Puslapio vaizdai

sions, not to speak of those distinct declarations of God's Word, which do not demonstrate, but intuitively and irresistibly communicate the tidings, that "all is well!"

"After all, we are in good hands," was the simple, conclusive reply of a well-conditioned gentleman of our acquaintance to one who had, in a strain of morbid eloquence, taken the darker-side as conclusive, because it expressed what is the natural feeling of all untainted and unsophisticated | minds, as well as the mature and ultimate result of the highest order of philosophic thinkers. But it is altogether impossible to reach this conclusion through that faithless process which John Foster employs; as impossible, as by digging down through the darkness of earth to reach the sun | and stars of the antipodes. It is otherwise that Sartor comes out at last into his clear, stern azure. It is otherwise that Goethe meant, it is understood, to lead Faust up into his Mount of Vision and temple of worship.

Our final charge, again, is that he takes too dark, morbid, and monkish a view of man and of society. From this, indeed, seem to spring his other errors. He who doubts of man can hardly fail to doubt of God. To believe in man is an indispensable requisite to a proper conception of Deity. Of course we do not mean to deny the doctrine of human depravity; but we do think that Foster's views of man's nature, whether as exhibited in individual character or in collective society, are far too stern and harsh. We would as soon judge of an assembly of living men and women from a book of anatomical sketches, as of the true character of the world from Foster's pictures. Earth is not the combination of hell and chaos which he represents it to be.

sceptics, though repeatedly owning himself so far a sceptic, to drink in their last groans, and insult whether the calm or the horror of their closing hours; staking thus, in a measure, the holy cause of religion upon a wretched computation of dying beds, upon the pro's and con's of the expressions of disease, delirium, and despair— a task fit enough for a contributor to the Methodist's Magazine, but unworthy of a spirit like Foster's. And how slow to admit any degree of interest, or of poetry, or of grandeur, in those colossal faiths which have ruled for ages the great majority of mankind!—an absurdity as great as though one were to go about to deny the lustre of the serpent's eyes, because his breath was poison, or the beauty of the tiger's skin, because his drink was blood. And, then, by what a safety-valve he does escape from the consequences of his fatalism, by supposing a general jail-delivery of criminals, who, by his own showing, are no more guilty than the avalanche which destroys the Alpine traveller, or the sandy columu which whelms the wanderer in the desert!

After all this, it may seem paradoxical to assert that we think Foster an amiable man. He was so, undoubtedly, if universal testimony can be credited; but he was a slave, in the first place, to unsettled doubts, and, ultimately, to a partial and inconsistent system, as well as, throughout all his life, to a gloomy temperament which clouded his native disposition. His genius reminds us of the moon, but of the moon turned into blood, forced, against her nature, into a lowering, portentous aspect no longer the still, calm mistress of the night, but a meteor of wrath and fear, emitting at best a gloomy smile, and furnishing a light, fit only to guide the footsteps Men are not the pigmy fiends, Lillipu- of murderers, and preside at the assignations of tians in intellect, Brobdignagians in crime, from ghosts. We turn, now, gladly from these objecwhose society he shrinks in loathing, and the tie tions to remark some interesting peculiarities in connecting himself with whom he would cut in Foster's character and intellect, as evinced in sunder if he could. The past history of society his Memoirs, Correspondence, and Articles in is not that dance of death, that hideous proces- the Eclectic Review. We notice, first, his genesion of misery and guilt toward destruction, which rosity and width as a critic. Narrow as a moral paints itself on the gloomy retina of his eye. We judge, he is, as a critic of authors and books, protest, in the name of our fallen but human entirely the reverse. He sympathises with all perishing, but princely family, against such libels genuine excellence. This alone proves, we think, as Gulliver's Travels and Foster's entire works. his superiority to Hall. Hall, we fear, had little Were such statements true, we see no help for it admiration for other writers beyond a very few, but an act of universal, simultaneous suicide, and either inferior to, or cognate with himself. His a giving up of God's creation, on the part of treatment of Coleridge, for instance, would be Adam's sons, as a bad job. What a fierce, im- insufferably insolent, were it not ludicrously abpotent scowl, he continually casts upon even the surd. Having never taken the trouble to master innocent amusements of the race-such as chil- so much as the language in which Coleridge dren's balls, social parties-begrudging, it would thought, his verdict on him is as worthless as a seem, even to doomed and predestinated crimi- plain English scholar's were upon the metres of nals, such only consolations as their case would | Pindar. To modern poetry, too, and all its admit of. More cruel than the ancient cruci- miracles, he was notoriously indifferent. Byron fiers, he will grant no stupifying nor cheering he never read, an omission as contemptible as draught to the expiring malefactor. How reluc- though he had not gone forth to see, and at tant, too, he is to admit any moral merit (intel- which the whole species were gazing, a comet lectual merit he is always ready to concede) to which had made itself visible at noonday. Wordsthose who differ from him in creed, not, perhaps, worth and Southey he habitually maligned. Now, more widely than he is found, after all, to differ all this may seem very great to such fawnfrom the rest of the Christian world! How he ing parasites as the late Dr. Balmer, who prowls, like a hyena, round the bedsides of dying has carefully recorded it in a bit of Boswellism

