« PreviousContinue »
clerical duties, Warburton has been lashed by the unsparing hand of a relentless satirist, whose pictures are often less of true resemblances than hideous caricatures ; but the suffrages of many must overpower the testimony of one; and it has been almost universally agreed, that in the discharge of the social relations of life, his conduct was equally faultless and exemplary. The character of Johnson has been so often pourtrayed, and, through the admirable delineations of his biographers, is now so well known, that it would be useless to attempt to describe it. He had certainly more habitual reverence for what he conceived to be truth ; was more rigid in his morality, more fervid in his piety, than Warburton. He had not less perhaps of pride and haughtiness, but his pride was more lofty, his haughtiness more independent. He could not bend to greatness, nor stoop to rise as Warburton certainly could do, and sometimes did. His character, while it was much more dignified than that of Warburton, had not the same mixture of impetuosity and warmth, and thus he was prevented from falling into those excesses which the former could hardly avoid. Both had a certain portion of intolerance in their dispositions, but in Johnson that intolerance was exerted against the oppugners of that creed he had received from others, while in Warburton it was directed against the questioners of theories of his own. In the one, it was prejudice unmixed-in the other, it was always prejudice co-operating with vanity. Upon the whole, perhaps, the character of Warburton, notwithstanding its dictating and dogmatical insolence, was the most attracting of the two. There is, notwithstanding all its effervescences and excesses, a generous fervour, a kindliness of soul, an enthusiastic warmth about it, which induces us to like him in spite of ourselves, and to which we can forgive what
ever is disgusting in his scurrility or revolting in his pride.
“ To bring my observations on the characters of these great men to a close, -in Warburton, the distinguishing faculty was a fiery and ungovernable vigour of intellect, a restless and irrepressible vehemence of mind, an unquenchable and never-dormant principle of action, which required continually some fresh matter to work on—some fresh subject to exercise its power—some new and untried space to perambulate and to pass through; it was an ever-working and operating faculty, an ever. moving and resisting principle, which it was impossible to tire or tame. There was nothing like rest or slumber about it: it could not stagnate, it could not stop; it was impossible to weaken its energies, or to contract their operation. No matter was too tough for its force, no metal too unmalleable for its strokes.
“ Such was the elasticity of its constitution, that it could not be broken ; such was its innate and surpassing resistibility of temperament, that it could not be overwhelmed. Entangle it with subtleties, and it immediately snapt asunder its bonds, as Sampson burst the encompassing cords of the Philistine. Bury it with learning, and it immediately mounted up with the brilliancy and rapidity of a sky-rocket, and scattered about it sparks and scintillations, which lightened the whole atmosphere of literature. It was this volatility of spirit, this forcible and indomitable action of mind, this nevertiring and never-weakening intellectual energy, this bounding and unceasing mental elasticity, which serves to distinguish Warburton not only from Dr Johnson, but also from all the characters who have ever appeared in literature ; and it is to the self-corroding effect of these qualities, that his alienation of mind at the latter period of his life is undoubtedly to be attributed.
“ The mind of Johnson, on the contrary, was utterly devoid of all that intellectual activity and elasticity which Warburton possessed. There was about it an habitual and dogged sluggishness, an inert and listless torpor, a reluctance to call forth its energies and exercise its powers ; it slumbered, but its slumbers were those of a giant. With more of positive force when called into action, it had not the same principle of motion, the same continual beat, the same sleepless inquietude and feverish excitement. It lay there like the leviathan, reposing amidst the depths of the ocean, till necessity drove it out to display the magnitude of his strength. The one waited quietly in its den for food, while the other prowled about continually for prey. To the latter, inaction was impossible ; to the former, voluntary exertion was unknown. Solidity and condensation were the qualities of the one ; continued vigour and pliability the characteristics of the other. The one, as a machine, was more clumsy in its movements; the other, more light and unencumbered, but less effectual in its operation; the forces of the one were more scattered, the resources of the other less alert. In Warburton, there was a boundless fertility of vigour, which ripened up into all the rankness of rich luxuriance. In Johnson, the harvest of intellect was not so spontaneous, nor perhaps its fertility so great; but when once raised, it never required the hand of the weeder, but rose unmixed with tares. The genius of the one, like a cascade, threw up its water in the air, which glistened in the sun, and shone with the variety of ten thousand hues and colourings; while the talents of the other never exerted themselves, without joining at the same time utility with splendour. The one, like the Gladiator of Lysippus, had every nerve in motion, and every muscle flexible with elasticity; while in the other, like the colossal statues of Michael Angelo, all was undivided energy and bursting strength. · “ Such were the characters of these great men, of whom it is difficult to decide which was the greater, or which possessed, inagreater portion, those qualities which give a title to intellectual supremacy. The fame of Johnson will hereafter principally rest on his productions as a moralist and a critic; while that of Warburton, when again revived, will as certainly be raised on the foundation of his theological writings. Whatever may be thought of the truth of some of his theories, or the unseemliness of some of his attacks, it is impossible to deny that his Alliance and Divine Legation are the most splendid, the most original, the most ingenious defences of our ecclesiastical establishment, and of reve. lation itself, that ever man constructed. On these, as on the sure and unchangeable evidences of his powers, his admirers may depend for his reception with posterity; with whom, when the name of Johnson, rich in the accumulated tributes of time, shall hereafter be accounted the mightiest amongst those who have given ardour to virtue, and confidence to truth; then shall the name of Warburton, also, purified from the stains which have obscured and sullied its lustre, be numbered amongst the brightest lights of the Protestant Church-amongst the greatest of those who have adorned it by their genius, or exalted it by their learning, a worthy accession to the mighty fellowship and communion of Episcopius, Chillingworth, and Hooker.
To accustom young ladies to select and copy the beautiful passages of favourite authors, is perhaps the most obvious and effectual of all the minor modes of polishing their minds. The old-fashioned practice of taxing them to learn by rote was not half so good, and was, moreover, attended with the disadvantage of sometimes giving them a habit of quoting in conversation ; nay, what was far worse, of betraying them into the odious vanity of even leading the conversation, in order that they might obtain opportunities to spout, of course no Bachelor's Wife was ever guilty of such a blue offence. But, as the perfect Egeria was sometimes in the practice of making extracts in the way suggested, we shall look at a few of the sort of things that she considered good.
The first we meet with is from a little poem commonly ascribed to the celebrated Earl of Surrey, who, if not the father of English rhythm, was, after Chaucer, the first who properly felt the depth and variety of the harmonies of the language :
“ The Sun, when he hath spread his rays,
And showed his face ten thousand ways,