페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

was, was right. The safety and the duty of the nation, and the true cause of liberty, required that it should stand firm with its allies against the overwhelming power of Napoleon.

After Waterloo began the era called by Miss Martineau the “Thirty Years' Peace.' For two-and-twenty years the main energies of the nation had been concentrated upon the war; men of liberal minds and progressive tendencies powerfully supporting the Government of the day in the gigantic efforts required to repel the greatest danger that has ever menaced the State. But when peace returned Englishmen gradually fell back into the old political divisions —a party of progress, deeply impressed with the faults and failings of the system of government under which they lived, and with the belief that they could find a political remedy for them; and a party of resistance, which saw in any considerable change in our system more to dread than to hope for, and which, therefore, blocked with all the power it possessed the pathway of reform. The experience of France since 1789—the excesses and horrors of the Revolution, followed by the military absolutism of Napoleon-had seemed to great masses of Englishmen to give weight to the Tory assertion that here also Reform would be but the first step to revolution, and that British laws and liberties were dependent upon the maintenance entirely unchanged of our glorious Constitution. The Duke of Wellington, to whom for many years the Tories mainly looked for guidance, great man though he was, never really understood his countrymen's capacity for self-government; and he honestly believed that the basing of the House of Commons upon à wide electoral franchise, should it come about, would render it impossible to govern England except through the Army. A very different man-Lord Eldon—was the fitting representative of all the narrow prejudices of his day, of the caste love for privilege, of horror at the bare idea of trusting the mass of his countrymen with power. In his obstinate resistance to every kind of reform, great or small, he reached a pitch of Toryism hardly intelligible to the Conservatives of the present day. Against sentiments such as these the good sense of Englishmen ultimately prevailed. If the old Constitution was still to fit the British people, it was necessary to enlarge it. It must be made to suit the new conditions and requirements of the time. Thus Whigs, Reformers, Radicals, concentrated at last all their efforts upon what they felt to be a condition precedent to all good government-the reform of the House of Commons.

it Fery differe all the ce, of hortwith power or sma

Throughout these years of struggle the Edinburgh • Review' warmly combated that craven fear of our own countrymen, that dread of the people, which was the unhappy legacy to England of the French Revolution. It insisted upon the duty and wisdom of bringing back again the popular forces to play their proper part in the government of the country. Obstinate resistance did indeed bring the country too near to the revolution which wise statesmen saw was the only alternative to thorough yet rational reform. Lord Grey's words in the House of Lords in 1832—the last he spoke on the Reform Bill-expressed the hope which events have long ago realised-viz., that those who augured "unfavourably of the Bill would live to see all their ominous • forebodings falsified, and that after the angry feelings of

the day had passed away, the measure would be found to • be, in the best sense of the word, conservative of the • Constitution.'

Quarter by quarter, and year after year, the energies of the Review were engaged in attacking abuses and suggesting the remedy. It would be impossible to give a list of the subjects with which it dealt, for such a list would cover the whole field of political, administrative, legal, and social reform. It is needless to name all the distinguished men who in its columns were pressing on the good work. It was not “merely,' to quote Lord Cockburn, that the journal ex* pounded and defended right principles and objects. Its • prerogative was higher. It taught the public to think.

It opened the people's eyes. It gave them periodically the most animated and profound discussions on every interest'ing subject that the greatest intellects in the kingdom could supply.

And point by point the good cause prevailed. The stream might at times flow slowly, but the tide never really turned, and several of the founders of the Review lived long enough to see accomplished most of the objects for which in bygone days they had struggled so hard. In 1804 Jeffrey in the Review was fighting for the suppression of the slave trade. This was brought about by Fox's 'Ministry of all the * Talents' two years later. But much still remained to be done, and in 1831 the Review was still fiercely contending for the complete abolition of slavery within the British dominions; and this, a year later, it was the glory of the first reformed Parliament to accomplish. In very early days, even a tolerant man like Walter Scott was dissatisfied with the Review for advocating Catholic Emancipation.

