« PreviousContinue »
obstruction and a nuisance, in the way of any undertaking for introducing the bible and Christianity among the heathen, he comes down with a sweeping proposition, for the exertion of our power to exclude them." And this he does too, without having in readiness, or in preparation, any men or means to succeed them. Men, of more regular order, are to be somewhere, sometime obtained, to be sent to undergo some years seasoning to the climate, are to begin to try their tongues in articulating the particles of the Bengal language, to toil for some years in acquiring the power of conversing freely with the natives, and are then to look forward, as to a very remote attainment, to the ultimate mastery of the many other vernacular dialects, and the Sanscrit; all this while they are to be regarded, and to regard themselves, as the proper persons to displace men who can converse fluently with the natives of various countries of Asia, and some of whom can read the Puranas with almost the facility of the most learned Brahmins. If these men have a due portion of modesty, what will they think of their situation? What can they think of English justice, or English sense, when they see such predecessors silenced and excluded; and the system which they have brought into operation, with such incalculable and generous labour, unceremoniously broken up? With what kind of consciousness and reflections are they to look at the printing-presses, (purchased for them, perhaps, from the missionaries, who are no longer allowed to use them) lying useless like lumber in their possession, till that future period when their attainments may qualify them to begin making some use of such an implement? It is amazing to hear a sensible learned Christian preacher urging a measure, that involves more circumstances of injustice and absurdity, than the whole space of time occupied by his discourse would have sufficed to enumerate.
In some of these paragraphs, we are aware of having been led into repetitions we could have wished to avoid; but we trust to be forgiven for wishing to expose, in a broad and prominent manner, that injustice and contempt toward the claims of extraordinary excellence, which Dr. B. can recommend with the most entire self-complacency. We are, at the same time, happy to assure ourselves, that there can be but few persons in his sacred profession of a similar spirit; and that the members of the establishment, in general, would join in a much more animated reprobation of such illiberality, than we have allowed ourselves to express.
As to perfect uniformity, it is exceedingly strange at this time of day, so long since the period when the emperor Charles made the observation on his watches, to hear such
a thing spoken of as a possibility. There can be but one man in England uninformed, that no formulary of faith ever did or ever can secure uniformity of opinion; that no existing creed is found capable of precluding numberless questions and controversies among those who are willing, on the whole, to subscribe to it. No creed, consisting of a moderately long series of articles, could probably be so framed, as not to require at least a thousand new articles, to fix the definitive sense of the primary ones, and guard it with every nice discrimination, if it is really required that all the subscribers shall receive precisely the same idea from every term and clause of every article. But what can it be less than this, that our preacher is requiring among the Christian teachers employed in India? If it be only a substantial conformity of faith to the articles of the church of England, as explained by a very great proportion of its most learned divines, that he demands in the Indian missionaries, that degree of conform ity and uniformity, as we have said, exists already.
We will only add one observation:-that perfect uniformity of doctrine, which the preacher requires in the Christian teachers in India, in order to give the natives an impression of the certainty of our religion, would produce the directly opposite effect: it must appear to them the result of collusion. They are not, we suppose, to be taught, that all these teachers are inspired from heaven, and directed by an uniform infallible intelligence in all their thoughts and words on the subject of religion. They are to be taught, that these men have certain inspired books in their bands, but that all the interpretations of them, are purely the work of these fallible, though honest, and thoughtful men. They will soon perceive that the inspired authorities, though in many parts of most perfectly decided meaning, and easy comprehension, do yet, in other parts, afford much matter for the exercise, and not a little for the difficulty and doubtfulness of understanding. Their common sense will tell them, that their teachers must read these documents, and deliberate, and balance, and reason on them, with the same diversity, and in some points perplexity, of opinion, as they do themselves. Now this being the case, if the missionaries are all found to agree exactly in the opinions they hold forth, throughout the wide extent of Christian doctrine, the intelligent natives will feel certain that this cannot be an honest agreement. They will know that so many distinct minds, each thinking, with honest simplicity and independence, on the very multifarious doctrinal contents of an ample volume, never could come, in so many points, to the same conclusion; and therefore they will be soon convinced the whole is a concerted system to impose upon them.
We are sorry to find our limits now absolutely forbid any observation on Mr. Nares's Sermon. It contains much good sense, with proofs of extensive learning; and is distinguished by meritorious candour of spirit, and simplicity of style. With much ingenuity and plausibility, the preacher represents the happy introduction which the Christian doctrines will find, to the acceptance of the Hindoos, through their own theological dogmas. We must say, that experience, if no other cause, would make us exceedingly sceptical on this point: we cannot remember to have read of any Hindoo convert who professed any obligations to his heathen creed for inclining him to the admission of Christianity, except, indeed, by means of the contrast of evil with good. There is incomparably so much more that is utterly hostile to the true religion, than concordant with it, or analogous to it, in the Indian system, that we can see no slope for sliding smoothly from the one to the other.
