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FOR JULY, 1831.
Art. I. 1. On the Constitution of the Church and State, according to
the Idea of Each ; with Aids toward a right Judgement of the late Catholic Bill. By S. T. Coleridge, Esq., R.A., R.S.L. Small 8vo.
pp. 227. Price 10s. 6d. London, 1830. 2. A Letter to his Grace the Archbishop of York, on the present
Corrupt State of the Church of England. By R. M. Beverley,
Esq. 8vo. Fifth Edition. pp. 42. Beverley, 1831. 3. Church Reform. By a Churchman. Second Edition, small 8vo.
pp. 226. London, Murray, 1830. FEW NEW writers of the present day are so capable of furnishing
• aids to reflection' as Mr. Coleridge ; but, 'aids toward a right judgement' of any question, his mode of treating things is not the best adapted to supply. What the late Mr. Hall once remarked of Dr. Owen, may with still greater propriety be applied to the Author of " The Friend,"—that he ‘dives deep * and comes up muddy.'* He is, perhaps, the most comprehensive thinker of the age, but it is a comprehensiveness fatal to distinctness; and the vague, generalized survey of a subject, which he loves to take, reminds us of a bird's eye view of a tract of country, or of the appearance of the earth from a balloon. And, if we may pursue the simile, from the elevation to
* Mr. Hall was peculiarly happy in repartee. Dr. Mason, of New York, (from whom we heard the anecdote,) was zealously expatiating on the merits of Dr. Owen as a writer :- You must at least allow,' he said to Mr. Hall, 'that Owen dives deep.' "Yes, sir,' was the reply, 'dives deep,' &c. as given above. Mr. Hall was ever ready, however, to do justice to Owen as a divine: it was to his prolix and pera plexed style only that he referred. VOL. VI.-N.S.
which he transports us, the misty exhalations of thought which come rolling one over another, apparently the sport of accident or impulse, but governed by unknown laws of association,--often assume forms of grandeur and beauty which delight the fancy, although they obscure or conceal the field of intellectual vision. Mr. Coleridge's habits of thought are strikingly desultory, and yet, they must be characterized as truly philosophical; and from the combination of these almost incompatible qualities results the peculiar character of his writings. He proceeds in a way the very opposite to that of some eloquent writers, who, having selected a proposition for illustration, concentrate their whole attention upon that point, lavish on it all the strength of argument, and never leave it till the theme is fairly exhausted. Mr. Coleridge, on the contrary, never closes with a subject, never comes to close quarters, but brings the artillery of his learning and eloquence to bear upon large masses.
We can hardly conceive of a more striking contrast than that which his writings present, in this respect, to those of Dr. Chalmers. The one is fond of exhibiting a simple idea in every variety of aspect, and of decorating it with multiplied illustrations, making it the central point of the shifting figures, in a manner that has been aptly compared to the effect of the objects in a kaleidoscope.' The other surrounds us with a gallery of abstractions, theories, axioms, unfinished sketches, and antique fragments, in which his own conceptions are indiscriminately blended with those of other men; where nothing is well arranged, and scarcely any thing is finished, but here, ideas present themselves roughly blocked out, and waiting for the chisel,—there, a rude sketch suggests hints for a study,-here is seen a foot of Hercules, there, a head of Juno,-here, the torso of a Church, and there, the fragments of a Constitution. Now all this is very pleasant as an exhibition, but extremely difficult to deal with. The disorderly opulence of the Author's stores of thought, by which he is himself bewildered, baffles all analysis. We are charmed with the grouping and succession of objects, but they will not fall into perspective; and when we arrive at the end, we seem as far as ever from any definite conclusion. In vain would any but the most attentive reader attempt to disentangle the complex knot of ideas laid before him in the present volume. The style of the composition itself answers to the involution of the thoughts. Digression upon digression, parenthesis within parenthesis, distinctions the most refined, transitions the most abrupt, positions the most paradoxical, keep continually the mind of the reader upon the stretch, wondering whither the erudite and accomplished Writer intends to lead him. A single sentence, taken from the volume before us, will serve to illustrate this peculiarity of the Author's mode of developing his ideas.