« AnteriorContinuar »
In garden bowers at twilight : like the sound
The love her eyes betray to all the world beside.' pp. 169–70. This picture of youthful and extinguished beauty has the same characteristic eloquence.
• A word-a breath revives her! od she stands
As beautiful, and young, and free from care,
young, I said ; and her thick tresses were
The silence they so long had kept before.' pp. 181, 182. But the most pathetic and delicate of these smaller pieces, in our estimation, is one entitled The Last Song,' supposed to be sung by a young and innocent girl, who feels herself dying of long cherished and undisclosed love. The sentiments and the diction appear to us to be equally exquisite--and the measure, though rather uncommon, to be eminently beautiful. It runs as follows.
• Must it be? Then farewell,
Farewell! and be this song
strain (Never yet heard by thee) hath this poor breath Uttered, of Love and Death, And maiden grief, hidden and chid in vain. Oh! if in after
And, like a broken flower, gently decay.' pp. 183, 184. All this seems to us very delightful; and we are almost ashamed to say-hoary sages as we now are-how completely we have abandoned ourselves to the fascination of strains that may ap
suited only to the ears of youths and virgins. But the heart, if well managed, does not grow soon old;- and we hope always to be young enough to dwell with delight on such verses as Mr Cornwalls, and to feel a very lively interest in their multiplication and success.
We hear that he is now engaged on an entire tragedy,-for the appearance of which we shall watch with some impatience. The diction, we are quite confident, will be more truly dramatic than any thing our age has yet seen ;-and of the pathos and poetry we feel almost equally secure. But we have some fears for the fable ;—and are not without our misgivings as to his management of the bolder characters and more rapid scenes, without which the business of representation cannot well be got over. But, on the whole, we think he has a better chance of success than any one who has adventured in this way in the memory of the existing generation.
Art. XII. Speech of Lord John Russell in the House of Con
mons, on the 14th December 1819, for transferring the Elective Franchise from Corrupt Boroughs to Unrepresented Great Towns. 8vo. Longman & Co. London, 1820.
It is now two years since we promised to lay before the public
such thoughts as had occurred to us on those plans of • Constitutional Reform which might gradually unite the most * reasonable friends of Liberty, and of which we should not • despair to see some part adopted under the guidance of a lie
beral and firm government. However uncertain the accomplishment of our hopes may now appear, the circumstances of the times will no longer allow us to delay the performance of this promise. The establishment of new constitutions in foreign countries, increases the general importance of this subject: But the progress of discontent and agitation at home, renders its consideration a matter of immediate and paramount urgency.
It would be a fatal error to suppose that the destruction of despotism is necessarily attended by the establishment of liberty. Revolutions do not bestow liberty. They only give a chance for it;—a great indeed and unspeakable blessing, worthy of being pursued at every hazard; but not to be confounded with the institution of a free government. It is easy to burn a bad house, but sometimes difficult to build a good one in its stead : And the difference between destroying and constructing, is immeasurably greater in the case of government, than in that from which we have borrowed our illustration. It was long ago justly observed, by a writer of equal sense and wit, that • it is impossible to settle any government by a model that shall
hold, as men contrive ships and buildings: for governments
are made, like natural productions, by degrees, according as • their materials are brought in by time, and those parts that
are unagreeable to their nature, cast off.' + A living writer, distinguished by a like union of eminent faculties, remarks, that • Constitutions are in fact productions that can neither be cre• ated nor transplanted. They are the growth of time, not the • invention of ingenuity; and to frame a complete system of
government, depending on habits of reverence and experience, is an attempt as absurd as to build a tree, or manufac
* Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxi. p. 199. $ The Remains of Samuel Butler, vol. ii. p. 481.
