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inferior to the place I had for four or five years held in letters, and feeling alike that the latter was one to which I had only a temporary right, I could not brook the idea of relinquishing literary occupation, which had been so long my chief employment. Neither was I disposed to choose the alternative of sinking into a mere editor and commentator, though that was a species of labour which I had practised, and to which I was attached. But I could not endure to think that I might not, whether known or concealed, do something of more importance.'-vol. xi. part I. pp. 12–14.
It was with a dispirited mind that Sir Walter went to work on the Lord of the Isles; and the reception of that volume was such as to induce the author to relinquish the arena, amply consoled with the recollection and the profits of his former achievements, and with the prospects which awaited him in a new and untried region of literature.
The details of his literary life, which Sir Walter Scott has now given us, are undoubtedly very satisfactory as regards their abundance, as well as the good faith which pervades them. But whether or not they will raise the character of the man in the esteem of his discerning cotemporaries, or of more impartial posterity, it is not for us to decide. Persons who take sober views of the relative duties of men to each other, may be apt to inquire if one so unusually endowed as Sir Walter Scott, with the qualities that are most fitted to command an extended and durable influence over the minds of his countrymen, should have wasted his powers in the manufacture of mere gew-gaws for the eye, and that he should have persevered in producing those glittering but valueless and evanescent creations, for no other reason than that he had succeeded in adulterating the public with a taste for such unsubstantial pleasures. With
all his invention, with all his elegant fancy, with all that refined sagacity which enables the poet to perform the beautiful task of the painter, what has Sir Walter Scott, regarding him in the former capacity, accomplished for our literature? Taking him, as he himself suggests that he should be estimated, as a poet, Sir Walter, instead of using his intellectual resources to reform the public taste, took advantage of its distempered condition, and consulted more immediately the inclination than the interests of his readers. The consequence is that he has made by his poetry no national impression. At least, his influence is now scarcely felt in our poetical literature. His system of verse was founded on an assumption of the poverty of our language,-an assumption which would, under his sanction, have been likely to receive great credit, were it not so triumphantly overthrown by the example of Byron. And when we hear Sir Walter chuckle over the remembrance of the exercise of that tact which enabled him so well to define what was most suited to the public appetite at a given time, we cannot but lament that worthier and higher motives had not influenced his pen. Few have gained au illustrious name in any country, whose writings have not been always above the level of the intelligence of the period in which they lived;---few men, even poets, have been remembered with credit after their death, that did not by their labours endeavour to leave society something better than they found it.
These are amongst the considerations which give rise to the pleasure we feel that Sir Walter has directed his genius from poetry to another department of literature; and if we have urged them with freedom, it is because in his subsequent labours he has earned a character of usefulness and philanthropy, which will enable him easily to afford to have his poetical sins run down.
ART. IV.-Four Years' Residence in the West Indies. By F. W. N.
Bayley. 8vo. pp. 693. London: Kidd. 1830. Our readers will perhaps recollect the pleasant little work entitled “Six Months in the West Indies," written by Mr. Coleridge, which we introduced to their acquaintance about four years ago. The volume now before us treats of the same regions, and almost of the same persons and subjects; and although the author had the advantage of a more lengthened acquaintance with them than Mr. Coleridge, yet it is much to the credit of the latter that his reports and reasonings mainly agree with those of his successor; that no error of any importance has been discovered in his statement of facts, and that most of his anticipations turn out to have been well founded. Mr. Bayley has, indeed, to speak of the West Indies at a later period than Mr. Coleridge, and in this respect alone may be thought to possess an advantage; for the improvements that appear to have taken place in several of the islands within the interval of two of two or three years, are neither few nor unimportant. But in point of style and true vivacity, Mr. Bayley's work is infinitely inferior to the other. He mistakes mere verbiage for merriment, and triviality for wit. Sometimes he attempts to be poetical, and becomes more prosy than ever. He sets out from England either in love with a lady, whom he calls Laura, or pretending to be in love with her, and we have sundry mawkish exclamations addressed to his ever-faithful mistress in the course of his travels. The first newspaper he reads upon his return, informs him of her marriage, which he bears like a philosopher. The story is a silly one throughout, and evidently an invention for the purpose of giving an air of romance to his production. We suspect that he owes to his fancy, also, the idea of giving descriptions of some of the islands which he did not visit, in the form of letters, supposed to be addressed to him by different friends. The dandyish style which pervades the acknowledged portions of his book, shews the letters also, though they affect variety, to have proceeded from the same hand.
