« AnteriorContinuar »
read twenty pages of it, and not be con not of much interest or importance : vinced of the truth and justice of our probably a feeble, confined, and scarceremarks: and if they be true, can our ly living spark of superior intellect, inference be doubted ?-will it not ra was struggling into a flame, and in its ther receive immediate and full assent struggles was assisted by the fuel ap—that the intellectual character and plied to it from the sources we have attainments of authors and readers, or, mentioned: we need only reflect on in other words, of the public at large, our own acquirements in knowledge have risen very considerably within the and taste, to be convinced how often last fifty years?. The facts, that perio- they have sprung up from the accidical publications are infinitely more dental perusal of some work, which numerous at present, than they were neither our literary habits would have then—and that they are so various in induced us, nor our acquirements their character and subjects, or in their would have enabled us, to enter on the individual contents, as to suit all tastes, list of our regular and appropriate habits, and pursuits,-prove, with studies. equal force, that the cultivation of the It is much more interesting, and of mind, the acquisition of knowledge, much more consequence, to reflect on and a desire to acquire more, are intis the undoubted fact, that literature acts nitely more common at present, than on the public acquirements and taste, they were at the former period. and that these re-act on the character
Here are two grand and most inte of the literature. The period at which resting facts evidently connected: more an evident and essential improvement powerful intellect, and more accurate and elevation of our periodical publicaand extensive information, spread over tions took place, may be traced back to a larger surface of the community : the first French revolutionary war. All this is one fact : periodical publications sudden, violent, and extreme chandisplaying infinitely more ability, ges, are highly injurious to the phy, treating of a much greater variety of sical, as well as the intellectual and subjects—a vast increase in the num- moral nature of man; but while these ber of them respectively; and a still changes often produce the most fatal greater increase in their individual results to his physical constitution, circulation, and consequently in their and seldom any good at all proporaggregate sale : this is another fact. tionate to the evil, they are, generally Which is the cause, and which the speaking, ultimately and permanently effect? Or rather, shall we not find that beneficial to the intellectual and moin this, as well as in most cases of ad- ral portion of his nature. Much and vancement in the progress of mankind dreadful mischief undoubtedly results, in civilization, comfort, wealth, political, and the influence of this spreads far, civil, and religious freedom, and in in and often lasts long: the belief, which tellectual and moral habits and attain-, was grounded on superstition, ignoments generally—that circumstances rance, authority, and mere habit, and change their character-sometimes ap- which, of course, embraced and conpearing as undoubted causes, the ten founded much that was erroneous and dency, operation, and precise results hurtful with some undoubted and vaof which, can be traced with clearness luable truths, is shaken from its founthrough all their ramifications; and at dation, and in its fall involves in its other times, appearing as effects, which fate doctrines sound and unsound, flow, as from their natural and obvious those that solace and elevate man, causes, from those circumstances, with those that terrify and degrade which previously had been brought him; those that render him a cheerinto existence by those means which ful subject of a free government, with now are their results ?
those that fit him to become the bruBut which is the primary and ori- tified and stupid slave of despotism, ginal cause? Did a demand exist in But in this dreadful overthrow and the more extended and influential li- destruction, the finger of wisdom and terary habits and tastes of the people benevolence is still visible : what for a greater number and variety, and erroneous and prejudicial can a higher class, of periodical publica- again take its former powerful rou tions; or were these first produced, and what is true and beneficial, fixeu and thence resulted the improvement on its own peculiar basis, will have of the popular mind? The inquiry is greater stability, uphold a loftier and
broader superstructure, and cannot gradations, even of some duration, the possibly in future run any risk of onward movementof mankind towards being involved in the overthrow of greater civilization and happiness is error, or, indeed, be essentially injured going on, and, in certain periods of time, by any catastrophe. In the dreadful may easily be observed and measured. crisis of sudden, violent, and extreme But to suppose that mankind can changes, not only will all ancient be- advance in civilization and happiness, lief be attacked, and the most absurd without at the same time advancing and dangerous speculative and practiin knowledge, is to suppose the consecal maxims be propounded and enfor- quence to exist independently of its ced, but the obliquity of the under- natural and proper cause ; and, in standing, which these indicate and reality, we need no other proof that a encourage, will be still farther drawn nation has advanced in knowledge and aside from the path of truth, duty, and the general tone and elevation of its happiness, by the indulgence and nou- intellect, than the circumstance of its rishment of the most fierce, intract- being more civilized and prosperous able, and poisonous passions of the hu- than it was before. man breast.