The reform of the criminal law, the abolition of tests, municipal reform, poor-law reform, and many another farreaching project, now regarded as so many upward steps towards a higher civilisation, were supported in its columns by men of the greatest ability, imbued with intimate knowledge of the subjects on which they wrote.

The “Edinburgh Review' naturally felt keenly on the necessity of widening and freeing our political life; for in Scotland, far more completely than in England, popular privileges and liberties had ceased to exist. The political representation of the people, the administration of justice, municipal government, had in Scotland lost almost everything of the popular character which once gave them life. Neither in public meetings nor in the press was it possible adequately to expose the mischief of the prevailing condition of affairs. Yet there was no part of the kingdom so well fitted as Scotland to enjoy the largest political rights.

As time went on the position of the Review as regards the public at large became in some respects modified. Its novelty of course wore off. It had opened a new field upon which others had now entered. Its days of monopoly were over. The Quarterly' was its very able rival, and a formidable political opponent. The autocratic airs of the older journal upon every subject, political or literary, had roused against it a certain spirit of dislike to dictation such as had inspired its own earlier years. It now occurred to William Blackwood, the publisher, and a Tory of the Tories, that something might be done to fan and foster, and even to turn in a profitable direction, the dislike to autocratic orthodoxy which he knew was simmering in Edinburgh. His political sympathies had been disturbed by the success of the Edinburgh, and he had seen with a jealous eye the greatness of its publisher, his own rival, Constable. Now, Blackwood was a man of resource, and he thought it might be possible to tackle the Edinburgh' with more success than was achieved by the quarterly discbarge of a heavy broadside by its orthodox Tory antagonist. A magazine 'not so ponderous, more nimble, more frequent, more ' familiar,' might make its onslaughts more telling upon the Whig journal, its publisher, editor, and contributors. Edinburgh, Whig or Tory, was before everything respectable. The new magazine must attract attention in the first number, no matter how. To shock the whole of Edinburgh society at the same time that it fell upon the Whig publisher and reviewers, was Blackwood's plan. He had able coadjutors in Lockhart, Wilson, and Hogg, and in 1817 appeared the first number of Blackwood's • Monthly Magazine. It contained the famous satire upon well-known citizens of Edinburgh called “The Chaldee • Manuscript'; which was intended to startle the world of Edinburgh, and startle them it did. Its outrageous personalities, and the flavour of irreverence that attaches to the parodying of the style and language of Scripture, were well calculated to stir the susceptibilities of the Scottish capital. However, a new birth in periodical literature had taken place. The first of the great 'Monthlies' had begun. Its early years were stormy ones. Actions for libel, challenges and duels followed each other in rapid succession. Maga' was able. No one could say that. Maga' was inoffensive. No one could say that `Maga' was dull. So far Blackwood's object was achieved. But its vituperation and its personalities were odious, and it was years before the magazine acquired, in addition to its reputation for brilliant writing, the high character for which · Black'wood' was to become no less justly celebrated.

It may have been the rivalry of younger journalism that made Jeffrey fear that the Edinburgh' was growing old.

Can you lay your hands,' he writes to a friend in January, 1825, on some clever young men who would write for us? • The original supporters of the work are getting old, and * either too busy or too stupid, and here the young men are 'mostly Tories. In the following August number of the Review there appeared the first contribution by Macaulay, then a young man of twenty-five, hardly known beyond the circle of his college friends. There seems never to have been any mystery about the authorship of the famous article on Milton, and after the first of Macaulay's . Essays' had been published and acknowledged, it would have been impossible to doubt the authorship of its successors. Like Lord 'Byron,' says his biographer, ‘he woke one morning and ' found himself famous.' Of all the praises and the shower of compliments that poured upon him, Macaulay to the end of his life valued most the short sentence with which Jeffrey acknowledged the receipt of his first manuscript, • The more I think, the less I can conceive where you picked up that style.'*

Of the early founders of the Review it cannot be said that Jeffrey himself, or Brougham, or Sydney Smith, ever

* Trevelyan's Life of Lord Macaulay.'

[graphic][merged small]
« 이전계속 »