No person can write about the West Indies without stumbling forth with on the eternal subject of slavery. Mr. Bayley swears that he is an anti-slavery man; that he detests the traffic quite as much as Mr. Wilberforce himself; that he has no interest at stake on one side of the question or the other; that he is a most impartial judge; but that, nevertheless, the slaves are very happy in their present condition, and that freedom would be to them no boon whatever. This seems to be his real opinion, and yet he says that he is an advocate for gradual emancipation. So are the parliament and government of England; so is every rational man in the country. Mr. Bayley takes a great deal of unnecessary trouble when he endeavours to shew, that the sudden emancipation of the slaves in our West Indian colonies, would be equally injurious to the negroes and the planters. Nobody, arrived at the years of discretion, doubts it. He combats a phantom of his own creation, if he thinks that there is any body at this side of the Atlantic, excepting a few old women, who desires that the slaves in any of the islands should be all emancipated on the same day. The true object of such arguments as Mr. Bayley uses, notwithstanding his fair professions, is to perpetuate the system of slavery, under, perhaps, an ameliorated form, in the West Indies. Hence it is that he repeats the stories, which we have been hearing for years, of the happiness which the enslaved negroes enjoy, of the humanity of their proprietors, overseers, and drivers ; of the kindness with which they are treated in sickness and health, and of the affluence which reigns among them compared with the peasantry of the United Kingdom. That the discussions which have taken place in Parliament upon this subject have, in many instances, procured considerable improvement in the condition of the slaves in the West Indies, we do not doubt. We have Mr. Bayley's favourable testimony on this point, and we believe it to be essentially correct. But either he was himself cajoled, or he wishes to cajole his readers, when he tells us that the negroes do not wish for freedom. He heard as much from one or two individuals of the race, and concludes, from these solitary cases, that they are all of the same way of thinking. Such reasoning as this is too shallow to produce any other effect than this,--that it shews the real object of such a statement to mean more than strikes the ear. If the slaves are happy now, they would be so, ceteris paribus, to the end of time; their families would inherit the same notions, and, therefore, nothing need be done towards their emancipation. This is the drift of all that Mr. Bayley says upon the subject, and having thus briefly adverted to it, we shall pass to those parts of his volume, which, when compared with Mr. Coleridge's work, appear to us to have novelty to recommend them.
Our author went out with his father, a commissary in the army, to the Leeward Islands, towards the end of 1825, and arrived first at Barbadoes, concerning which island Mr. Coleridge has left
nothing to be said. We find that the prejudice which in his time prevented the children of the free coloured from being taught to write, is still continued. Codrington College, however, which, when that gentleman was at Barbadoes, stood much in need of reformation, appears, since then, to have engaged serious attention in the proper quarters, and to have undergone considerable improvement in every respect. From Barbadoes our author proceeded to St. Vincent, and thence to Grenada, these being the only islands in the West Indies which he visited. Of several of the other islands he speaks from the reports of others, or from books. With respect to Barbadoes and Grenada, Mr. Coleridge had left little for him to say, though he has devoted to them five or six chapters. His description of St. Vincent is too scattered to be brought within a reasonable compass. It is generally considered, next to Grenada, one of the most beautiful islands in the West Indies. From his chapters upon this island, we shall extract a copy of verses which were presented to him by J. C. Smith, Esq. of the 27th regiment, which are worth all his own poetry, and his prose too, put together.
And the verdant hues of the velvet moss
Gleam bright in the rock-hewn way;
Though from the foliage-shaded hills,
The sparkling waters rush,
In the rays of the morning blush!
Though the midnight skies are burning bright,
With many a dazzling star,
To me is dearer far,
For what are these scenes so soft and fair,
The gales that sweetly blow-
Or the skies in their moon-bright glow;
grass that springs on our fathers'
Near the home of our infant years.
If its parent bud expanded there.
My lonely lot is cast;
heart beats fast;
Bears me back to thy shores, my Father land.-pp. 296-298. Considering that Mr. Bayley actually visited only three of the principal islands of the West Indies, it seems to have been rather adventurous in him to give his work so comprehensive a title. It is, in fact, chiefly made up from publications long known to every body who feels interested about those regions. Some of his observations, however, though not new, are dressed up in an inter
, esting form. He thus speaks of the diseases of those climates :
* I do not tell the reader that people go to balls night after night, or even week after week, in the tropics with impunity. Many a man by dancing, drinking, and dissipation, has provoked the attack of that which has effectually prevented him from dancing, drinking, or dissipating more.