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Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays, ed. John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger, introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).
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Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review
in a former article,[*] we analysed the various misleading interests under the influence of which the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews are placed; both as periodical publications, and as the organs of the two great parties into which the British aristocracy is divided. We then proceeded to criticize the Edinburgh Review in detail; and we began to prove, by quotations from the work itself, that it has really exhibited the vices, which we described as likely to characterize a periodical publication attached to the Opposition party.
The most prominent feature in its character—its disposition to compromise—to say a little for the aristocracy and a little for the people alternately, and always to give up so much of every important question, as to avoid an irreparable breach either with the one side or with the other; this characteristic quality of the Review we illustrated by numerous quotations, selected from the volumes preceding the year 1812. We shall now prove, by further citations, that it has since persevered, and does still persevere, in the self-same course.
The first passage which we shall extract is from an article on Spain, in the twenty-third volume. The conduct of Ferdinand in re-establishing the old despotism, contrary to the expectations which had been held out to the Spaniards, in order to stimulate their exertions for the expulsion of the French, is here spoken of with that abhorrence which it so justly deserves.[†] The writer appears, however, to have trembled lest he should have gone too far; lest the aristocracy should take the alarm at so severe a censure on an established government; on one, too, which it was the fashion of the day to call legitimate: and he continues,
We have but a word or two to add on the moral of this strange drama. We subscribe unreservedly to the doctrine of Mr. Hume, that every people, not absolutely subdued by foreign force, must be governed by opinion;[‡] or, if the admirers of Mr. Paine object to that word, by prejudice. Government is founded—not on divine right—not on a social contract, but on the general consent and tacit agreement of the people, as at the moment subsisting. But we are not to conclude, because power is derived from the people, that all governments in which they do not reserve a portion for themselves are illegitimate. For it is very clear (notwithstanding what has been written), that the people can as easily give the right of raising taxes on themselves to one hereditary officer, as to five hundred, renewed every seven years.
This passage is a specimen of the vague language, so convenient for the purpose of compromise, which the Opposition party makes use of when it takes the popular side of any question.
“All power is derived from the people;” “government is founded on the general consent and tacit agreement of the people:” and the like. It is obvious that the people are not in any respect benefitted by this verbal recognition of their sovereignty. It does not bring them one particle nearer to obtaining good government. This they can obtain, only by providing real and efficient securities for it. But these vague phrases, though of no service to the people, are admirably suited to the purpose of the Whigs; which is, to please the people, just as far as is consistent with not alarming the aristocracy. A well-turned rhetorical sentence asserting popular supremacy, is expected to be grateful to the ears of many among the people, who not having a clear conception of what constitutes efficient securities for good government, are incapable of discerning that mere declamation gives no security whatever. The aristocracy, on their side, risk nothing by conceding to their adversaries a general maxim which leads to no consequences. Their power and emolument remain untouched. The only thing which they have any reason to dread—the establishment of efficient securities against misrule—the Edinburgh Review, from the first, has strenuously opposed. If the people will be cajoled with fine language concerning their sovereignty, they may have as much of it as they please from the Edinburgh Review. But, if they require any thing tangible—if they ask what they are to get by this boasted sovereignty, it calls them radicals and democrats, who wish for the annihilation of property, and the subversion of the social order.
We may explain on the same principles, the warmth which the Edinburgh Review has constantly shown, in defence of the people’s right to resist oppression by rising against the government. The following passage is extracted from an article in the twenty-seventh volume,[*] on the dangers of the Constitution:
What is it that secures the system against such attacks as we have alluded to, and in like manner against more direct and open invasions of power?—It is unquestionably the influence of public opinion, and the apprehension of resistance, intimately connected with it. As long as the proceedings of parliament occupy the attention of the people, an effectual control is exerted over them; and the discussions in the two houses, how little soever they may seem to influence the votes, are engines of the highest power in controlling the executive through the public. As long as judges sit in the face of the country, and, above all, in the face of an enlightened and jealous bar, the most scrutinizing and unsparing of all auditories,—the Crown can neither fill the bench with its tools, nor can better instruments degenerate into that occupation. As long as all the proceedings of government are public,—canvassed freely by the press, and made known through that and other channels of information; and as long as there is reason to believe that gross mis-rule will engender resistance,—a corrupt judicature and a venal parliament may in vain combine with a despotic court, in defiance of public opinion. Tyranny will dread going beyond a certain length, and this fear will supersede the necessity of applying the ultimate check. This sacred principle of resistance is the very foundation of all our liberties; it is the cause to which we owe them:—Let it only be destroyed, and they are gone.
To suppose resistance necessary, is to suppose the existence of bad government; and to speak of it as a security, is only calculated to make the people contented with a bad government, by looking to resistance as a remedy for its evils. The fact is, that resistance is any thing but a remedy: and this for two reasons. One reason is, that from the aversion which all men feel to commit their persons and their property to the hazards of a civil war, they are willing to submit to a great degree of mis-government before they will resist. But, besides, a revolution, even when it does happen, is not, in itself, productive of any good. It is useful, only in so far as it contributes to establish permanent securities for good government. Take away this effect, and the whole cost of the revolution is unmixed evil. Yet the Edinburgh Review, which has always earnestly deprecated the establishment of securities for good government, holds up the principle of resistance as our only safeguard against oppression. Why? Because this principle, like all other principles which appear to be, without really being a security, is calculated to catch the favour of the less clear-sighted part of the people; while it does not alarm any but the more timid portion of the aristocracy. All among them whose fears do not entirely overcome their reason, are aware that a successful insurrection, the only kind of resistance which they have any reason to dread, rarely happens under a regular government; and that an ordinary share of prudence on their part, might, in most cases, prevent it from happening at all. They are, therefore, well contented that the people should be hindered from turning their attention to the remedies which are effectual, by having it fixed upon remedies which are not.
The whole language of the Edinburgh Reviewers, on the subject of government, proves their wish to prevent the people from looking out for securities against misrule. They do not approve of a law or of an institution, because it is conducive to good government, but because it is favourable to liberty. They do not disapprove of a ministerial measure, because it opens a door to oppression, but because it is unconstitutional. These phrases, as we shall presently show, are extremely convenient to those who wish to compromise the question of good government.
“The constitution” either means nothing at all, or it means the aggregate of the securities, such as they are, which our present form of government affords us, against misrule. These securities are either adequate to their purpose, or they are inadequate to it. The doctrine of the Edinburgh Review is, that they are not adequate. For it is continually asserting, in the most unqualified terms, that parliament, instead of being, as by the constitution it ought to be, an efficient check upon the conduct of ministers—is, on the contrary, a ready tool in their hands. We shall only quote one passage among many, in which this charge of inefficacy is brought against the constitution:
After all that we have seen of parliaments, it would be a vain fancy to imagine that the representation of the people is of itself a security for their rights. Even if that representation were much more perfect than it is, it would be liable to the influence of the Crown, and might be intimidated by violence. In fact, to what baseness has not the parliament, at one time or another, made itself a party?
(Ibid., p. 247.)
If the securities provided by the constitution are inefficient, so inefficient as not to prevent the government from being party to any act of baseness whatever; most men will probably conclude, that it is time to think of providing more perfect securities. Not so the Edinburgh reviewers; their ideas of amelioration go no farther than to bid us cling more closely to the imperfect securities which we have. To improve the constitution, is with them a very secondary object. To preserve it is the one thing needful. The necessity of guarding it against the encroachments of ministers, is the burden of their song, even in the very article from which the above extract was taken. They admit that misgovernment may be carried very far, with the concurrence of parliament, and therefore without violating the constitution. To this kind of misgovernment, however, it appears, we are to submit. If ministers will compound not to violate the constitution, they may oppress, as much as they please, in any other way. Is this not compromise? If not, the word is without a meaning.
We are aware that, on other occasions, the Edinburgh Review has represented the constitution as standing in need of improvement, and even of considerable improvement. But this, far from invalidating the truth of our observations, is only another instance of the habitual see-saw. When the tide ran high for reform, the Edinburgh Review was compelled, to a certain extent, to go with the tide. It is enough, that it has never proposed any plan of reform which would, to any practical purpose, diminish the power of the aristocracy, or add to the people’s securities for good government. To do so would have been to renounce the compromise, to break with the aristocracy, and to adhere to the people. This did not suit the Opposition party; nor, consequently, did it suit their faithful and devoted organ.
Liberty, another favourite word with the Edinburgh Review, is equally suited with the word “constitution,” to the ends of compromise. Liberty, in its original sense, means freedom from restraint. In this sense, every law, and every rule of morals, is contrary to liberty. A despot, who is entirely emancipated from both, is the only person whose freedom of action is complete. A measure of government, therefore, is not necessarily bad, because it is contrary to liberty; and to blame it for that reason, leads to confusion of ideas. But to create confusion of ideas, is essential to the purpose of those who have to persuade the people, that small abuses should be reformed, while great ones should remain untouched. The true reason for reform is evidently much stronger in the case of a great abuse than of a small one. They cannot therefore put forward the true reason; they must put forward something, which shall have the semblance of a reason, but which they can explain away when they please, and which, therefore, cannot be turned against themselves.
Liberty is the word which they make use of for this purpose. Small abuses are to be reformed, because they are contrary to liberty. There are minor reasons, as, that they hurt the prosperity of the country, and so forth, but this is the main argument. On the other hand, when a great abuse is to be upheld, these gentlemen proceed to explain away their own doctrine: they tell us that freedom may be carried to a dangerous excess; that it is apt to degenerate into licentiousness; and they coin certain convenient phrases, “rational liberty,” “constitutional liberty,” “liberty rightly understood,” and the like: with which elegant kinds of liberty they declare the great abuses to be consistent.
The above remarks afford a key to much of the language which the Edinburgh Review has held, and still holds, concerning government. Whatever it may be necessary to say concerning their plans of reform in the detail, will be said hereafter in a separate article.[*]
Among the instruments of misgovernment which the rulers of this country have at their command, the law of libel is justly considered one of the most dangerous: as it enables them to free themselves from that which is in itself a considerable check upon them, and without which all other checks are ineffectual, free discussion. There is no legal definition of libel: there can be no definition, so long as libel law continues in its present state, that of common, or unwritten law. A judge, dependant upon the government, is left with full power to decide any publication libellous, or not, as he pleases: whatever disposition the jury might have to set aside his opinion, being got rid of by the practice of packing special juries.* As might have been expected under such circumstances, the judges have allowed themselves no small latitude in declaring publications to be libellous. Lord Ellenborough once said from the Bench, that a libel was any thing which hurt the feelings of any body.[*] The common judge-made definition of a public libel, is, any thing which tends to bring the constituted authorities into hatred and contempt.[†] But all censure of their conduct must, pro tanto, have this tendency; and most so, when their misconduct is most glaring, and the censure which is bestowed on it most urgently required. With the help, therefore, of so convenient a definition of libel, and of such convenient instruments as English judges, government have it in their power to suppress all censure whatever.
