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subject of parodies. They are, like mimicry, good only when they are short and striking--when they produce mirth by the happy travestie of some popular passage, or when they mix instruction with amusement, by detecting latent absurdity, and developing the disguises of bad taste. + The work at present before us is a series of parodies, which want the most essential merits of that species of cheap wit. They are long--they do not remind us of any individual popular passages and the ideas excited by them are nearly those which the authors imitated would, we presume, wish to convey; in short, they are much less parodies than imitations, and though the writer evidently intends to be very pleasant, his whole merit reduces itself to the degree of power which he exhibits in writing such verses as his prototypes might, in a careless hour, have written.
We shall make our view of this matter more familiar to our readers, by calling to their recollection the direct effect of ninicry. We have all seen, with inexpressible delight, that admirable tragedian, Mr. Kemble; we have also seen some wags, like Mr. Mathews and Company, who mimic the peculiarities of this great actor, and we have laughed at them, without any derogation of our respect for his Hamlet or Macbeth. We have also seen actors who were not the mimics but the imitators of Mr. Kemble, who pleased us without exciting any thing like merriment, and who were most successful when we forgot that they were imitators.
What Mathews is to Mr. Kemble, the Rejected Addresses were to Southey and Scott, very like and very laughable; but the author now before us is the grave and not at all laughable imitator. This we say rather in reference to the effect which he produces, than that which he is desirous of producing; for it is evident that he intends to be merry, and will be disappointed at being told that he is like without being ludicrous. He is not, however, in all cases like, and in one or two he is ludicrous. The imitation of Lord Byron has no resemblance, and that of Mr. Wordsworth is amusing: But it is time to acquaint our readers with the plan and scope of this work.
We have heard that Mr. Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, had written to some living poets to favour him with specimens of their works to furnish out a kind of original Anthology, which he was desirous of publishing; and some wicked wag, probably one of those very personages to whom he addressed himself
, has seized on the idea as his own property, and has published, as the contributions of the several living poets of Great Britain, his own imitations of their styles, and amongst them one of poor Mr. Hogg himself.
That of Lord Byron comes first, and is called “The Guerrilla; but we cannot discover in what the likeness to Lord Byron consists
the stanza, indeed, is that of Childe Harold, and the hero is as mad and ferocious as Conrade or Lara ; but that most striking and essential feature of Lord Byron's poetry, the description of the workings of the mind, of the agitation of the intellects, the embodying the feelings of a high and wounded spirit, of avain, proud, selfish heart, of a wild, daring, and romantic imagination, are not to be found here, and we need not add, that where they are not, there is nothing of the distinctive character of Lord Byron's genius.
The best stanza is the last, but our readers will judge how little it resembles the glorious morbidezza of his Lordship's colouring.
• It was Alayni-dost thou wail his case ?
And happiness for aye beginning to begin.'-p. 26. As an imitation this is poor enough, and as a parody it falls infinitely short of the pleasantry of the Rejected Addresses, which touch so happily on the querulous, antithetical, and metaphysical tone of this noble and extraordinary writer.
• Thinking is but an idle waste of thought,
And nought is every thing, and every thing is nought.' The next author in the series is Mr. Walter Scott. In imitation of him we have an · Epistle to Mr. Southey,' in the tone of the admirable introductions to the several Cantos of Marmion, which is followed by a regular or rather irregular lay in three Cantos of twenly or thirty stanzas each, called Wat o the Cleuch. Wat o' the Cleuch is, we presume, a familiar designation for Walter Scott of Buccleugh, a well known borderer; and the tale is one of mosstrooping, reaving and raiding, pricking over Tiviot, swimming, Tweed, and drinking the Monks of Roxburgh's ale.' This poem never could have been intended for a pleasantry on Mr. Scott's style--it is an imitation in good earnest; and though it wants ease, and is written apparently in great haste, and though the author makes too frequent forays into Mr. Scott's borders, the resemblance is lively, and the poem has that degree of merit that a very careless sketch of Mr. Scott's might have had.
The first four stanzas of this poem will give the reader a good idea of the author's power of imitation; they will recognize exacily the tone and spirit of Mr. Scott, but they will see in it nothing to laugh at. As the follower of Mr. Scott the author may have some claim to attention, but as a parodist he has none; for the metre, the
language, the images, &c. are, at least, as consonant to the story and character of the persons as Mr. Scott's style is to some of his own fables and personages.
But held him as nothing to Wat o' the Cleuch.'-pp. 55.-57. We really cannot help suspecting that, though some of the subsequent articles are evidently factitious, Wat o the Cleuch may be the real though imperfect offspring of the prolific and sometimes hasty pen of Mr. Scott himself; how it has got into the hands of the publisher we cannot divine, and we speak with unfeigned sincerity when we say we have no other ground for our suspicion than the internal evidence.
The imitation of Mr. Scott occupies 100 pages of the volume which contains only 270. The next fifty or sixty pages are dedicated to the ridicule of Mr. Wordsworth, and it is here only that. the author assumes, every now and then, the legitimate line of
parody by applying the high sounding blank verse, the intricate combinations of thought and affected phrases of Mr. Wordsworth, to objects still more ludicrously low than Mr. Wordsworth himself, daring as he is in this way, ventures to do. There are three extracts from the poein called the Recluse, which are entitled The Flying Tailor," James Rigg,' and The Stranger;' they are amusing enough, but they are too long; the comic parts are too rare, and the general style of imitation is too laboured, and approaches too near the acknowledged beauties of Mr. Wordsworth's style.
The description of the infancy of the Flying Tailor is enlivened by such passages as these.
"Him from his birth unto his death I knew :
It is somewhat strange
More than six inches--o'er the astonish'd stool.'npp. 156, 157. But the following, which describes James Rigg, after an explosion in a quarry in which he was working had deprived him of sight, is one which we think, with the exception of one or two lines, Mr. Wordsworth would not disclaim; and we think that the cold and heavy pleasantry of these lines are not enough to constitute a parody, and give no very favourable specimen of the author's turn for humour.
of his economy
On that he lifted up his harden'd hands,
Are there to gladden a poor blind man's heart."'-p. 182. The imitation of Mr. Hogg follows: it is called the Gude Grey Katt; this gude grey cat, who lives in the Touir of Blain, is a witch; but the story is written in a dialect, or rather a jargon, so uncouth and unintelligible, that we cannot tell whether it is pleasant or sad, or whether Mr. Hogg will consider the author as a rival or a mimic.
Then comes The Lady Isabelle' and 'The Cherub, in imitation of Mr. Colridge ; the former, in evident allusion to the Lady Christabel recently published, is quite as wandering and unintelligible as that long riddle, but it has none of those flowers of poetry which Mr. Colridge has scattered over the dark pall that covers and conceals the meaning of Christabel.
The imitations of the Laureate, which next follow, are, in our opinion, the worst of the whole ; they have no resemblance, either grave or gay, serious or pleasant, to Mr. Southey ; the first, which is named. Peter of Barnet,' might, we think, with more propriety, be attributed to Mr. Wordsworth, or Mr. Colridge, than to Me.