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'This unenquiring conformity appears not immediately to have yielded to the condemnation of it pronounced by the divines at Trent. The Anglicun reformation was completed by the publication of the articles of religion, exhibiting the creed of that establishment, which, upon the whole, deserves commendation, in the only points where the authors could exercise any discretion; for treating the ancient church with considerable approaches to decency, and for preferring quiet, piety, and benevolence to precision and consistency: not pressing those doctrines to their utmost logical consequences, which, by such a mode of inference, lead only to hatred, to blood, and often to a corruption of moral principle.
'A translation of the Scripture was published by authority, which, after passing through several emendations, became, in the succeeding reign, the basis of our present version. This was the work of translators not deeply versed in the opinions, languages, manners, and institutions of the ancient world, who were born before the existence of eastern learning in Europe, and whose education was completed before the mines of criticism had been opened, either as applied to the events of history, or to the reading, interpretation, and genuineness of ancient writings. On these accounts, as well as on account of the complete superannuation of some parts of its vocabulary, it undoubtedly requires revision and emendation. Such a task, however, should only be entrusted to hands skilful and tender, in the case of a translation which, to say nothing of the connection of its phraseology with the religious sensibilities of a people, forms the richest storehouse of the native beauties of our ancient tongue; and by frequent yet reverential perusal has, more than any other cause, contributed to the permanency of our language, and thereby to the unity of our literature. In waving the higher considerations of various kinds which render caution, in such a case, indispensable, it is hard to overvalue the literary importance of daily infusions from the "well of English un defiled" into our familiar converse. Nor should it be forgotten, if ever the revision be undertaken, that we derive an advantage, not to be hazarded for tasteless novelties, from a perfect model of a translation of works of the most remote antiquity, into that somewhat antique English, venerable without being obscure, which alone can faithfully represent their spirit and genius.' pp. 12—18.
In addition to this history, its lamented Author contributed to Dr. Lardner's Biographical Series, a life of Sir Thomas More, given in vol. XXI., containing " Lives of eminent British Statesmen." In that volume, Sir James has finely discriminated the respective provinces of the historian and the biographer; and he has almost led us to think, that he would have found the more scope, and the more congenial field of inquiry, in the latter department of literature.
Besides these works and those already enumerated, including his contributions to the Edinburgh Review, the only work which he published is, the "General View of the Progress of Ethical Philosophy," which forms the second preliminary dissertation prefixed to the seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Of this acute and masterly production, some account will be found in our Number for October, 1831. We then noticed, with regret, the flaw of error which, though not very obvious, runs like a vein through the beautiful formation of the Author's philosophy. In the article in the North American Review, already referred to, which comprises a critique upon the Dissertation, some deficiencies of another kind are pointed out. The most remarkable is the absence of any notice of the ethical theories of the modern Germans: the French writers are also passed over almost without notice; and the work, besides being incomplete, bears throughout the marks of hasty preparation. Yet, adds the Writer,
'Notwithstanding these deficiencies, it will be read with deep interest by students of moral science, and by all who take an interest in the higher departments of intellectual research, or enjoy the beauties of elegant language applied to the illustration of " divine philosophy." It gives us, on an important branch of the most important of the sciences, the reflections of one of the few master minds that are fitted by original capacity and patient study to probe it to the bottom. It is highly interesting, whether we agree with him or not, to know the opinions of such a man, upon the character of the principal ethical writers, and upon the leading principles of the science These opinions are exhibited with every advantage of language and manner. It is difficult to imagine how the union of power, dignity, and grace, which may be supposed to constitute a finished style, can be carried further than it is in the writings of Sir James Mackintosh. The moral tone is also of the purest and most agreeable kind. The work breathes throughout, a temperate enthusiasm in the cause of humanity, and a spirit of perfect toleration for opposite opinions, even of an exceptionable cast . . . He enlarges with an overflowing fullness of heart, we may say, even to exaggeration, upon the merits of contemporaries. Under the influence of this generous and amiable impulse, he has probably over-rated the deserts of Bentham, Brown, and Stewart. Hut how much more noble is an error of this kind, than the petty jealousy which can see nothing in living excellence of any kind, but an object of attack; as the wasp approaches the fairest fruits, only for the purpose of piercing them to the core! It is indeed refreshing and delightful, to find one of the most powerful minds of the age, uniting the best feelings with the highest gifts of intellect, and exemplifying in his own person the moral graces which he undertakes to teach.'