The twenty-seventh volume of the Edinburgh Review contains an article on Holt’s Law of Libel, in which this subject is canvassed at considerable length.[‡] For the people, there is abundance of general remarks on the importance of free discussion; remarks such as we hear from no one more frequently than from Lord Eldon himself. But when the reviewer comes to something specific; when he undertakes “to find the quantity of liberty, and the species of restraint, which will secure to the press the greatest amount of free discussion consistent with the tranquillity of the community, and the safety of private character;”[§] he proceeds in the most deliberate manner to surrender up all the essential points to the aristocracy.
The undefined nature of the offence of libel; that which is really at the root of the mischief; that which enables the government to punish as libellous any publication containing sentiments unpleasing to themselves; this enormous evil, the Edinburgh Review not only does not suggest the means of correcting, but expressly declares not to be an evil.
One charge which has been urged against the system, we are inclined to dismiss at once, as founded in an extremely superficial view of the matter. It has been stated as a great defect, that there is no law defining a libel; or expounding what shall be considered libellous. In no code, either formed by successive acts of legislation, or composed at once by speculative lawgivers, was ever such a definition attempted. The attempt would in truth be vain. The nature of the thing precludes all minute definition; and a general description is useless for the end in view.
In the next page, however, we are told that “means may be found of limiting the sense of the word in practice as effectually as is desirable, and preventing the prosecution of any thing that at any time displeases any body, as the modern practice has been alleged to have described the offence.”[¶]
The inconsistency of this doctrine with itself is remarkable. We are to limit the meaning of the word: if we do not, all kinds of mischief will ensue. But we are not to limit it in the only mode in which any man in his senses ever thought of limiting the meaning of a word; namely, by a definition. What is the tendency of this doctrine is evident. It is to give us something which should appear to limit the meaning of the word, without really limiting it: to deceive the people into a belief that freedom of discussion exists by law, when in fact so much of it only exists as public opinion renders it unsafe to destroy.
The two following passages form an appropriate comment upon the preceding:
It is manifest, that a statement, either against the government, or an individual, may be libellous; or, to use a phrase which no one can object to, may be criminal, although founded in truth. Undoubted facts may be involved in furious or inflammatory invective. Some cases may be conceived (though they are exceedingly rare) in which a simple statement of facts respecting the government would be an offence against the public tranquillity; but innumerable cases may be put, in which the publication of the truth, without any comment, would be an offence against private individuals.
And further on,
That there are public libels, properly so called, which may be criminal, though true, is easily shown. The instances are no doubt rare, but they exist. It may be libellous to state in an inflammatory way, that which, if plainly stated, would be innocent; as, to address the passions of the multitude about scarcity of provisions, or of soldiers about pay. It may be libellous to address to particular classes a plain statement of that which, published generally, would be innocent, as to disperse it among a mob or an army. It may be libellous to state, even plainly, truths of a delicate nature at a peculiar crisis—as, during an invasion, a rebellion, or a mutiny. Finally, there are certain truths (but the number is extremely small), of so peculiarly delicate a nature, that the plainest statement of them at any time would be libellous; as, the legitimacy of the reigning sovereign;—his right to the crown generally,—his political conduct, for which he is not responsible;—his private conduct, of which the law takes no notice.
Mark the concessions which are here made to the aristocracy. “It may be libellous to state in an inflammatory way, that which, if plainly stated, would be innocent.” We are sorry the reviewer did not teach us how to draw a precise line between two modes of stating the same fact, one of them an inflammatory mode, the other not. Only entrust a judge dependant on the aristocracy, and a packed special jury, with the power of punishing all statements conveyed in what they may call inflammatory language; and nothing more is wanting to enable them to punish any statements whatever.
The other passage, however, goes even beyond this in open and undisguised enmity to free discussion. In some cases “a simple statement of facts respecting the government would be an offence against the public tranquillity:” much more, a statement accompanied by a comment, however calm and dispassionate. This gives a degree of latitude to the government, which is scarcely claimed even by the Tories themselves. Moderate Tories usually admit that calm and dispassionate discussion on the conduct of the government should be allowed. The Edinburgh Review, however, tells us, that in some cases, which it is impossible to define by law, not merely all discussion, however cool and unimpassioned, but a bare statement of facts, ought to be punished. It tells us, indeed, that these cases are rare. Happily it would not be safe, in this age and country, to say that they are not rare. But, rare as they are, it tells us that they cannot be defined: and as there must be somebody to judge, and as the Edinburgh Review has not told us who this somebody shall be, we are left to conclude that it means the government to judge: and to judge what? To judge what shall, and shall not be spoken of itself!
In return for all these concessions to the aristocracy, what is to be done for the people? Truth should be permitted to be given in evidence on the trial, and should have some weight in determining the verdict of the jury: although it would rest with the judge and packed jury to decide what degree of weight it should have. The greatest benefit of a free press is, the discussion which it calls forth concerning the conduct of the government. This discussion consists in the statement of facts and expression of opinions. We have seen how the Edinburgh Review disposes of the statement of facts; and as for the expression of opinions, how would freedom in this respect be increased by the adoption of the only remedy which the Edinburgh Review proposes for the defects of the law of libel?
Within the last six or seven years, when the desire of efficient securities for good government has become much more general than it has been at any previous period of history, the interest of all other political questions has been to a considerable degree swallowed up by that of parliamentary reform. It was to be expected, therefore, that this subject should occupy a more conspicuous place than before in the pages of the Edinburgh Review. And in the tone which the Review has adopted on this most momentous of all topics, there appears not less of the disposition to compromise than on every other subject of importance. Its ordinary course has been to speak loudly of reform in general, but specifically to approve only such plans as, if adopted, would leave the means of misgovernment with unimpaired strength in the hands of the aristocracy; and to impute either the grossest folly, or the most detestable wickedness, to those who desire a more extensive reform, as well as to those who would have no reform at all. In conformity to the habitual see-saw, they have occasionally deviated from this course.
Thus an article on America, in the thirty-first volume, contains an unusual proportion of democratic sentiments.[*] The same observation applies to another article on the same subject, in the thirty-third volume,[†] where a charge which had been brought against the Review of illiberality towards America, seems to have extorted from it sundry expressions in favour of popular governments, exceeding perhaps, in boldness, any which had yet appeared in its pages. America is quoted as an instance to show “within what limits popular institutions are safe and practicable, and what a large infusion of democracy is consistent with the authority of government and the good order of society.” (P. 405.) Then follows a prediction that, ere long, a struggle will take place in all the countries of Europe, for the amelioration of their political institutions; “even in England,” says the reviewer, “the more modified elements of the same principles are stirring and heaving around, above, and beneath us, with unprecedented agitation and terror” [p. 403]; and he observes that the assistance of America may be needed to give preponderance to the good cause.
In the very next number we find an article on France,[*] which almost returns to the anti-jacobin tone of the early numbers. In direct opposition to the doctrines of the article to which we just referred; it repeats the wretched aristocratic fallacy, of which too many well-meaning persons are even now the dupes, that “wherever universal suffrage is actually established, Agrarian law may be expected to follow.” (Pp. 27-8.) It laments bitterly over the decay and discredit into which, fortunately for France, the old feudal nobility have fallen [pp. 14-16]. It says as much as it can venture to say in palliation of the vices of the old French despotism: thus, it doubts whether the abolition of the jurandes, the maîtrises, and similar commercial restrictions, was a benefit [p. 3]. It lauds the parlemens for the purity of their administration of justice [p. 17], as if it had forgotten the fate of Calas, and other transactions of a similar stamp.* When at last it is compelled to admit that great evils existed, it tells us that “France had never been in so fair a way to see the defects of its old institutions corrected, and civil liberty introduced with success, as it was just before the Revolution. But the restless impatience of reformers could brook no delay.” [P. 18.] And then it goes on imputing all the evils of the revolution to the impatience of the reformers, and none of them to the opposition of the court. It accuses the French government, subsequent to the restoration of the Bourbons, of too great a tendency to liberalism! and vindicates Louis XVIII from the accusation of mistrusting the people, and of being insincere in his professions of a desire to establish a constitutional government in France! [P. 30.] Be it observed, also, that this article was written, not immediately after the return of the Bourbons, when it could only as yet be surmised what course they would pursue; but after the passing of the election law of 1820,[†] by which a permanent majority in the Chamber of Deputies was secured to the Court, and but for which, neither the Spanish war, nor any of the other iniquitous measures of the French government would probably ever have taken place.* On this law the Edinburgh Review bestows unqualified praise; because, forsooth, “the republican principle predominates in the French monarchy” [p. 28]; a defect which, it seems, is to be remedied by giving preponderance to a very different principle—the despotic. After this we need not feel surprise on being told that our own complaints against our government, including, of course, those of the Edinburgh Review, are unfounded.
Foreigners are apt to be misled by what they read in our newspapers, or hear from their own travellers. Complaints against the government, and dismal forebodings about the loss of liberty, are nowhere so frequent and so loud as in those countries where there is, on the whole, the least reason for such apprehensions.
We know not whether the following sentence is more remarkable for the boldness with which it begs the question, or for the unintelligible jargon in which the assumption is wrapt up, to conceal its utter falsehood:
We think ourselves warranted in saying, that most of the abuses and troublesome results of our institutions may be traced directly to some principle of exuberant vigour shooting beyond the mark; they are the price we pay for overbalancing advantages; the wrong side of a good government, and the reasoning of those who condemn them on that account, would prove, if admitted, that a bad government is the best.
From the length to which our remarks upon the see-saw have already extended, we have only room for one additional instance. This we shall select from an article in the thirty-seventh volume, on the Liberty of the Press and the Constitutional Association;[*] in which, by the way, a defect in the law which, in a former article, was affirmed to be irremediable—the absence of all definition of libel—is acknowledged and complained of (p. 116). The frequent use which government has sometimes made of the privilege of ex-officio informations is here spoken of as meriting the severest censure. But the reader will judge how much value is to be attached to those declarations, when we tell him that it complains as loudly of the “culpable indifference” with which, at other times, government has abstained from prosecuting certain periodical works; although “every one else,” says the Review, “was daily sickened at the audacity and activity of their authors” (p. 112); an assertion which, if true, proves, conclusively, that the publications in question cannot have done any mischief, and, consequently, that it would have been altogether unjustifiable, upon all principles, to punish the authors.
