Humour, indeed (we speak now generally, of all these performances which have been ascribed to him by common consent), is his strong point; and here he is often successful; but even from this praise many deductions must be made. His jokes are broad and coarse; he is altogether a mannerist, and never knows where to stop. The [Greek: Paedenagan] seems quite unknown to him. His pleasantry does not proceed from keen and well-supported irony; just, but unexpected comparisons; but depends, for effect, chiefly upon strange polysyllabic epithets, and the endless enumeration of minute circumstances. In this he, no doubt, displays considerable ingenuity, and a strong sense of what is ludicrous; but his good things are almost all prepared after one receipt. There is some talent, but more trick, in their composition. The thing is well done, but it is of a low order; we meet with nothing graceful, nothing exquisite, nothing that pleases upon repetition and reflection. In everything that Mr. Smith attempts, in all his “bravura” passages, serious or comic, one is always shocked by some affectation or absurdity; something in direct defiance of all those principles which have been established by the authority of the best critics, and the example of the best writers: indeed, bad taste seems to be Mr. Smith’s evil genius, both as to sentiment and expression. It is always hovering near him, and, like one of the harpies, is sure to pounce down before the end of the feast, and spoil the banquet, and disgust the guests.
The present publication is by far the worst of all his performances, avowed or imputed. Literary merit it has none; but in arrogance, presumption, and absurdity, it far outdoes all his former outdoings. Indeed, we regard it as one of the most deplorable mistakes that has ever been committed by a man of supposed talents....
[From The Quarterly Review, March, 1849]
The History of England from the Accession of James II. By THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY. 2 vols. 8vo. 1849.
The reading world will not need our testimony, though we willingly give it, that Mr. Macaulay possesses great talents and extraordinary acquirements. He unites powers and has achieved successes, not only various, but different in their character, and seldom indeed conjoined in one individual. He was while in Parliament, though not quite an orator, and still less a debater, the most brilliant rhetorician of the House. His Roman ballads (as we said in an article on their first appearance) exhibit a novel idea worked out with a rare felicity, so as to combine the spirit of the ancient minstrels with the regularity of construction and sweetness of versification which modern taste requires; and his critical Essays exhibit a wide variety of knowledge with a great fertility of illustration, and enough of the salt of pleasantry and sarcasm to flavour and