he contributed to his remains, but seems superlatively unworthy of such a man as Hall. Foster, on the other hand, is a genial and a generous praiser, of much beneath, much on a level, and much above his own mark. He has a kind word to say for poor Cottle and his Fall of Cambria. He is enthusiastic in his admiration of Hall, Chalmers, Fox, Grattan, Curran, Tooke, &c. Coleridge is the god of his idolatry, and bitterly does he deplore his miserable habits. Of a transcendent dramatic work (could it be Cain or the Cenci?) he says, "I was never so fiercely carried off by Pegasus before the fellow neighed as he ascended." All works he seems to have judged, not by any arbitrary canon of his own, or of others' establishment, but by the impulse given to his own mind, the stir of respondent strength, whether in contradiction or consent, awakened within him, and the joy which they had the power to spread over his melancholy spirit, like sunshine surprising a sullen tarn into smiles.

to find them as if he were a-nutting; looks at every object with this question, how can I employ you in the expression of truth? and returns triumphant with a thousand analogies. This, we think, has somewhat affected the naturalness and freedom of his imagery. We should prefer, had he allowed the beauties of nature to slide into his soul, and to blend with his thoughts



Like some sweet beguiling melody;


So sweet, we know not we are listening to it." Another phase of this romantic tendency was his extreme attachment to the society of cultivated females, and the conception he formed of the married life as the panacea of his ills. In such company he laid aside the monk, and became all gentleness and good humour. It acted like a spell upon him, to soothe his most unquiet feelings, and to lay for a season his darkest doubts. It roused, too, the faculties of his mind, and he never was half so eloquent, neither in his writings, nor in the pulpit, nor in the company of his co-mates in intellect, Anderson and Hall, as when with the evening shadows, or the first moonbeams stealing into the room, he discoursed to fascinating females," who could understand as well as listen, and feel as well as understand, of the "feelings and value of genius," or of topics dearer and nobler still, while it seemed, in his own beautiful words, as if the soul of Eloisa pervaded all the air." Such moments he relished with the intensest gratification; they seemed to him foretastes of Paradise, and of the society of angels, and he might well say that they should never be "forgotten." Out of those 'fascinating females" he selected one almost a duplicate of himself-equally intellectual, equally well-informed, equally pious, and equally oppressed with the tremendous darkness of this dark economy. It was like the marriage of two moonlit clouds in the silent sky! To this lady (Miss Maria Snooke-Phoebus, what a name!) he addressed his first celebrated essays. From her society he expected much happiness. On the eve of the marriage, he met, he tells us, "the snow-drops and other signs and approaches of the spring, with a degree of interest which has never accompanied any former vernal equinox." And his expectations seem to have been abundantly fulfilled. After many happy years of intercourse, and latterly, on her part, much severe suffering, she died, leaving him less to regret her loss than to grieve that their spirits had not entered together within that mighty veil which had so long tantalised and saddened both.


