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Sonnets. By the Rev. C. (TENNYSON) TURNER-On
Contributors to this Volume.
AUTHOR OF “JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN.”
1 TREVELYAN, G. 0. TURNER, REV. C. (TENNYSON.) WILSON, PROFESSOR GEORGE.
MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE, VOLUME I.
Handsomely bound in cloth, price 78. 6d.
The following are Contributors to Volume I.
ANSTED, PROFESSOR, F.R.S.
(The Editor of MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE cannot_undertake to return Manuscripts sent to him.]
THREE VICES OF CURRENT LITERATURE.
BY THE EDITOR,
NATURAL and becoming as it is to think measured by such a petty standard as modestly of the literary achievements the faculty of any one man to keep up of our own time, in comparison with with it as a reader, or even to survey it certain periods of our past literary his- as a critic? There is surely a larger tory, it may yet be asserted with some view of literature than this—according confidence that in no age has there been to which the expression of passing so large an amount of real ability en- thought in preservable forms is one of gaged in the conduct of British literature the growing functions of the race ; so as at present. Whether our topmost men that, as the world goes on, more and are equal in stature to the giants of ever more of what is remembered, some former generations, and whether reasoned, imagined, or desired on its the passing age is depositing on the surface, must necessarily be booked or shelf of our rare national classics mas- otherwise registered for momentary terpieces of matter and of form worthy needs and uses, and for farther action, to rank with those already there, are over long arcs of time, upon the spirit questions which need not be discussed of the future. According to this view, in connexion with our statement. It is the notion of the perseverance of our enough to remember that, for the three earth on its voyage ages hereafter with hundred publications or so which an- a freight of books increased, by sucnually issued from the British press cessive additions, incalculably beyond about the middle of the seventeenth that which already seems an overweight, century, we now produce every year
loses much of its discomfort; nay, in some five thousand publications of all this very vision of our earth as it shall sorts, and, probing this fleeting mass of be, carrying at length so huge a regiscontemporary authorship as far round tration of all that has transpired upon us and in as many directions as we can, it, have we not a kind of pledge that in order to appraise its contents, to see, the registration shall not have been in as I believe we should see, that the pro- vain, and that, whatever catastrophe digious increase of quantity has been ac- may await our orb in the farther chances companied by no deterioration of average of being, the lore it has accumulated quality. Lamentations are indeed com- shall not perish, but shall survive or mon over the increase of books in the detach itself, a heritage beyond the world. This, it is said, is the Mudiæval shipwreck? In plainer argument; alera. Do not these lamentations proceed, though in the immense diffusion of however, on a false view of literature, as literary capability in these days, there if its due limits at any time were to be may be causes tending to lower the
No. 7.-VOL. II.
highest individual efforts, is not the ciation towards our current literature, diffusion itself a gain, and is it after all that we venture to point out certain of consistent with fact that the supposed its wide-spread vices. The vices which causes are producing the alleged effect? we select are not those which might That there is a law of vicissitude in the turn out to be the deepest and most intellectual power of a nation; that, as radical; they are simply those that canthere are years of good crop and years of not fail to catch the eye from the extent bad crop in the vegetable world, so of surface which they cover. there are ages in a nation's life of
super- 1. There is the vice of the Slip-shod excellent nerve and faculty, and again or Slovenly. In popular language it ages intellectually feeble, seems may be described as the vice of bad satisfactory a generalization as any of workmanship. Its forms are various. the rough historical generalizations we The lowest is that of bad syntax, of lax yet have in stock; but that this law concatenation of clauses and sentences. of vicissitude implies diminished ca- It would be easy to point out faults of pacity in the highest individuals accord- this kind which reappear in shoals in ing as the crowd increases, does not each day's supply of printed matterappear. The present era of British from the verbs misnominatived, and the literature, counting from the year 1789, clumsy “whiches” looking back rueis as rich, as brilliant with lustrous fully for submerged antecedents, so names, as any since the Elizabethan era common in the columns of our hæsty and its continuation, from 1580 to 1660; writers, up to the unnecessarily repeated nay, if we strike out from the Elizabe- “that” after a conditional clause which than firmament its majestic twin-lumi- some writers insert with an infatuated naries, Shakespeare and Bacon, our punctuality, and even the best insert firmament is the more brilliantly studded occasionally. Should the notice of a -studded with the larger stars. Nothing matter so merely mechanical seem too but a morose spirit of disregard for what trivial, there is, next, that form of the is round us, or an excess of the com- slip-shod which consists in stuffing out mendable spirit of affection for the past, sentences with certain tags and shreds or, lastly, an utter ignorance of the actual of phraseology lying vague about society, books of the past which we do praise, as bits of undistributed type may lie prevents us from seeing that many of about a printing-room. “We are free the poets and other authors even of the to confess," "we candidly acknowgreat Elizabethan age, who retain their ledge,” “will well repay perusal," places in our collections, or that, still should heartily rejoice," "did space permore decidedly, many of the celebrities mit,” “causes beyond our control," " if of that later age which is spanned by we may be allowed the expression," Johnson's “Lives of the Poets,” were commence hostilities”.
;”—what are these but poetasters and poor creatures, com- and a hundred other such phrases but pared with relative authors of the last undistributed bits of old speech, like seventy years. Test the matter roughly the “electric fluid” and the “launched in what is called our current literature. into eternity” of the penny-a-liners, What an everlasting fuss we do make which all of us are glad to clutch, to fill about Junius and his letters! And yet a gap, or to save the trouble of comthere is no competent person but will posing equivalents from the letters ? admit that these letters will not stand a To change the figure (see, I am at it comparison, in any respect of real in- myself !), what are such phrases but a tellectual merit, with many of the lead- kind of rhetorical putty with which ing articles which are written overnight cracks in the sense are stopped, and proat present by contributors to our daily longations formed where the sense has newspapers, and skimmed by us at broken short? Of this kind of slipbreakfast next morning.
shod in writing no writers are more It is, therefore, in no spirit of depre- guilty than those who have formed their