That the spirit of compromise has been a marked characteristic of the EdinburghReview, from its commencement to the present day, insomuch that there is scarcely a question of any importance, of which it has not either given up half, or preached alternately, first on the one side and then on the other, is now, we hope, sufficiently clear to all our readers.
It shall next be our business to prove that it has been equally distinguished by the other vices to which we have shown periodical literature to be liable. And first, we shall examine how far it has made a practice of chiming in with existing prejudices.
Of its sacrifices at the altar of aristocratic prejudice, two remarkable instances occur in the first number; the one in a review of Southey’s Thalaba, the other in an article on the sugar colonies.[*]
To most of our readers Mr. Southey is probably known only as the warm advocate of every existing abuse, and the reviler of all who think that governments were made for the people, and not the people for governments. He, and the other Lake poets, however, commenced writing with higher objects. They saw that the aristocracy, while they profess a whining sympathy with the poor as individuals, inflict the most tremendous evils, without compunction, upon the poor, en masse; and they resolved to set the example of condemning murder and robbery on a large as well as on a small scale. They saw that the aristocracy, as a class, claim merit for every crime which they do not commit; while it is urged as a reproach against the poor, that they are not always proof against temptations, which nothing less than heroic virtue could withstand. They saw this, and were indignant: they contrasted the vices of the people with the vices of the aristocracy, and bestowed the severest condemnation, where every candid mind will admit that the severest condemnation was due. In such a cause, even some exaggeration would have been excusable; there is certainly no want of exaggeration on the other side. Hear, however, the Edinburgh Review:
A splenetic and idle discontent with the existing institutions of society, seems to be at the bottom of all their serious and peculiar sentiments. Instead of contemplating the wonders and the pleasures which civilization has created for mankind, they are perpetually brooding over the disorders by which its progress has been attended. They are filled with horror and compassion at the sight of poor men spending their blood in the quarrels of princes, and brutifying their sublime capabilities in the drudgery of unremitting labour. For all sorts of vice and profligacy in the lower orders of society, they have the same virtuous horror, and the same tender compassion. While the existence of these offences overpowers them with grief and confusion, they never permit themselves to feel the smallest indignation or dislike towards the offenders. The present vicious constitution of society alone is responsible for all these enormities: the poor sinners are but the helpless victims or instruments of its disorders, and could not possibly have avoided the errors into which they have been betrayed. Though they can bear with crimes, therefore, they cannot reconcile themselves to punishments; and have an unconquerable antipathy to prisons, gibbets, and houses of correction, as engines of oppression, and instruments of atrocious injustice. While the plea of moral necessity is thus artfully brought forward to convert all the excesses of the poor into innocent misfortunes, no sort of indulgence is shown to the offences of the powerful and rich. Their oppressions, and seductions, and debaucheries, are the theme of many an angry verse; and the indignation and abhorrence of the reader is relentlessly conjured up against those perturbators of society and scourges of mankind.
It is not easy to say, whether the fundamental absurdity of this doctrine, or the partiality of its application, be entitled to the severest reprehension. If men are driven to commit crimes through a certain moral necessity, other men are compelled, by a similar necessity, to hate and despise them for their commission. The indignation of the sufferer is at least as natural as the guilt of him who makes him suffer; and the good order of society would probably be as well preserved, if our sympathies were sometimes called forth in behalf of the former. At all events, the same apology ought certainly to be admitted for the wealthy, as for the needy offender. They are subject alike to the over-ruling influence of necessity, and equally affected by the miserable condition of society. If it be natural for a poor man to murder and rob, in order to make himself comfortable, it is no less natural for a rich man to gormandize and domineer, in order to have the full use of his riches. Wealth is just as valid an excuse for the one class of vices, as indigence is for the other.[*]
To blame a man for being “filled with horror and compassion at the sight of poor men shedding their blood in the quarrels of princes;” and to accuse him, on that account, of a “splenetic and idle discontent with the existing institutions of society,” is to put forth a doctrine which we could not characterise in adequate terms, and on which, therefore, we shall abstain from offering any remark. Nor will we refute the assertion, that the vices of the poor are not more excusable than those of the rich: it would be an insult both to the understanding and to the feelings of our readers. But do the rich try themselves even by the same standard as the poor? We give them full credit for their virtuous horror of poachers and of sabbath-breaking orange-women; but we submit that if vices are to be weighed by their tendency to deprave and corrupt the character, gambling, the vice of the rich, is entitled to rank somewhat above even sabbath-breaking and poaching: yet those very gentlemen who habitually enforce against poachers the utmost penalties of an atrocious law, daily receive into their houses persons notorious for gambling at Newmarket, if not in Pall Mall; but who are not, on that account, less “moral men” in the eyes of their vice-suppressing friends. While these are the habitual feelings of the higher classes—feelings which ninety-nine out of every hundred poets foster, and will continue to foster, so long as the aristocracy shall continue, as at present, to lead public opinion; what are we to think of a writer who, like the Edinburgh Reviewer, blames the hundredth for bestowing “exclusive sympathy” upon the poor?
The other article to which we alluded presents a remarkable contrast with the tone which the Edinburgh Review afterwards assumed, on the subject of negro slavery. Its object is, to prove that we ought to wish success to an armament which the French government was then fitting out against Hayti; and that we ought even, if necessary, to assist the French in their enterprise. When we consider what that enterprise was—an enterprise for the purpose of reducing a whole nation of negroes to the alternative of death, or of the most horrible slavery; and when we consider upon what ground we are directed to co-operate in it, namely, the danger to which our colonies would be exposed, by the existence of an independent negro commonwealth, we can have no difficulty in appreciating such language as the following:
We have the greatest sympathy for the unmerited sufferings of the unhappy negroes; we detest the odious traffic which has poured their myriads into the Antilles: but we must be permitted to feel some tenderness for our European brethren, although they are white and civilized, and to deprecate that inconsistent spirit of canting philanthropy which, in Europe, is only excited by the wrongs or miseries of the poor and the profligate, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, is never warmed but towards the savage, the mulatto, and the slave.*
To couple together “the poor” and “the profligate,” as if they were two names for the same thing, is a piece of complaisance to aristocratic morality which requires no comment. Then all who venture to doubt whether it is perfectly just and humane to aid in reducing one half of the people of Hayti to slavery, and exterminating the other half, are accused of sympathizing exclusively with the blacks. We wonder what the writer would call sympathizing exclusively with the whites. We should have thought that the lives and liberties of a whole nation, were an ample sacrifice, for the sake of a slight, or rather, as the event has proved, an imaginary addition to the security of the property of a few West-India planters. This is, indeed, to abjure “canting philanthropy.” What it is that the reviewer gives us in the place of it we leave to the reader to judge.
In the third volume there is a passage, in an article[*] on Millar’s View of the English Government, where the writer, attempting to draw a character of Millar, thus expresses himself:
There never was any mind, perhaps, less accessible to the illusions of that sentimental and ridiculous philanthropy which has led so many to the adoption of popular principles. He took a very cool and practical view of the condition of society, and neither wept over the imaginary miseries of the lower orders, nor shuddered at the imputed vices of the higher.
By all in whom aristocratic bigotry has not extinguished every spark of candour or honesty, but one judgment can be passed upon a writer who can apply to the unmerited sufferings of the poor the appellation of “imaginary miseries,” and who can insinuate that the “imputed vices” of the higher orders are imputed to them without foundation.
He continues, “While no man could be more convinced of the incapacity and worthlessness of the clamorous multitude, he thought that the indirect influence of public opinion was the only safeguard of our liberties.”[*] Can Toryism go beyond this? The passage is, besides, an amusing specimen of see-saw. The attempt to unite contradictory opinions is more undisguised, less carefully wrapped up in vague and obscure language, than is usual with the Edinburgh Review. For the aristocracy, abuse is heaped upon the people, under the name of the “clamorous multitude;” for the people, the influence of public opinion is described as the only safeguard of our liberties: the opinion of that public which, in the preceding part of the very same sentence, is accused of incapacity and worthlessness.
The Edinburgh Review could have hoped for no success with the aristocracy, had it let slip any opportunity of possessing them with high ideas of their own importance to the community. We need not wonder, therefore, to find it describing a resident gentry as one of the greatest of all blessings; and one, of which the infallible consequence would be, “the improvement of their lands, and the improvement of their tenantry in morals, in comfort, and in industry.” (Vol. V, p. 302; see also Vol. XXIV, p. 523; Vol. XXXIV, p. 326, et passim.)[†] There is only one thing of which the writer has neglected to inform us: how these most desirable effects are brought about. The tenants, at least, are not impressed with a due sense of them; for in Scotland (and the same, we suppose, would be found to be the case in England), a higher rent is commonly paid for a farm, when it is known that the proprietor is not to reside in the neighbourhood. It is a pity that so flattering a picture as the reviewer holds up to us, should differ so widely from the real state of the facts.*
The only remaining instance which space will permit us to notice, of the obloquy thrown upon the people by the Edinburgh Review, shall be selected from a very recent article on the Westminster Infant School.[‡]
The reviewer mentions with regret, that this establishment, though well attended so long as it continued a free school, had fallen off considerably when the payment of three pence a week was required. This he ascribes to “that vulgar feeling which makes the poor too often greedy at once, and ungrateful; expecting as a kind of right, what their richer neighbours give in charity, and almost thinking that whoever volunteers his services in their behalf, has a personal interest in their good, and should pay for his fancy.” (P. 445.) We do not precisely see what the writer means. If he is finding fault with the poor, for not liking better to pay for what they want than to receive it gratis, we suspect it is a fault to which all men, not excepting even the reviewer himself, must plead guilty. But if he means to insinuate, that they refrain from sending their children to the school, because they suspect the motives of the gentlemen who set it on foot, the absurdity is so palpable as scarcely to need a refutation. The idea that any one, in determining whether he will avail himself of a proffered benefit, is influenced by any other considerations than, first, whether it is really a benefit, and secondly, whether the cost does not exceed the advantage, almost provokes a laugh. In this instance, there can be no doubt as to the cause of the falling-off of the school. The parents uniformly evinced the acutest sensibility to the benefits they derived from it. But a great proportion of them were from the very poorest of the people, and really could not spare threepence a week, much less fourpence or sixpence. Mark, however, the uncandidness of the reviewer; he knew that some parents chose rather to withdraw their children, than to pay threepence a week. He knew also, that some parents formerly paid fourpence or sixpence a week to the dame schools. He immediately lays it down as certain, that these two classes of persons are the same; and on these premises he accuses the poor in general of giving a preference to the dame schools!
