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OBSERVATIONS ON AMY GREY.

A Letter addressed to the Editor.

True wit is like the bright and friendly ray of the light-house, which cheers and animates the benighted mariner, teaches him to avoid the rocks and shoals of a dangerous coast, and enables him to stear to a port of rest and safety. Wit and genius ill employed, resemble those treacherous fires which delude their unsuspecting victims with a show of friendly direction, and lure him into the utmost peril, at a time when he thinks himself most secure. Avarice, stifling the voice of humanity, hardens its possessor against any feeling for the exigence of others, and sacrificing every thing to self gratification, urges barbarians to this inhospitable mode of gain. The same principle at bottom, but operating less grossly, will be found actively employed in many of the arts and professions of civilized life. Mere avarice however is not the sole agent in all transactions where se!fish objects are in view. Vanity, in literary pursuits especially, has her full share in the work, and uses various means to attain her ends. Real genius she often leads astray, by pointing out eccentricity as the surest road to distinction. The plain path of sense and duty is too dull,-he must soar to greater heights,disdain the tame restraints of humble duty,--and seek applause in nobly braving common rules. The pretender to wit and talent readily falls into her snare;—he finds nothing more easy than to be odd; this he knows will surprize; and what is surprize,—but a kind of admiration? Survey the numerous publications annually issuing from the press,-most of them are written for emolument no doubt, but some also are the offspring of mere vanity,--to attract notice to make one among the literary meteors that dazzle the vulgar with their transitory flashes. Some, I believe, are mischievous without intending it; but what can they do? It is a pity their talents should be actually lost to the world, and yet, if they do not shew them in something heterodoxical, there is no chance of their being seen at all.—But if there are many, who intentionally or unintentionally do mischief, there are also many able and ingenious pens to counteract it; some by compositions of a serious nature, and others by a happy talent for ridicule. Among the many stratagems which wit employs for satirical or amusing purposes, one of the happiest and most successful when well managed, is that called irony. Of this humour which assumes a character for the sly purpose of making it ridiculous under the mask of praise, the most finished specimens will be found in the inimitable writings of St. Patrick's Dean. On it, he founds his fame as a wit, --recording thus of himself, when speaking of irony,

Which I was born to introduce;

Refined it first, and shewed its use. In this quality, he so much excelled, that his light and local productions, as well as those of a more serious and studied nature, continue to this day to communicate a pleasure, hardly outdone by the raciness of their first appearance. Some of them are such as could come from no pen but his own, and would have been ridiculous, and even disgusting from any

other. Witness his proposal for eating the children of the poor, supported through many pages with an air so serious, a plausibility so imposing, and a gravity so imperturbable, that one is almost tempted to believe him serious. On the Continent, where this sort of humour seems to be less understood, it is said that the Dean's proposal was really regarded, even by persons of rank and understanding, in a serious point of view.

It is, I believe, recorded of a pious and simple hearted bishop, that in a conversation on Gulliver's travels,—one of the most original compositions of human genius,-his lordship acknowledged Captain Gulliver to be a gentleman, whose plain and unaffected style bore attestation to the truth of his narrative, and the honesty and candour of his mind; but nevertheless, that there were really some things in his travels, to which he found it rather difficult to give his assent. The most remarkable thing in this story, is, that it should be told of a bishop; but what man, high or low, learned, or unlearned, can claim exemption from imbecility of mind, or is incapable of being imposed on, by the plausibilities of ingenious deception.

Irony is of two kinds :-one where faults and frailties are exposed to ridicule under the colour of deceptious praise; the other, which is the reverse of this, where great and real commendation is bestowed by a person professing to vilify and condemn. Of both these kinds, the most exquisite samples are afforded by the same author, who never pays more just and elegant compliment than when he assumes the office of censor, and displays excellencies under the pretence of discovering faults.

