likely to fancy that it is in approbation than in censure.
Very shrewd thinkers are often out in appreciating the elements of popularity. They tell you, that to obtain a hold on the majority, a writer must be suggestive, that is, full of unblown thoughts, which, transplanted into the minds of other men, may unfold and flourish there. Mr. Landor is such a writer, and he is not popular. His pages abound everywhere with suggestions, with the finest embryos of thought, with original conceptions, and images with new combinations, generally in good taste, sometimes in bad, with bold judgments of men and things, with enlarged views, dashed and alloyed by coarser materials, such as expressions, allusions, jests, and occasionally protracted passages, which true refinement must condemn. He looks forward and backward over the great field of humanity, and by cxamining what it has produced, so far as yet cultivated, seeks to divine the nature of the crop to be expected from its untried sections.
The very faults of such a writer might be expected to act as a recommendation, being, as they are, the faults of wit betrayed by indulgence into too great license. Conscious of being quite at home with the subject under consideration, and standing in no awe of criticism, he allows his fancy to run riot that he may show his entire independence, and even conducts it occasionally into holes and corners which we would prefer not entering. This is a mistake, criticism is good when it is honest, when it praises heartily, and condemns with reluctance, as Mr. Landor's own criticism generally does. We say generally, because in the case of the French he seems to be under the influence of a rooted dislike, which inclines him systematically to disparage nearly
everything they have done or produced. Not that we ourselves indulge any partiality for that people, but that, from a lurking sense of justice, we should hesitate to condemn them so peremptorily and entirely as Mr. Landor does.
We were saying, however, that in criticism Mr. Landor praises ungrudgingly, and only condemns because his judgment compels him. No man throws more zest into his eulogy of other writers, which argues, in our opinion, a large and liberal soul, sufficiently calm and unruffled to reflect all forms of beauty even when emanating from an enemy. This is a rare merit, much rarer than genius, for genius is not always generous ; but Mr. Landor's, upon the whole, is. He may, no doubt, have his antipathies, and find it impossible--as who does not ?—to regard the claims and pretensions of all men with equal mind ; but with extremely few exceptions we think it will be found that the warmth of genius melts: him into sympathy and sets his admiration in a glow.
The most prominent thought in nearly all great writers discloses the desire to promote the peace and tranquillity of mankind. Even the most distinguished orators nourished amidst the strife of the. Agora, and rendered fierce by perpetual opposition, infused into their most tempestuous harangues a hatred of violence and bloodshed. This is true, especially of Demosthenes. It is true also.of the Modern who approached him nearest in characterMilton : and it is equally true of the distinguished speakers of our own day, not one of whom is found to sympathise with the disturbers of the world's repose. It does not, consequently, surprise us to find a genius like that of Mr. Landor, purely literary, allying itself with the pacific sentiment and inveighing with the voice of Bellona herself against the wars and devastations of ambition. The remarkable thing is, to see the feeling run like a golden thread through the compositions of a whole life, and that, too, in spite of a naturally martial spirit, quick to resent, impetuous to execute, supported by great physical energy, and a share of health which falls to the lot of few. This, we say, is something remarkable, and can only be attributed to the force of conviction overcoming passions and propensities and making way for the sure deductions of reason.
We alluded at the outset to the advantages inherent in the particular modification of dialogue to which Mr. Landor has almost exclusively confined himself. There are also some disadvantages, and on these we shall touch slightly before we discuss their
have to say:
opposites. The scene shifts incessantly through almost all countries and ages ; numerous characters are brought upon the stage; a world of varying interests, opinions, thoughts, feelings and passions are discussed, until the reader, amazed and dazzled by the rich and ever-progressing pageant, scarcely remembers where he is. IIe finds his attention solicited by too many topics. Too vast a call is made upon him for knowledge. He has to look about him, to inquire, to read, to reflect, before he finds himself in a condition to cope with Mr. Landor's interlocutors, and relish the grave or pleasant things which they so frequently
IIad the dialogues been all supposed to pass between our contemporaries, the study of one would have facilitated the comprehension of the next, and rendered it more easy to appreciate all its delicacies. The questions discussed, however numerous, would have been all linked together by an intellectual synchronism. Character would have thrown light upon character, subject upon subject, till something like a system had been developed. This is one of the charms of Plato's dialogues. A long-lived man might have conversed with every one of his characters, and heard, and easily written out all that he has left us. The questions, too, were all of the day, and therefore, though sometimes exceedingly abstruse, sometimes trifling, sometimes even objectionable, they belonged essentially to the time which they now, therefore, serve to illustrate. Cicero, also, whom we would not, in other respects, compare with Plato, on this point resembles him, his interlocutors being all his countrymen, and belonging to his own day ; for which reason, though there be little that is really conversational in his dialogues, we sometimes persuade ourselves that they are but the shadows of things which once really were. Lucian is the father of the obviously imaginary dialogue, and his compositions, though neither profound nor philosophical, have still so unquestionable a touch of nature about them, so much wit, sportiveness, and vivacity, that we almost forget the scene and the speakers, and fancy ourselves dealing with realities.