That the poor, in all countries, instead of erring on the side of distrust, have uniformly erred on the side of confidence, is proved by their habitual submission to misgovernment. Perhaps, if it were admitted that they are habitually suspicious of the rich, the influence would be more unfavourable to their superiors than to themselves. To borrow an illustration from another branch of morality; the veracity of that man must be more than suspected, whose word is disbelieved even when he speaks the truth. By the same rule, then, if the poor habitually suspect that the rich, when they profess to serve them, are really serving their own sinister purposes, the fair inference would be, not that these suspicious habits had grown up, as suspicious habits never were known to grow up, of themselves; but that, from the frequency with which the poor have seen their interests disregarded by the rich, they cannot bring themselves to repose any confidence in the professions which they hear from those rich, of a desire to serve them.*
The Edinburgh Review has pandered with as much perseverance to national as to aristocratic prejudices. English and excellent it employs as synonymous terms; that a foreigner admires England, is a sure passport to its praise; that he does not, is of itself sufficient to draw down upon him its censure. The habits and institutions of other nations are praised exactly in proportion as they approach to the English standard; blamed in proportion as they depart from it. On the other hand, the prejudices which prevail in this country against the French, are carefully nourished and fostered. Every opportunity is taken of showing how much the character and habits of that nation differ from excellence; meaning, of course, by excellence, the English habits and character. Sometimes, indeed, a torrent of mere abuse is poured out against the French, for the sole purpose of gratifying national antipathy.
We could fill a whole article with instances of these practices; but the few which we shall select are so flagrant, that any one who peruses them, will readily dispense with the remainder.
In an article in the second volume, on Dallas’s History of the Maroons,[*] the writer, after very properly deprecating the use of bloodhounds in hunting down the insurgent slaves, adds the following note:
If common fame may be credited, the French are at present engaged in a campaign against the St. Domingo rebels, with the aid of blood-hounds. Considering the nature of the consular government, and the wretched people over whom it is stretched, we cannot avoid being astonished at this measure having only now been adopted.
The consular government was not worse than any other despotism. Nevertheless, we should not object to the censure, were it levelled against the government alone. But why are the people held responsible for the cruelties of the government? For this reason, that when the above passage was written, the English aristocracy abhorred every thing French—the government as well as the people; but the people most: because they had incurred the guilt of throwing off despotism; the government only that of substituting one despotism for another. On any of the occasions on which the Edinburgh Review has declared the English ministers worthy of impeachment; on the occasion, for instance, of the Walcheren expedition—would they have dared to lay the guilt of the ministers at the door of the English people?[†] Yet the English people had as great a hand in the Walcheren expedition, as the French people had in the employment of blood-hounds in St. Domingo—a reflection which the reviewer probably thought not likely to occur to his antigallican readers.
An article on Dr. Black’s Lectures, in the following Number,[‡] is remarkable for its offerings both to national antipathies and to national vanity. Upon the French men of science, the writer is peculiarly severe. He who could ascribe the invention of the most beautiful system of weights and measures ever yet known, to a combination of “innovating phrenzy and puerile vanity” [p. 22], must have sat down with a predetermination to find matter for censure. In his next charge he is almost equally unfortunate. Some French savans, it seems, in the warmth of their self-congratulation upon a most important discovery, had indulged in certain ludicrous ceremonies, repugnant indeed to English gravity, but of which the worst that can be said is, that they were a harmless piece of child’s play:
When the Parisian chemists, it seems, had finished their grand experiment on the composition of water, they held a sort of festival, at which Madame Lavoisier, in the habit of a priestess, burnt Stahl’s Fundamenta on an altar, while solemn music played a requiem to the departed system.*
We confess we do not see any thing very atrocious in this; and we suspect no one but an Edinburgh or a Quarterly reviewer would have thought of magnifying it into a proof of “that universal charlatanerie (the word cannot be translated by a people so destitute of the thing) which renders the French national character the least respectable of any in the civilized world.” [P. 22.] John Bull, whose gullibility has been the subject of so many sarcasms, would no doubt feel agreeably surprised at being told that no such thing as charlatanerie is known in England. If he reflected, however, that this very England is the only country where a quack doctor ever succeeded, we fear he would feel inclined to doubt the sincerity of his panegyrist.
In another article in the same Number,[*] “a vicious and perverted love of obscenity” is described as “peculiarly and characteristically the disgrace of French literature.” (P. 125.) In a subsequent article[†] this charge is repeated, and directed more peculiarly against Diderot, whose works are affirmed to be characterized by a peculiar and revolting kind of indecency. (P. 283.) We think it sufficient to appeal to the knowledge of any one who is well versed in French literature, whether there is as much indecency in any French writer of reputation—probably in any two French writers of reputation—as there is in Shakspeare alone; Shakspeare, whom the Edinburgh Review holds up as the ne plus ultra of literary excellence.[‡]
For some years, when the cry of the Edinburgh Review was for peace; to continue reviling the French, would have been to fight against its own object. In the more recent volumes, however, it has returned to its former practice, which it had never more than partially intermitted.
The charge of indecency against the French is one which it has thought proper frequently to repeat. At the end of an article in the thirty-first volume, on Madame d’Epinay’s Correspondence, the writer observes—“But if all the decencies and delicacies of life were in one scale, and five francs in the other, what French bookseller would feel a single moment of doubt in making his election?”[§] Now, we take the case to be, that in this, as in most other respects, a French bookseller is very like any other bookseller. The love of gain, we are apt to think, is not peculiar to the French people: and when a writer inveighs against a particular nation, for being acted upon by the same inducements which influence men all over the world, we are at no loss in what terms to characterize his conduct.
Three recent articles, one in the thirty-fourth, one in the thirty-fifth, and another in the thirty-seventh volume,[*] are devoted to the express purpose of extolling all English, and depreciating all French books and authors;* of extolling the morality, taste, and knowledge of the English public, and depreciating that of the French. The writer appears not to be aware, that there are two sides to a question. In as far as he is concerned, there is only one. On the English side he enumerates nothing but excellencies; on the French side, nothing but defects. As if this were not enough, he draws largely upon his imagination for fresh excellencies to be ascribed to the English, and fresh defects to the French. Not content with pronouncing in favour of the English national taste, on every point on which it differs from the French; he traces up all such differences to the superiority of the English over the French public—first in good sense, and next in morality. A detailed analysis of these articles would not convey an adequate conception of their spirit to those who have not read them, and would be superfluous to those who have. Our limits will admit only of one specimen. Flagrant as that specimen is, it is not the worst. He presents us with what is meant to be a parallel between the eminent men of the last half-century in England and France. With this view he makes a pompous display of all the English authors who have attained, during that period, any, even the smallest, share of celebrity; down to the merest party scribblers, or vulgar versifiers, and including many whose names we never heard before.† On the other hand, he sets up on the French side a sort of index expurgatorius, and instead of a page and a half of names pronounced worthy of immortality, he furnishes us with a list of authors whom he, by his fiat, consigns to oblivion [p. 180]. Among these are not only Jouy, Millevoye, and Raynouard, poets, to say the least, not inferior to many who are enumerated in the same article among the ornaments of the British nation: not only Ségur, Thouret, and Boissy d’Anglas, authors unquestionably far superior, both in liberality, in talents, and in style, to average English historians; but Say,—one of the few French writers who never sacrifices truth to display,—who is never led astray from the path of reason, by sentimentality, or by a taste for floridity and declamation,—Say, who first introduced the French nation to the true principles of political economy, and whose name will be mentioned with honour among the philosophers who have raised that important branch of knowledge to the rank of a science; he, too, is ranked among those “revolutionary worthies,” who will be utterly forgotten in half a century, and the very ablest of whom “would find in this country, and at this moment, at the least ten persons of more ability than himself, yet whose names are absolutely unknown.” (Ibid.)
If there is a fault with which French authors, collectively, can be charged (though even to this rule there are exceptions), it is declamation and sentimentality. And when we consider what has been the character of English literature since Johnson and Burke wrote,—when we see that, in this country, the meanest creature who can hold a pen aims at being eloquent, we cannot pronounce even declamation and sentimentality, though the common faults of French writers, to be characteristic of French literature. Observe that these, the only faults which can be justly ascribed to the French authors generally, are almost the only faults which have not been ascribed to them by the Edinburgh Review. This is not wonderful, considering of what stamp some of the works have been upon which the Edinburgh Review has been the most prodigal of its praise,* and considering also the examples of declamation and sentimentality with which its pages abound.
The sentiments which the Edinburgh Review has put forth concerning female character, are as little creditable to itself, and exemplify as completely the characteristic malady of periodical literature, as any which we have yet quoted.
He who is restrained by indolence from improving himself, has a direct interest in preventing the improvement of others; since, if others improve, and he does not keep pace with them, he must necessarily lose his rank in their estimation. But he is most of all interested in the non-improvement of his wife. For he thinks, and he believes that others think, that he ought to be her guardian and protector: to rely, therefore, upon her for protection and guidance, instead of extending it to her, is more than usually humiliating. There is another and a very powerful motive, which renders ordinary men averse to instructed women. Every man desires that his wife should prefer him, and prefer him beyond comparison, to all other men. But if she is capable of discriminating between merit and no merit, she will not reserve for her husband alone that admiration which ought to be given wherever it is deserved; and if he is neither wiser nor better than others, he will not, by her, be rated higher, or valued more.
To these causes must be ascribed the morality which is usually chalked out for women. It is a sort of morality, the prevalence of which it would be difficult to account for in any other way. The qualities which are said to constitute excellence in a woman, are very different from those which constitute excellence in a man. It is considered meritorious in a man to be independent: to be sufficient to himself; not to be in a constant state of pupillage. In a woman, helplessness, both of mind and of body, is the most admired of attributes. A man is despised, if he be not courageous. In a woman, it is esteemed amiable to be a coward. To be entirely dependant upon her husband for every pleasure, and for exemption from every pain; to feel secure, only when under his protection; to be incapable of forming any opinion, or of taking any resolution without his advice and aid; this is amiable, this is delicate, this is feminine: while all who infringe on any of the prerogatives which man thinks proper to reserve for himself; all who can or will be of any use, either to themselves or to the world, otherwise than as the slaves and drudges of their husbands, are called masculine, and other names intended to convey disapprobation. Even they who profess admiration for instructed women, not unfrequently select their own wives from among the ignorant and helpless.