The Warrior's Return, and other Poems. By Mrs. Opie. 8vo. pp. 186. Price 6s. bds. Longman and Co. 1808. T is a well known fact, that pleasure in memory, as well as in hope, is sometimes sweeter than in enjoyment. This be the case with us at present; and our fond recollection and preference of Mrs. Opie's earlier poems, may be a mistaken estimate of our former feelings and of her maturer works. Be it so; we hope the book before us is even superior to its forerunner,- and we shall be happy to think so seven years hence; at present we are not persuaded that it is equal.
The principal merits of Mrs. Opie's poetry are elegance and tenderness; its principal faults, feebleness and insipidity; merits and faults so congenial, that we rarely find the former, without an alloy of the latter. The converse of the proposition, however, is not true; every feeble and insipid writer is not consequently, at any time, elegant and tender.
The contents of this volume are exceedingly miscellaneous. It opens with two of the most horrible tales that we ever read; which seem to have been written with the true German intention, and for no other purpose, to cauterize and harden the feelings, by making them familiar with scenes and occurrences the most shocking and repulsive to humanity. Had these been written in the German tongue as well as in the German taste, and two stories, English in substance and English in style, substituted for them, every reader of unsophisticated sentiment, would have been pleased with the exchange. We do not blame Mrs. Opie so much for having told the tales ill, as for not having told better sto
ries as well. The first is the legend of a warrior, who returns from the Holy Land, and finds, in his first interview with his wife, that his son has followed him thither; and after further mutual inquiries and explanations, discovers also that he has killed that son in combat. Unfortunately for the interest of the piece, this discovery is made much sooner by the readers, than by the parties; and the catastrophe, which should have broken like a flash of lightning upon both in the same moment, and at the very last line, is anticipated about the middle of the poem, and we hurry over the latter part with impatience, in the vain hope that our anticipation may be a mistaken one, that the gallant son may have survived, and that he will appear in the crisis of their alarm to rescue his parents from despair and madness. We therefore felt all the bitterness of disappointment, because our expectation was fulfilled. Mrs. Opie is not very successful, because she is very negligent, in the management of the measure which she has adopted in this poem. It ought to be anapæstic; but it is often very weak, and generally very uneasy, from the number of monosyllables which cripple the lines, and make the disjointed syllables fall like pebbles on a stone pavement, instead of rippling like a rivulet, as the true melody of the metre requires.
With the second story, bearing the romantic title of Julia, or the Convent of St. Claire,' we are even less satisfied. It is indolently written in stanzas of four eight-syllable lines, the first and third having blank terminations, the second and fourth only rhyming a score of which, (as far as the mere mechanism of the verse goes) might be made by any of the poets of the Westmoreland lakes, stans pede in uno. We were vexed at this slovenliness in Mrs. Opie, because it is unworthy of her, and of her sex; ladies' verses, like their persons, should not only be attended with the Loves, but attired by the Graces. The story itself is, however, more exceptionable than the form in which it is related: it is one of the most wanton and wicked suicides ever committed in verse. A young lady kills herself, because a cruel and unnatural father has doomed her to take the veil, that he may enrich her brother with her portion; and she kills herself in the very moment when her lover arrives at the door of her cell, to inform her that her brother is dead, her father has relented, and she is the sole heir of her family!—had she waited only one stanza longer, all would have been well, and the story would have ended, as all good stories ought, in a wedding. We mention this melancholy event as a warning to all young ladies, both in prose and rhyme, who are within a syllable of despatching themselves; and we affec
tionately advise them in all such cases, to suspend the fatal stroke for a comma or two, or even a semicolon, longer than is necessary to do their business; as it is impossible to tell who may arrive in the very next line, or what miracle may be wrought to deliver them should the author happen to turn over a new leaf in their favour.
Among the numerous little pieces that form the bulk of this volume, we prefer those in which the name of Henry occurs. It is of no consequence to us who Henry was, or who he is; the name is inspiration to Mrs. Opie's muse, and love is the theme on which she sings the sweetest and the best; no other can raise her harp above the middle pitch, but this brings tones from it that would vibrate through the heart of Apathy. We know not whether the Henry of the following Ballad, founded on fact,' be the general hero of Mrs. Opie's song, or some other interesting swain. The tale itself is very simple, and would have been very striking, if the sixth stanza, in which the issue is most improperly forestalled, had been omitted.
• Round youthful Henry's restless bed
Fond mutual love their bosoms fired;
He ceased, and Lucy checked the thought
The prayer with such true love was fraught,
They reached the church...her cheek was wan
Lent Henry's cheek a flattering glow.