Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ers will, doubtless, perceive that we are fully aware of the importance of the enquiry to farmers and agrinomes; but to enter into a detail of even our own observations would carry us to too great a length. We could have wished indeed that sir Joseph had condescended to make us more particularly acquainted with his own experiments; that he had mentioned the magnifying powers of his glasses; that he had pointed out some probable cause of the misconceptions of other observers with the microscope; that he had not taken the observations of Fontana for established truths; and that he had presented us with an abstract of the means hitherto taken to prevent the existence, or impede the progress, of this formidable disease. With these additions the work might have been of great practical utility; whereas in its present state, it can only serve at most to stimulate the researches of philosophers; and it, perhaps, still remains to be determined by unobjectionable experiments, whether the disease called blight in corn be occasioned by a parasitic plant, according to Fontana and sir Joseph, or by vegetable tumors, the consequence of deranged circulation, as ingeniously suggested by Dr. Home, although overlooked by our author. An attentive investigation of its origin renders the latter opinion extremely probable. It is well known that the humidity of the atmosphere in every country is the great predisposing cause of blight; but humidity alone is not sufficient, unless accompanied by a certain degree of cold, which is, doubtless, produced often by evaporation, and perhaps too by absorption. These facts, while they remove all grounds of belief that blight is caused by insects or animalcules, humidity and cold being inimical to their generation, are not less adverse to the opinion of its being a vegetable production. If humidity and cold be injurious, as they are well known to be, to the maturation of fruits, they cannot be less so to the vegetation of the tender seeds of a parasitic plant. The nature of the only remedies which have been hitherto discovered for this evil, tends also to confirm our opinion. Seed-wheat steeped from twelve to twenty-four hours in solutions of arsenic or of lime, has been preserved from blight, perhaps by the exsiccating qualities of these substances, or by their action communicating to the straw the power of resisting the absorption, or too rapid evaporation of humidity, and thus impeding the deleterious generation of cold. The disease in rye, however, called by the French argot, from its resemblance to horn, is evidently the effect of insects, as the straw is not discoloured, and it is not uncommon to find small worms in the blighted or blackened ears. Its ravages are often very considerable in the southern provinces of France, and in districts of Spain, where a shower

will scarcely fall during an interval of twelve or even eighteen months. It is true we have also seen in tolerably dry climates some slight traces of blight, similar to that which exists in England, but always in cases where the great quantities of small crystals of nitre on the surface of the soil might be instrumental in producing cold to an injurious degree.

Here, however, we must stop; though the importance of a subject that treats of the primary necessaries of life, the increase of flour, and consequent reduction in the price of bread, may be our apology for having treated it so much. at length. In animadverting freely on the opinions of so distinguished a character, we shall, perhaps, incur censure; but as critics we know nothing of the man-it is to his work only we attend; as men, we have too high a respect for his learning and virtues to insult him by vulgar praise. Influenced, perhaps, by the same motives as the author, we have offered some hints to invite discussion; and should these hints, or those of sir Joseph Banks, tend to stimulate the industry of philosophers, and lead eventually to a knowledge of some specific remedy for this evil, our most earnest desires will be accomplished. We shall only add, that our author's style is fluent, harmonious, and animated; but occasionally wanting in philological precision, arising, perhaps, from a desire of being popular. Of the present rage for writing works of science in a popular manner, we deem it our duty to withhold our approbation: c'est un peu trop à la Française, and it has already contributed no little to the prevalence of quackery in almost every department. In barbarous ages discoveries might be made by unlettered persons; but in the present state of civilization, it is idle to suppose that any important improvement will be made in the arts or sciences, by persons unacquainted with what has been previously attempted.

ART. IV.-Tales from the Russian of Nicolai Karamsin. 8vo. 65. Beards. Johnson. 1804.

SOME years ago the public were presented with a collection of Russian tales under the mock title of Travels into Russia; since that they have been transported with the German dramatist into Siberia; and more lately they have strolled over the continent with the mild and pleasant Muscovite, Karamsin, with whose further effusions they are now favoured, in an English dress. How little could Virgil foresee such a fusus nature as the birth of a sentimentalist in that savage country where

'Gens effræna virum Ripheo tunditur Euro!?

Puzzling indeed is the paradox of a Russian in a perpetual thaw; whose excess of feeling shames even Asiatic softness; who dissolves in all the luxury of grief, and riots in all the extravagance of constitutional enthusiasm; who confesses (page 8 of the present publication), My heart is susceptible of all the softer emotions. I love to dwell on subjects which arrest my feelings, and my soul continues the indulgence till a flood of tears breaks the charm.'

