THOUGHTS FOR THOUGHTFUL MINDS.*
Mn. GEORGE CALVERT is the author of a poem entitled Universal Restoration, which never excited public attention. It seems, from the extracts which he republishes, to have been a work that might at any rate be termed remarkable. The following description, for instance, of the Flood, sounds to our ears, though we are no judges
of poetry, original :—
" The Ark was now afloat, And as the thousands round it swam for aid, God shut the door. A horrid shriek, and they were gone !
Wild beasts were frighted tame, and tame ones mad ; The horses, snorting fire, rushed over cliffs And horrid gulfs, down hurling human beings By thousands at a time."
This epic was possibly too sublime for the general taste, and Mr. Calvert drew, it may be presumed, wisdom from failure, made the profound reflection that " poetry is difficult to define, for what may be pleasing to one man may be another man's aversion," or, as the vulgar have it, that "what is one man's meat is another man's poison," and turned to the cultivation of proverbial philosophy. In this pursuit he is destined, it may be safely predicted, to achieve immense success. An age that worships Tupper and publishes illuminated editions of " A.K.H.B. " will not underrate the labours of Mr. Calvert. He is a beginner, and of course does not equal the great masters in the art of com- mon-place. He cannot, for example, describe the minutim of his every-day life, or chatter of his little girl with the graceful loqua- city of the Country Parson, nor, except when he attempts verse, is he so verbose as Tupper. But he has great merits, and if he does not make the public at home, as it were, in his study, yet he can talk of himself with a mysterious dignity which to many minds will be most impressive. For example, when he fears that "some of his readers may think his work deficient in humour," he thus defends himself :—"All that I can say in pal- liation is that my life for the last thirty years has been of a very earnest character. Broad humour therefore would have been an
incongruous and alien element. Moreover, this age is amply pro- vided with its jesters." Readers who do not feel the logical cogency, the dignified pathos, and bitter irony of this sentence, had better at once close Mr. Calvert's pages, for such readers will neither enjoy his satire nor appreciate his philosophy. Thousands, however, will admire and read on. Mr. Calvert will find the editions of his works multiply, and will become the
pet prophet of every young ladies' boarding-school throughout England. May he gratefully recollect that the Spectator saw from the first the signs of his future eminence. It is due, how- ever, to our readers to point out what are the marks by which a modern prophet may be known.
First, and above all things, he must love common-place. This
condition of eminence Mr. Calvert most strictly fulfils. Thus, when once he tells us that "he who has not happiness in himself will not find it elsewhere," that "when a man's hope is gone, night sets in cheerless and void," or that " peace is of great value, but that peace may be purchased at too great a price," he proves to demonstration that he has risen far above the idle prejudice against the repetition of platitudes.
• Thoughts for Thoughtful Minds. Satirical, humorous, philosoplreal, moral, and religious, in prose and verse. With a abort poem, entitle,' "A Drcaln." By George Calvert. Leaden: Longman.
A second note of a true prophet is S delight in what, for want of a better term, we must call jingling jocosity. It is indeed in the quality of his humour that Mr. Calvert's most characteristic excellence lies. It is certainly not broad, it is perhaps not subtle, but it consists in a sort of play upon words which is mildly sug- gestive of a pun, without ever quite rising to that well known form of facetiousness. Thus "the disgusting cry of cheap, cheap, cheap, is the faithful mother of cheat, cheat, cheat ;" or, again, and this, if not the most comprehensible, is perhaps the best bon mot in the book,—" He," we are told, "who acts from impulse will be unstable, but he who is void of impulse may be like a stable- s holder of horses." The jingle here is of course admirable, its only defect (quite an insignificant one) is that sense has just pos- sibly been sacrificed to sound. Indeed our author, well knowing that sound is everything, occasionally sacrifices to it a little more than sense. Thus he dogmatically proclaims that "masons as a class, are a dull heavy race ; and well they may be, having hewed their bread out of stone." Of course he may know more of
masons than we do, but even an admiring disciple may venture to suggest that masons are not duller or heavier than bricklayers oi"-
carpenters, and that it is somewhat hard to stigmatize them as dull- ards in order to bring out an antithesis between bread and stone. Still if sense and justice are sometimes sacrificed, an opportunity for a humorous jingle is never lost, and it is difficult to measure the popularity which may be attained by a man who understands. the art of pouring out sayings which sound as if they were meant for jokes, and yet have the unspeakable merit of never being pointed and of rarely being true. In some societies Sunday after- noons are enlivened by Biblical conundrums. To such circles Mr.
