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Posterity may take him at his word, and no more trace be found of his “Rhymes” upon the onward tide of time than of
“ the snow-falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts for ever!" It might be some increasing consciousness of the frail tenure by which he holds his rank among the great heirs of Fame, that urged our Bard to pawn his reversion of immortality for an indulgent smile of patrician approbation, as he raised his puny arm against “ the mighty dead,” to lower by a flourish of his pen the aristocracy of letters nearer to the level of the aristocracy of rank - two ideas that keep up a perpetual seesaw in Mr. Moore's mind like buckets in a well, and to which he is always ready to lend a helping hand, according as he is likely to be hoisted up, or in danger of being let down with either of them. The mode in which our author proposes to correct the extravagance of public opinion, and qualify the interest taken in such persons as Rousseau and Madame de Warens, is singular enough, and savours of the late un
Than thus with high-built genius curs'd,
That hath no heart for its foundation,
RHYMES ON THE ROAD.
lucky bias of his mind:- it is by referring us to what the well-bred people in the neighbourhood thought of Rousseau and his pretensions a hundred years ago or thereabouts. “ So shall their anticipation prevent our discovery!”
“ And doubtless 'mong the grave and good
This is one way of reversing the judgment of posterity, and setting aside the ex-post-facto evidence of taste and genius. So, after “all that is come and gone yet,”-after the anxious doubts and misgivings of his mind as to his own destiny-after all the pains he took to form himself in solitude and obscurity-after the slow dawn of his faculties, and their final explosion, that like an eruption of another Vesuvius, dazzling all men with its light, and leaving the burning lava behind it, shook public opinion, and overturned a kingdom — after having been “the gaze and shew of the time"-after having been read by all classes, criticised, condemned, admired in every corner of Europe — after bequeathing a name that at the end of half a century is never repeated but with emotion as ano
ther name for genius and misfortune - after having given us an interest in his feelings as in our own, and drawn the veil of lofty imagination or of pensive regret over all that relates to his own being, so that we go a pilgrimage to the places where he lived, and recall the names he loved with tender affection (worshipping at the shrines where his fires were first kindled, and where the purple light of love still lingers
· Elysian beauty, melancholy grace!")-after all this, and more, instead of taking the opinion which one half of the world have formed of Rousseau with eager emulation, and the other have been forced to admit in spite of themselves, we are to be sent back by Mr. Moore's eaves-dropping Muse to what the people in the neighbourhood thought of him (if ever they thought of him at all) before he had shewn any one proof of what he was, as the fairer test of truth and candour, and as coming nearer to the standard of greatness, that is, of something asked to dine out, existing in the author's own mind.
“ This, this is the unkindest cut of all.” Mr. Moore takes the inference which he chuses to attribute to the neighbouring gentry concerning “ the pauper lad," namely, that “he was mad” because he was poor, and flings it to the
passengers out of a landau and four as the true version of his character by the fashionable and local authorities of the time. He need not have gone out of his way to Charmettes merely to drag the reputations of Jean Jacques and his mistress after him, chained to the car of aristocracy, as people low and bad,” on the strength of his enervated sympathy with the genteel conjectures of the day as to what and who they were — we have better and more authentic evidence. What would he say if this method of neutralising the voice of the public were applied to himself, or to his friend Mr. Chantry; if we were to deny that the one ever
r rode in an open carriage tête-à-tête with a lord, because his father stood behind a counter, or were to ask the sculptor's customers when he drove a milk-cart what we are to think of his bust of Sir Walter? It will never do. It is the peculiar hardship of genius not to be recognized with the first breath it draws — often not to be admitted even during its life-time-to
make its way slow and late, through good report and evil report, “ through clouds of detraction, of envy and lies" - to have to contend with the
" injustice of fortune, with the prejudices of the world,
“ Rash judgments and the sneers of selfish men
to be shamed by personal defects, to pine in obscurity, to be the butt of pride, the jest of fools, the bye-word of ignorance and maliceto carry on a ceaseless warfare between the consciousness of inward worth and the slights and neglect of others, and to hope only for its reward in the grave and in the undying voice of fame: - and when, as in the present instance, that end has been marvellously attained and a final sentence has been passed, would any one but Mr. Moore wish to shrink from it, to revive the injustice of fortune and the world, and to abide by the idle conjectures of a fashionable cotérie empannelled on the spot, who would come to the same shallow conclusion whether the individual in question were an idiot or a God? There is a degree of gratuitous impertinence and frivolous servility in all this not easily to be accounted for or forgiven.
There is something more particularly offensive in the cant about “people low and bad” applied to the intimacy between Rousseau and Madame Warens, inasmuch as the volume containing this nice strain of morality is dedicated to Lord Byron, who was at that very time living on the very saine sentimental terms with an Italian lady of rank, and whose Memoirs Mr. Moore has since thought himself called