LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter VII. 1811.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
‣ Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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Having previously engaged to contribute to the ‘Monthly’ and ‘Critical’ Reviews, Hodgson was reluctantly compelled to terminate his connection with the ‘Quarterly’ after the publication of its first few numbers. The similarity of the subjects discussed, and the arduousness of his other avocations, rendered this step necessary, although the almost immediate success of the ‘Quarterly’ must have made such a step doubly distasteful. But in the ‘Critical’ and ‘Monthly’ Reviews of this period nearly all the articles on classical subjects, and very many others on English and French literature, were written by Hodgson, and display impartial criticism, an extensive and profound erudition, and a correct, cultivated taste. Girdlestone’s edition of the ‘Odes’ of Pindar, for instance; Butler’sÆschylus’ and
Musæ Cantabrigienses’ were thoroughly congenial subjects, while two extremely learned and diffusely interesting essays on recent discoveries at Herculaneum and on Christie’sEtruscan Vases’ prove the minuteness of his archaeological and philological researches.

In the article on the ‘Musæ Cantabrigienses’ there are some curious criticisms of contemporary scholarship at Cambridge. The early effusions of the great Dr. Keate are there characterised by his old pupil as ‘boyish;’ but it is also admitted that a bold and original spirit pervades his poems, and that, if they be not correctly classical in their flow, they must be forgiven for their unborrowed harmony and for that first of poetical virtues—
Wild Nature’s vigour stirring at the root.

But while Dr. Keate is pronounced to possess more fire than any other contributor, both he and Dr. Butler are found guilty of a fault which, to modern head-masters, will appear sufficiently astonishing. Each of them, more than once, uses a final vowel short before ‘sp’ and ‘sc’! The ode of C. J. Blomfield (afterwards Bishop of London) on the assassination of the Duc d’Enghien, is declared to be below criticism. ‘Who but his French assassins,’ it
is asked, ‘could have been guilty of such rudeness as to put such language into the mouth of that unfortunate prince.’

But the Greek ode of this poet is said to redeem his Latin peccadilloes, and he is understood to be a very promising scholar of Trinity College. Other contributors are commemorated as follows: J. Lonsdale, of King’s College, 1807, elegantly and forcibly bewails the death of Pitt. Rennell’s (King’s College, 1808) Greek ode on ‘Spring’ is a very spirited and elegant production; and Joseph Goodall, the present Provost of Eton, commemorates the earthquake in the West Indies, in an ode dated 1781, with much poetic spirit; while of the epigrams, the ‘Bellus Homo Academicus,’ by the last-named author, both in Latin and Greek, is tame mediocrity—one of those cheap displays of wisdom which nobody values because everybody possesses it, yet, in point of expression, these are perhaps two of the best in the epigrammatic collection. Keate on a ‘Donkey Race,’ ϋστερον προτερον, is not bad. Frere on a ‘Dumb Beggar’ is excellent. B. Drury on the ‘Mutilated Statue of Ceres’ demands praise. Silence best describes the rest.

In his review on ‘An Essay on Plato by M. Combe-Dounous,’ Hodgson writes a masterly vindication of
Christianity against the attacks of the French sceptic, who professes a preference for Platonism, and who, like other infidels, ‘proudly limits the power of the Creator by the creature’s ignorance.’ At the conclusion of his essay
M. Dounous explains the extraordinary influence of early Christianity by an astonishing assertion, ‘Le sage Hébreu s’etait attaché des disciples parmi les lettres de sa nation,’ and is thus answered by his reviewer:—

Arise in judgment against your false historian, ye poor and humble propagators of the Gospel of Christ, and bid him blush for that philosophy which can condescend to advocate its cause by unmanly misrepresentations. Who but St. Paul was learned among you? Who were the deep and plotting philosophers, who, after the death of their Master, met at Jerusalem to lay the doctrines of Plato, and Pythagoras, and Zeno under contribution; and by this eclectic method to form a syncretism of moral and religious opinions for the learned, and of prodigies and miracles for the vulgar? Where is the record, the history, the hint of such a proceeding? Who were the actors in this drama? What secondary causes, in a word, supposing all the unwarrantable assertions of this fanatic Platonist (for in charity we must suppose
that he is an enthusiast) to be true, will account for the promulgation of Christianity? The speech of
Gamaliel has never been and can never be answered: ‘If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.’ It is melancholy, indeed, that this clever and learned Frenchman, whose style is so superior, should have perverted his distinguished talents to so malignant an attempt as the substitution of the wild chimeras of Platonism, the ignis fatuus of pagan philosophy, for the clear and steady light of Christianity.

