Puslapio vaizdai


sions, not to speak of those distinct declarations sceptics, though repeatedly owning himself so far of God's Word, which do not demonstrate, but a sceptic, to drink in their last groans, and inintuitively and irresistibly communicate the tid sult whether the calm or the horror of their ings, that “all is well! "

closing hours; staking thus, in a measure, the “ After all, we are in good hands," was the holy cause of religion upon a wretched computasimple, conclusive reply of a well-conditioned gen- tion of dying beds, upon the pro's and con's of tleman of our acquaintance to one who had, in a the expressions of disease, delirium, and despairstrain of morbid eloquence, taken the darker-side a task fit enough for a contributor to the Methoas conclusive, because it expressed what is the natu- dist's Magazine, but unworthy of a spirit like ral feeling of all untainted and unsophisticated Foster's. And how slow to admit any degree of minds, as well as the mature and ultimate result interest, or of poetry, or of grandeur, in those of the highest order of pliilosophic thinkers. But colossal faiths which have ruled for ages the great it is altogether impossible to reach this conclusion majority of mankind!-an absurdity as great as through that faithless process which John Foster though one were to go about to deny the lustre employs; as impossible, as by digging down of the serpent's eyes, because his breath was through the darkness of earth to reach the sun poison, or the beauty of the tiger's skin, because and stars of the antipodes. It is otherwise that his drink was blood. And, then, by what a Sartor comes out at last into his clear, stern safety-valve he does escape from the conse

It is otherwise that Goethe meant, it is quences of his fatalisin, by supposing a general understood, to lead Faust up into his Mount of jail-delivery of criminals, who, by his own showVision and temple of worship.

ing, are no more guilty than the avalanche which Our final charge, again, is that he takes too destroys the Alpine traveller, or the sandy columu dark, morbid, and monkish a view of man and which whelms the wanderer in the desert! of society. From this, indeed, seem to spring After all this, it may seem paradoxical to his other errors. Ile who doubts of man can assert that we think Foster an amiable man. Hle hardly fail to doubt of God. To believe in man was so, undoubtedly, if universal testimony can is an indispensable requisite to a proper con- be credited; but he was a slave, in the first place, ception of Deity. Of course we do not mean to to unsettled doubts, and, ultimately, to a partial deny the doctrine of human depravity; but we and inconsistent system, as well as, throughout do think that Foster's views of man's nature, all his life, to a gloomy temperament which whether as exhibited in individual character or clouded his native disposition. His genius rein collective society, are far too stern and harsh. minds us of the moon, but of the moon turned We would as soon judge of an assembly of living into blood, forced, against her nature, into a men and women from a book of anatomical lowering, portentous aspect--no longer the still, sketches, as of the true character of the world calm mistress of the night, but a meteor of wrath from Foster's pictures. Earth is not the combi- and fear, emitting at best a gloomy smile, and nation of hell and chaos which he represents it furnishing a light, fit only to guide the footsteps to be, 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. llow 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 Boswellisin

he contributed to his remains, but seems superla- | to find them as if he were a-nutting; looks at tively unworthy of such a man as Hall. Foster, every object with this question, how can I employ on the other hand, is a genial and a generous you in the expression of truth? and returns tripraiser, of much beneath, much on a level, and umphant with a thousand analogies. This, we much above his own mark. He has a kind word think, has somewhat affected the naturalness and to say for poor Cottle and his Fall of Cambria. freedom of his imagery. We should prefer, had He is enthusiastic in his admiration of Hall, he allowed the beauties of nature to slide into his Chalmers, Fox, Grattan, Curran, Tooke, &c. soul, and to blend with his thoughts— Coleridge is the god of his idolatry, and bitterly