The model of this author is that strange compound, Sterne; a humourist who has perverted the heads of many men, many women, and many children.' How far he has succeeded in the present instance, will be shown by a few short extracts from the silly pages of this unnecessarily-acknowledged imitator. But we will first whisper a few words in the ear of his English translator, who tells us these tales have been much admired by the continent;' were we not ashamed of punning, we might with truth say, 'the incontinent;' for they are grossly voluptuous, or, as M. Karamsin probably would phrase it, full of delicate sensibility.'-But to our translator. We are sorry for the taste of 'the continent;' and for his too, as an Englishman, when he writes such nonsense as the following:

With what enthusiastic fervor does he (M. Karamsin) embrace any opportunity of applying some sentiment of his favourite Sterne! How rapturously does he exclaim, when at Berlin, with Tristram! Yes! good-natured Shandy, nothing is so sweet as liberty!' How, when at Zurich, does he express his disappointment at hearing a sermon of Lavater, because it was not, as he had wished it, in the manner of Sterne. How transported does he express his anxiety, when at Calais, to visit the tomb of Lorenzo! how humorously does he, on his arrival in London, observe at the first instance in his lodgings, I found a pair of black silk breeches, such as Sterne set out with for France.' What satisfaction does he express, during his stay in London, at being able to go out to a neighbouring village, and hear a sensible sermon in the popular manner of Yorick; and how just are his remarks, in the Tale of Flor Silin, about Westminster Abbey !'

These remarks are as follow:

The most celebrated nation in Europe has consecrated a magnificent abbey to the memory of great men, whose talents have been the admiration of the world. I never entered this building without awe, and uncovering my head; but I should approach, with enthusiastic veneration, a temple sacred to philanthropy, and, in such a temple, noble Flor Silin, thou wouldst occupy the foremost niche.'

If, upon a reperusal of his own observations upon the merit of Karamsin, and of the passage above quoted, as a proof of that merit, this translator does not see the absurdity of his friend and himself, we shall not stop to shoot arrows against a brick wall.

We have said these Tales are indecent: it is necessary to substantiate the charge; but, not to pollute our pages with transcribing such indications of a debauched taste, we refer those to whom this notice will be a temptation to read the book, to page 44.

[ocr errors]

The next tale, Flor Silin,' is merely foolish; as the remark about Westminster abbey has sufficiently demonstrated. From that of Natalia' we select the following passage:

"Such was the life of the daughter of the Bojar, till she attained her seventeenth year. The circling seasons had again brought the spring all nature was joyous-the verdure again visited the meadows, and the merry songsters of the air opened their little throats in wild melody,--when Natalia, one morning, as she sat at her bow window, amusing herself with observing the playful frolics of the various birds which sported round her, perceived, for the first time, that they always moved in pairs-sat on the branch, in pairs, -chirping soft tales of gallantry;-and then,-in pairs,-flew away to hide themselves in the foliage of some tree, whose laden boughs, of nature's loveliest green, served as the secret grøve, to celebrate their loves.

This discovery produced a strange revolution in the thoughts of poor Natalia.'

P. 104.

This is evidently taken from the scene in the 'Sentimental Journey' where Yorick watches the pairing of the two sparrows; but it was left for the delicacy of a Russian man of feeling' to describe a woman so employed.

But it is not only from Sterne that M. Karamsin borrows; he is not ashamed of copying the affected modesty, but real indecency, of Smollett's description of Roderick Random's marriage with Narcissa. Let me draw a veil over the chaste mysteries of Hymen,' says Smollett. The mysteries of love are sacred and impenetrable; modesty drops the veil of concealment on wedded rites, and the hushed lip does not even utter what itfeels,' says Karamsin. Are we to endure such vicious stuff as this; and be told it is admired on the continent, and the author placed upon a level with Marmontel and Florian? It may be so: 'Tota cohors tamen est inimica, omnesque manipli.'

We have judged for ourselves, and could with ease dwell upon the subject; but we shall feel satisfied that we have esta

blished our most important charge against M. Karamsin, that of 'nourishing the pruriency of the debauched' as Mr. Godwin well expresses it, if, in addition to the above proofs, we refer the reader to page 239, in the tale of Julia.'

From page 134 we shall make a short extract:

There is a critical moment in the calendar of love, and its power is infinite. Native coyness yields to the claims of sensibility, while the bewitching rapture, which lip to lip communicates, intoxicates the senses-it lulls the rigid guardians of a maiden's fears to sleep-but it does not affect the more sterling purity of the heart and the conscious blush which follows the enjoyment, chastens the bliss.'

Admirable moralist, who thinks a blush an ample atonement for criminality!

It would be easy to wanton in the field of ridicule, which these foolish and indecent tales so temptingly afford; but never, when an author is or ought to be of no reputation, and writes upon trivial matters (such as his own character, travels, or observations), will we mangle him for the barren amusement of our readers, or from the vain wish of displaying our own ingenuity. We disdain an inglorious triumph over these Axades of literature; these

[ocr errors]

Phyllides, Hypsipelæ, vatum et plorabile siquid :'

they shall not receive the consolation of our notice:

'neque enim memorabile nomen

Foemineâ in panâ est, nec habet victoria laudem.'

Concerning M. Karamsin we shall only add, that the continued gratification of his silence would meet our wishes more than the transient pleasure of correcting any of his future follies.

[ocr errors]

ART. V.-The Powers of Genius: a Poem, in three Parts. By John Blair Linn, A. M. 12mo. 5s. Boards. Williams. 1804.

THERE is not a more delightful province in the regions of literature, than the application of philosophy to matters of taste. It affords a pleasing picture of that mutual connection which exists between all the different branches of liberal science. Reason, in her full maturity, retracing the fairy visions of youth when fancy and passion divided the empire of

« ForrigeFortsæt »