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notion of it from the Pentameron. Does any one of our readers doubt this 3 Let him take his stick in his hand, and accompany the Canonico, Petrarca from Boccacio's table, all the way to the Church of Certaldo, and observe the merry groups that frisk and twine about it during the half hour immediately before mass. We confess to have always nourished a sort of partiality for Petrarca, with his frank democratic notions, and exalted rhapsodies about love. And it is much to be feared that he is the type of his class. An enthusiastic nature is the root of all sorts of passions, some of which betake themselves to the worship of Liberty, while their brethren, perhaps, are equally assiduous at the shrine of Beauty. Thus Petrarca devoted himself to the Roman republic and to Laura, idealising both, and casting around them a halo of loveliness, which was by no means imaginary, though no eyes but those of affection could discover it. The Pentameron, taken altogether, is a strange book, exhibiting the utmost self-devotion in the author, since it is clear that he cared not in writing it to how small a circle he addressed himself. He knew well that it would prove caviare to the general ; first, because they can't understand it; and second, because they wouldn't take the trouble if they could. A large portion of it is Dutch to them. What do they know about the “Inferno?” What about Dante's Ghibelline leanings 2 How little even about Petrarca's connection with Rienzi ? Nay, Boccacio's own works, so popular once, so widely read, so many times translated, have slipped at length out of public notice, and are piled up with the grand things to be brought forward, like heir-loom plate, on highdays and holidays only. Virgil, Ovid, and Catullus, to be sure, have got their readers, and therefore the criticisms on them may be read with interest. But by how many? It was formerly, and still we believe is, somewhat uncommon to do justice to Ovid, because there is a prescriptive way of judging of genius which, in truth, is no judgment at all, but only servile repetition of what others have said. This, however, as might be expected, is not the principle upon which criticism is based in the Pentameron. Ovid is there placed, where he ought to be, at the head of the Latin poets, for imagination, fancy, and inexhaustible interest: his great work, a sort of mythological Arabian Nights, only lacks expansion to be the most charming series of tales in the world; as it is, nothing of the kind can match it, either in ancient or modern literature. In his appreciation of Catullus and Lucretius also, Mr. Landor differs from most crities, though if they heard him, with his sonorous, rich, and flexible voice, repeat their choice verses, they would, perhaps, find his recitation more convincing than a learned commentary. But the ancients are only discussed by the way in the Pentameron; the principal object is to place the characters of three men, those of Dante, Petrarca, and Boccacio, in their proper light before the public. That, we say, is what is aimed at, though, in regard to Dante, Mr. Landor is sometimes, we think, more severe than just. Not that we, by any means, accept the current estimate of that poet, or desire to see him placed on the same level with Milton, or even higher—as he is by some critics; but we claim for him the credit of having written considerably more good poetry than Petrarea and Boccacio are willing in the Pentameron to allow. The plan of the work is exceedingly ingenious. The poet comes to visit his friend when he was lying ill in his house near Certaldo. Both were growing old, and had written most of those works by which they are known to posterity. The circumstances of their meeting, the small delicate touches by which their friendship for each other is indieated, the situation of Boccacio, his house, his garden, his stable, the honest affectionate country wench who serves him, her humble rustic lover, the bold Friar Fra Biagio, who plays the part of physician to our author and confessor to his maid;—all these things we say, and much more, come out admirably in the course of the work, which, had the poets whose merits are discussed, been anything but what they were, foreigners, must surely have become popular. But they who take alarm at the few Latin and Italian verses, are frightened by a shadow, since nearly all that is good in the book may be relished whether they understand them or not. We allude to those thoughts, images, comparisons, reflections, maxims, which the author piles up amid his criticisms to give them weight and splendour. Few Englishmen have ever understood Italy—its history, political relations, literature and art, as well as Mr. Landor. None, we should say, since the days in which Sir Henry Wotton was ambassador at Venice; and in the Pentameron, more than elsewhere, we feel the result. It would be impossible for any other writer with whom we are acquainted to revivify Petrarea and Boccacio in the way in which they are here brought to life again and placed bodily on the stage. To render the difference between them less perceptible, and his own task, consequently, more difficult, Mr. Landor has introduced them when age had mellowed them both, and produced a certain likeness; the influence of which, however, he had studiously to guard against. The fear was, lest he should present the reader with a man and his echo; but he has not done this. Petrarca has his peculiar qualities, and Boccacio his ; and, therefore, though they agree often, and, when they disagree, are too affectionate and friendly to draw their differences with a sharp edge, we are conscious all along that we are in company with two distinct individuals, who have a different system of thoughts within, expressed externally by a different physiognomy, manners, habits, and vocabulary. To use a phrase somewhat hacknyed in our day, the Pentameron is a work of art; that is, has been constructed on a plan skilfully conceived and most ably developed. The predominant feeling is