The ingenuity of our countrymen is generally thought to lean much to this species of humour, and as far as my experience goes, I think justly. I have witnessed several instances of it in my acquaintance with the literary productions of Ireland, and from one very happy specimen which has appeared in the first number of your Magazine, I am induced to hope it may be followed by many others, capable of affording, though not perhaps in an equal degree, both edification and delight. Artis est celare artem --says the old proverb, and the test of superior excellence in this species of humour is the ability of so concealing the writer's real intention, that nine out of ten of his readers will think him in earnest. I was myself, I confess, so effectually imposed on by the apparent seriousness of the letters written under the signature of Amy Grey, that I had on the first perusal, no idea that more was meant than met the ear. Perhaps I might have continued under the same delusion still, but for the superior discernment of a friend, with whom I happened to converse on the snbject----" Have you read” said I, “those posthumous letters as they are called; there seems to me something very novel in the kind of religious discipline prescribed for amiable and elegant young females, represented as equally distinguished for loveliness of form, intellectual capacity, and piety of sentiment; an adoption of this lady's plan would form an era indeed in the annals of boarding school education for christian ladies! Modern poetry, generally speaking, is not the fountain from which religious and moral instruction is supposed to low in the most pure and salutary abundance. "Still less should I be inclined to conceive that Lord Byron's works, high as their reputation justly is, for that vivida vis animi which accompanies real genius, were peculiarly well qualified to enrich the mind with the fervour of christian faith, and the purity of evangelical virtue. I should certainly be disinclined to send my young and innocent daughters to a seminary, in which one of the standard writers for inspiring piety, and exalting devotion, was---the noble author of Don Juan ;---when I consider, which as a christian, it is my bounden duty to do,---the revealed word of God, as the single source of religious truth, the sole ground of salvation, and the only basis on which the great and glorious hopes of the sincere believer can possibly be built ; and when instead of drawing from that holy fountain, I tind those posthumous letters of novel piety, professing to extract the pure ore of religion from the dark caverns of Byron's gloomy mine, it seems no small sketch of charity to enroll the writer's name, even in the common catalogue of ehristians; I am certainly unwilling to say that he was not one himself,--but I feel perfectly secure in giving judgment against his being qualified lo make christians of others.

Of all whom it most imports a christian community to have from their earliest years impressed with the safest, purest, and soundest principles of evangelical faith and practice, are those very personages, whom he has thought proper to introduce as religious elèves of the immaculate school of Byron! Melancholy indeed would the state of society soon become, were all our daughters, nieces and grand-daughters taught to lay the Bible on the shelf, and to substitute in place of it, the wild and fighty wanderings of poetic genius, the seductive blandishments of a licentious imagination, and the unguarded effusions of a lofty mind, either disdaining the wholesome restraint of a christian creed, or floating on the billows of dark and miserable indecision.---Are such pupils likely to encrease the comforts of man, to fulfil their important destiny in this world, or to be qualified for the still more important enjoyment of the next? Are they likely to become good wives, good mothers, good managers of families, good trainers of children, bright ornaments of society, and glorious examples of female excellence? I fear not.--- I fear that such a system, supposing the possivility of its being contagious, which I trust is out of the question at present, would inevitably be followed by a reality the very reverse of that which has now been described! Even the Roman satirist, without the aid of revelation, presses the necessity of keeping pure the minds of boys, a lesson applicable with still stronger propriety to the young of the other sex,

Maxima debetur pueris reverentia---
Nil dictà fædum factûor hæc limina tangat

Intra quæ puer est.-1 quote from memory, and may perhaps quote incorrectly. In short, I am altogether unable to account for such sentiments, under such a signature !""

“ And well you may, my good fellow," said my friend, bursting into a fit of laughter, in which he indulged for a considerable time, while I looked I believe rather foolish,--"and well you may, considering those letters to be serious compositions—but a little reflection will shew you that they are altogether ironical, a sly sort of animadversion on the spurious sentimentality of a few females, old as well young, who fancying themselves impregnated with superior talent, and aiming at a distinction for which nature never intended them, can find no other way of exhibiting the produce of their conceptions, but in the affectation of singularity. It is indeed an old mode of attracting notice, and within the reach of any one who will be at the trouble of stooping for it.—This, good sense always declines to do, satisfied to follow the safe track of sound and sober doctrine, and persuaded that the reputation which is not honestly earned, will never be substantially enjoyed. “Great wit,” says Dryden, • to madness suie is near allied,” and hence it happens that the casual eccentricity of grcat wits, has so often proved a snare and stumbling block to little ones. They who

are unable to reach the heights of genuis can however very easily imitate its fallings. The poor ass thought himself secure of passing for a lion, when dressed in the skin of that royal beast—but he would not hold his tongue; silence might have ensured his safety, but braying straitway disclosed the secret, and subjected him to more than pristine degradation.--Many a soi disant wit might within his little family circle pass for a clever sort of fellow, did not the publication of his works, display the inanity of his pretentions ; did not, as in the case of the said unļucky quadruped, the discordant voice betray the ass.

