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In addressing himself to his subject-matter, the first prominent difficulty was the disposal of materials so comprehensive into such sections as might enable him to bring the whole, as it were, in a bird's-eye view, within the prescribed limits; thus giving at least something like a due share of consideration to each. The comparative importance of the long line of celebrated men who were to be submitted to critical remark, was the next source of perplexity; nor was the delicacy or difficulty of this task lessened from the circumstance of the Author having been honoured by the friendship of several of the illustrious departed, as well as of not a few of the illustrious living, whose works were necessarily to form the main themes of comment.
The likelihood of accomplishing this, without occasioning disappointment or provoking displeasure in some quarters, the Author soon felt compelled to make up his mind to, as an impossibility. But be this misfortune to whatever extent it may, he can unhesitatingly affirm, that in his critical judgments-which of course can go for no more than they are worth-he has approached his task solely and exclusively in a literary point of view;
and, in as far as he himself can judge, with that impartiality and candour with which he would have viewed it had the writers to be examined belonged to the era of Queen Elizabeth or of Queen Anne. That many of his critical conclusions may be erroneous, or founded on insufficient data, is very probable; but that is quite another matter. Nor is he at all wedded to these-more especially as applicable to our more recent poets -in any degree incompatible with whatever change of opinion he may hereafter deem to be just and fair.
With regard to the style and tone of the following pages, it may be as well to say, that they are scarcely such as their Author would have adopted had their contents been intended solely for the closet; but were simply preferred as those most likely to conduce to effectiveness in delivery before a very large popular audience. Nor in this, so far, was he disappointed; for the measure of their acceptance proved to be very much beyond his most sanguine expectations, and has indeed been a main reason for committing them to the press; more especially as, from the limited time allowed for delivery, a considerable
portion of each Lecture was necessarily omitted, as well as many of the extracts, which had been selected for illustrations and proofs of particular positions.
To the mighty minds whose productions passed in review before him, the Author has ever been accustomed to look up with love and veneration -feelings which, however unceremoniously he may occasionally seem to have presumed to discuss the merits of those productions, remain unabated and unchanged. As the temporary occupant of a critical chair, he hesitated not to speak out his opinions freely and fearlessly; but he trusts without one iota of personal prejudice, or the slightest leaning towards asperity. Indeed this could not well be; as not a single name has been adverted to, throughout, which did not suggest its claims to attention by some high or peculiar excellence.
State of Poetical Literature at the commencement of the present century.
-The long mastery of the school of Dryden and Pope ultimately
modified by Thomson, Goldsmith, Cowper, and Burns.-The tem-
porary triumphs of Hayley, Darwin, and the Della Cruscans.-
Literary tastes influenced by social changes.-Matthew Gregory
Lewis, and the supernatural school; its characteristics and pecu-
liarities.-Kirke White and James Grahame; specimens of the
manner of the latter in Love of Country and The Covenanters.-The
satirical and humorous poetry of Canning, Frere, Gifford, Mathias,
and George Colman the younger.-Sketches of Bloomfield and Ley-
den. Specimen from the first, The Blind Boy; from the second,
Apostrophe to Aurelia.-Female writers of the period: Charlotte
Smith, Amelia Opie (specimen, Forget-me-Not), Mrs Hunter, Mrs
Grant, and Mrs Tighe.-Translators and Poets of the period less
commonly known; general estimate of their merits.-The Rev.
George Crabbe; his rise and progress; his originality.-Specimens
in Gipsy's Tent and Lyrical Tales.-Samuel Rogers and Lisle
Bowles; the high artistic excellencies of the former: examples of
his manner.-Controversy regarding the invariable principles of
The origin, progress, and tenets of the Lake School.-S. T. Coleridge,
Robert Southey, Lloyd and Lovell.-The Lyrical Ballads.-William
Wordsworth as a reformer of our poetry; his peculiar views; his
faults and excellencies: extract from Goody Blake and Harry Gill;
Morning Sketch; from Peter Bell; Sonnet at Killiecrankie; and
portion of Skating Scene from Prelude.-Coleridge as a man of
genius; his early magnificent promise.-The Ancient Mariner and
Christabel specimen, Youth and Age.-Charles Lamb: extract from
Forest Scenery.-Thalaba, Madoc, Kehama, Roderick, and the Mis-
cellaneous Poetry of Southey specimens, Boyhood of Thalaba;
Storm at Sea, from Madoc; Love, from Kehama.-Autumn Sketch.
-Southey's amazing industry; his excellencies and defects.-
Walter Savage Landor; general character of his poetry.-The Scot-
tish poets of the period, more especially James Hogg and Allan
Cunningham.-Extracts from Witch of Fife and Kilmeny: Frag-
Ballad Poetry.-The Revival of the Romantic School.-Sir Walter Scott;
his poetry and the feudal system; his popularity and imitators; his
nationality and transcendent genius.-The Lay-Marmion-Lady
of the Lake-Lord of the Isles-Songs and Ballads.-Professor Wil-
son and Lord Byron :-Isle of Palms-City of the Plague-Fairy
Legends- -Unimore.-Extracts, Morning Picture-The Course of
Grief.-Thomas Campbell and James Montgomery :-The Pleasures
of Hope-Lyrical Poems-Gertrude of Wyoming.-Early decline of
Campbell's powers; his classical elegance and high standard of taste.
-Specimens from O'Connor's Child, and Stanzas on Battle of Alex-
andria.-James Montgomery's Wanderer of Switzerland-West
Indies-World before the Flood-Greenland-Pelican Island-and
Lyrics.-Extracts, The Sky of the South-Prayer.-The legitimate
The succession of Lord Byron to the poetical supremacy.-The energy of
his genius, and its different phases.-Childe Harold, Turkish and
other Tales.-His Pantheistic views.-Extracts from Prisoner of
Chillon; from Giaour; from Bride of Abydos; from Parasina;
and from Beppo.-Verses to Mary.--Byron and Burns.-Bishop
Heber, Palestine and Hymns.-Dean Milman, Dramatic Poems, and
Samor.-Elegiac Verses.-Dr Croly, Paris, Sebastian, Gems from
Antique.-Honourable W. Herbert, Icelandic Translations, Helga,
and Attila: specimen, Northern Spring.-William Tennant, Anster
Fair and other poems: extract, Maggy Lauder.-Frere's Whistle-