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Schlosser’s Literary History Of The Eighteenth Century
by [?]

But have I any right to quote Schlosser’s words from an English translation? I do so only because this happens to be at hand, and the German not. German books are still rare in this country, though more (by one thousand to one) than they were thirty years ago. But I have a full right to rely on the English of Mr. Davison. ‘I hold in my hand,’ as gentlemen so often say at public meetings, ‘a certificate from Herr Schlosser, that to quote Mr. Davison is to quote him.’ The English translation is one which Mr. Schlosser ‘durchgelesen hat, und fur deren genauigkeit und richtigkeit er burgt [has read through, and for the accuracy and propriety of which he pledges himself]. Mr. Schossler was so anxious for the spiritual welfare of us poor islanders, that he not only read it through, but he has even aufmerksam durchgelesen it [read it through wide awake] und gepruft [and carefully examined it]; nay, he has done all this in company with the translator. ‘Oh ye Athenians! how hard do I labor to earn your applause!’ And, as the result of such herculean labors, a second time he makes himself surety for its precision; ‘er burgt also dafur wie fur seine eigne arbeit‘ [he guarantees it accordingly as he would his own workmanship]. Were it not for this unlimited certificate, I should have sent for the book to Germany. As it is, I need not wait; and all complaints on this score I defy, above all from Herr Schlosser. [2]

In dealing with an author so desultory as Mr. Schlosser, the critic has a right to an extra allowance of desultoriness for his own share; so excuse me, reader, for rushing at once in medias res.

Of Swift, Mr. Schlosser selects for notice three works–the ‘Drapier’s Letters,’ ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and the ‘Tale of a Tub.’ With respect to the first, as it is a necessity of Mr. S. to be forever wrong in his substratum of facts, he adopts the old erroneous account of Wood’s contract as to the copper coinage, and of the imaginary wrong which it inflicted on Ireland. Of all Swift’s villainies for the sake of popularity, and still more for the sake of wielding this popularity vindictively, none is so scandalous as this. In any new life of Swift the case must be stated de novo. Even Sir Walter Scott is not impartial; and for the same reason as now forces me to blink it, viz., the difficulty of presenting the details in a readable shape. ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Schlosser strangely considers ‘spun out to an intolerable extent.’ Many evil things might be said of Gulliver; but not this. The captain is anything but tedious. And, indeed, it becomes a question of mere mensuration, that can be settled in a moment. A year or two since I had in my hands a pocket edition, comprehending all the four parts of the worthy skipper’s adventures within a single volume of 420 pages. Some part of the space was also wasted on notes, often very idle. Now the 1st part contains two separate voyages (Lilliput and Blefuscu), the 2d, one, the 3d, five, and the 4th, one; so that, in all, this active navigator, who has enriched geography, I hope, with something of a higher quality than your old muffs that thought much of doubling Cape Horn, here gives us nine great discoveries, far more surprising than the pretended discoveries of Sinbad (which are known to be fabulous), averaging quam proxime, forty- seven small 16mo pages each. Oh you unconscionable German, built round in your own country with circumvallations of impregnable 4tos, oftentimes dark and dull as Avernus–that you will have the face to describe dear excellent Captain Lemuel Gulliver of Redriff, and subsequently of Newark, that ‘darling of children and men,’ as tedious. It is exactly because he is not tedious, because he does not shoot into German foliosity, that Schlosser finds him ‘intolerable.’ I have justly transferred to Gulliver’s use the words originally applied by the poet to the robin- redbreast, for it is remarkable that Gulliver and the Arabian Nights are amongst the few books where children and men find themselves meeting and jostling each other. This was the case from its first publication, just one hundred and twenty years since. ‘It was received,’ says Dr. Johnson, ‘with such avidity, that the price of the first edition was raised before the second could be made–it was read by the high and the low, the learned and the illiterate. Criticism was lost in wonder. Now, on the contrary, Schlosser wonders not at all, but simply criticises; which we could bear, if the criticism were even ingenious. Whereas, he utterly misunderstands Swift, and is a malicious calumniator of the captain who, luckily, roaming in Sherwood, and thinking, often with a sigh, of his little nurse, [3] Glumdalclitch, would trouble himself slightly about what Heidelberg might say in the next century. There is but one example on our earth of a novel received with such indiscriminate applause as ‘Gulliver;’ and that was ‘Don Quixote.’ Many have been welcomed joyfully by a class –these two by a people. Now, could that have happened had it been characterized by dulness? Of all faults, it could least have had that. As to the ‘Tale of a Tub,’ Schlosser is in such Cimmerian vapors that no system of bellows could blow open a shaft or tube through which he might gain a glimpse of the English truth and daylight. It is useless talking to such a man on such a subject. I consign him to the attentions of some patriotic Irishman.