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conscious that the letter will travel on her Majesty's service three doors down the passage-sinks by comparison into cursory brevity. No administrative reform will be able to bring even the official mind of these days into the grave inch-an-hour conscientiousness with which a confidential correspondent of a century ago related the growth of apples, the manufacture of jams, the appearance of flirtations, and other such like things. All the ordinary incidents of an easy life were made the most of; a party was epistolary capital, a race a mine of wealth. So deeply sentimental was this intercourse, that it was much argued whether the affections were created for the sake of ink, or ink for the sake of the affections. Thus it continued for many years, and the fruits thereof are written in the volumes of family papers which daily appear, are praised as materials for an historian at present in a crib, and consigned, as the case may be, to posterity or oblivion. All this has now passed away. Mr. Rowland Hill is entitled to the credit, not only of introducing stamps, but also of destroying letters. The amount of annotations which will be required to make the notes of this day intelligible to posterity is a wonderful idea, and no quantity of comment will make them readable. You might as well publish a collection of telegraphs. The careful detail, the studious minuteness, the circumstantial statement of a former time, is exchanged for a curt brevity or only half-intelligible narration. In old times, letters were written for people who knew nothing and required to be told everything. Now they are written for people who know everything except the one thing which the letter is designed to explain to them. It is impossible in some respects not to regret the old practice. It is well that each age should write for itself a faithful account of its habitual existence. We do this to a certain extent in novels, but novels are difficult materials for an historian. They raise a cause and a controversy as to how far they are really faithful delineations. Mr. Macaulay is even now under criticism for his use of the plays of the seventeenth century. Letters are generally true on these points. The least veracious man will tell truly the colour of his coat, the hour of his dinner, the materials of his shoes. The unconscious delineation of a recurring and familiar life is beyond the reach of a fraudulent fancy. Horace Walpole was not a very scrupulous narrator; yet it was too much trouble even for him to tell lies on many points. His set stories and conspicuous scandals are no doubt often unfounded, but there is a gentle under-current of daily unremarkable life and manners which he evidently assumed as a datum for his historical imagination. Whence posterity will derive this for the times of Queen Victoria it is difficult to fancy. Even
memoirs are no resource; they generally leave out the common life, and try at least to bring out the uncommon events.
It is evident that this species of composition exactly harmonized with the temperament and genius of Cowper. Detail was his forte and quietness his element. Accordingly, his delicate humour plays over perhaps a million letters, mostly descriptive of events which no one else would have thought worth narrating, and yet which, when narrated, show to us, and will show to persons to whom it will be yet more strange, the familiar, placid, easy, ruminating, provincial existence of our great grandfathers. Slow, Olney might be,-indescribable, it certainly was not. We seem to have lived there ourselves.
The most copious subject of Cowper's correspondence is his translation of Homer. This was published by subscription, and it is pleasant to observe the healthy facility with which one of the shyest men in the world set himself to extract guineas from every one he had ever heard of. In several cases he was very successful. The University of Oxford, he tells us, declined, as of course it would, to recognize the principle of subscribing towards literary publications; but other public bodies and many private persons were more generous. It is to be wished that their aid had contributed to the production of a more pleasing work. The fact is, Cowper was not like Agamemnon. The most conspicuous feature in the Greek heroes is a certain brisk, decisive activity, which always strikes and always likes to strike. This quality is faithfully represented in the poet himself. Homer is the briskest of men. The Germans have denied that there was any such person; but they have never ques tioned his extreme activity. "From what you tell me, sir," said an American, "I should like to have read Homer. I should say he was a go-ahead party." Now this is exactly what Cowper was not. His genius was domestic, and tranquil, and calm. He had no sympathy, or little sympathy, even with the common, half-asleep activities of a refined society; an evening party was too much for him; a day's hunt a preposterous excitement. It is absurd to expect a man like this to sympathize with the stern stimulants of a barbaric age, with a race who fought because they liked it, and a poet who sang of fighting because he thought their taste judicious. As if to make matters worse, Cowper selected a metre in which it would be scarcely possible for any one, however gifted, to translate Homer. The two kinds of metrical composition most essentially opposed to one another are ballad poetry and blank verse. The very nature of the former requires a marked pause and striking rhythm. Every line should have a distinct end and a clear beginning. It is like martial music, there should be a tramp in the very versification of it:
Armour rusting in his halls
On the blood of Clifford calls;
Quell the Scot,' exclaims the lance,
Bear me to the heart of France.