Among the circumstances which tell in favour of Mr. Landor's plan is the variety of interest it has enabled him to excite. A certain number, for example, of the Conversations take place in Ancient Greece, and are designed to develope many of those sentiments and ideas which distinguished the inhabitants of that country.
These address themselves to scholars, though not exclusively. Since we have known even ladies to peruse the
Greek dialogues with pleasure. But in these, as in all other productions of genius, there are, if we may so express ourselves, several strata of meaning, and, contrary to what takes place in the material world, it is the furthest from the surface that is sometimes most prolific of life and beauty. Mr. Landor has gone through Greek literature, not with a net at his heels to drag after him all that he could catch, but with an infinitely susceptible mind adapted to receive and give back the fragrance which rests habitually, like a cloud, on that department of human knowledge. He does not imitate, but thinks and speaks in a kindred spirit. To relish completely therefore this section of his works, it is necessary to possess much instruction, to be somewhat familiar with the relations of the ancient world, to have a love for the creations of art, and to have studied the earlier history of civilisation, not as a pedant, but as a gentleman. In most writers the characters of antiquity are mere abstractions—things which repel familiarity-cold, stately, and distant in sympathy as in times. This is especially the case with the works which undertake to initiate youth in this part of knowledge. There is often no more passion or life in them than in a collection of algebraic signs; and even in works of more pretension, in histories expected to be read by men, the same frigid erudition and antithesis of vitality are found. In the “Imaginary Conversations” the Greeks, on the contrary, are not only Greeks, but men and women invested with all the feelings belonging to them,-alive to all the influences around them,-gay, thoughtful, sportive, impetuous, calm and speculative by turns. Look at the dialogue between Epicurus and two ladies in his garden : it convinces us that Mr. Landor has felt, in reading Plato, the omission which we have often noticed, and elsewhere pointed out ; for the descriptions and pictures commonly wanting in the Platonic dialogues are here introduced—with profusion, shall we say?-nay, not so, but with judicious liberality. From the first rapid view of their literature, it would almost seem as though the Greeks were indifferent to external nature. But were they? Socrates once said jocularly of himself that he went seldom into the country because he could learn nothing from fields and trees. Had we known him only from this speech, he would have appeared to us a sort of wise alderman, talking gloriously over hock and turtle, with a keen eye for his ledger, and a keener for political influence. But the old gentleman had a right to make free with himself, and to jest at his own expense. But was
NO. XX.--VOL. IV.
he careless of rural beauty? Did he eschew Nature and Solitude ? If we watch sharply his whereabout we shall find, that like Isaac he loved to meditate in the fields at eventide, to stretch himself under a spreading tree, and there, with the chirp of the grasshoppers in his cars, and the wind whistling through the boughs above, to watch the waves' of the Saronic Gulf, as they came in tumbling and flashing by the sharp, well-wooded, promontories of Salamis. In war, too, he was often found late at night strolling about the precincts of the camp, gazing at the surrounding woods, or watching the silent march of the constellations. IIad he possessed the wealth of Epicurus he would have probably bought or planted as fine a garden, though, like him, he would have chosen for it a spot near the city, and been quite as careful to have moist patches in it, that he might enjoy the fragrance of those flowers, the favourites of the Athenian people, which our own great poet has described as
“ Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes,
Or Cytherea's breath.” We advert to this Platonic personage because throughout Mr. Landor's “Epicurus” there are silent references and allusions to the Phædrus.
The very mythological fables which Socrates and his young friend tossed to and fro between them, are here touched
Orithyia, the mistress of the north wind, meets us in both dialogues ; and the reader who is familiar with the environs of Athens might in fact, perhaps, have thought it an omission had her story been quite overlooked. But can we accept Mr.. Landor's interpretation of Epicurus himself? Perhaps we may, though with some little reservation. He filled up ably the circle marked out for him by his principles : he was generally upright as an individual, excelled in all the arts and duties of friendship, and probably left behind him, when he died, more regrets and streaming eyes than any other philosopher. Yet Epicurus was a bad citizen. His philosophy was selfishness : it withdrew men from what is called the cares of ambition ; it nourished in them habits of mind incompatible with public life ; it rendered them contemplative, retiring, and for the most part effeminate, and left the business of the state entirely to other hands. It was a sort of philosophical monachism in which the indulgence of sense and imagination and the speculative propensity. was substituted for austere devotion, We love gardens ourselves, but we doubt.