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A late writer speculates on the causes of the present decay and degradation of Spain, and on the probability of a sanguinary revolution. It indeed seems singular, that when the rest of the world has been making such rapid progress in all the arts and refinements of civilization, Spain should have so mournfully sunk from her former glory. But when we think on the terrible engines that have been set in motion by her clergy, we can hardly wonder at the destruction they have occasioned. We can only lament the downfall of a mighty nation, and, it may be, read a profitable lesson in it.
There is no class of men more powerful than a clergy, ambitious of worldly dominion. Equal danger, however, may be apprehended from bigoted and narrow-minded sects, determined to fasten the shackles of a dark faith upon the hearts of their fellows. In religion, as in all other matters of belief or speculation, there should be perfect freedom.
There is in all men a proneness to compel others to adopt their own creeds, and to fall in with their own sentiments. Wherever the power co-exists with the inclination, there will inevitably follow a subversion of free thought and free speaking. The disposition in dominant parties to punish honest difference of opinion, should be watched with especial vigilance in our own country; for we fear that such a disposition has been too openly manifested, both in politics and religion. When usurpation and oppression, in matters of religion, are once tolerated, no limits can be affixed to their baneful influences.
But we have lost sight of Don Trueba, and his very interesting volumes. For our own part, we have found in them sources of much pleasure and instruction. Readers less ignorant, and more fastidious, may perhaps look in vain for either. But we have little fear that any one will find them dull. There are scenes and passages of sufficient beauty and interest, to excite the coldest and please the most delicate.
FROM THE BLANK LEAVES OF MY GIBBON.
His style does not please me. There is nothing in it idiomatic. The garb which his thoughts assumed in his own mind, was French; and his Decline and Fall may be considered a translation of an unpublished French work, It displays, consequently, but little of the native vigor, or the unaffected, charming elegance of a genuine English style.
This defect is by no means compensated by a constant and fatiguing glitter. The object of all ornament is either to relieve the reader, or to illustrate the thought. But this uniform glitter of Gibbon's generally throws his meaning into the shade; and so far from relieving the reader, it needs relief greatly itself; a page of simple narrative would be as grateful to me in the midst of it, as a verdant little oasis to the traveller whose eyes are wearied with the glare of the burning desert. Far different from the quick, successive flashes of Burke, it is too feeble to astonish, too affected and uniform to please.
Gibbon had not a mind of the first order; he possessed not the magic treasures of a mighty genius; at the same time, he had an invincible aversion to an ordinary dress and demeanor. He assumed, therefore, a gait too uniformly ostentatious to admit of ease or grace, and sewed his garb with a profusion of spangles, to compensate the want of a few well-placed gems. The constant endeavours of a florid fancy, and a mind stored with erudition, could not indeed fail of producing, occasionally, both elegance and splendor. But as these occasional felicities by no means satisfy the ambition of his taste, he is obliged to resort, for its gratification, to distant and learned allusion, to sagacious enigmas, to a profusion of epithets, and a constant use of the materials which the greatness of his subject affords him, for the construction of pompous aad imposing sentences. These ornaments are multiplied, until they become mere unmeaning flourishes; we lose all faith in them, even when properly introduced; they have been so often prostituted, that no one believes there is any feeling in them. Our author brings every thing from above and below even with
his assumed elevation. A plain matter cannot be trusted to plain language. An enumeration of provinces, or a genealogy of a family, never escapes his hands, till it has been epithetized, and enigmatized, and worked into stately sentences. And thus he is engaged in being pretty and obscure, when he should be busy in giving us information. On the other hand, when there is a call for feeling, or elevated reflection, we find him as unable to rise above, as he is unwilling to sink beneath, a strain of turgid declamation. We are put off too often with satire for gravity, and pomp for eloquence. Gibbon never warms into the enthusiasm of virtue or sensibility. He repeats with complacency the names of Historian and Philosopher; apparently with an idea that it is unworthy such men to feel or admire. I distrust the man who is always enthusiastic ; him who never is, I pity.
Our historian's excessive pungency, whenever religion crosses his path, is so perpetual, that the affectation at last becomes tiresome. His irony, however, is often elegant, and, when directed against the abuses of religion, just. But his aiming his shafts indifferently, at truth and error,- -his confounding superstition and piety, fanaticism and the genuine zeal of virtue, betrays, beneath the cloak of his philosophy, a most woful obtuseness of moral perception, and moral feeling. Not to blame him for his infidelity,-his whole treatment of religion, his never entering into a manly discussion, or even expressing openly an opinion on SO important a point in his subject, as the truth of Christianity, is wholly unworthy an historian of the Roman empire. What could he expect from avoiding all fair argument with equal antagonists, and retailing vulgar cavils, in insidious forms, but to pervert a few empty-headed boys, and to raise the contempt of the wise and good? He surely did not presume that his sneers were to shake, in serious minds, the religion of Paschal, Grotius, Bacon, Milton, Newton, Locke, and Paley. 0.
WAKE from thy slumbers, Isabel, the stars are in the sky,
O wake thee, and their dying hues shall blush to life again.
In such a sacred hour as this, how beams the eye of love,
The rattle of the soldier's steel has left the silent hall,
And when before the flowing wind she spreads her eagle wings,
Then come to me, my lovely one, and haste we far away,
GET up! get up! Miss Polly Jones, the tandem's at the door;
I broke a drunken watchman's nap, and he began to mutter,
When Squaretoes stumps about the house, and does n't find you there,
And all the folks are in a touse, my eyes! how dad will stare! He locked and double-locked the door, and saw you safe abed, And never dreamed a jailor's paw could scratch a booby's head.
Come, hurry! hurry! Polly Jones, it is no time to snooze,
I've got my gouty uncle's bay, and trotting Peggy too,
Good name, in man or woman, dear, my Lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls;
Who steals my purse steals trash; 't is something,—nothing;
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
YE parents, who may be about to present your first-born infant before the baptismal font, pause ere you go, and list unto my words; pause ere you go, and ponder well, if you may not, in bestowing a name, give him a gift, which he may rue as long he lives.
Ye schoolboys, too, who are now in the heyday of existence, and who may be about to christen some new companion with a ludicrous nickname, consider well ere you perform it, if you may not be affixing a disagreeable burr to your playfellow, that will adhere to him through the remainder of his life.
And you, gentle reader, who, being in the possession of a suitable cognomen, are at a loss to conceive how a name should be a matter of importance, bear in mind, that
"it so falls out,