On English literature Hodgson’s reviews are so numerous and extensive as to render even the most partial reproduction impossible; but there are a few concluding remarks in that one which treats of Scott’sLady of the Lake,’ which, from the world-wide celebrity of the poem, and from the interest which belongs to contemporary criticism, may well be quoted here. The various imitators of Scott, who copied his style without sharing his genius, are mentioned with becoming severity. Numerous verbal and grammatical lapses are pointed out, and are attributed to the glowing haste with which the poem was composed; and then, after many eulogistic remarks expressive of
enthusiastic admiration for the poet’s genius, Hodgson concludes his critique by saying:—

We may just observe that the notes contain some amusing stories, with others that are dull, and shall now take our leave of Mr. Scott, expressing a most sincere wish that his farewell address to his harp may not be more serious than the farewell addresses of poets usually are; and adding that we hope our specified objections to parts of his poem, whether they be faults in the conduct of the plot, or inaccuracies of diction, will induce his numerous imitators at least to pause ere they contribute further to the wide corruption of our taste which is occasioned by such servility. We wish that we might reasonably hope that their great original himself, animated by the noble hope of living in the praises of posterity, would, even now, in the full tide of his present fame, lend an ear to our admonitions. Then might he soar like his own eagle,1 and silence all his contemporaries.

Hodgson’s first original poems were published in 1809, under the title ‘Lady Jane Grey, a Tale in Two Books, with Miscellaneous Poems in English and Latin,’ which were, on the whole, very favourably

1 Lady of the Lake, canto iii. 55-60.

received by the public and the press. After alluding with some asperity to the
satire on some of the reviewers of the translation of Juvenal, mentioned in a former chapter, the ‘Critical’ with singular generosity declares:—

For ourselves, we have always been, and still are, Mr. Hodgson’s friends, however he may despise our goodwill; willingly, therefore, we dismiss his satire from our recollection, and pass to a more grateful subject, the gentle Lady Jane.

A comparison follows with the ‘Force of Religion; or, Vanquished Love,’ by Dr. Young.

The subject is indeed very differently treated by the two poets. The plan adopted by Mr. Hodgson has one great advantage over that of the earlier author, since, by carrying back the scene to those hours of peace and love which were passed by Lady Jane in company with her books and her beloved Dudley, before the fatal ambition of a father had involved her in the final miseries of her existence, he has not only gained the advantage of much natural and pleasing description and many moral reflections of a stamp less awfully affecting than those to which the sad catastrophe of the tale
gives occasion, but has likewise obtained those more technical benefits which the skilful artist knows how to derive from the force of contrast and the various emotions of the mind. The character, too, of his principal personage is much more truly and more beautifully represented by exhibiting it both in the lights and shades of life. . . . In the execution of his task it is safe to affirm that Mr. H. has most decidedly surpassed his predecessor; and this not only in the superior ease and correctness of his versification, but also in the grace of his descriptions and the pathetic sentiments and reflections with which he has diversified and adorned his narrative.

‘Dignified’ and ‘elegant’ are the epithets applied by the ‘Monthly’ to ‘Sir Edgar,’ which it considers to be remarkable for a pleasing solemnity both of thought and cadence.

The rest of these volumes, which is made up of short poems on various subjects, and translations of the classics, is said to exhibit something not very unlike the inside of the study of a statuary or painter, which usually contains a whimsical collection of fragments and sketches, of designs half executed and then thrown aside, of forms just struggling for deli-
verance from the marble, or ready to start into life from the darkness of the canvas. Songs, tales, rhapsodies, fragments of letters, elegies amorous and moral, parodies, ballads, translations, burlesques, sonnets, epitaphs, epigrams, imitations, all follow each other in gay confusion.

