« 이전계속 »
cultivated. In a whole century of political and literary criticism, it would be foolish for its most extravagant admirers to pretend that its judgement was infallible or that its opinions have always been affirmed by posterity. Jeffrey himself would have been the last to claim inspired authority for the Review, and nothing less than inspiration could have made it always right. He and his associates were able, energetic, widely read, quick-witted men of the world, who, if they sometimes failed to appreciate the merits of the works they discussed, understood very thoroughly the average mass of men who read them. Under the guidance of men such as these the 'Edinburgh Review' attained a position of eminence never before reached by a literary and political journal. It is impossible to look back without pride to the rare ability, the lofty standards, the patriotic motives, and the absolute independence of the 'Edinburgh Review,' and not to rejoice that, on the whole, its weight throughout the greater controversies of a century has been thrown on that side which the wisdom that comes after the event has declared to be the right one.
We know from Sydney Smith, Lord Cockburn, and others, everything about the birth and early years of the Review. In 1755 there had been started in the capital of Scotland an ' Edinburgh Review' which had only survived for a single year, its second number being also its last. Since then there had been no critical journal in Scotland at all, and in England, where there were, no doubt, reviews in existence, their general feebleness, and the fact that they abstained almost entirely from the discussion of matter not purely literary, left the field open to an organ largely occupied with the boldest enunciation of political views and the sharpest criticism of public measures. The set of young men who used to meet together in the sprin'y of 1802 to discuss in Jeffrey's rooms in Buccleuch Place the great project of Sydney Smith, included Henry Brougham; Francis Horner; Thomas Brown, known in later life as the eminent and vigorous representative of the Scotch metaphysical school and the colleague of Dugald Stewart in the chair of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh ; Alexander Hamilton, a distinguished Orientalist, afterwards Professor of Sanskrit at Haileybury; Dr. John Thomson, afterwards Professor of Pathology in the University of Edinburgh; Lord Webb Seymour; John Allen; John A. Murray (afterwards Lord Murray); and one or two more.
Jeffrey has been described as a born critic. Certainly he
had trained himself in that line of literature from his earliest days, for not only had he been accustomed at the age of fifteen and sixteen to write essays on very various subjects, but he had gone further and had practised, whilst still a boy, his critical faculties on his own productions. Having spent two winter sessions at Glasgow College, he went to Oxford in October, 1791, remaining there, however, only to the end of the following June. The active-minded young Scotsman, athirst for knowledge, was bitterly disappointed at the slackness of professors and the dawdling indifferentism of Oxonian youth. It was a bad period in English university history; but, as in later days, Jeffrey's criticism was, no doubt, strongly coloured when he wrote to a Glasgow College friend that 'except praying and 'drinking, I see nothing to be acquired in this place.' If Oxford was then at its worst, Edinburgh was at its best; and the change to Edinburgh, where he read for the Bar, and became a member of the Speculative Society, and the intimate friend of the brilliant set of young men there congregated, at length opened to him a new world. For a time, however, Jeffrey, looking back regretfully to Glasgow, writes with almost as much severity of Edinburgh as he had done of Oxford. That he read much and wrote much and thought much is clear. He scribbled verse abundantly, and it was as a poet that he then thought he was most likely to win fame. He never published his poetry, wisely no doubt, since his very friendly biographer, Lord Cockburn, tells us that it would not have raised his reputation. 'His poetry 'is less poetical than his prose. Viewed as a literary prac'tice it is rather respectable.' As regards his early political and unpublished writings, Lord Cockburn speaks with much greater appreciation, and it is interesting to find that from the very beginning to the end his outlook on politics remained the sante. A lengthy paper by Jeffrey, written when he was twenty years of age, survives. 'His doctrines were 'those of a philosophical Whig; firm to the popular prin* ciples of our government, and, consequently, firm against 'any encroachment, whether from the monarchical or de'mocratical side,' and he condemns the war with France that had just been proclaimed. Except, however, occasional contributions to the 'Monthly Review,' it does not appear that Jeffrey had before the birth of the 'Edinburgh' ever published anything. Jeffrey and his guests in Buccleuch Place were young ^ who had not as yet made a position in the world; but
their extreme youthfulness has been exaggerated by those who sought to find in it a heavy reproach which would tend to diminish the weight of their criticism. In 1802 Sydney Smith was just over and Francis Jeffrey just under thirty, whilst Horner was twenty-four and Brougham twenty-three. The first editor has told how he proposed as the motto of the new journal
'Tenui musam meditamur avena,'
'We cultivate literature upon a little oatmeal,'
• but this was too near the truth to be admitted, and so we 'took our present grave motto from Publius Syrus, of whom 'none of us, I am sure, ever read a single line.' *
How these men struck a very competent and disinterested observer before their fame was established may be read in a letter from Mr. T. N. Longman written from Edinburgh, where he had been a good deal impressed by the advantages that would accrue to his publishing business from co-operation with Constable. Mr. Longman had seen an early copy of the first number of the ' Edinburgh Review.'
'It is written (without pay) by some young men (whose names I have down, tho' they are pretended to be secret) of very great abilities. I have not read much, but they seem to be more fond ot displaying their critical acumen than the contents of the book, or of maintaining the grave dignity of their office. There is some excellent writing. ... I have secured the second edition of the "Border Minstrelsy " for us. Walter Scott is a very first-rate man.'
As a result of this visit of Mr. Longman to the northern capital, his firm became joint publishers of the ' Edinburgh 'Review' with Constable, sole publishers of the second edition of the ' Minstrelsy, ' and of the first edition of the
• Lay of the Last Minstrel,' which appeared in January, 1805. 'Longmanum est errare,' wrote Walter Scott to George Ellis in humorous deprecation of the alleged non-delivery to the latter of a presentation copy of 'The Lay.' Certainly there was little error on the part of that enterprising publisher in his shrewd comment upon the Edinburgh reviewers, or in his power of gauging men and books when the tale came to be told to his partner of how he had 'fared within the 'North.' It is an interesting and probably unique fact in the history of publishing, that the lapse of a century should find a periodical extant in the same hands as had published the first number.
The Review appeared on October 10, 1802, with the same
* Preface to the Works of the Rev. Sydney Smith. 3 vols.