“ Like some sweet beguiling melody; does he deplore his miserable habits. Of a trans- So sweet, we know not we are listening to it." cendent dramatic work (could it be Cain or the Another phase of this romantic tendency was Cenci?) he says, “ I was never so fiercely carried his extreme attachment to the society of cultioff' by Pegasus before—the fellow neighed as he vated females, and the conception he formed of ascended.” All works he seems to have judged, the married life as the panacea of his ills. In not by any arbitrary canon of his own, or of others' such company he laid aside the monk, and beestablishment, but by the impulse given to his came all gentleness and good humour. It acted own mind, the stir of respondent strength, whether like a spell upon him, to soothe his most unquiet in contradiction or consent, awakened within him, feelings, and to lay for a season his darkest and the joy which they had the power to spread doubts. It roused, too, the faculties of his mind, over his melancholy spirit, liko sunshine surpris- and he never was half so eloquent, neither in his ing a sullen tarn into smiles.

writings, nor in the pulpit, nor in the company of We notice in these volumes numerous evidences his co-mates in intellect, Anderson and Hall, as of Foster's romantic tendencies. He was a lover when with the evening shadows, or the first moonof solitary and moonlight walks. " In Chiches- beams stealing into the room, he discoursed to ter there is still a chapel, where the well-worn “ fascinating females," who could understand as bricks of the aisles exhibit the traces of his soli- well as listen, and feel as well as understand, of tary pacings to and fro by moonlight.” In all the “ feelings and value of genius,” or of topics beautiful and majestic scenes he invariably lost dearer and nobler still, while it seemed, in his himself, as men do in the mazes of a wood. Re- own beautiful words, “as if the soul of Eloisa Ferie was his principal luxury, and became his pervaded all the air.” Such moments he redarling sin. In combating the romantic ten- lished with the intensest gratification; they deney in one of his essays, he is, in reality, fight seemed to him foretastes of Paradise, and of ing with himself ; just as strange to tell, the ob- the society of angels, and he might well say that jortions he confutes in his famous sermon on they should never be “forgotten.” Out of those inissions reappear, from his own pen, in a letter fascinating females” he selected one almost a to Harris, written years afterwards. In a former duplicate of himself-equally intellectual, equally paper, we said, “ Foster fighting with a fatalist, well - informed, equally pious, and equally opreminds us of the whole ocean into tempest tossed, pressed with the tremendous darkness of this to waft a feather, or to drown a fly.” Alas, we dark economy. It was like the marriage of two now find that Foster and the fatalist were forms moonlit clouds in the silent sky! To this lady of the same mind, and that the fatalist remains (Miss Maria Snooke-Phoebus, what a name !) last upon the field. So, having shrived himself he addressed his first celebrated essays. From of his original romance, by writing an essay her society he expected much happiness. On the against it, the old nature returned with double eve of the marriage, he met, he tells us, force than formerly, and was in him to his dying snow-drops and other signs and approaches of day. In connexion with this, we notice the the spring, with a degree of interest which has abundance and beauty of his natural imagery. never accompanied any former vernal equinox.” No one has turned to more account, in his writ- | And his expectations seem to have been abunings, the charms of nature, and particularly the dantly fulfilled. After many happy years of inevanescent and ghostly glories of the night, the tercourse, and latterly, on her part, much severe tints of moonlit flowers, the colours of mid-suffering, she died, leaving him less to regret her night fields, the shadows of woods, the shapes of loss than to grieve that their spirits had not enmountains resting against the stars, all the fine tered together within that mighty veil which had gradations of the coming on of evening, all the so long tantalised and saddened both. 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 annid the midnight hills for some consciously, they go out to the fields without one wandering spirit of the departed to render up the thought of collecting images or illustrations, and secret. And as friend after friend dropped away yet come home laden with them, as with burs or into the silent land, this impatient eagerness other herbage, which we unwittingly gather in strengthened, and almost amounted to a feeling the woods.

Foster goes out on express purpose that those he loved were bound to come back and