We notice in these volumes numerous evidences of Foster's romantic tendencies. He was a lover of solitary and moonlight walks. "In Chichester there is still a chapel, where the well-worn bricks of the aisles exhibit the traces of his solitary pacings to and fro by moonlight." In all beautiful and majestic scenes he invariably lost himself, as men do in the mazes of a wood. Reverie was his principal luxury, and became his darling sin. In combating the romantic tendency in one of his essays, he is, in reality, fighting with himself; just as strange to tell, the objections he confutes in his famous sermon on missions reappear, from his own pen, in a letter to Harris, written years afterwards. In a former paper, we said, “Foster fighting with a fatalist, reminds us of the whole ocean into tempest tossed, to waft a feather, or to drown a fly." Alas, we now find that Foster and the fatalist were forms of the same mind, and that the fatalist remains last upon the field. So, having shrived himself of his original romance, by writing an essay against it, the old nature returned with double force than formerly, and was in him to his dying day. In connexion with this, we notice the abundance and beauty of his natural imagery. No one has turned to more account, in his writings, the charms of nature, and particularly the evanescent and ghostly glories of the night, the tints of moonlit flowers, the colours of midnight fields, the shadows of woods, the shapes of mountains resting against the stars, all the fine gradations of the coming on of evening, all the wandering voices of the darkness, speaking what "The living are not envied of the dead." But in the day they seem to dare not do, and all those how often are the dead envied of the living! And "solemn meditations," as peculiar to night as its no one ever felt this solemn envy more than celestial fires were well known and inexpressibly Foster. We can conceive him kneeling in chardear to the soul of this lonely man. In his use nel houses, and praying their ashes to break of such images, we observe this peculiarity. silence and speak out. We can conceive him Some men surround their minds with them un- | crying aloud amid the midnight hills for some consciously, they go out to the fields without one thought of collecting images or illustrations, and yet come home laden with them, as with burs or other herbage, which we unwittingly gather in the woods. Foster goes out on express purpose

wandering spirit of the departed to render up the secret. And as friend after friend dropped away into the silent land, this impatient eagerness strengthened, and almost amounted to a feeling that those he loved were bound to come back and

relieve his harrowing anxieties.

And it shook him with the very agony of desire when the wife of his bosom and of his soul-his shadow in the other sex, whose doubts, and fears, and desires on this subject were the counterpart of his own— departed first within the veil. We can image him on his widowed pillow praying for and straining his eyes for her reappearance-less to see her beloved face once more than to hear some authentic tidings of the shadowy world. But she, too, was silent. She, too, had taken the dread oath of secrecy which all the dead must take. And he had to recur, in his disappointed loneliness, to the prospect of speedily joining her in that strange company, and of becoming in his turn as intelligent and as uncommunicative as she.

This supposition is the less extravagant, as we find from these memoirs that Foster was a firm believer in apparitions, and in all the other departments of what this enlightened age-which has discovered that the soul of man is a secretion of the brain, and that the snail is growing up by slow stages to the Shakspeare (and we suppose the Shakspeare to the Supreme God!)-calls exploded superstitions. He grasped at every line, however frail, which linked him to the spiritual world. If he saw not visions, he dreamt dreams, felt presentiments, shuddered as he almost called up to his imagination the form of a ghost. This "folly of the wise," if a folly it be, he shared with many of the greatest minds of the age-with Napoleon, Byron, Coleridge, and Shelley, who all felt that there were some things in heaven and earth more than are dreamt of in our philosophies. In Foster these feelings did not amount to fears. They were rather strong yet shuddering desires to know the best or the worst which spiritual beings could tell, or intimate about that state of future existence of which he felt that Revelation had told him little, and Nature nothing at all. From the company of real solid sorrows, and of men whom he deemed "earthly, sensual, devilish," he turned eagerly, yet pensively, to seek communion with the spirits of the departed; but even these sad companions were shy to him-they met him not in his solitary walks, and in all his wanderings he was "alone with the Night."

their past as well as present history silently inscribed upon his mind. His conversational sarcasm was tremendous. "Was not the Emperor Alexander a very pious man?" "Very pious," he answered; "I believe he said grace ere he swallowed Poland." We could quote, if we durst, unpublished specimens still racier. Hall himself is said to have felt somewhat nervous in his presence when in this mood. And there is a floating rumour of a meeting between him and Lord Brougham on some educational question, in which his Lordship came off, and shabbily, second best.