That the Edinburgh Review has never stood up manfully to resist this prejudice, is in itself no trifling charge. But it has done more: it has repeatedly given a direct sanction to it. Madame De Staël, Miss Edgeworth, and other eminent women, were to be praised; it could not, therefore, in distinct terms, number incapacity among female virtues. But it could say, “Shakspeare has expressed the very perfection of the feminine character, existing only for others, and leaning for support on the strength of its affections.”* A character which has nothing to lean upon but the strength of its affections, must be a helpless character indeed. This is vague enough; and, like almost every thing which the Edinburgh Review says in defence of prejudices, admits of being explained away. The tendency of it, however, is manifest; and it is equally evident, that the vague language in which it is wrapped up, only serves to render it the more pernicious, by inveigling many into assent, who would shrink from the proposition, if presented to them in its naked deformity.
Such additional remarks as our limits will admit of shall be devoted to illustrate the morality of the Edinburgh Review.
This, it might be thought, is a labour which, after the specimens already exhibited, might be spared. What can be more immoral than the see-saw? a practice which is, throughout, a mere sacrifice of truth to convenience: a practice which habituates its votaries to play fast and loose with opinions—to lay down one, and take up another, with every change of audience? Can there be a spectacle more repugnant to that candour and sincerity which are so essential a part of morality, than a continual attempt to varnish over inconsistencies, and to reconcile in appearance doctrines which are really irreconcileable? What immorality, again, can exceed that of pandering to those prejudices which render one nation the enemy of another, or one portion of the people the enemy of the mass?
In the Whig morality, however, as delivered in the Edinburgh Review, there are some features which call for a more detailed examination.
In the following passage, extracted from an article in the twentieth volume on Leckie’s View of the English Government,[*] we have a tolerable specimen of the sort of conduct which answers to the Whig ideas of public virtue:
Parties are necessary in all free governments—and are indeed the characteristics by which such governments may be known. One party, that of the rulers of the court, is necessarily formed and disciplined from the permanence of its chief, and the uniformity of the interests it has to maintain—the party in opposition, therefore, must be marshalled in the same way. When bad men combine, good men must unite—and it would not be less hopeless for a crowd of worthy citizens to take the field without leaders or discipline, against a regular army, than for individual patriots to think of opposing the influence of the sovereign by their separate and uncombined exertions. As to the lengths which they should be permitted to go in support of the common cause, or the extent to which each ought to submit his private opinion to the general sense of his associates, it does not appear to us—though casuists may mask dishonour, and purists startle at shadows—either that any man of upright feelings can be at a loss for a rule of conduct, or that, in point of fact, there has ever been any blameable excess in the maxims upon which our parties in this country have been generally conducted. The leading principle is, that a man should satisfy himself that the party to which he attaches himself means well to the country, and that more substantial good will accrue to the nation from its coming into power, than from the success of any other body of men whose success is at all within the limits of probability.—Upon this principle, therefore, he will support that party in all things which he approves—in all things that are indifferent—and even in some things which he partly disapproves, provided they neither touch the honour and vital interests of the country, nor imply any breach of the ordinary rules of morality.—Upon the same principle he will attack not only all that he individually disapproves in the conduct of the adversary, but all that might appear indifferent and tolerable enough to a neutral spectator, if it afford an opportunity to weaken him in the public opinion, and to increase the chance of bringing that party into power from which alone he sincerely believes that any sure or systematic good is to be expected. Farther than this we do not believe that the leaders or respectable followers of any considerable party, intentionally allow themselves to go.
Observe the course which is here chalked out for a public man. The first thing he has to do is to choose a party. As he is to fix his choice upon the party of whose measures he approves, one would think he ought to stand by it so long as he approves of its measures, and no longer. Such would be the dictate of honesty; but such is not the dictate of the Edinburgh Review. To stand by it in all things which he approves, in all things which are indifferent, and in some things which he disapproves: this is the Whig morality. By supporting it in things which he approves, he is only doing what he might have done, and kept, notwithstanding, perfectly clear from the trammels of party. The only thing peculiar to the party system, is the obligation to stand by his party in things which are indifferent, and in things which he disapproves. Observe, now, what this implies. To support the party in things which are indifferent, he must profess to believe them not to be indifferent. To support the party in things which he disapproves, he must, where he really disapproves, profess to approve. He must pretend to hold, and act as if he held, opinions directly contrary to his real opinions.
Another rule of party morality is pretty clearly expressed in the foregoing passage—“He will attack not only all that he individually disapproves in the conduct of the adversary, but all that might appear indifferent and tolerable enough to a neutral spectator, if it afford an opportunity to weaken him in the public opinion.” For the sake of weakening the minister in the public opinion, a deception is to be practised upon the public: means are to be used for misleading them, by instilling into them a false opinion, by persuading them that the minister has acted wrong, when in truth he has acted right. We presume it would be meritorious to invent any convenient sophism which should have the effect of furthering so laudable an object.
The reader will do well to peruse, as a specimen of the Whig style of argument, an elaborate article on the state of parties in the thirtieth volume, in which all this jesuitry is vindicated under the name of concert and co-operation.[*] The ministry—such is the language—have an organized and well-disciplined body of adherents constantly at their devotion: when bad men combine, good men must unite; and in this, as in every thing else, small things must be yielded for the sake of great ones.
Let us bear in mind what sort of “concert” it is, which is here recommended: a concert which consists in opposing the ministry when they are right, supporting the opposition when they are wrong: a concert of which the fundamental principle is, that every thing to which the majority of the party is favourable, shall be supported by the whole; every thing to which the majority is adverse, opposed by the whole. To call this “yielding in small things for the sake of great ones,”[†] is to beg the question. There are sufficient reasons to make it certain that the yielding will be precisely in those things which are the most important of all.
While public men continue to be, what public men, with few exceptions, are at present, so little versed in the science of human nature, so little skilled in predicting effects from their causes; excessive timidity must be, in the great majority of cases, the governing principle of their conduct. A short-sighted man is ever timid. He sees that, under the present system, person and property are to a certain degree secure. Change the system, and he knows not what will happen. Not knowing what will happen, he fears the worst. And though he dreads great changes most, his opposition extends even to the smallest. Innovation once begun, though it be but in a trifle, he knows not when or where it will end.
In the present situation of Great Britain, and of all countries in Europe, extensive and searching reforms are imperatively required. All half measures are useless, with reference to the production of any great or permanent good. To effect extensive and searching reforms, boldness and decision are absolutely necessary. Boldness and decision, however, are qualities, in which, for the reasons which we have stated, the public men of the present day, at least the great majority of them, are, of necessity, and to a lamentable degree, deficient. All decisive measures, therefore, are sure to meet with opposition at their hands. They never venture to strike at the root of the evil. Some miserable palliative is all they dare to apply. It is to the more manly and clear-sighted alone, that the advocate of effectual improvement must look for support. Here, however, the evils of the party system are most clearly shown. The clear-sighted and manly, who would have been instruments of good, become instruments of mischief. Instead of aiding effectual improvement, they are compelled to oppose it. They are dragged down to the level of the meanest animal who can give a vote; they dare not advance a step without his previous sanction; they are pressed into the service of every abuse which he in his wisdom may consider it unsafe to remove.
This is to “yield in small things for the sake of great ones.” But what are the great ones? What is the end, for which every thing which is of most importance, and almost every thing which is of any importance, is to be sacrificed? Simply the displacement of the ministry: an important object, we admit, to those who hope to succeed them; but would it be of any benefit to the people? Even on the principles of the Edinburgh Review it would not. For if the removal of a particular set of ministers is of so much importance, that ministry must have been guilty of immense mischief: of what sort then must be the constitution which permitted them to do so? And if the constitution be such as not to prevent an abuse of trust, by what right does the opposition lay claim to more confidence than the ministry?
When such is the state of the question; to talk of the necessity of concert, is to talk in the air. No one is more sensible of the necessity of concert than ourselves. Not that sort of concert which consists in speaking and voting on one side, thinking and feeling on the other—but a concert which involves no sacrifice of principle—a concert for mutual aid among those who agree, without imposing fetters upon those who differ; a concert, in short, not for men, but for measures. All would then co-operate, where all were agreed; and the advocate of bold and decisive measures—of the only measures which in the present state of the world can be of great or permanent utility; would have the support of every sincere man whom he could convince.
Even though it had not been in our power to quote, as we have done, from the pages of the Edinburgh Review, explicit declarations in favour of bad morality—the morality of party—that Review would still have been far from blameless on the moral score. There is such a thing as negative immorality—there is the immoral by omission; and of this it stands convicted out of its own mouth. Witness the following extracts from an article in the twenty-first volume.[*] In what respect does a moral work differ from one which is not moral? In aiming at rendering mankind wiser and better. What, then are we to think of a publication which declares all improvement in wisdom and in virtue, to be hopeless?
All knowledge which admits of demonstration will advance, we have no doubt, and extend itself, and all processes will be improved, that do not interfere with the passions of human nature, or the apparent interest of its ruling classes. But with regard to every thing depending on probable reasoning, or susceptible of debate, and especially with regard to every thing touching morality and enjoyment, we really are not sanguine enough to reckon on any considerable improvement; and suspect that men will go on blundering in speculation and transgressing in practice, pretty nearly as they do at present, to the latest period of their history.
Then follows a series of paragraphs to corroborate this assertion. We copy one or two of them. They throw some light upon the logic as well as upon the morality of the Edinburgh Review.