But it is scarcely necessary to enThe dominion of the worst passions deavour to prove these positions by geof the human breast, even when they neral and abstract reasoning: whoever are directed and aided by the coolness will compare the present state of the of a satanic understanding, are, how- national mind in Britain as it is now, ever, from the wise and benevolent with the state in which it was thirty constitution of our nature, and the years ago, will be convinced of the equally wise and benevolent course of fact, that it is stronger, more comhuman events, as little capable of being prehensive in its grasp, more active permanent and lasting as the domi- and capable of digesting and assiminion of error. The impulse and agita- lating a greater portion of more noution of such a dreadful crisis cannot rishing food : its growth is evident; rouse and exercise the mind with- and it is equally evident, that the cirout benefiting it: it produces, in- cumstances in which this country was deed, a moral earthquake, bringing to placed during the last thirty years, the surface the lava which destroys though many of them frequently and overwhelms all in its progress; threatened to inflict a fatal blow on but this lava itself, in a short time, is the intellectual as well as the moral converted into a fertile soil, fitted to portion of our nature, and actually did nourish and rear, not only the com- inflict a blow, that, but for that prinmon produce, but to cause those seeds ciple which wisely and benevolently to germinate, which, but for this connects evil with good, must have been convulsion, would have still lain dor- fatal—these circumstances, we repeat, mant and useless in the bosom of the were mainly instrumental in effecting earth.
the advancement to which we have To permit ourselves to believe that alluded. all the dreadful evils of misery and The exertion of intellect called for vice that flow from such events as and provoked by these circumstances, those France exhibited during her re- was nourished and supported by varivolutionary state, will not be followed ous other subordinate circumstances, and compensated in the course of time which, though, like the grand and paby a still greater portion of benefit to ramount ones, they did much mischief the human race, is to permit ourselves in their direct and immediate conseto lose faith and confidence in the quences, produced ultimately permawisdom, power, or benevolence of nent good. We allude to the publicaProvidence-one, or other, or all of tions that sprung out of the French them. We may not be able to see so revolution, and the part that this counclearly and so far as to observe these try took on that occasion. The strucbenefits, any more than we can pe- ture of human belief must at first be netrate into the wisdom and bene- built up, in part at least, of improper volence of Providence, in the pro- materials, and must rest on a foundaduction of earthquakes, or any other tion not exactly of the broadest and physical calamity. But such must be firmest kind; in the same manner as the course and tendency of events both the edifices erected in ignorance of the in the physical and moral world; principles of mechanics and architecthough there may be occasional retro- ture cannot be so stable and conveni
ent as those erected on a knowledge of lent and lasting correctives, such have these principles : it would be desirable been applied to us, and that they, actthat human belief might be gradually ing on a healthy and vigorous constiand cautiously freed from its impro- tution, have benefited us far more than per materials, and that the weak parts the nations of the Continent have been of its base might be strengthened; but benefited by passing through the fiery this, if we may judge from the history ordeal of the French Revolution. of mankind, can hardly be expected : But, to press more closely and diand the friend of mankind and human rectly on our immediate subject.- The nity will do well to dwell as lightly stirring up of the mind which took and shortly as possible on the violent place during the French Revolution, and destructive process of the change, which went deeper, and acted in a and to fix his attention, interest, and more thorough and forcible manner, hopes, on the alteration, after it has than perhaps any preceding event in actually been accomplished.