Foster's indolence has been often, but, we think, unjustly, condemned. It ought rather to be deplored. Unfurnished with a regular training, yet furnished with an exquisitely sensitive taste, early "damned to the mines" of hopeless professional toil, transferred thence to the drudgery of writing for bread-never gifted with a fluent language nor a rapid pen-what wonder that he found composition an ungracious task, or that he shrank from it with a growing and deepening disgust? Our surprise is that he wrote so much, and not that he wrote so little. Latterly, but for an overwhelming sense of duty, he would not have written at all. If we saw a giant, whose arms had been cut off, moving in impotent strength his bleeding fragments, who would not weep at the spectacle? In such mutilated might sat Foster at his desk.

His Journal and Correspondence contain much attractive and interesting matter. His letters, without ease, have great sincerity, calm discernment, disturbed by bursts of misanthropical power, as when he calls for a tempest of fire and brimstone upon the Russians, on their invasion of Poland, and a perpetual stream of sarcasm, adds a tart tinge to the whole. His Journal, on the other hand, is rich in those thoughts which procreate thought in others-in descriptions of natural objects which he encountered in quiet sidelong glances into human character-in the expression of gloomy and desolate feelings, and in sudden, momentary, and timorous glimpses into deeper abysses of thought than those where his spirit usually dwells. How grand this, for instance :- "Argument from miracles for the truth of the Christian doctrines. Surely it is And yet, in spite of all these melancholy mus- fair to believe that those who received from ings and romantic tendencies, Foster was a keen, heaven superhuman power, received likewise sustern, and sarcastic observer of men and manners | perhuman wisdom. Having rung the great bell -of society and political progress. In politics he was a "Radical and something more"- -an independent thinker, despising all ties of party, and | standing on every question like a fourth estate one who could sit upon the ground and tell strange stories of the deaths of kings, and who never in one instance sacrificed an atom of the right to an acre of the expedient. It is worth while reading in this work his musings, as of a separate spirit, upon the public transactions of his day. In society, too, he sate an insulated being, whose silence was often more formidable than his words. His face, even when he spoke not, shone a quiet mirror to the "thoughts and intents of the hearts" of those around him, and he came away with

of the universe, the sermon to follow must be extraordinary." Hear, again, this criticism on Burke :-" Burke's sentences are pointed at the end-instinct with pungent sense to the last syllable; they are like a charioteer's whip, which not only has a long and effective lash, but cracks and inflicts a still smarter sensation at the end. They are like some serpents, whose life is said to be fiercest in the tail." The whole Journal, indeed, is a repository of such things.

How much of Foster's originality lay in his thoughts, or how much in his images, or how much of it resulted from his early isolation from suitable books and kindred minds, we stay not to inquire. As it is, we have in his works the col

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lected thoughts of a powerful mind that has lived that to "Foster the cloud has now become the "collaterally or aside" to the world-that never sun. But certainly we may say that to him, flattered a popular prejudice-that never bent to "behold the darkness is past, and the true light a popular idol-that never deserted in the dark- now shineth," if not in its noonday effulgence, yet est hour the cause of liberty-that never swore to at least in its mild and twilight softness. In the the Shibboleth of a party-or, at least, never night he dwelt, and although the visage of death kept its vow, and that now stands up before us may not have been to him the glorious luminary alone, massive, and conspicuous, a mighty and he expected, yet is it not much that the night is mysterious fragment, the Stonehenge of modern gone, and gone for ever? We take our leave of moralists. Shall we inscribe immortality upon him in his own words—“‘Paid the debt of the shapeless yet sublime structure ? He who nature.' No; it is not paying a debt, it is rather reared it seems, from the elevation he has now like bringing a note to a bank to obtain solid gold reached, to answer No. What is the thing you in exchange for it. In this case you bring this call immortality to me, who have cleft that deep cumbrous body, which is nothing worth, and shadow and entered on this greater and brighter which you could not wish to retain long, you lay state of being? it down and receive for it, from the eternal treasures, liberty, victory, knowledge, rapture."