But if [adds the reviewer] the severer order of critics may condemn the total absence of arrangement and connection apparent in the formation of this motley group, those who are more indulgent may pardon the author in consideration of the superior amusement which the reader will derive from this very want of order. Mr. Hodgson literally appears to think in verse,1 and to set down every thought in his book as fast as it occurs to his imagination. But all whose minds are in any degree imbued with the same love of rhyme and the same variety of fancy which distinguished the author, will follow him with infinitely more satisfaction than they would the gravest and most methodical of his lecturers. Many of these poems exhibit uncommon powers of versification, and a fancy strongly occupied by all those enchanting impossibilities which

Sponte suâ carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
Et quod tentabam dicere versus erat.
Ovid, Trist. Eleg. x. 25, 26.

are peculiarly the inheritance of the poet. The forms of gaiety, and mirth, and love, of melancholy, and madness, and despair, are hastily summoned and speedily dismissed; they come like shadows, so depart; but there is something desultory and impatient in Mr. Hodgson’s poetical temperament which must be corrected if he would do himself justice, and would reach that high degree of excellence for which he appears to be destined. He has exercised himself long enough in morsels and fragments. We hope to see him engage in designs of greater magnitude, and try his powers of invention on a larger scale and by more continuous efforts.

Of ‘An Answer to the Question of a Critic,’ the ‘Critical Review’ writes:—

If any inducement were wanting to treat Mr. Hodgson in the most liberal spirit of criticism, the following excellent criticism of his own would supply us with it:—

Where lies the charm ungovern’d Scott displays?
In the wild vigour of his lawless lays—
And sudden bursts of tenderness are there,
And warlike valour’s animating air;
Castle and convent fill the glowing scene,
Rocks tow’r around, and rivers roll between;
The deeds of other days entranced we see,
Heraldic pomp, and pride of chivalry;
The plundering inroad, the tumultuous fight,
Hail! minstrel, feast, fair dame, and gallant knight.

Of the shorter poems in this collection two were addressed to Lord Byron immediately before his first departure from England. The concluding lines of the former contain timely admonitions respecting religion, elicited, doubtless, by previous conversations and correspondence: the latter appeals to the poet’s sense of responsibility as an hereditary legislator. After a comparison between England and various foreign countries, and an allusion to the duties of patriotism, the first poem continues:—

Yet if pleasing change allure thee
O’er the roughly swelling tide,
May the one great Guide secure thee—
Byron, ne’er forget thy Guide.
Mark Him, in the whirlwind riding,
O’er the darken’d billows sweep;
Mark Him, through the calm air gliding,
Bid th’ obedient ocean sleep.
See Him fill yon arch of Heav’n,
Glitt’ring with the gems of night;
See, nor hope to be forgiv’n
Doubtful of His sacred light.
See Him spread, in bright profusion,
Varied wealth o’er ev’ry land;
See, nor rest in blind delusion,
Doubtful of His bounteous hand.
But, if Nature fail to move thee
With her rich external charms,
Raise thy thoughts to Him above thee
From thy conscious soul’s alarms.
Feel that soul’s most deep recesses
Touch’d by inspiration’s pen;
Feel, nor trust in impious guesses
Of the thankless sons of men.
Then as o’er the midnight ocean
Moves thy steady bark along,
On the deck, in calm devotion,
Breathe to Heav’n thy secret song.
With the pure and holy feeling,
Friendship in thy breast shall rise;
And Remembrance, o’er thee stealing,
Softly paint thy native skies.
Byron! since rank’s discordant tone
Allows the friendly sound—
Byron! in energy alone
Can genuine bliss be found.
He who exerts his native powers
Can ne’er be long deprest;
Young hope shall chide his loit’ring hours,
Glad triumph cheer his breast;
But hope, but triumph far have fled
From love’s despondent slave,
Whose dream of rhapsody is dead
In disappointment’s grave.
Oh! then awake to glory’s voice,
Last of thy noble line!
Be eloquent renown thy choice,
Be tuneful sorrow mine.
’Mid listening senates boldly stand
Thy country’s firm support—
Foe to rude faction’s slavish band,
And flattery’s slaves at court.

This appeal received a satisfactory answer in that eloquent speech upon the Frame-Breaking Bill, of which the speaker sent the first account to his no less wise than considerate mentor, Francis Hodgson.