Take the case, for example, of war—by far the most prolific and extensive pest of the human race, whether we consider the sufferings it inflicts, or the happiness it prevents—and see whether it is likely to be arrested by the progress of intelligence and civilization. In the first place, it is manifest, that instead of becoming less frequent or destructive, in proportion to the rapidity of that progress, our European wars have been incomparably more constant, and more sanguinary, since Europe became signally enlightened and humanized,—and that they have uniformly been most obstinate and most popular in its most polished countries. The brutish Laplanders, and bigotted and profligate Italians, have had long intervals of repose; but France and England are now pretty regularly at war for about fourscore years out of every century. In the second place, the lovers and conductors of war are by no means the most ferocious or stupid of their species,—but for the most part the very contrary;—and their delight in it, notwithstanding their compassion for human suffering, and their complete knowledge of its tendency to produce suffering, seems to us sufficient almost of itself to discredit the confident prediction of those who assure us, that when men have attained to a certain degree of intelligence, war must necessarily cease among all the nations of the earth. There can be no better illustration indeed, than this, of the utter futility of all those dreams of perfectibility, which are founded on a radical ignorance of what it is that constitutes the real enjoyment of human nature, and upon the play of how many principles and opposite stimuli that happiness depends, which, it is absurdly imagined, would be found in the mere negation of suffering, or in a state of Quakerish placidity, dulness, and uniformity. Men delight in war, in spite of the pains and miseries which it entails upon them and their fellows, because it exercises all the talents, and calls out all the energies of their nature—because it holds them out conspicuously as the objects of public sentiment and general sympathy—because it gratifies their pride of art, and gives them a lofty sentiment of their own power, worth, and courage,—but principally because it sets the game of existence upon a higher stake, and dispels, by its powerful interest, those feelings of ennui which steal upon every condition from which hazard and anxiety are excluded, and drive us into danger and suffering as a relief. While human nature continues to be distinguished by those attributes, we do not see any chance of war being superseded by the increase of wisdom and morality. We should be pretty well advanced in the career of perfectibility if all the inhabitants of Europe were as intelligent, and upright, and considerate, as sir John Moore, or lord Nelson, or lord Wellington,—but we should not have the less war, we take it, with all its attendant miseries. The more wealth, and intelligence, and liberty, there is in a country, indeed, the greater love there will be for war;—for a gentleman is uniformly a more pugnacious animal than a plebeian, and a free man than a slave. The case is the same with the minor contentions that agitate civil life, and shed abroad the bitter waters of political animosity, and grow up into the rancours and atrocities of faction and cabal. The actors in these scenes are not the lowest or most debased characters in the country,—but, almost without exception, of the very opposite description. It would be too romantic to suppose that the whole population of any country should ever be raised to the level of Fox and Pitt, Burke, Windham, or Grattan; and yet, if that miraculous improvement were to take place, we know that they would be at least as far from agreeing, as they are at present, and may fairly conclude, that they would contend with far greater warmth and animosity.
For that great class of evils, therefore, which arise from contention, emulation, and diversity of opinion upon points which admit of no solution, it is evident that the general increase of intelligence would afford no remedy; and there even seems to be reason for thinking, that it would increase their amount. If we turn to the other great source of human suffering, the abuse of power and wealth, and the other means of enjoyment, we suspect we shall not find any ground for indulging in more sanguine expectations. Take the common case of youthful excess and imprudence, for example, in which the evil commonly rests on the head of the transgressor,—the injury done to fortune, by thoughtless expense—to health and character, by sensual indulgence, and to the whole felicity of after-life, by rash and unsorted marriages. The whole mischief and hazard of such practices, we are persuaded, is just as thoroughly known and understood at present, as it will be when the world is five thousand years older; and as much pains are taken to impress the ardent spirits of youth with the belief of those hazards, as can well be taken by the monitors who may discharge that office in the most remote futurity. The truth is, that the offenders do not offend so much in ignorance, as in presumption. They know very well, that men are oftener ruined than enriched at the gaming table; and that love marriages, clapt up under age, are frequently followed by divorces: But they know, too, that this is not always the case; and they flatter themselves that their good luck, and good judgment, will class them among the exceptions, and not among the ordinary examples of the rule. They are told well enough, for the most part, of the excessive folly of acting upon such a presumption in matters of serious importance:—But it is the nature of youth to despise much of the wisdom that is pressed upon them, and to think well of their fortune and sagacity, till they have actually had experience of their slipperiness. We really have no idea that their future teachers will be able to change this nature; or to destroy the eternal distinction between the character of early and mature life; and therefore it is that we despair of the cure of the manifold evils that spring from this source; and remain persuaded, that young men will be nearly as foolish, and as incapable of profiting by the experience of their seniors, ten thousand years hence, as they are at this moment.
With regard to the other glittering curses of life—the heartless dissipations—the cruel seductions—the selfish extravagance—the rejection of all interesting occupation or serious affection, which blast the splendid summit of human fortune with perpetual barrenness and discomfort—we can only say, that as they are miseries which exist almost exclusively among the most polished and intelligent of the species, we do not think it very probable, at least, that they will be eradicated by rendering the species more polished and intelligent. They are not occasioned, we think, by ignorance or improper education; but by that eagerness for strong emotion and engrossing occupation, which still proclaim it to be the genuine and irreversible destiny of man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brows. It is a fact indeed rather perplexing and humiliating to the advocates of perfectibility, that as soon as a man is delivered from the necessity of subsisting himself, and providing for his family, he generally falls into a state of considerable unhappiness; and, if some fortunate anxiety, or necessity for exertion, does not come to his relief, is generally obliged to seek for a slight and precarious distraction in vicious and unsatisfactory pursuits. It is not for want of knowing that they are unsatisfactory that he persists in them, nor for want of being told of their folly and criminality,—for moralists and divines have been occupied with little else for the best part of a century; and writers of all descriptions, indeed, have charitably expended a good part of their own ennui in copious directions for the innocent and effectual reduction of that common enemy. In spite of all this, however, the malady has increased with our wealth and refinement, and has brought along with it the increase of all those vices and follies in which its victims still find themselves constrained to seek a temporary relief. The truth is, that military and senatorial glory is neither within the reach, nor suited to the taste, of any very great proportion of the sufferers; and that the cultivation of waste lands, and the superintendence of tippling-houses and charity-schools, have not always been found such effectual and delightful remedies as the inditers of godly romances have sometimes represented. So that those whom fortune has cruelly exempted from the necessity of doing any thing, have been led very generally to do evil of their own accord, and have fancied that they rather diminished than added to the sum of human misery, by engaging in intrigues and gaming-clubs, and establishing coteries for detraction or sensuality.
We must call the attention of our readers to one short passage more.
There will be improvements, we make no doubt, in all the mechanical and domestic arts;—better methods of working metal, and preparing cloth;—more commodious vehicles, and more efficient implements of war. Geography will be made more complete, and astronomy more precise;—natural history will be enlarged and digested;—and perhaps some little improvement suggested in the forms of administering law. But as to any general enlargement of the understanding, or more prevailing vigour of judgment, we will own, that the tendency seems to be all the other way; and that we think strong sense, and extended views of human affairs, are more likely to be found, and to be listened to at this moment, than two or three hundred years hereafter.
We are here told, not obscurely, but distinctly—not indirectly, but in as many words—that morality will never be better understood than at present; that morality will never be better practised than at present; that mankind will never be more prudent than they now are; that vigour of intellect and sound views of human affairs are oftener found and better listened to at this moment, than they are likely to be at any future period.
This is a bold attempt to catch the favour of aristocracy, by affording a new pretext for checking the diffusion of knowledge. In the mean time, how gross is the hypocrisy of which, by its own confession, the Edinburgh Review must have been guilty, as often as it has cried out, and it has cried out often, for the instruction, and, above all, for the moral instruction of the people! We think also, that it may fairly be asked, by what title a work which sets out by assuming the impossibility of human improvement, can be supposed to have human improvement at heart, or to have any object whatever in view, beyond the mere temporary amusement of its readers?
And, indeed, if the value which a writer sets upon morality can be gathered from the judgments which he passes upon other writers, the Edinburgh Review has not traced its own portrait with too severe a pencil.
The examples which we shall adduce of this part of its character are not to be viewed as isolated instances, but as illustrative of its general practice. To be over-partial to this or that writer is a trifling offence. But habitually to bestow praise, not upon one production only, but upon many, without for a moment adverting to their moral tendency, implies a state of mind on which we shall leave the reader to his own reflections.
We shall select, as our first instance, the tenor of its criticism upon Shakspeare: if that can be called criticism, where all is unmingled admiration.
No one, we suppose, will dispute to Johnson the title of an admirer of Shakspeare, though not, perhaps, an admirer to the taste of the Edinburgh Review: for he contented himself with being the ablest and most successful of the eulogists of Shakspeare as a poet; and did not, as some have done, hold him up as a perfect teacher of morality also.
His first defect, [says Johnson,] is that to which may be imputed most of the evil in books or in men. He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write without any moral purpose. From his writings, indeed, a system of social duty may be selected, for he that thinks reasonably must think morally; but his precepts and axioms drop casually from him; he makes no just distribution of good or evil, nor is always careful to show in the virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked: he carries his persons indifferently through right and wrong, and at the close dismisses them without further care, and leaves their examples to operate by chance. This fault the barbarity of his age cannot extenuate; for it is always a writer’s duty to make the world better, and justice is a virtue independent on time and place.*
We should be sorry to be suspected of affecting prudery. It is one thing to be a moralist, another thing to be a poet; and a high degree of excellence in the one capacity is not incompatible with great deficiency in the other. But we assert that in a species of writing which admits so easily of being made subservient to morality, to be without a moral object is one of the greatest of defects; and we do say, that amid all the praises which the Edinburgh Review has lavished upon Shakspeare, its never having uttered even a wish that the moral tendency of his plays had been more decided, gives the lie direct to all its professions of zeal for morality. But the Edinburgh Review is written for Englishmen: Shakspeare is the idol of Englishmen: Shakspeare, therefore, must be praised, and for the more complete satisfaction of his admirers, all his merits must be exaggerated, and all his demerits must be sunk. To render men wiser or better is but a secondary concern: to please the public taste, is the first.
If to write without a moral purpose be a fault which the barbarity even of Shakspeare’s age cannot extenuate, we presume it will be held to be still less excusable in Sir Walter Scott. He too shows no decided leaning between virtue and vice. There is no one of his productions from which, unless it be by chance, any one useful lesson can be derived. It is impossible to peruse them without being convinced that amusement, and amusement only, is there studied. This highly-gifted author, is, like Shakspeare, an object of admiration to the Edinburgh Review;[*] but not, like Shakspeare, of unqualified admiration. It has not judged him faultless; it has found defects; other defects, but never that of wanting a moral purpose; never has it abated, on this account, one iota of its praise; never for a moment has it lamented that his productions were not useful, as well as agreeable.