We transcribe with pleasure this encomium, honourable both to its subject and to the writer, and substantially just. A slight abatement, perhaps, from the unqualified commendation of Sir James's style, might be made in respect to an occasional want of perspicuity and finished accuracy. Nor should we agree with the Reviewer, in ranking among the excellencies of an ethical writer, the ' toleration of exceptionable opinions,' which is, assuredly, no proof of benevolence, whatever candour and charity may be due to the intentions and persons of those who differ from us on "vital questions.' The distinction, one might think, is obvious enough; yet, how repeatedly are laxity of opinion or Intitiulinarianism of creed, and kindness of heart confounded ! *
vOL. IX. N.s. O
Although Sir James possessed so great aptitude for literary composition, the intellectual exercise in which he most delighted, and in which his fine powers and varied acquisitions were exhibited with most satisfaction to himself and most gratification to others, was, conversation. 'The companion of all the most distinguished men of his own time, Sheridan, Parr, Burke, Romilly; as intimately acquainted with all the great men of antiquity; with a mind replete with ancient lore and modern aneedote; equally ready on all subjects, philosophy, history, politics, personal narrative; eloquent without pomposity, learned without pedantry, gay, and even witty, without affectation; there never was a man possessed of more advantages for colloquial intercourse.' Of these fascinating displays of his moral qualities and intellectual powers, few traces, we fear, survive, except in the recollections of his friends; but some of his remarks, taken down at the time (in 1817), have been preserved by his American visiter, who was much struck with the copiousness, elegance, originality, and point of his conversation. As the journal in which they appear, is probably seen by few of our readers, we shall make room for the
* We cannot refrain from observing, that the article from which we have cited this panegyric on Sir James Mackintosh, contains one of the most flagrant instances that we have ever met with, of that spurious tolerance which levels all creeds, places the essence of virtue in the intellect, and enthrones mind upon the ruins of every religious principle. The frigid, cheerless if, with which the following sentence opens, borrowed from a pagan historian, and worthy of the negative creed of a disciple of Priestley, is a fit introduction to the impiety with which it closes, and to the prostitution of language which would seem to make a blind, sinful, erring man • the image of the invisible God.' 'If there be,—as we all believe and hope,—another and a better world, where the wise and good repose together from the troubles of this, we cannot doubt that Mackintosh is now among its favoured tenants,— enjoying the communion of the high and gifted minds whom he always so much loved and admired, the Platos, the Stewarts, the Burkes, the Ciceros,—and dwelling in the nearer presence of that sublime Spirit, whose ineffable glories he has so eloquently though faintly shadowed forth in so many splendid passages of his writings.' It is but too evident, that "to be with Christ", forms no element of this Writer's joyful anticipations of the heavenly society. Alas! that, in the city of the Pilgrims, such sentiments as these should pass for the eloquence of piety. The 'Si guts piorum manibus locus,—«', vt sapientibus placet, non cum corpore exstinguunlur magma animce '—of the classic Roman, affects us not more by its beauty, than by its approximation to Christian sentiment. In the American writer, the case is reversed: we are startled at the approximation to heathenism.
whole, without any apprehension that they will complain of the length to which it will extend this article.
'" Shakspeare, Milton, Locke, and Newton, are four names beyond competition superior to any that the continent can put against them.— It was a proof of singular and very graceful modesty in Gray, that, after bestowing upon Shakspeare a high eulogium in the Progress of Poetry, he did not, when proceeding to the character of Milton, rashly decide upon their relative merit. Every half-read critic affirms at once, according to his peculiar taste or the caprice of the moment, that one or the other is the superior poet; but when Gray comes to Milton, he only sayts,—
'" Nor second he that rode sublime
'" Dryden he assigns to an inferior class:—
'" Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car,
'The writer observed, that the German critics call Dryden a man walking upon stilts in a marsh.—Sir James:—" Depend upon it, they do not understand the language.—Shakspeare's great superiority over other writers consists in his deep knowledge of human nature. Chateaubriand says of him, '// a souveut des mots terrililes.' It has been thought by some, that those observations upon human nature which appear so profound and remarkable, may, after all, lie nearest to the surface, and be taken up most naturally by the early writers in every language; but we do not find them in Homer. Homer is the finest ballad-writer in anv language. The flow and fullness of his style is beautiful; but he has nothing of the deep, piercing observation of Shakspeare."
