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LONDON, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 1829.
THE FOREIGN REVIEWS. THE establishment of an English Foreign Review marked, as it seems to us, the commencement of a new era in our literature. The expediency of such a publication does not depend upon the solution of the question, whether periodicals are or are not the best media for transmitting thoughts from one part of the world to another. They have been long the media through which all our home trade has been carried on; and as the laws of this trade regulate our notions of trade generally, our foreign commerce could scarcely be considered as placed on a safe and permanent footing till the same principle was adopted in our intercourse with our neighbours as in that with each other. And, in fact, it was obvious that we did not study a French, a German, or an Italian book, with feelings at all similar to those which we experienced on taking up an English one. We regarded the literature of other countries as a subject of far-off contemplation, and scarcely realized the idea of its being the expression of the thoughts of existing men, or that anything was required in the study of it besides a tolerable acquaintance with the words of the language. These false notions we expect to see entirely eradicated by the works of which we are speaking; and the mere establishment of them has done so much to introduce a more living communion between England and other countries, that we regret the press of England has not exerted itself more vigorously to promate their circulation. We include ourselves in this censure, and we propose to do something in the present article towards atoning for our past negligence.
The Foreign Quarterly Review' deserves the first place in our notice, because the idea of this class of works originated with its founders. It seems to us the best edited periodical in this country; and we should think no review, monthly, quarterly, or weekly, can cost so much labour to its conductor. In all journals, the task of making a good selection of subjects, is hard and onerous, and one that perhaps, in the majority of cases, is ill enough discharged. But all the temptations into which the editor of an ordinary journal is liable to fall,-such as the temptation of allowing a clever contributor to work some unprofitable mine of thought merely because he has conceived a liking for the labour, the temptation of being swayed by the turn of his own mind to string together many articles in which there is a great sameness of style-the temptation of fancying that because the public taste is not to be consulted about the sentiments expressed in an article, therefore it should not be consulted about the topics it treats of,-all these must be trebled in the case of the editor of a Foreign Review. The tracks of study into which the men from whom he must obtain his contributions have wandered, have been often so much determined by accident or the knowledge needful for some special occasion-the remedy of converse with other men against becoming wedded to one particular set of writers in our own language is so utterly unavailing here and the plausible sophism that as the English care little for the literature of other countries at all it does not much signify to what corner of that literature their attention is drawn, is so ready at hand to stifle any concern about pleasing the public, that one would certainly have anticipated and pardoned many and glaring faults in the management of such a work. In the case
Foreign Quarterly Review,' however, no pardon is needed.
The mixture of subjects is admirable. Not
'A primrose on the Danube's brim,
Among the numerous admirable articles that have appeared in this Review, which has been steadily improving since its commencement, our special favourite is the Life of Wieland, in the third Number. In spite of some opinions which, perhaps, from our want of experience to understand their truth, seem to us somewhat inconsistent with the general spirit of the writer, we should feel little hesitation in saying that there never has appeared in any Review a more striking and beautiful article. If the highest metaphysics are those which are concerned not in the comparison or consolidation of systems, but which assist the study and minister to the growth of the individual, this admirable biography possesses all the value of a metaphysical treatise; and if the best novels are not those which illustrate the shifting varieties of manners, but the essential varieties of character, it has all the attraction of an ex
cellent novel. And in this age of slovenly writing, it is no slight addition to these praises to add that the composition of this paper combines those good qualities which one looks for, and scarcely expects to find, in long and elaborate works.
Next to this paper, we should be inclined to rank the article at the beginning of the second Number, and the one (apparently by the same hand on the French Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century in the first. The latter article especially, though it does not profess to give a complete view of the system of M. Cousin and his disciples, and though it would probably be denounced, and even ridiculed, by those gentlemen, because it does not put their cause in the light in which it looks to most advantage, exhibits, it seems to us, in a masterly manner, those points of controversy with which it is most important that Englishmen should be acquainted. The writer cheerfully acknowledges the vast superiority of the new school in point of logical consistency, and (so far as the acknowledgment of the existence of feelings implies the possession of them) in feeling likewise, It may be thought that there are some dis- to the miserable one-sided sensationists of the last advantages in this calm, unenthusiastic spirit. age; but he appears to think, and we wish every A little exaggeration, some would be inclined to searcher after truth in England thought with say, of the merits and value of the treasures to him, that though it may be very necessary that a be dug out of these neglected mines, could do nation which has been perverted through the use no harm among a people the most of whose in- of reason, should pass through a process of reclinations are generally the other way; while storation by the means of reason simply, we who the least excess of coldness might operate as a have some life, however little that may be, and cruel discouragement to those who are setting however at times crushed under the pressure of out upon a long and painful mission into the the cases that contain it, preserved for us in the unknown regions, in hopes of bringing back religious instructions of our infancy, in our instiriches which will repay them for their toil and tutions, and in the traditions of our fathers, should enterprise. In the main, however, we are in- be very wrong to exchange that life for a philosoclined to think the principle of the Foreign Quar-phy from which, after all, the worst system that terly Reviewer is a right principle, and therefore one which must do good. It is calculated immediately to remove a great many apprehensions which respectable and ignorant people are apt to entertain with respect to the tendency of Foreign Reviews as being likely to create a Foreign taste,-it sets students upon inquiring whether is was the novelty of the strange costume or the beauty of the strange forms which have hitherto delighted them, and if it stop one or two adventurous youths from embarking for El Dorado, it is surely goodfor themselves that they should not start on a fool's errand-and good for society, that they should not come back with woe-begone faces, complaining that all is barren only because they did not meet in every forest and glen with fairer nymphs than our own Unas, and Amorets, and Rosalinds.
ever prevailed in France only differs as the dry bones that lay scattered on the valley of Hinnom differed from the complete skeleton into which, at the bidding of the prophet, they were amalgamated. But we are wandering from our purpose, which was merely to give an account of the Foreign Reviews. From the instance which we have mentioned, however, our readers may see how little ground there is for suspecting that these reviewers will make an insidious use of their talents and knowledge, for the purpose of weakening our English sympathies, or of importing foreign viands that are unsuitable to our climate and constitution.
The Foreign Review' is a very powerful competitor to the work we have been describing, but its articles are written in a style so very different, and the field is so immensely extensive, that we