This indifference to the moral tendency of a work is perfectly consistent with the declaration of the Edinburgh Review, that the human race is without the capacity of moral improvement. But it forms a notable contrast with the scrupulosity which the same Review has assumed, when opprobrium is to be heaped upon an unpopular writer: upon Voltaire, for example: towards whom it seems to think that it is scarcely possible to be too foul-mouthed. “To him, more than to any other individual, the eighteenth century owes, we fear, its crimes.”* Such is its ordinary language. Yet it cannot be said of Voltaire as it can of Shakspeare, that virtue and vice appear to be nearly indifferent in his eyes. He was even remarkable for the contrary quality. With Voltaire, even in his lighter pieces, to make the reader wiser and better is the consideration to which all others are subordinate. It is the part, not of moralists, but of bigots, to be blinded by the irreligious tendency of some of his writings, to the transcendant importance of the services which he rendered to mankind. It is the characteristic of fanaticism to find nothing which is not odious in the objects of its pious abhorrence. As to the hackneyed charge of licentiousness, we do not hesitate to meet it with a direct contradiction. Excepting, perhaps, the Pucelle d’Orleans,[†] one of his earlier productions, and published, as is well known, not only without his consent, but against his will—bring together all the licentious passages in all his voluminous works—set them against the indecencies of a single play of Shakspeare—and let any man of common candor and honesty be judge between them. But the besetting sin of Voltaire was, that he waged war against aristocratic prejudices. This it is which has drawn upon him the hatred of the aristocracy; this it is, which constitutes his title to the reproaches of the Edinburgh Review.
There is one part of the language of the Edinburgh Review concerning morals, on which it is necessary to offer a few remarks: as it might otherwise lead to the supposition, that we have been guilty of misrepresentation; that our accusation against it, of a disregard for morality, is untrue; that far from showing disregard, it has gone into the opposite extreme. This might be said, and, at first sight, with some appearance of truth. It is no doubt true, that there is one branch of morals on which it has affected even prudery. Of this we gave some instances in our former number.[*] We could point out many articles, which, as examples of what is termed cant, have, we think, rarely been surpassed. Of such a kind are the various articles on Moore’s amatory poetry. Even the ancients are considered very immoral, if their ideas, on this branch of morality, do not precisely correspond with those of the Edinburgh Review.* In the second volume, there is a long tirade against the morality of Anacreon;† and at a later period Plato is represented as exceedingly wicked, for having expounded, in his Republic, the footing upon which he thought that the marriage contract could most advantageously be placed.‡ Still more recently Mr. Edgeworth is blamed for having informed the world, in his posthumous memoirs, of his successive marriage of two sisters, that is, for not having made himself appear to the world other than what he really was.§
That one offence is at all palliated by committing another, is what we cannot admit. Among all conceivable methods of atoning for the offence of leaving all other virtues to shift for themselves—to lay an excessive and disproportionate stress upon those which are of least importance to society, is surely the most extraordinary. Why this class of acts is thus exalted above all others, one obvious consideration will go far to explain. This is a branch of morality of which the priests have been suffered, for their own purposes, to assume the regulation, and they have accordingly laid down, not that system of rules which is most conducive to the well-being of the two sexes, or of society at large; but that which is best calculated to promote their ascendancy. To these virtues, therefore—the virtues of priestcraft—the aristocracy clings, as the firmest support of the consecrated prop: and that the Edinburgh Review, habituated as it is to disregard inconsistencies, should, notwithstanding its declaration that mankind can never be made better, have gone to the full length of the prevailing cant on these subjects, can to us, after what we have seen of that Review, be matter of no surprise.
On the only remaining feature of its morality upon which we shall at present insist—its sentimentality—our limits necessarily compel us to be brief. All, however, which it is absolutely necessary to say, may, we think, be said in few words.
There is a class of persons who rest their claims to admiration, not upon any thing which they have done to benefit mankind, or even that portion of mankind with whom they are immediately in contact, but upon the possession of fine feelings and acute sensibility. They would have us believe them emancipated from all the chains which attach other mortals to the earth. To the acquisition of wealth and power, they would willingly persuade us that they are indifferent; and the pleasures of sense have no charms for them. Not satisfied with this, they insist that all others shall feel exactly as they profess to feel. Gross, sordid, grovelling, are the mildest of the epithets which they deal out against all who set any value upon the ordinary objects of human desire. To think of himself, is an offence which they can pardon in no man. Virtuous creatures! In their minds, all sordid and selfish considerations are swallowed up in the intensity of their tenderness for their fellow-men. So strong are their sympathies, so distressing their sensibility, that their reason is completely mastered, and it would be as impossible for them to withstand the irresistible strength of their emotions, as to resist the action of the elements, or to overcome the force of gravitation. It may be very fine, they admit, to be able to sit down coolly and weigh the consequences to ourselves and to others, of every thing that we do: for their parts, they never could bring themselves to endure so cold and calculating a process. What they regard with the greatest horror of all, is to look after our own interest. Many of them go so far as to stigmatise the virtue of prudence by name. But to reflect, though it be only on the best mode of serving others, though not altogether so heinous, is still considered very unfeeling; and unfeeling, with them, is synonymous with wicked. Their hearts revolt at the idea of subjecting all the refined feelings of our nature to a heartless calculation of public utility, and restraining the indulgence of every generous emotion, until every item of good and evil which can result from it, is weighed and appreciated. Does a fellow-creature in distress stand before them? The frigid systems of philosophers may teach that, in giving alms, they are encouraging idleness and improvidence, and inevitably creating more distress than they relieve. This may be very true, they allow; but heartless indeed must be the man whose hand would be stayed by such considerations! When a crime has been committed, they regulate the quantum of punishment, not according as more or less is necessary for the future prevention of the offence, but according as they do or do not sympathise with the offender. In the former case, they can scarcely endure that any punishment should be inflicted at all. They complain bitterly of the cruelty of the law, and sometimes even of law in general: they are continually placing justice and humanity in opposition, and lauding to the skies injustice under the name of mercy. On the other hand, is the offence of a sort with which they do not sympathise (and both their sympathies and antipathies are in the highest degree capricious and unreasonable), then no infliction appears too severe. Their virtuous horror of crime cannot descend to compute the exact amount of punishment which the nature of the case requires: of what consequence to them are a few degrees more or less of suffering endured by a criminal? They have another curious method of showing the intensity of their sympathies. This is, to make violent demonstrations of feeling on occasions on which practical good sense would tell them that there is no demand for more than ordinary emotion. They will not indeed submit to more labours and privations than other people, for the relief of distressed fellow-creatures: but they make amends by whining over them more.
It is not difficult to trace this sort of affectation to its cause. It originates in the common practice of bestowing upon feelings that praise which actions alone can deserve. By properly regulating his actions, a man becomes a blessing to his species. His mere feelings are a matter of consummate indifference to them. And who will say that praise is well bestowed on that which by no possibility can be of any use whatever? Not to mention that nothing is so easily counterfeited as feeling, and that the most intense demonstrations of it are not inconsistent with the total absence of the reality; what can be more absurd than to praise a man because he has a feeling; to praise him because he has something which he can no more help having, than he can help having ten fingers, or two feet, and which, for any good which it does, he might as well not have at all. The effect is, to create fictitious virtues, and thus to hold out the means of atonement for the absence of real ones; to render it possible, nay easy, to obtain a reputation for virtue, without the trouble of deserving it. Whether this is likely to give any great encouragement to real virtue, is a question which we may fairly leave it to the reader to determine.
There is a class of moralists, however, and this class unhappily includes almost all who have written on the subject of morals, who, instead of correcting, make it their business to find excuses for, the sort of persons whom we have described. To benefit mankind is, in their eyes, a secondary merit: since it is possible to benefit mankind without having fine feelings. So far do they carry this perversion of the moral sanction, that even when they bestow praise upon actions, it is not according as those actions are useful, but according to the motives which they conjecture to have influenced the actors. Another inference from their doctrine is, that to think of consequences, instead of being essential to virtue, is inconsistent with it: a man of fine feelings ought to take those feelings exclusively for his guide: and there is no one so virtuous as he who disregards consequences altogether.
That this is altogether a false doctrine, and that it is, moreover, an exceedingly pernicious doctrine, must be apparent to every one who thinks that the happiness of mankind is at least deserving of some little regard, and is not altogether to be left out of the consideration, when the fine feelings of sentimentalists are in question.
The above description may perhaps appear exaggerated, as applied to the Edinburgh Review. But it must be remembered that we have been describing an extreme case. There is probably no one who carries the sentimental principle to its full extent, but some carry it further than others. There is a certain average rate of sentimentality, which may be considered habitual among ordinarily educated English gentlemen. A periodical publication is interested in going to the full length of the existing prejudices; but it lies under no inducement to go beyond them. Whenever any one carries sentimentality beyond the average rate, he is assailed by the Edinburgh Review with the double weapon of argument and ridicule. Witness its articles on the poets of the Wordsworth school, on Karamsin’s Travels, Kotzebue’s Travels, Montgomery’s Poems, Goethe’s Life, and many other works.* But this is only when it has the reader on its side. It will never do any thing to set the reader right—to correct his errors—to overcome his prejudices. When he is right already, it will be right along with him: a poor merit!
In a very early article, which we have already had occasion to quote, we find the following explicit declaration in favour of the principle of sentimentality:
Is it by such a reference, made by cautious deductions in every situation of public feeling, that generosity, patriotism, and all the devotions of benevolence, are to be fostered into habits? We blame the system of those calculators of the general good, who prohibit the indulgence of any sentiment of affection, until we have compared it, as to its result, with every other feeling.†
But it is in a review of Mr. Bentham’s Traités de Législation (Vol. IV), that the most elaborate attempt is made to erect sentimentality into a system, to clothe it in the garb of philosophy, and to support it by arguments having the semblance of being drawn from the principles of human nature.[*] Utility is here declared to be a very unsafe standard, whether in morals or in legislation; and feeling to be the only secure guide, even in making laws between man and man. This article will bear a comparison with the most barefaced specimen of petitio principii, which ever proceeded from the pen of man. To dissect its sophistry in detail would require more space than we can at present devote to the task.
[[*] ]James Mill, “Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review,” Westminster Review, I (Jan., 1824), 206-49.
[[†] ]John Allen, “Cortes of Spain,” Edinburgh Review, XXIII (Sept., 1814), 379-80.
[[‡] ]See David Hume, “Of the First Principles of Government,” in Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, 2 vols. (London: Cadell; Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute, et al., 1793), Vol. I, pp. 39-40.
[[*] ]Henry Peter Brougham, “Dangers of the Constitution,” Edinburgh Review, XXVII (Sept., 1816), 245-63.