'The writer mentioned that he had been at St. Paul's, and spoke of the statues of Johnson, Sir William Jones, and others that he had seen there. Sir James: —" It is a noble edifice, to be sure, and we have some great men there; but it would be too much to expect that the glory of the second temple should equal that of the first. One country is not sufficient for two such repositories as Westminster Abbey.— Boswell's Life of Johnson has given a wrong impression of him in some respects. When we see four large volumes written upon a nan's conversation, through a period of forty years, and his remarks alone set down, of all those made at the time, we naturally take the idea that Johnson was the central point of society for all that period. The truth is, he never was in good society; at least, in those circles where men of letters mix with the fashionable world. His brutal, intolerant manners excluded him from it, of course. He met good society, to be sure, at the Literary Club and at Sir Joshua Reynolds's.— Gibbon was asked why he did not talk more in the presence of Dr. Johnson. 'Sir,' replied the historian, taking a pinch of snuff, 'I have no pretensions to the ability of contending with Dr. Johnson in brutality and insolence.'"
'" Sir William Jones was not a man of first-rate talent;—he had great facility of acquisition, but not a mind of the highest order. Reason and imagination are the two great intellectual faculties, and he was certainly not pre-eminent in cither. His poetry is indifferent, and his other writings are agreeable, but not profound. He was, however, a most amiable and excellent man."
'Speaking of the poets of the day, Sir James observed:—" I very much doubt whether Scott will survive long. Hitherto, nothing has stood the test of time, but laboured and finished verse; and of this, Scott has none. If I were to say which of the poets of the day is most likely to be read hereafter, I should give my opinion in favour of some of Campbell's poems. Scott, however, has a wonderful fertility and vivacity." It may be proper to add, that the allusion is here exclusively to the poetry of Scott. The Waverley novels were not generally attributed to him at the time when the remark was made.
'" Rogers's Pleasures of Memory has one good line,—
'The only pleasures we can call our own.'
It is remarkable that this poem is very popular. A new edition of it is printed every year. It brings the author in about 200/. per annum, and yet its principal merit is its finished, perfect versification, which one would think the people could hardly enjoy. The subject, however, recommends itself very much to all classes of readers."
'The writer commended highly the language of Sir William Scott's opinions. Sir James:—" There is a little too much elegance for judicial dicta, and a little unfairness in always attempting to found the judgement upon the circumstances of the case, perhaps slight ones, rather than general principles. Sir William is one of the most entertaining men to be met with in society. His style is by no means so pure and classical as that of Blackstone, which is one of the finest models in the English language. Middleton and he are the two best, in their way, of the writers of their period. Middleton's Free Inquiry is an instance of great prudence and moderation in drawing conclusions respecting particular facts from general principles. His premises would have carried him much further than he has gone. There are many fine passages in his Life of Cicero."
'Sir James said, that he had received from Mr. Wortman a collection of specimens of American eloquence, and that Mr. Wortman had given it as his opinion, that the faculty of eloquence was more general in America than in England, though some individual Englishmen might perhaps possess it in a higher degree. The writer remarked, that he thought our best orators but little inferior to the best orators of the present day in England; and mentioned Mr. Otis, Mr. Randolph, and Mr. Pinkney. Sir James:—" I have not seen any of Mr. Otis's speeches. I have read some of Randolph's, but the effect must depend very much on the manner. There is a good deal of vulgar finery. Malice there is, too, but that would be excusable, provided it were in good taste.—
'" Mr. Adams's Defence of the Constitution is not a first-rate work. He lays too much stress upon the examples of small and insignificant States, and looks too much at the external form of governments, which is, in general, a very indifferent criterion of their character.