relieve his harrowing anxieties. And it shook their past as well as present history silently inhim with the very agony of desire when the wife scribed upon his mind. His conversational sarcasm of his bosom and of his soul-his shadow in the was tremendous. “ Was not the Emperor Alexother sex, whose doubts, and fears, and desires ander a very pious man?” “Very pious," he on this subject were the counterpart of his own- answered ; “I believe he said grace ere he swaldeparted first within the veil. We can image lowed Poland.” We could quote, if we durst, him on his widowed pillow praying for and strain- unpublished specimens still racier. Hall himself ing his eyes for her reappearance-less to see is said to have felt somewhat nervous in his preher beloved face once more than to hear some sence when in this mood. And there is a floating authentic tidings of the shadowy world. But rumour of a meeting between him and Lord she, too, was silent. She, too, had taken the Brougham on some educational question, in which dread oath of secrecy which all the dead must his Lordship came off, and shabbily, second best. take. And he had to recur, in his disappointed Foster's indolence has been often, but, we loneliness, to the prospect of speedily joining her think, unjustly, condemned. It ought rather in that strange company, and of becoming in his to be deplored. Unfurnished with a regular turn as intelligent and as uncommunicative as training, yet furnished with an exquisitely sensishe.

tive taste, early “damned to the mines” of hopeThis supposition is the less extravagant, as we less professional toil, transferred thence to the find from these memoirs that Foster was a firm drudgery of writing for bread-never gifted with believer in apparitions, and in all the other de- a fluent language nor a rapid pen—what wonder partments of what this enlightened age—which that he found composition an ungracious task, or has discovered that the soul of man is a secretion that he shrank from it with a growing and deepof the brain, and that the snail is growing up by ening disgust? Our surprise is that he wrote so slow stages to the Shakspeare (and we suppose the much, and not that he wrote so little. Latterly, Shakspeare to the Supreme God!)-calls exploded but for an overwhelming sense of duty, he would superstitions. He grasped at every line, however not have written at all. If we saw a giant, frail, which linked him to the spiritual world. If whose arms had been cut off, moving in impotent he saw not visions, he dreamt dreams, felt pre- strength his bleeding fragments, who would not sentiments, shuddered as he almost called up to weep at the spectacle? In such mutilated might his imagination the form of a ghost. This “folly sat Foster at his desk. of the wise,” if a folly it be, he shared with many His Journal and Correspondence contain much of the greatest minds of the age—with Napoleon, attractive and interesting matter. His letters, Byron, Coleridge, and Shelley, who all felt that without ease, have great sincerity, calm discernthere were some things in heaven and earth more ment, disturbed by bursts of misanthropical power, than are dreamt of in our philosophies. In Fos- as when he calls for a tempest of fire and brimter these feelings did not amount to fears. They stone upon the Russians, on their invasion of were rather strong yet shuddering desires to know Poland, and a perpetual stream of sarcasm, adds a the best or the worst which spiritual beings could tart tinge to the whole. His Journal, on the tell, or intimate about that state of future exist- other hand, is rich in those thoughts which proence of which he felt that Revelation had told him create thought in others—in descriptions of nalittle, and Nature nothing at all. From the tural objects which he encountered — in quiet company of real solid sorrows, and of men whom sidelong glances into human character—in the he deemed “ earthly, sensual, devilish,” he turned expression of gloomy and desolate feelings, and in eagerly, yet pensively, to seek communion with sudden, momentary, and timorous glimpses into the spirits of the departed; but even these sad deeper abysses of thought than those where companions were shy to him—they met him not his spirit usually dwells. How grand this, for in his solitary walks, and in all his wanderings instance : “ Argument from miracles for the he was “alone with the Night.”

truth of the Christian doctrines. Surely it is Ard 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 of the universe, the sermon to follow must be was a “Radical and something more"-an inde extraordinary. Hear, again, this criticism on pendent thinker, despising all ties of party, and Burke :—“ Burke's sentences are pointed at the standing on every question like a fourth estate end-instinct with pungent sense to the last sylone who could sit upon the ground and tell strange lable ; they are like a charioteer's whip, which stories of the deaths of kings, and who never in not only has a long and effective lash, but cracks one instance sacrificed an atom of the right to an and inflicts a still smarter sensation at the end. acre of the expedient. It is worth while reading They are like some serpents, whose life is said to in this work his musings, as of a separate spirit, be fiercest in the tail.” The whole Journal, inupon the public transactions of his day. In so- deed, is a repository of such things. ciety, too, he sate an insulated being, whose How much of Foster's originality lay in his silence was often more formidable than his words. thoughts, or how much in his images, or how His face, even when he spoke not, shone a quiet much of it resulted from his early isolation from mirror to the “ thoughts and intents of the hearts” suitable books and kindred minds, we stay not to of those around him, and he came away with inquire. As it is, we have in his works the col


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 But certainly we may say that to him, Aattered 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 treaWe dare not say, with a writer formerly quoted, sures, liberty, victory, knowledge, rapture."