[[*] ]James Mill, “Periodical Literature. Edinburgh Review on Parliamentary Reform,” Westminster Review, IV (July, 1825), 194-233.
[* ]The special jury system is one of those abuses which the Edinburgh Review has uniformly slurred over. In an article in the thirteenth volume, it professes not to believe that any evil arises from the practice of packing juries. ([Thomas Moore Musgrave (or James Musgrave), “Sir R. Phillips on the Office of Sheriff,” Edinburgh Review, XIII (Oct., 1808),] 172.) More recently it declares that the principal part of the evil has been corrected in recent practice. ([Henry Cockburn, “Nomination of Scottish Juries (Part I),” ibid.,] XXXVI [(Oct., 1821)], 174.) It remains, however, uncorrected to this day; and yet the Edinburgh Review, which professes so much regard for free discussion, and for trial by jury, has never dropped one word in reprobation of it.
[[*] ]For the statement, see Thomas Bayly Howell, A Complete Collection of State Trials, 34 vols. (London: Longman, et al., 1809-28), Vol. XXIX, col. 49.
[[†] ]Cf. Peregrine Bingham (probably), “M. Cottu and Special Juries,” and “Periodical Literature: Quarterly Review,” Westminster Review, I (Jan., 1824), 158, and 258.
[[‡] ]Brougham, “Liberty of the Press and Its Abuses,” Edinburgh Review, XXVII (Sept., 1816), 102-44, reviewing Francis Ludlow Holt, The Law of Libel (London: Reed; Dublin: Phelan, 1812).
[[§] ]Ibid., p. 104.
[[¶] ]Brougham is quoting Bentham; cf. Bentham, The Elements of the Art of Packing (London: Wilson, 1821), p. 94.
[[*] ]Sydney Smith, “Travellers in America,” Edinburgh Review, XXXI (Dec., 1818), 132-50.
[[†] ]Francis Jeffrey, “Dispositions of England and America,” ibid., XXXIII (May, 1820), 395-431.
[[*] ]Louis Simond, “France,” ibid., XXXIV (Aug., 1820), 1-39.
[* ]In an article as early as the 10th volume (a review of Capmany’s Questiones Criticas); we are told distinctly that in France, under the Bourbons, the administration of justice was not only bad, but nearly as bad as in Spain. ([John Allen, “Capmany’s Questiones Criticas,” ibid.,] X [(July, 1807)], 425.)
[[†] ]Loi sur les élections, Bulletin 379, No. 8910 (29 juin, 1820), Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 7ième sér., X, 1001-6.
[* ]This is a remarkable instance of see-saw. Five years before, when the Bourbons had not yet done half so much to re-establish despotism as they had in 1820, the Edinburgh Review itself charged them with all those iniquitous designs, from which it afterwards endeavoured to exculpate them. See a long article on France, in the twenty-fifth volume. [Jeffrey, “France,” Edinburgh Review, XXV (Dec., 1815), 501-26.]
[[*] ]Brougham, “Constitutional Association,” ibid., XXXVII (June, 1822), 110-21.
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Southey’s Thalaba,” ibid., I (Oct., 1802), 63-83, reviewing Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer, 2 vols. (London: Longman and Rees, 1801). Brougham, “The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies,” ibid., I, 216-37.
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Southey’s Thalaba,” pp. 71-2.
[* ][Brougham, “The Crisis of the Sugar Colonies,”] p. 227.
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Millar’s View of the English Government,” Edinburgh Review, III (Oct., 1803), 154-81, reviewing John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government, 4 vols. (London: Mawman, 1803).
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Millar’s View,” p. 159.
[[†] ]Anon., “Observations on the Residence of the Clergy,” Edinburgh Review, V (Jan., 1805), 301-17; James Mackintosh, “France,” ibid., XXIV (Nov., 1814), 505-37, and Sydney Smith, “Ireland,” ibid., XXXIV (Nov., 1820), 320-38.
[* ]It is the less excusable in the Edinburgh Review to flatter this aristocratic prejudice, as from the general goodness of its political economy, it cannot be the dupe of the vulgar error that landlords benefit their estates by spending their money there.
[[‡] ]Brougham, “Early Moral Education,” ibid., XXXVIII (May, 1823), 437-53.
[* ]In another place, the reviewer quotes with approbation a passage from Pole, on Infant Schools, in which an attempt is made to account for this imputed suspiciousness, by a supposition of which it is difficult to say whether the candour or the liberality be most remarkable—“The poor scarcely know how to believe others can be actuated by dispositions so superior to what they have been accustomed to cherish in themselves.” [Brougham, p. 453, quoting Thomas Pole, Observations Relative to Infant Schools (Bristol: Macdowall, 1823), p. 72.]
[[*] ]Brougham, “Dallas’s History of the Maroons,” Edinburgh Review. II (July, 1803), 376-91, reviewing Robert Charles Dallas, History of the Maroons, 2 vols. (London: Longman and Rees, 1803).
[[†] ]See Sydney Smith, “Walcheren Expedition,” Edinburgh Review, XVII (Feb., 1811), 330-9.
[[‡] ]Brougham, “Dr. Black’s Lectures,” ibid., III (Oct., 1803), 1-26, reviewing Joseph Black, Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, 2 vols. (London: Longman and Rees; Edinburgh: Creech, 1803).
[* ]Pp. 22-3. [The reference is to Georg Ernst Stahl. Fundamenta chymiae dogmaticae et experimentalis, 3 pts. (Nuremberg: Endter, 1723-32).]
[[*] ]Walter Scott, “Amadis de Gaul, [translations] by Southey and by Rose,” Edinburgh Review, III (Oct., 1803), 109-36.
[[†] ]Jeffrey, “Correspondance littéraire et philosophique de Grimm,” ibid., XXI (July, 1813), 263-99.
[[‡] ]See, e.g., Jeffrey, “Hazlitt on Shakespeare,” ibid., XXVIII (Aug., 1817), 472-88.
[[§] ]Sydney Smith, “Madame d’Epinay,” ibid., XXXI (Dec., 1818), 53, reviewing Louise Florence d’Epinay, Mémoires et correspondance, 3 vols. (Paris: Brunet, 1818).
[[*] ]Richard Chenevix, “State of Science in England and France,” Edinburgh Review, XXXIV (Nov., 1820), 383-422; Chenevix, “English and French Literature,” ibid., XXXV (Mar., 1821), 158-90; and Chenevix and Jeffrey, “French Poetry,” ibid., XXXVII (Nov., 1822), 407-32.
[* ]It is not strictly correct to say that the Edinburgh Review depreciates all the French writers. Upon one of them—upon Montesquieu, it bestows even more than the due praise, but why? It almost confesses the reason—Montesquieu admired England. The English institutions were the standard by which Montesquieu judged of all other institutions. To eulogize Montesquieu, therefore, was one way of eulogizing England. [See Chenevix, “English and French Literature,” pp. 169-70.]
[† ][Chenevix, “English and French Literature,”] pp. 184-5.
[* ]For instance, Alison’s Sermons; Hazlitt’s Lectures on the Drama, Madame De Staël’s Work on Germany, &c. [See Jeffrey, “Alison’s Sermons,” Edinburgh Review, XXIII (Sept., 1814), 424-40, reviewing Archibald Alison, Sermons (Edinburgh: Constable, London: Longman, et al., 1814); Thomas Noon Talfourd, “Hazlitt’s Lectures on the Drama,” Edinburgh Review, XXXIV (Nov., 1820), 438-49, reviewing William Hazlitt, Lectures Chiefly on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (London: Stodart and Steuart, 1820); and James Mackintosh, “De l’Allemagne, par Madame de Staël,” Edinburgh Review, XXII (Oct., 1813), 198-238, reviewing De l’Allemagne, 3 vols. (Paris: Nicolle, 1810).]
[* ][William Hazlitt, “Schlegel on the Drama,” Edinburgh Review,] XXVI [(Feb., 1816)], 103.
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Leckie on the British Government,” ibid., XX (Nov., 1812), 315-46, reviewing Gould Francis Leckie, Essay on the Practice of the British Government (London: Valpy, 1812).
[[*] ]Brougham, “State of Parties,” Edinburgh Review, XXX (June, 1818), 181-206.
[[†] ]Ibid., p. 187.
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Madame de Staël—sur la littérature,” Edinburgh Review, XXI (Feb., 1813), 1-50, reviewing Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, De la littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Paris and London: Colburn, 1812).
[* ][Samuel] Johnson’s “Preface to Shakspeare,” in his Works, Ed. 1806 [12 vols. (London: Johnson, et al.)], Vol. II, pp. 146-7.
[[*] ]See, e.g., Jeffrey, “Scott’s Marmion: A Poem,” Edinburgh Review, XII (Apr., 1808), 1-35; and Jeffrey, “Ivanhoe,” ibid., XXXIII (Jan., 1820), 1-54.
[* ][Chenevix, “English and French Literature,”] p. 171.
[[†] ]In Oeuvres complètes, 66 vols. (Paris: Renouard, 1817-25), Vol. IX.
[[*] ]See James Mill, “Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review,” pp. 230-1.
[* ][Jeffrey, “Moore’s Poems,” Edinburgh Review,] VIII [(July, 1806)], 456-63, et passim.
[† ][John Eyre, “Moore’s Translation of Anacreon,” ibid., II (July, 1803),] 463-4.
[‡ ][Anon., “Memoirs, etc. of Sir Thomas More,” ibid.,] XIV [(July, 1809)], 367, et passim. [See Plato, Republic (Greek and English), trans. Paul Shorey, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), Vol. I, pp. 448-68 (Bk. V, 456-61).]
[§ ][Jeffrey, “Edgeworth’s Memoirs,” Edinburgh Review,] XXXIV [(Aug., 1820)], 122 [reviewing Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Memoirs, 2 vols. (London: Hunter, and Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1820); the two sisters were Honora and Elizabeth Sneyd].
[* ]We quote the following passage to show the light in which the Edinburgh Review regards all unusual affectation of strong and fine feelings.
[† ][Thomas Brown, “Belshaw’s Philosophy of the Mind, etc.,” Edinburgh Review,] I [(Jan., 1803)], 483. [The article had been quoted by James Mill in his “Periodical Literature. Edinburgh Review,” pp. 228-30, for which J. S. Mill had done the research.]
[[*] ]Jeffrey, “Bentham, Principes de législation par Dumont,” Edinburgh Review, IV (Apr., 1804), 1-26.