Is the longing of the shield
And this is the tone of Homer. The grandest of human
he ever heads, and will head, "the flock of war." blank verse is the exact opposite of all this. Dr. Johnson laid down that it was verse only to the eye, which was a bold dictum. But without going this length it will be safe to say, that of all considerable metres in our language it has the least distinct conclusion, least decisive repetition, the least trumpetlike rhythm; and it is this of which Cowper made choice. He had an idea that extreme literalness was an unequalled advantage, and logically reasoned that it was easier to do this in that metre than in any other. He did not quite hold with Mr. Cobbett, that the "gewgaw fetters of rhyme were invented by the monks to enslave the people;" but as a man who had due experience of both, he was aware that it is easier to write two lines of different endings than two lines of the same ending, and supposed that by taking advantage of this to preserve the exact grammatical meaning of his author, he was quite indisputably approximating to a good translation. Whether," he writes, "a translation of Homer may be best executed in blank verse or in rhyme is a question in the decision of which no man finds difficulty who has ever duly considered what translation ought to be, or who is in any degree practically acquainted with those kinds of versification. . . . No human ingenuity can be equal to the task of closing every couplet with sounds homotonous, expressing at the same time the full sense, and only the full sense, of the original." And if the true object of translation were to save the labour and dictionaries of construing schoolboys, there is no question but this slavish adherence to the original would be the most likely to gain the approbation of those diminutive but sure judges. But if the object is to convey an idea of the general tone, scope, and artistic effect of the original, the mechanical copying of the details is as likely to end in a good result as a careful
cast from a dead man's features to produce a living and speaking being. On the whole, therefore, the condemnation remains, that Homer is not dull, and Cowper is.
With the translation of Homer terminated all the brightest period of Cowper's life. There is little else to say. He undertook an edition of Milton-a most difficult task, involving the greatest and most accurate learning, in theology, in classics, in Italian-in a word, in all ante-Miltonic literature. By far the greater portion of this lay quite out of Cowper's path. He had never been a hard student, and his evident incapacity for the task troubled and vexed him. A man who had never been able to take any real responsibility was not likely to feel comfortable under the weight of a task which few men indeed would be able to accomplish. Mrs. Unwin too fell into a state of helplessness and despondency; and instead of relying on her for cheerfulness and management, he was obliged to manage for her, and cheer her. His mind was unequal to the task. Gradually the dark cloud of melancholy, which had hung about him so long, grew and grew, and extended itself day by day. In vain Lord Thurlow, who was a likely man to know, assured him that his spiritual despondency was without ground; he smiled sadly, but seemed to think that at any rate he was not going into Chancery. In vain Hayley, a rival poet, but a good-natured, blundering, wellintentioned, incoherent man, went to and fro, getting the Lord Chief Justice and other dignitaries to attest, under their hands, that they concurred in Thurlow's opinion. In vain, with far wiser kindness, his relatives, especially many of his mother's family, from whom he had been long divided, but who gradually drew nearer to him as they were wanted, endeavoured to divert his mind to healthful labour and tranquil society. The day of these things had passed away-the summer was ended. He became quite unequal to original composition, and his greatest pleasure was hearing his own writings read to him. After a long period of hopeless despondency he died on the 25th of April, in the first year of this century; and if he needs an epitaph, let us say, that not in vain was he Nature's favourite. As a higher poet sings:
"And all day long I number yet,
An instinct call it, a blind sense,
Coming one knows not how nor whence,
"If stately passions in me burn,
And one chance look to thee should turn,
A lowlier pleasure;
The homely sympathy that heeds
ART. III.-THE PLANETS.
1. Essays on the Spirit of Inductive Philosophy, the Unity of Worlds, and the Philosophy of Creation. By the Rev. Baden Powell. London: Longman. 1855.
2. The Plurality of Worlds: an Essay. Also a Dialogue on the same subject. Third Edition. London: J. W. Parker and Son.
3. More Worlds than One. The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian. By Sir David Brewster.
4. Scientific Certainties of Planetary Life. By T. C. Simon. Bosworth. 1855.
5. Astro-Theology; or, the Religion of Astronomy. By Edward Higginson. London: Whitfield. 1855.
HE number of "blue" books issued on the planets bids fair to rival that of those earthly blue books on parliamentary affairs. They are a striking contrast, however, in the nature of their information. The former are all conjectural and somewhat ornamental, the latter all authoritative statements of fact, and very plain. Even the red book by Mr. Baden Powell, which has closed the series, and which, in scientific spirit and the extent of its knowledge, is in advance of them all, has but little to communicate on the question so skilfully stated by the first essayist, beyond the pictorial refutation prefixed to the second part of the second essay, where Mr. Baden Powell presents the essayist's conception to the eye of his readers by drawing the earth in her orbit hovering beneath the regal crown which has been awarded to her by the theologians. The lists have been entered with little advantage to either party. None of the replicants, however, have at all rivalled in