the history of the human race--gave We of this country, however, have rise to the demand for more numerous been greatly and peculiarly favoured :, and various publications, as well as for prior to the French Revolution, our a superior quality in their character state, physical, intellectual, moral, po and contents. Common-place subjects, litical, and religious, was far superior treated in a common-place manner, to that of any other nation : it requi- would no longer satisfy the appetite, red less change, and it admitted of or afford sufficient nourishment for the that change being brought about by rapid growth, of the public mind. less violent measures, by the applica- Many more thought and read than fortion of less evil and misery: accord- merly; and their thoughts were of a ingly, while all the other countries that more original cast and bearing. lay within the influence of the French Confining ourselves to periodical Revolution—the influence either of its works; perhaps the first indication of power or of its principles--were torn this elevation and expansion of mind by most dreadful evils, this country being so urgent, regular, and general, suffered comparatively little: the obli as to demand a corresponding improvequity of intellect, the pollution of mo ment in the character of these publiral and religious principle, the mass cations, may be observed in the Monthand extent of physical misery, were ly Magazine. Contrast this with the very trifling compared with the state other Magazines, and we shall be imof the Continent. And from the evils mediately and fully sensible that an that were actually brought upon this age which could understand and recountry she emerged much sooner, and lish their contents, must previously derived greater benefit, than the other have advanced considerably in knownations. One of the indirect evils to ledge, power of intellect, and taste. which sudden and violent changes ex. The effects were of various kinds, all poses a nation, is that of re-action; this tending, however, to the same end, -also was in this country less powerful, the cultivation of the mind. Magazineinjurious, and lasting, than it has been readers embraced a higher class than on the Continent. For some time, in- formerly, who thus were enabled to deed, we were so haunted by the dread fill up their leisure moments in a. of change, that we seemed to hug our manner to which they were previously most barefaced errors, rather than ac strangers. And those who liad always knowledge and remove them : this re. been Magazine-readers, though peraction, however, is fast passing away; haps at first they did not understand and convinced as we now are, that and relish the contents of the new one, truth ard error ought not to rest on gradually entered into its spirit: their the same basis--that the former, in attention was excited; their minds such a case, must be weakened, and were set a-working; and attentive and that, by using great care and caution, active minds must rise and expand. truth may be fixed on its own pecu The Monthly Magazine, during the liar foundation, by which operation vigour of its youthful existence, was error must fall to the ground, no longer well fitted to aid the mental improvederiving support from being as it ment of Magazine-readers: it did not were dovetailed with truth, with this. contain much profoùnd and original conviction we may congratulate our matter, drawn from the depths of inselves, that, having required less vio tense thought; it did not lay bare, and VOL. XVI.
expose to view, the most delicate work-' but the high gratification which they ings of the human heart: it laid no thus secured to themselves, also be. claims to that real and rare eloquence, came more numerous, and required which, generated and nurtured at once that their Magazine should no longer and equally by a luxuriant imagina admit papers, useful and instructive tion, intense feelings, and the ability indeed, but devoted to subjects below to direct and control that imagination, the level of their intellectual habits and to depict those feelings in all their and pursuits. Hence the contents of vitality and ardour-is the highest at the Magazines became divided ; and tribute of man, considered solely as a instead of a Magazine being the repobeing of imagination and feeling. But sitory of papers on a great variety of its pages contained many papers, in topics, literary, technical, domestic, which were condensed and exhibited &c., it was found that almost every in a perspicuous and popular manner, one department was sufficient to supthoughts, opinions, and reasonings, on port and fill its own peculiar Magathose topics which were well calcula zine. Thus, we now see such a vated to strengthen and expand the intel riety of these periodical publications : lect, and refine the taste of its readers. the mechanic, the chemist, the man
A subordinate point in the charac who dabbles in physic, &c. &c. has tèr and contents of this Magazineought his own Magazine, while the weekly to be noticed : it gave admission to, pages of the Mirror, and a number be and courted, short papers, containing sides, which it is needless, and would queries and answers to queries on va almost be endless, to enumerate, by the rious topics of popular and practical extent of their sale, sufficiently prove science, literature, domestic economy, the extent of dominion which intel&c., which were not of magnitude and lect of some kind and degree at preimportance enough to form the sub sent possesses in this country. It has stance of direct and elaborate essays. insinuated itself into every nook and Thus, much useful and interesting in corner; and as, like caloric, it expands forination was communicated to its whatever it enters into it must enlarge readers, and many, who were attract the capacity of the human mind, creed to its perusal by those short papers ate new intellectual desires and wants, on subjects interesting, familiar, and and the means of satisfying them. adapted to their minds, or useful to We have already said, that the li. them, in a more practical sense, were terary class of readers were no longer naturally and insensibly led to peruse content to possess Magazines only its more literary contents. It was, in partly devoted to them. The Monthly deed, during the first stage of its ex Magazine had drawn into the class of istence, literally and strictly speaking, Magazine readers and writers men of a Magazine, a repository and store higher talent and attainments than house for papers on all subjects that had generally and usually so devoted could interest and instruct all classes their leisure before its existence. Such of men, in nearly every respect except men gradually became more numeas regarded their peculiar or profes- rous, as well as
rous, as well as of higher ambition and sional studies and pursuits. And, even aim : they could not long remain conon many of these topics,---not, indeed, tent with a Magazine only partly dein their more recondite and technical voted to them, nor would they be sadepartments,-information was fre tisfied with a Magazine, exclusively quently communicated.