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, tion the more readily, because, amongst some awa', man, an'ack as Procurator"-only Proglimmerings of common sense, our Legislature curator ! He first hands the deeds, with due have seen fit, within these last two years, not to pomposity, to the Procurator, who looks at them abolish (that would be too much to expect!) but suspiciously for a moment, and then re-delivers to shuffle away out of sight this unmeaning relic them, as directed, to the Notary. The Notary of Gothic barbarism. We allude to the Act 8 and next proceeds deliberately to describe to the per9 Victoria, cap. 38—“An Act to simplify the form sons present the nature of the deeds, taking care and diminish the expense of obtaining infeftment to show that they amount to a conveyance of “All in heritable property in Scotland”—which received and Whole”'the subjects particularly described, and the Royal assent 21st July, 1815. This act, contain either an original precept of sasine, or the which, at the eleventh hour, reduced the opera right, by assignation, to a former unexhausted seria of infeftment in the light of day to a kind precept. This done, and the precept of sasine of pantomime, quite as ridiculous, done darklings formally read over, the worthy Notary directs the in a lawyer's back shop, may be accepted as an Bailie to scratch up from the ground (if there instalment of simplification in heritable investi- should happen to be none milder than paving tures, although it was certainly making two bites stones, no matter) earth and stone, with a handful of a cherry to retain this shadow of a shado, as of grass or straw, for the teinds, if any. These if to show the acme of unmeaningness to which precious symbols are delivered by the Bailie to symbols, forms and ceremonies might be degraded! Saunders, as Procurator foresaid,” very much Our own experiences in the honour of being “infeft to Saunders's astonishment and perplexity. What and seized” are by no means great ; yet soine- to do with them he seems utterly at a loss, till times dim reminiscences of having accidentally observing the Notary’s hand in his breeches pocket, officiated as a Provost or Bailie, in carrying he throws them away, in expectation of a forththrough this stupid old farce, force back their coming shilling, wherewith to appease his thirst. comiealities on our mind. There we were, “of The shilling, however, is destined for no such purand upon the ground” of the premises! There, pose. “Noo, Saunders,” says the Notary, “tak' too, was the quaint old Notary Public, adjusting instruments in my hands.". Saunders takes up bis gold spectacles to peruse the titled backs of the the shilling mechanically—so far his course is Dispositions, or Precepts, which were about to be clear; but the notion of returning it again into the made effectual ; and his instrumentary witnesses, Notary's hands is quite beyond his comprehension. junior elerks, or apprentices, stood bye, to attest To complete the ceremony, however, it must be the momentous procedure, with lugubrious gravity. done. Thus would a Notary, in good practice, We have said, we have officiated-say it were as run through dozens of similar scenes before sunset “Bailie, in that part especially constituted” for, and of an odd Saturday; and, on the strength of them, in place of, the grantor of the deed, in an eternal proceed to prepare instruments of sasine, recording blank line, never destined to be filled up. But the important facts, which instruments were afterwhere to find a Procurator? There is Saunders I wards registered, at an enormous expense, in registers appointed for the purpose, and that perhaps, with the long Latin docquet of the Notary, and after the principal deed, of which these same in- may be accepted by the superior, his agent, or struments are slavish recapitulations, had itself commissioner. Instruments of resignation in fabeen recorded in some other register, and a stamped vorem—a form of investiture by which property is extract of it recorded for use. With regard to the given up to the superior for the purpose of his ceremony itself, taking it, as we have done, in its giving it back again: this game of battledore and simplest form, it is not a little astonishing to think shuttlecock, one of the most expensive forms of that it should have survived till the 19th century. feudal investiture, is so far abolished that it is That a rude people should set up a stone as the declared by this act, that the deduction of titles memorial of a covenant, that they should even prescribed by the act 1693 may now be made in lick each others’thumbs, hand over hasp and staple, the charter of resignation. It is still a question earth and stone, grass or corn, mill hoppers or why the titles should behove to be traced back, money symbols, according to the nature of the perhaps to the origin of the feu-perhaps only to subject, is not to be wondered at, where ignorance the last entry with the superior-at all; or why of letters might be too good and too common an the approbation of the superior, who has parted excuse for attempting visibly to impress the nature with the real interest in the property, deriving of transactions upon byestanders called on to wit- from it only certain dues and casualties, which are ness them. But not now, when the object is to of the nature of a burden on it, and nothing else, mark, by some distinct record, the right of owner- should be required by law to confirm the right of ship, can it be possible to give in to mummeries the real owner? The original object was, doubtlike these. Accordingly, we regard the recent less, to compel feudal vassals to resort back to the act of simplification, which has resolved them into superior from time to time for re-investiture, in nonentities, and, in this enhanced form of absur- such a way as that he might have the power of dity, retained them, as the strongest possible invalidating their titles, unless his dues and casuargument and illustration of the propriety of alties were paid up. But the evil did not end abolishing every fragment of these unmeaning here ; for the law agent of the superior-as, for forms.