We dare not say, with a writer formerly quoted,


THE courteous reader never perhaps had the MacDrewthie, dragged away from his forge for gratification of being infeft and seized-in propria | the purpose! Now, if it had happened that persona, that is; or, as the old title deeds express Saunders was to be made a Bailie, the honour and it, "personally present and accepting of the same" glory of the thing would have added a cubit to his -invested, with all the formality of "earth and stature. But the dry man of law and parchment, stane,” as a feudal vassal. We make the assump-forcing a semi-complacent smile, exclaims, "come tion the more readily, because, amongst some glimmerings of common sense, our Legislature have seen fit, within these last two years, not to abolish (that would be too much to expect!) but to shuffle away out of sight this unmeaning relic | of Gothic barbarism. We allude to the Act 8 and 9 Victoria, cap. 38—“An Act to simplify the form and diminish the expense of obtaining infeftment in heritable property in Scotland"—which received | the Royal assent 21st July, 1845. This act, which, at the eleventh hour, reduced the opera seria of infeftment in the light of day to a kind of pantomime, quite as ridiculous, done darklings in a lawyer's back shop, may be accepted as an instalment of simplification in heritable investitures, although it was certainly making two bites of a cherry to retain this shadow of a shade, as if to show the acme of unmeaningness to which symbols, forms and ceremonies might be degraded! Our own experiences in the honour of being "infeft and seized" are by no means great; yet sometimes dim reminiscences of having accidentally officiated as a Provost or Bailie, in carrying through this stupid old farce, force back their comiealities on our mind. There we were, "of and upon the ground" of the premises! There, too, was the quaint old Notary Public, adjusting his gold spectacles to peruse the titled backs of the Dispositions, or Precepts, which were about to be made effectual; and his instrumentary witnesses, junior clerks, or apprentices, stood bye, to attest the momentous procedure, with lugubrious gravity. We have said, we have officiated-say it were as "Bailie, in that part especially constituted for, and in place of, the grantor of the deed, in an eternal blank line, never destined to be filled up. But where to find a Procurator? There is Saunders

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awa', man, an' ack as Procurator"-only Procurator! He first hands the deeds, with due pomposity, to the Procurator, who looks at them suspiciously for a moment, and then re-delivers them, as directed, to the Notary. The Notary next proceeds deliberately to describe to the persons present the nature of the deeds, taking care to show that they amount to a conveyance of “All and Whole" the subjects particularly described, and contain either an original precept of sasine, or the right, by assignation, to a former unexhausted precept. This done, and the precept of sasine formally read over, the worthy Notary directs the Bailie to scratch up from the ground (if there should happen to be none milder than paving stones, no matter) earth and stone, with a handful of grass or straw, for the teinds, if any. These precious symbols are delivered by the Bailie to Saunders, "as Procurator foresaid," very much to Saunders's astonishment and perplexity. What to do with them he seems utterly at a loss, till observing the Notary's hand in his breeches pocket, he throws them away, in expectation of a forthcoming shilling, wherewith to appease his thirst. The shilling, however, is destined for no such purpose. "Noo, Saunders," says the Notary, "tak' instruments in my hands.". Saunders takes up the shilling mechanically-so far his course is clear; but the notion of returning it again into the Notary's hands is quite beyond his comprehension. To complete the ceremony, however, it must be done. Thus would a Notary, in good practice, run through dozens of similar scenes before sunset of an odd Saturday; and, on the strength of them, proceed to prepare instruments of sasine, recording the important facts, which instruments were afterwards registered, at an enormous expense, in re

gisters appointed for the purpose, and that perhaps
after the principal deed, of which these same in-
struments are slavish recapitulations, had itself
been recorded in some other register, and a stamped
extract of it recorded for use. With regard to the
ceremony itself, taking it, as we have done, in its
simplest form, it is not a little astonishing to think
that it should have survived till the 19th century.
That a rude people should set up a stone as the
memorial of a covenant, that they should even
lick each others' thumbs, hand over hasp and staple,
earth and stone, grass or corn, mill hoppers or
money symbols, according to the nature of the
subject, is not to be wondered at, where ignorance
of letters might be too good and too common an
excuse for attempting visibly to impress the nature
of transactions upon byestanders called on to wit-
ness them.
But not now, when the object is to
mark, by some distinct record, the right of owner-
ship, can it be possible to give in to mummeries
like these. Accordingly, we regard the recent
act of simplification, which has resolved them into
nonentities, and, in this enhanced form of absur-
dity, retained them, as the strongest possible
argument and illustration of the propriety of
abolishing every fragment of these unmeaning

