The interesting recognition of Gladstone awakes pleasanter sentiments; especially when we notice the return compliment (in the same Quarterly, but twenty-seven years later than Croker’s attack) of the statesman’s generous tribute. “Macaulay,” says Gladstone, “was singularly free of vices ... one point only we reserve, a certain tinge of occasional vindictiveness. Was he envious? Never. Was he servile? No. Was he insolent? No.... Was he idle? The question is ridiculous. Was he false? No; but true as steel and transparent as crystal. Was he vain? We hold that he was not. At every point in the ugly list he stands the trial.”
* * * * *
This earlier notice of Wordsworth is certainly in exact sympathy with Jeffrey on the Excursion, and may very well have come from the same pen. At any rate, it introduces the Edinburgh attitude towards the Lakers.
The criticism of Maturin has all the tone of moral authority which provoked many readers of the Review, and was, probably, in part responsible for the less “measured” attitude adopted by the Quarterly.
LORD JEFFREY ON SOUTHEY’S “THALABA”
[From The Edinburgh Review, October, 1802]
Thalaba, the Destroyer: A Metrical Romance. By ROBERT SOUTHEY. 2 vols. 12 mo. London.
Poetry has this much, at least, in common with religion, that its standards were fixed long ago, by certain inspired writers, whose authority it is no longer lawful to call in question; and that many profess to be entirely devoted to it, who have no good works to produce in support of their pretensions. The catholic poetical church, too, has worked but few miracles since the first ages of its establishment; and has been more prolific, for a long time, of Doctors, than of Saints: it has had its corruptions and reformation also, and has given birth to an infinite variety of heresies and errors, the followers of which have hated and persecuted each other as cordially as other bigots.
The author who is now before us, belongs to a sect of poets, that has established itself in this country within these ten or twelve years, and is looked upon, we believe, as one of its chief champions and apostles. The peculiar doctrines of this sect, it would not, perhaps, be very easy to explain; but, that they are dissenters from the established systems in poetry and criticism, is admitted, and proved indeed, by the whole tenor of their compositions. Though they lay claim, we believe, to a creed and a revelation of their own, there can be little doubt, that their doctrines are of German origin, and have been derived from some of the great modern reformers in that country. Some of their leading principles, indeed, are probably of an earlier date, and seem to have been borrowed from the great apostle of Geneva. As Mr. Southey is the first author, of this persuasion, that has yet been brought before us for judgment, we cannot discharge our inquisitorial office conscientiously, without premising a few words upon the nature and tendency of the tenets he has helped to promulgate.