set apart for them, unless it also rose As, however, readers of periodical to a higher elevation of talent. Hence, works multiplied, a division of labour Magazines necessarily assumed a much became indispensably necessary: many more respectable rank in the literature classes and descriptions of men, who of the country, and numbered among previously were not sufficiently well their writers and readers, men who, at informed and eager after information a previous period, would have thought to require a periodical publication ad- themselves degraded by contributing apted to their peculiar pursuits, now to such works, or who would have anrose into intellectual importance and ticipated disappointment if they had influence. And those who might more taken up such works with the expecstrictly be called literary men,-men tation of finding in them anything who cultivated their judgment and original, or indicating superior talents. taste with no ulterior object in view This Magazine for which we are
now writing, must, by all, be allowed be overlooked and undervalued, and the merit of having first raised the li never reach the perusal of those who terary character of these periodical alone were able to understand their works : however men may differ re purport and appreciate their value. specting the political principles it has The example set by this Magazine defended, and the manner in which it of ours has been followed by other has attacked its political opponents, Magazines; but they have followed none can fairly deny it this merit, us—is it vanity and prejudice, or mere and it is merit of no common and tri- justice and respect for ourselves, which fling kind. When we consider the in- prompts us to say, hand passibusæquis ? fluence of a Magazine of extensive cir- Still, as fellow-workers in the same culation, it surely must be of great field with ourselves—a field which afconsequence that its pages should tend fords ample, unoccupied, and unlato elevate the intellect of its readers; boured ground for all-we must rethat they should rise from its perusal, gard them as contributing in their denot merely delighted and gratified by gree to raise the intellect of the couna display of fine or eloquent writing, try, to increase the number of sounil but having their taste purified, their thinkers, and to spread over a wider comprehension enlarged, their judg- surface the influence of a correct taste. ment rendered stronger, and their ha We speak generally, for we are aware bits of observation and reflection quick, that there are many things very objecened and confirmed.
tionable in them ; but we adhere to our If it be observed that papers of a
creed, that the ultimate and permalight cast form a large proportion, it
nent results of the excitement and should be recollected that the mind as workings of the mind must be advanwell as the body of man must have its tageous, and that it is better that men intervals of relaxation and amusement;
should be led to exercise their mental that papers, even on light topics, if faculties in a wrong direction and on an written with talent, wit, or humour, erroneous object, than that they should cannot be perused, even as sources of lie dormant and unused. Evil may amusement, without setting the mind and will result to the individuals themof the reader to work, or purifying it selves; but even though with them it from some elements of bad taste, pre- should never work its own destruction, judice, or error,—and that many, who it must do so, before long, as respects are entirely attracted to the perusal of the intellectual and moral habits of the a Magazine by such papers, are after- community. Truth requires only light, wards insensibly led to the perusal room, and fair play, to gain the masof more substantial papers, and thus tery over error. gradually obtain a higher order of li The change in the character and terary habits. We have hitherto con object of the Reviews was another confined our remarks to the advantages sequence and proof of an advancement readers derive from this improvement in the intellectual state of the counin Magazines : but writers also are try; and this change reciprocally has benefited by it: Many before, who tended still farther to improve that were conscious that they possessed ta state. Till the establishment of the lents and information to interest and Edinburgh Review, the Reviews were instruct, had no means or opportunity deficient in two grand and essential of bringing them into exercise; their points. They gave a very loose, imdiffidence, or their occupations, did not perfect, and careless account of books permit them to go forth to the world generally. Some instances there were, in separate publications :-—perhaps indeed, in which the criticism introwhat they could communicate, though duced the reader to a clear, full, imparoriginal and valuable, was not of suf- tial, and satisfactory knowledge of the ficient magnitude. Previously to the contents of the book, and to the manner improvement in Magazines, there was in which it was executed in respect to no fitting place for their lucubrations; talent, information, taste, and style. even if they could have condescended But these cases were rare. The other to transmit them to the old Magazines, desideratum was of a higher class, and to be there degraded and defiled by not so easily filled up. In our opipapers on an obscure tombstone, on a nion, a Review, to answer the compolish for furniture, or blacking for plete purpose of such a publication, shoes, they would have been deterred ought to contain, not only an accurate by the reflection, that there they would and impartial account of the contents