" I delare," said I,“ now that you have started the idea of ironical application—I do believe you are right, and I only wonder at my own dullness in not having discovered it-but as you appear so sharp-sighted in such matters, I shall be obliged to you for a more particular illustration of the ingenious author's execution of this agreeable fallacy"_“That" said he, “I will give you with pleasure, and you will find as we get through the letters, most unequivocal marks of the writer's real intention in this well conducted piece of literary ridicule. In the first place you will not fail to take votice, that the author has certainly guarded the sensible reader against the possible error of being led to consider it a bona fide exhibition of real transactions, or a serious expression of religious sentiment, by fixing the scene in the very last place in the world where such a farce could be played---viz. in the house of an old and respected clergyman, and in the very bosom of his exemplary and pious family! He, good man, is indeed thrown into the back ground, and not actually brought forward as a christian preacher or teacher, taking his text. from Childe Harold or the Giaqur, descanting on the edifying sublimity of morbid discontent, and deducing lessons of piety and wisdom from examples in which neither of them were to be found. No this would at once bave broken the chain and detected the latent joke. The reverend father of the flock is represented as too much absorbed in parochial cares, and the composition of his sermons, to take a part in the Byronian lecture.---This is a bye-play of the female part of the family, who watching the opportunity of old Orthodox's absense, exhibit a sample of their descent from our common mother, by indulging a propensity to taste the forbidden fruit. As school boys, when ths master's back is turned, withdraw their eyes from the useful and edifying lesson, and run to marbles or pitch and toss.---All this, you see, prepares you for regarding the work as a slice at the sickly sentimentality of false principles, and for unhesitatingly admitting the ficticious character of the whole: indeed the convers sation itself sufficiently evinces the unreality of the agents, both quer and respondents, for I will venture to say, that the questions are such as no woman of sense or character in those days, though she were not a parson's daughter, would put, in the first place ---and in the second, that the answers are still more ludicrously unsuited to the age, rank, understanding, attainments and education of the supposed respondents The epithet given by this ingenious writer to the noble bard, affords another proof of the peculiar nature of his humour, for who that had a real intention of being thought serious, would designate his Lordship by the title of The Great Unknown! great or little---and I admit his poetical claim to the former: I do not suppose that there is a single name in the annals of poetry, to whom the designation is less properly applied. And to whom is it that he is unknown ? To young ladies of high and improved intellect, to young ladies capable of appreciating the highest flights of imagination, or of sounding the lowest depths of metaphysical abstraction !---to young ladies, fashionably educated, and singularly accomplished. That ladies of this description--the eldest of whom must have seen twenty, the youngest being said to have reached fourteen years ---it is as impossible to believe Lord Byron's name unknown, as that they had never learned to dance, sing, or play on the piano forte. Nothing could have excluded him, but the confinement of a dungeon, of which the key was kept in Mrs. Grey's pocket; and the possession of such learning and accomplishments as they are represented to have, forbids us to give credit to such a supposition. What then must be the inference of every intelligent reader ?---certainly that the ingenious writer neither was, or meant to be considered by intelligent readers as in earnest. To render the humbug still more palpable, turn your attention to the next character and the happy epithets by which it is distinguished---the all enlightened and all enlightening Mr. Jeffrey! With his productions of course we are to suppose those accomplished damsels intimately acquainted; and that they who were forbidden to enter the paradise of Byron, were permitted freely to rove in the Hesperian gardens of the Edinburgh review! Whether this course of study was intended to enlighten the minds of those amiable ladies in politics or religion, we are not informed, but as both the one and the other as exhibited in that enlightened work, are at variance with what must be the sentiments as well as the interests of the reverend clergyman, in whose house the scene of this well imagined ridicule iş laid,---we can be at no loss to comprehend its nature, or mistake its intention.”

“Another proof of this writer's pleasantry is the juxta-position of Jeffrey and Byron, names which they who have read one of his Lordship's very best productions---“ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers"---would pronounce to be

names ne'er designed By fate in the same sentence to be joined. Perhaps as this poem in which the said Jeffrey is treated with the utmost contempt and reprobation, does not, like Childe Harold and others, contain any thing particularly conducive to religious edification, it may not yet be considered to deserve a place in the virgin library."

• All this is really very amusing, and nothing can be more prettily fancied than the fair group of virgin innocents, encompassing their enlightened and enlightening matron—"oh,” this lively writer makes Amy Grey say, “oh that we had but a painter to draw this interesting groupe and that I could be transformed into a muse or sybil to complete the picture!" any reader supposing the composer of the posthumous epistles serious, will no doubt stare at this whimsical identification of muse and sybil, than which no two characters of hea: hen mythology, are more distinctly dissimilar."

“ The privilege of a painter he will say, is undoubtedly very great and long established,—" Pictoribus atque Poctis” &c.—Yet would it in my opinion be a difficult operation, for the ablest brush to convert Amy Grey into a muse; however successful he might be in giving her the form of a sybil. To such a matter of fact reader, the spirit of the passage will be entirely lost. It is merely ironical, and consists in the sly analogy thus introduced, between such an instructive matron as the supposed writer of these posthumous letters, and the sybil of Virgil's sixth Enead, who

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