Calvert's thoughts will be invaluable. They might most of them be by slight alterations presented in the form of religious riddles. Take, for instance, the following sentiment, "The reason so many persons prefer crooked paths may be owing to their great repug- nance to square morals." Pat into the form of question and answer, it might be used as a Sunday enigma.
But Mr. Calvert has a third and last requisite needed for success amongst the great English middle class. He knows how to twaddle in the most orthodox manner upon religious topics.
"They," he writes, "who ride to church ought to retire before the Communion Service commences ; for why should they re- spond, Lord, write all these thy laws in our hearts,' when they have already deliberately broken the law ?" Other specimens of his religious views could be collected, but this one example of argumentative power, of Christian charity, and of sound sabba- tarianism sufficiently establishes Mr. Calvert's claim to a high position among tea-table divines. One defect alone threatens to militate against his popularity. He entertains a strong prejudice ' against Solomon. Of this King of Israel he can hardly speak in civil terms. "Solomon," we are informed, "was called the wisest man that ever lived, yet he must have been troubled with a short memory, or he would not have written so many of his proverbs twice over." Solomon, again, is a "bad ex- ample, although a true preacher," and made a great mistake when he said, "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it," for, as his critic points out, "if so, the way he should go has never yet been discovered, for most men who give signs of growing old go any way but the right one." We hasten to assure Mr. Calvert's admirers that it - would be a most unjust mistake to attribute his language about Solomon to any taint of theological unsoundness. Its cause is to be found in what may almost be called an amiable weakness, a fear lest the established reputation of the old Book of Proverbs should throw into the shade the far greater merit of Calvert's proverbial philosophy. None but a modest man could have entertained such a dread. Solomon can in no wise compete with Calvert. He has not the unspeakable merit of diffuseness, and wise though he was, never learnt that earnestness was incompati- ble with "broad humour." Competition between the ancient and modern sage is impossible. No one who admires Calvert will think much of Solomon.
Mr. Calvert hopes that his book may "prove, if not directly in- structive, suggestive ; " and "should it lead even the few to serious
meditation on subjects too often overlooked, my chief object," he writes," will have been obtained." Let him rest assured that to us at least he has suggested serious meditation on a very curious sub- ject, and one too often overlooked. The topic of our reflections has been the light thrown on the thoughtlessness of the world by. the existence and success of writers such as the author of Universal Restoration. Of the thousands of thoughtful minds who will peruse his pages, not one in ten thousand will, it may be suspected, really weigh the worth of the thing read. A good way to prove how really worthless the thoughts are, is to take some one or two of them which are pretty certain to pass current as true, and see how very small is the amount of true metal in their com- position. "Were men," writes Mr. Calvert, "as fond of taking advice as giving it, the millennium would come in a week." Half the world, and all that portion of it who are fond of giving advice, will accept this as sound doctrine. Yet not one man, woman, or child who accepts it really believes it. Sound advice is no doubt good, but at least as many follies arise from men taking it too easily as from their refusing to take it. If they should ever grow as fond of taking it as of giving it, not the millennium, but universal bankruptcy, would be the result, for it would follow that every quack doctor would find his recommendations twice as easily adopted as at present, that every bubble company would double the number of its dupes, and that Mr. Calvert's readers would have multiplied a thousandfold. Take, again, the grandiloquent platitude, "Conscience needs no guide-posts." All the minor moral- ists of the day re-echo the assertion, every sane man knows its un- truth. Would any one, for instance, venture to assert that the con- sciences of Americans in bond fide doubt which side they ought to take in the civil war needed no guides ; or is there any one so blind as not to see that the follies of all the fanatics of the world, from the time of Philip II. till the rise of the clamour for the Permissive Bill (not to take any wider period of time) have arisen from a fatuous belief in the doctrine that conscience can dispense with the guidance of reason? One more specimen of Mr. Calvert, and we have done with him. He, in common with some greater writers, shares what we must be allowed to call the pitiful weak- ness of a hatred to critics, and crushes them with the dictum that the loudest of all critics are those with shallow brains but deep purses." This thought combines all the beauties characteristic of Mr. Calvert's sayings. It chimes in with the popular prejudice as a kind of jingling antithesis, and, as its crowning merit, is to every one's knowledge untrue. For assuredly men of" deep purses," by which it must be presumed are meant city magnates, do not write reviews, and reviewers find it hard to acquire what Mr. Calvert means by a "deep parse." Still, critics as we are, let us part from him in peace, by commending to public attention two sayings which deserve it. The first, that "in the British army the wisdom of this world is seen to perfection," has in it a ring of splendid though savage irody ; and the second may be usefully weighed by Mr. Calvert's admirers—" The greatest fools in the world are those that employ fools to instruct them."