'ture an opinion.' † These just and striking observations are not quoted to dishearten enslaved nations in the pursuit of liberty. We would not, if it depended upon us, repress their zeal; but we would, if it were possible, contribute somewhat to enlighten their judgment. We would earnestly exhort them, in their first attempts at legislation, to aim only at a sketch of
ose institutions, without which Liberty cannot exist,--to connect them, wherever it is possible, with the ancient fabric of their societies,—and to leave the outline to be gradually filled up by their successors. When experience has ascertained the effects of their first legislation, and when generally acknowledged inconveniences require to be remedied by new laws,-without observing such principles, they are likely, in Aying from an old despotism, to fall into the arms of some of those new tyrannies, which, under a thousand forms, lie in wait for all communities, but especially for those who are engaged in the enterprise of laying the first foundations of Liberty.
A difference of opinion may be entertained on the expediency of some civil institutions, and the importance of others; but that no nation can be free, without some Representation of the people, is one of the very few positions, in which all men who pretend to a love of liberty are agreed. Nothing then can be of more importance than the prevalence of right opinions on the mode of amending such a representation where it is thought defective, or of establishing it where it did not exist before. By such opinions only can free states be saved from convulsion; and by them alone, can revolution in absolute monarchies be rendered productive of permanent freedom.
Deeply, however, as we are interested in the fortune of foreign nations struggling for liberty, the condition of our own country has, at the present moment, still stronger claims on our consideration. The extent of the evils which at present threaten us is not denied by any party ; and, least of all, by the adherents of the present administration : They are the foremost to tell us that our situation is more perilous than it has been at any period since the Revolution. It is said, on the one hand, that the proprietory and educated classes are the oppressors of the people. It is asserted with equal exaggeration on the other, that the body of the people are become determined enemies not only of the English constitution, but of all property, law and
| Letter to a Neapolitan from an Englishman, 1815, printed in 1818; but unpublished, though peculiarly worthy, at the present crisis, of being considered by those Neapolitans who aim at establishing their liberties on a solid foundation.
religion. The most dispassionate observers cannot deny, that the bonds which hold together the various orders of society, have for the last six years been rapidly loosening; that many of the higher classes betray a dread of liberty, and many of the more numerous show an impatience of authority; and that it is the natural tendency of such a state of things, to terminate in a mortal combat between extreme and irreconcileable factions. Whatever supposition we may adopt respecting the origin of these evils,—whether we ascribe them, with some, to the sins of the people, or with others to the faults of the
government, or with a third party to the distresses of the times, cooperating with either or both of the foregoing causes ;-on all suppositions the evils themselves continue the same, and their probable termination remains equally uncertain and alarming. It is impossible to calculate either the time in which the causes of civil confusion grow to maturity, or the chances that, if that time be long, unforeseen circumstances may check their progress. But if they should now proceed to their natural close, we may continue to assert that there is much in the present structure and circumstances of our society to aggravate the common evils of political contention; and that, whoever may be the conqueror, the British Constitution must perish in the contest. What successive systems of liberty or tyranny, may rise hereafter from its ruins, will depend on events which are beyond the reach of our controul, and even of our conjectures.
It cannot be denied, that one of the two expedients for suppressing national discontent has been fully tried. A fair experiment has been made on the force of arms and of laws. Prosecutions and punishments have not been wanting. New penalties have been annexed to political offences. New restrictions have been imposed on the exercise of political rights. It may be safely stated, that coercion and restraint cannot be carried much further, without openly renouncing the forms of the constitution, or adopting new institutions for administering the law. And even if such new institutions could be adopted, it would be difficult to find men educated under the British Constitution who would be well qualified to take a part in those arbitrary and summary measures, which form the whole poliey of the admirers of what is called vigorous government. With the best inclinations in the world for their new task, most of them would prove mere novices in oppression, and very clumsy instruments of tyranny. The old and deep-rooted_feelings created by a system of law and liberty, like that of England, will occasion frequent misgivings in the minds of those who are called upon to execute new plans for restriction; while, on the other hand,
VOL. XXXIV. NO. 68.