joyousness, though here and there, there be a sprinkling of sadness, thus by contrast to render the joy more apparent. The story of Maria, told with much feeling, and unusual reserve of lange, may be regarded as a sort of tragedy of innocence of but too frequent occurrence where priests live in celibacy. Nor are individuals so much to blame as the Church, which, by audaciously making war upon Nature, exposes herself to necessary defeat. In one way or another Nature triumphs over everything—our institutions, laws, and superstitions break down before her. In taste and temperament Mr. Landor belongs to the practical school of philosophy, and bears the same relation to the highly imaginative and spiritual class of writers that a Greek temple bears to a Gothic cathedral. His proportions are regular, and his expressions pre-eminently clear. You can seldom misunderstand him; never, perhaps, if you will be at the necessary pains; because he confines his speculations to “this bank and shoal of time,” and takes no notice of those faculties and aspirations which find no resting-place upon all the vast sphere of material things, but project upwards towards the unknown, to which they have the strongest affinity. A work made up of discussion on such subjects would be insufferable; but we love to see secular speculations overhung by a metaphysical atmosphere, which serves them in lieu of an aerial perspective, and beautifully covers their point of contact with the infinite. There is, as we have said, little or nothing of this in Mr. Landor, and this lack of spirituality is his chief defect. His elevation, when he is elevated, springs from the force of eloquence. He is nervous, bold in argument, unsparing of sarcasm. He enlivens his pages with wit, with anecdote, with jests; he passes adroitly from topic to topic; calls in to his aid sometimes sentiment, sometimes passion, sometimes reason; displays a degree of knowledgerarely possessed by an author—a familiarity with all times, and nearly all countries; aperfect acquaintance with the laws of art and criticism. These are his claims, and they are great and numerous, to public attention. We have endeavoured to be just to him, though we have been compelled to pass over, unnoticed, several of his most important writings, such as the “Letters of Pericles and Aspasia,” and the “Examination of William Shakespeare,” each of which would justify a separate article. But where there are so many remarkable productions, some must have the preference, and this is often determined by chance—we mean the chance of the hour, for it was certainly our intention to have endeavoured, at least, to entertain the reader with some account of his Shakesperian performance, which ought universally to be read in this country, where we, very rightly, look upon Shakespeare as one of the greatest expounders of human nature. Some day, perhaps, we may repair our oversight, as those are not works of a season, but things which can afford to wait till critics and the public find them out, when the balance of benefits will decidedly be in favour of the two latter.
RESEARCHES IN BELGRAVIA ;
DEAREST MRs. RusTLER,- The fluttering sensibilities which have distinguished your poor friend ever since her introduction to this valley of Tears, were. never in a state of more active agency than at the present moment. Suspense impending, stands between me and every sober thought —a chaotic confusion involves apparently every halcyon dream— and waters my pillow with the tears of disturbance. The wings of the Dove, my dear, are desirable;—but, checking finite repinings, let me throw together, for your information, a few of the features which distinguish the moral organisation of this remark
able province. Happy they in whom the abstractive faculties induce peace of mind! You asked me to ascertain for the benefit of the watchfully Christian Society at Wailford, how far Lady Tallboys is received: dubious in the delicacy of your own charity, to what measure matrons to whom the virtue of England's daughters is entrusted, should hold communion with one so conspicuous;–and humbly desirous of the guidance of aristocratic example. A question like this, my dear, exuberates beyond the boundaries of established precepts: and while the World's opinion is what no one ought to brave, however summoned by the pleadings of commiserative Humanity, it reserves to itself the power of holding out the golden sceptre, by which a veil of oblivion is cast over the follies of too impulsive Youth, eager alas ! (to quote Mrs. Hemans’ “Psyche,”)
To follow wheresoe'er the flatterer sings,
—and, in pursuit of pleasure, to allow Decorum's stately self to stand eclipsed 1 Moreover the rigidities of rural censoriousness melt in the more liberal metropolitan atmosphere. So it must ever be ; the sphere widened. The bibulous propensities of your Mrs. Wiggs would here merge in the whirl of which she was so undistinguished an atom. Nor do I think that Mr. Podd's unbecoming temper would manifest itself as an evil of such water, in an orbit where the most different opinions must accustom themselves to clash without endangerment to concord. This, my dear, is a city's latitudinarian side: but I am daily learning to temper keen-sightedness with charity, and to veil the abstinence from levity in my own person with the smile that engages, not the frown which dooms the less pure to hopeless despair. Rhadamanthus, dearest friend, was no Christian. According, then, to the milder rule of * * * * pity suggests that the past of Lady Tallboys should be merged. The active kindliness of her disposition warrants the hope that the stray lamb has returned to a sense of uprightness. Every appearance authenticates this. How overflowing with the milk of human charity is Belgravia . Her breakfasts are sought for by the most luxurious récherchés; Cabinet Ministers take part in them—their Ladies too. The most immaculate among the Peerage reciprocate companionship in vehicles with Lady Tallboys. Her excellent" aunt (a martyr to deafness) never quits her side' We have rea