instance, the Town Clerks in burghs, and the The Act provides—That it shall be no longer Edinburgh Writers to the Signet, wh happen to necessary to proceed to the lands at all, it being act for Lords of the soil—derived from this feudal now sufficient to produce to the Notary the war- custom the right of also exacting heavy penalties rant, or precept of sasine, and relative writs. But from the unfortunate vassal, in the shape of the the instrument, though in a slightly abbreviated regulation fees for preparing the requisite deeds. form, is still retained, and must be signed by the Nor is this all, since another lawyer behoves, Notary and witnesses, and recorded as heretofore. generally, to be employed to put the deeds in a fit Nay, the whole circumlocution of the old form shape to go before the superior's agent; for, it may may still be retained, it being equally valid with not be easy to explain to many, that a double the shorter form permitted by the act.

course of feudal holding is regularly carried say which of the two it is probable legal caution, through a proper progress of Scotch title deeds. if not cupidity, will generally prefer? Instru- The subtlety of the law has beautifully contrivent ments of this nature are to take effect as formerly, to distinguish feudal holdings into holdings a me from the date of recording; and preference, in a vel de me—the one being holdings immediately competition of rights, from priority. A defect in under the superior, the other (though the more the instrument or record does not vitiate tho right, honest of the two) being called base holdings, just as formerly, as it is competent to make a new because they occur in the natural transmission of record, which is effectual from its date. There the right and use of property from one real owner, are forms provided by the act both for precept and or vassal, to another. It thus becomes incumbent instrument; and the precepts from Chancery are on the holder of property to have an agent of his now directed to any Notary Public, instead of offi- own, to prepare and complete his rights by the cials, although it mullifies the precept should it not base tenure; and yet, for all this, he must, from be recorded at the first Whitsunday or Martinmas time to time, go also to the agent of the superior after its date; and a new one must be purchased! for a confirmation of these rights, and a renewal the duties and casualtics of course being paid be- of the original tenure, which can only be obtained fore the precept is issued; and fees, regulated by on the payment of heavy compositions, dues, and the Court of Session, are to be taken by the Ex- fees. chequer, and allowed to Sheriffs of counties during We have not the most remote intention of sugthe existence of the present interests. The act gesting that superiorities should be shorn of their altogether is tremulous with timidity; it professes casualties, which, however questionable in their not to alter the form of cognition and sasine within origin, have gained, in the lapse of time, the chaburghs, yet permits their efficacy if attested by the racter of private rights-rights of property and of Town Clerk, as a Notary, with his witnesses, acknowledged value—and which may have been whether the delivery of the symbols be on the transmitted, for value, froin hand to hand. But, ground, or within the Council Chamber, by delivery when questions affecting so deeply men's enjoyof a pen. Those instruments by which the actualment of property, as the question of its emancipause of property is made to revert to the feudal tion from the trainmels of absurd and oppressive superior, termed instruments ad remanentiam, are forms, emerge into discussion, wo cannot help to remain unaltered, with the option of dispensing looking back to the origin and growth of feudalism

Need we

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