with the long Latin docquet of the Notary, and may be accepted by the superior, his agent, or commissioner. Instruments of resignation in favorem-a form of investiture by which property is given up to the superior for the purpose of his giving it back again: this game of battledore and shuttlecock, one of the most expensive forms of feudal investiture, is so far abolished that it is declared by this act, that the deduction of titles prescribed by the act 1693 may now be made in the charter of resignation. It is still a question why the titles should behove to be traced back, perhaps to the origin of the feu-perhaps only to the last entry with the superior-at all; or why the approbation of the superior, who has parted with the real interest in the property, deriving from it only certain dues and casualties, which are of the nature of a burden on it, and nothing else, should be required by law to confirm the right of the real owner? The original object was, doubtless, to compel feudal vassals to resort back to the superior from time to time for re-investiture, in such a way as that he might have the power of invalidating their titles, unless his dues and casualties were paid up. But the evil did not end here; for the law agent of the superior-as, for instance, the Town Clerks in burghs, and the Edinburgh Writers to the Signet, who happen to act for Lords of the soil-derived from this feudal custom the right of also exacting heavy penalties from the unfortunate vassal, in the shape of the regulation fees for preparing the requisite deeds. Nor is this all, since another lawyer behoves, generally, to be employed to put the deeds in a fit shape to go before the superior's agent; for, it may not be easy to explain to many, that a double course of feudal holding is regularly carried through a proper progress of Scotch title deeds. The subtlety of the law has beautifully contrived to distinguish feudal holdings into holdings a me vel de me-the one being holdings immediately under the superior, the other (though the more honest of the two) being called base holdings, just because they occur in the natural transmission of the right and use of property from one real owner, or vassal, to another. It thus becomes incumbent on the holder of property to have an agent of his own, to prepare and complete his rights by the base tenure; and yet, for all this, he must, from time to time, go also to the agent of the superior for a confirmation of these rights, and a renewal of the original tenure, which can only be obtained on the payment of heavy compositions, dues, and

The Act provides-That it shall be no longer necessary to proceed to the lands at all, it being now sufficient to produce to the Notary the warrant, or precept of sasine, and relative writs. But the instrument, though in a slightly abbreviated form, is still retained, and must be signed by the Notary and witnesses, and recorded as heretofore. Nay, the whole circumlocution of the old form may still be retained, it being equally valid with the shorter form permitted by the act. Need we say which of the two it is probable legal caution, if not cupidity, will generally prefer? Instruments of this nature are to take effect as formerly, from the date of recording; and preference, in a competition of rights, from priority. A defect in the instrument or record does not vitiate the right, as formerly, as it is competent to make a new record, which is effectual from its date. There are forms provided by the act both for precept and instrument; and the precepts from Chancery are now directed to any Notary Public, instead of officials, although it nullifies the precept should it not be recorded at the first Whitsunday or Martinmas after its date; and a new one must be purchased! the duties and casualtics of course being paid before the precept is issued; and fees, regulated by the Court of Session, are to be taken by the Ex-fees. chequer, and allowed to Sheriffs of counties during the existence of the present interests. The act altogether is tremulous with timidity; it professes not to alter the form of cognition and sasine within burghs, yet permits their efficacy if attested by the Town Clerk, as a Notary, with his witnesses, whether the delivery of the symbols be on the ground, or within the Council Chamber, by delivery of a pen. Those instruments by which the actual use of property is made to revert to the feudal superior, termed instruments ad remanentiam, are to remain unaltered, with the option of dispensing

We have not the most remote intention of suggesting that superiorities should be shorn of their casualties, which, however questionable in their origin, have gained, in the lapse of time, the character of private rights-rights of property and of acknowledged value-and which may have been transmitted, for value, from hand to hand. But, when questions affecting so deeply men's enjoyment of property, as the question of its emancipation from the trammels of absurd and oppressive forms, emerge into discussion, we cannot help looking back to the origin and growth of feudalism

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